Part 1 – Signs Of Cancer And Natural Treatment Options (Published April 1st, 2016)
FACT: half of adult dogs today will get cancer.
Cancer is a terrifying reality for dog owners today, causing nearly half the deaths of dogs over the age of 10.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to know the signs of cancer … and if you suspect cancer, you need to know the best treatment options available.
When it comes to cancer, the amount of online information about cancer in dogs is overwhelming.
How do you know what advice to trust?
Sadly, we get a lot of emails and phone calls here from distraught dog owners looking for advice after their dog gets cancer.
So we decided to get those answers for all Dogs Naturally readers.
We contacted six of the best holistic veterinarians we know and we asked them two questions:
What are the most common signs your dog may have cancer?
If she does get cancer, what holistic treatment options are available and how do they compare to conventional treatments?
Read on to see the replies of each veterinarian we approached.
Richard Pitcairn DVM PhD
Author (with Susan Pitcairn) of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Founder of The Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy
Most often a tumor is detected by feeling it, noticing a bump or an enlargement. In some internal cancers such as pancreatic or liver cancer, the signs can vary depending on which organ is involved.
Usually there’s nothing very specific; instead there are signs (such as reduced appetite) that the dog isn’t feeling well.
Overall, for all types of cancer, the most common manifestation is what is called cancer cachexia, which is a continued weight loss and wasting away. This usually results in the later stages of disease (if the cancer is untreated; if it’s treated, then there may be sickness from the treatment).
The conventional approach is that cancer is a disease separate from the animal, one to be attacked in various ways.
Often there is surgery to remove the cancer, perhaps then chemotherapy to kill the cancer (and the patient, as the chemicals affect all the body), radiation to kill the tumor (and the tissues around it).
So the attitude is one of attacking something separate from the patient.
The homeopathic approach is to understand the new growth as being generated by the body – by the same energy (life force) that grew other parts of the body. So homeopathic treatment doesn’t fight against the growth or see it as separate.
“The conventional approach is that cancer is a disease separate from the animal.”
Instead, nutrition and homeopathic treatment work with the natural healing mechanisms to rebalance the life energy so the tumor is no longer needed or supported.
Then it is resorbed or expelled.
Over the last 200 years, homeopathy has been very successful in cancer treatment.
An example is the work of Dr Arthur Grimmer, who died in 1967. He treated 225 proven cases of cancer (in people), in various forms and in all stages of the disease. Treatment took place over a four year period, using nutrition and homeopathy.
Over this time, many of the patients were well, without symptoms, with 175 of them still living.
All those who did not survive were the ones who had already been treated with surgery, radiation or chemo.
This is quite remarkable compared to the conventional methods and shows how working with the patient’s mechanisms of healing can be very effective.
Ian Billinghurst BV Sc
Ian Billinghurst BV Sc Hons BSc Agr Dip Ed
Creator of the BARF Diet. Author of Give Your Dog a Bone, Grow Your Pups With Bones and The BARF Diet.
These are really important cancer-related questions. Unfortunately they don’t have good answers for the bulk of today’s dog parents – trusting as they do in conventional veterinary care.
Unfortunately, many holistic practitioners don’t have an accepted scientific basis underpinning their work.
Until they do, their work will continue to be ignored by mainstream veterinary science and therefore unavailable for most canine cancer sufferers.
Cancer is the master of mimicry.
Apart from obvious surface lumps and bumps, weeping sores that don’t heal, lameness that won’t go away, neurological signs that fail to response to treatment etc., any sign or signal that a dog might show could be telling us that cancer is present — or it could mean something else entirely.
The trouble is, in the case of those more insidious cancers that pretend to be something else. By the time they’re diagnosed, it’s generally too late.
By then the cancer has metastasized or reached a size and position that make current treatments futile in terms of holding it in check – quite apart from actually eliminating it from the body.
However, there is often a telling sign once this stage is reached: cancer cachexia – the wasting cancer syndrome.
Now we watch helplessly as the cruelly futile medical merry-go-round accepts another rider.
Apart from surgery to de-bulk or (hopefully) completely remove the cancer, the conventional veterinary approach is to bombard an already compromised body (scarred by a lifetime spent consuming fake industrial food) with chemical poisons and radiation.
This conventional approach is rarely curative.
If these modalities don’t kill the patient immediately, they usually promote a more damaging and more aggressive form of cancer, further down the track.
Obviously there are exceptions to this dismal picture, but they are rare exceptions.
Metastatic cancer kills – that is the universal rule.
Meanwhile, the terminal part of the dog’s life becomes an endless round of treatments, tests and misery.
At this stage, everybody is clutching at straws, hoping against hope that this particular cancer in this particular patient proves to be the exception.
My work (and the work of others who understand that cancer is one of many degenerative disease processes) approaches cancer from the other end of the spectrum.
Instead of weakening the body with poisons and radiation, the far more rational (and genuinely scientific) approach is to strengthen the body, to give it the nutritional tools that allow it to fight the cancer and at the same time use appropriate nutritional means that weaken and take the power away from the cancer.
We find that in most instances, this not only allows longer survival times, but does so with a vastly improved quality of life.
In many of these cases, no attempt is made to completely remove, eliminate or “cure” the cancer.
It’s far better to live well and longer; with the cancer present, but under control.
Patricia Jordan DVM
Patricia Jordan DVM
Author of Vaccinosis – The Mark of the Beast Hidden in Plain Sight.
My experience is that common signs of cancer like lumps and lameness often follow innoculation, so be aware of any changes that show up in your dog’s body after vaccination.
In older dogs with cancers that are deeper or hidden, you’ll often see weight loss.
Coughing can be a sign of lung cancer.
Nasal cancers may cause bleeding from the nose.
Bulging eyes can indicate tumors behind the eyes.
Be aware of these possible symptoms if your dog is vaccinated regularly or you use other pharmaceuticals or pesticides like flea and tick or heartworm medicines.
Also, if you’re a smoker… your dog can be affected by secondhand smoke even if you smoke outdoors! All these things can increase the likelihood your dog will develop cancer.
I like to use a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine approach: clean up the food, detox the dog and use herbs as well as acupuncture.
Neoplasene is made from bloodroot extract, and comes in topical, oral and injectable forms. Its role is to cause apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. There are documented cases showing it’s been successful, especially in treating tumors of the skin like fibrosarcomas, mast cell tumors and mammary tumors.
The maker of Neoplasene only allows it to be used under veterinary supervision; this is because, as the tumor cells die, the tissue will slough off, leaving a hole that needs veterinary care.
Essiac is a herbal formula containing the herbs burdock root, slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb root. It was developed by Canadian nurse Rene Caisse (Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards) in the 1920s. Essiac is controversial: it has many fervent supporters but there are others who doubt its efficacy.
Other options include intravenous vitamin C and B vitamins; I’ll also use nutraceuticals in cancer treatments.
Homeopathy can be very helpful, but not necessarily classical homeopathy.
The Banerji protocols use two or three remedies in each protocol, with amazing success. I’ve used these protocols on a lot of animals and many got better.
“It’s far better to live well and longer; with the cancer present, but under control.”
Homeopathy also preserves quality of life and offers more affordable options than conventional treatments.
Sometimes tumors are so large you need to debulk them. I find C02 lasers work well in these cases, rather than conventional surgery.
Cannabis is another option, with different options for different types of cancer.
If you juice cannabis you can still get all the benefits; there are several cannabinoid products being made especially for pets now.
Marty Goldstein DVM
Marty Goldstein DVM
Author of The Nature of Animal Healing.
I don’t like giving people things to look for … because then they start looking for them.
The mind is very powerful and the bond between humans and animals is so strong that when people start to look for cancer, they can actually create it.
It’s more important to observe your dog for “what is.”
Don’t look for negative things … look for how great your dog is doing! That’s very, very important.
But things like lumps, labored breathing, severe lethargy, pale gums or consistent lameness are the big signs a dog may have cancer.
The biggest difference between treatment types is that conventional treatment is more cancer oriented, and holistic treatment is more patient oriented.
Conventional medicine focuses on the cancer, treating the cancer – even at the expense of the patient. Chemo, radiation and surgery work on the symptom (the cancer) to try to make the patient better.
Holistic treatment focuses on the patient, viewing the cancer as a symptom.
With holistic treatment we work on the whole patient and the immune system; we’ve been very successful at regressing cancers by working on the patient this way.
The tumor type is very relevant to how you treat it. We always use holistic options if we can, but sometimes surgery may be necessary if a tumor is impinging on the functionality of the patient.
The biggest difference between treatment types is that conventional treatment is more cancer oriented, and holistic treatment is more patient oriented.
Surgery doesn’t cure anything.
“Conventional treatment is more cancer oriented, and holistic treatment is more patient oriented.”
The best thing surgery can do is bring the patient back to the state they were in before they got the tumor.
That gives you the opportunity to keep working on the patient using holistic options, so in that way, surgery might help save the dog’s life.
Dee Blanco DVM
Dee Blanco DVM
Classical Veterinary Homeopath
Emaciation, especially if it happens rapidly, is a common sign of cancer.
Undiagnosable disease is often a warning sign. Situations that require a lot of complex, invasive, expensive diagnostics usually indicate a cancerous state.
Statistically speaking, any dog over six years old is at risk for cancer, especially if they’re eating a commercial diet, receiving frequent vaccinations and drugs and are exposed to pesticides and other toxins.
Certain purebred dogs also have a common inherited tendency to cancer. Cancer prone breeds include Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers and Beagles.
Typical conventional medicine includes radical surgery, multiple doses of poisonous chemicals and multiple caustic burning “treatments” to the affected area … slash, poison and burn.
In my holistic practice, homeopathy is the headliner. I use constitutional prescribing to support the entire body, mind and spirit.
“Any dog over six years old is at risk for cancer. ~ Dee Blanco DVM”
At times I may also use the cancer nosode or a remedy that’s specific for the patient’s particular cancer type.
There must be a change in diet to a fresh, homemade one, specific for the type of condition and the symptoms present.
Nutritional supplements to support detoxification, gut health and free-radical damage include mushrooms and B vitamins.
Jodie Gruenstern DVM
Jodie Gruenstern DVM CVA
Owner and full time veterinarian at Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex. Founder of Dr Jodie’s Natural Pets.
The most common sign of cancer is usually a lump, but many pet owners don’t realize that simple lethargy can be a warning!
Something like an acute bleed due to a cracking and bleeding splenic mass can simply cause a pet to behave tired. Some become too weak to stand, which is an emergency situation!
Weight loss with ravenous appetite is another common sign. Cancer often goes undiagnosed when this is the only initial symptom; this is especially true if weight loss was previously desirable!
Conventional vets have a limited number of tools to treat cancer. Their options primarily involve surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy or immune suppression.
Holistic or integrative vets have many more tools to manage cancer.
Some pet owners seek holistic help to support the body and manage side effects in conjunction with conventional oncology treatment.
In my practice, cancer management varies greatly with the type of cancer, the location, the extent and even the age of the pet.
I use a variety of immune support remedies including essential oils such as Boswellia sacra; Chinese herbals such as Yunnan Bai Yao; herbal constituents such as Artemisinin; cancer fighting mushrooms such as coriolus; and caustic herbal products for external masses, especially when surgery is not an option.
All my cancer protocols include a fresh, raw, species-appropriate, starch-free diet to starve the cancer, with blended, dark, leafy greens for their antioxidant properties.
The best treatment for cancer is never getting it in the first place.
Make sure your dog is getting a fresh food diet, is never vaccinated after 16 weeks of age and isn’t exposed to chemical parasite prevention and other drugs. You also need to make sure his environment is free from chemical cleaners, sprays and pesticides.
Dr Ian Billinghurst reiterates this advice, saying:
“Apart from eliminating all carcinogens from a dog’s life (a clear impossibility) the most important thing we can all do is feed our dogs a genome appropriate diet. This is the single most important thing any dog parent can do to ensure maximum possible freedom from this terrible scourge.”
If the unhappy day comes and your dog gets cancer despite your best efforts, remember there are safe and effective natural treatments.
Most importantly, don’t just treat the cancer! Treat your dog and you’ll be surprised at how well he responds.
Part 2 – Evaluating Dog Cancer Supplements (published April 29th 2016)
When we talked to six leading holistic veterinarians about cancer treatment options, every one of them emphasized the tremendous importance of nutrition to support the body’s healing process.
If your dog has cancer, no matter what kind of cancer he has and what kind of treatment you choose, you can strengthen his immune system through food and supplements.
So we asked two holistic veterinarians, Dr Marty Goldstein and Dr Charles Loops, to tell us about their favorite supplements for dogs with cancer.
Both these vets are leading experts in animal cancers and both have many years of experience in treating cancer in pets.
Marty Goldstein DVM
Author of The Nature of Animal Healing
Dr Goldstein emphasizes the importance of feeding all dogs a natural, raw meat based diet … and it’s especially true for cancer patients.
Science is man’s way of trying to figure out what Nature has already accomplished and set forth.
If we had applied science to what a dog should be eating in nature, we wouldn’t have come up with commercial pet food.
Cancer Patients Need Protein
When Dr Greg Ogilvie was head of internal medicine and oncology at Colorado State University, he researched the correlation of diet to cancer. One of his big findings was that the byproducts of grain metabolism – glucose and lactate – feed cancer cells.
Dr Goldstein strongly recommends avoiding grains and other carbohydrates for all dogs, but especially for cancer patients.
If your dog has cancer, he really needs a high protein, high fat diet containing raw meat and its fat, as nature intended.
The immune system is a protein-based system. In cancer patients, the body is constantly searching for more protein because the immune system is failing … so it draws protein from the muscles.
This is why cancer is a wasting disease and why so many cancer patients become extremely emaciated.
There is an exception to the rule of feeding a raw meat diet to a canine cancer patient. If your dog becomes anorectic and doesn’t want to eat this diet, it’s really important to get ANY food that he will eat into him.
Mind, body and spirit are all important in cancer patients, so if your dog’s losing his appetite and there’s a food he loves eating, let him have it, even if it doesn’t seem like the healthiest option.
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Animals used to be able to subsist on good food alone, but the food chain has been adulterated and depleted of nutrients.
Supplements are concentrated foods that can make up for the deficiencies in our foods today, and Dr Goldstein believes every pet should be on some form of supplementation.
In cancer patients this is even more important.
The holistic approach towards cancer is to focus on the patient, rather than on the cancer, making the patient as healthy as possible so that the immune system can keep cancer at bay.
When you supplement the immune system you can often stop a tumor from spreading … and if the tumor isn’t growing, the patient can survive, even with the tumor in place.
Get Help From An Expert
It’s not a good idea to try to choose your dog’s supplements on your own. Find the best holistic or integrative veterinarian you can to help you decide on the best supplements and appropriate dosages for your dog.
Dr Goldstein’s Supplement Recommendations
Here are some of Dr Goldstein’s favorite supplements for cancer patients.
Immustim Complex by Professional Formulas (the company only sells through healthcare practitioners so you will have to buy this through your vet)
The product offers an excellent balance of glandulars and antioxidants, containing echinacea, lymph tissue, spleen tissue, thymus tissue, bee pollen, placenta tissue, bone marrow, parotid tissue, adrenal tissue, and zinc as well as vitamins A, E and C.
Caution: if your dog’s getting chemotherapy or radiation treatment giving antioxidants when patients are going through these conventional treatments is very controversial.
Chemo and radiation work by creating huge amounts of free radicals that destroy the cancer.
But antioxidants are free radical scavengers, so, as they gobble up free radicals, they can reduce the effectiveness of chemo and radiation.
While that’s scientifically correct, it’s also true that animals on chemo and radiation often do better while on antioxidants, and it can help them through the treatment. Some oncologists are starting to realize this.
Beta Thym by Doctor’s Best For Your Pets
This is one of Dr Goldstein’s favorite supplements. It’s a natural plant sterol containing thymus gland and the amino acid L-ornithine. It acts as an anti-inflammatory.
The thymus is a lymphoid gland that plays a role in developing T-cells in the immune system. It sometimes atrophies as animals get older so this supplement can support your dog’s immune system.
Fish oil can really boost the immune system in cancer patients and Dr Goldstein gives patients as much as they will tolerate. Start slowly and increase the dosage gradually. When you see the stool start to get soft, cut back the dosage to the level where the stool was still firm.
Always buy a high quality brand that’s been tested for contaminants.
Several kinds of mushrooms are known to boost immunity.
CAS Options by Resources contains a blend of reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms as well as green tea powder and other antioxidants.
PETFraction Maitake tincture contains only one ingredient, Maitake D-Fraction. The Japanese manufacturer has conducted clinical trials showing this product has shrunk tumors in dogs.
K9 Immunity is a blend of six different mushrooms – agaricus blazei, cordyceps sinensis, lentinula edodes, grifola frondosa, ganoderm lucidum and coriolus versicolor.
Animal Medical Center in New York, the world’s largest small animal hospital, uses K9 Immunity products for cancer patients.
Other Cancer Fighting Supplements
Artemisinin This Chinese herb has been used to treat malaria and has now been shown to destroy many types of cancer cells as well. Unlike conventional cancer drugs like chemo, Artemisinin seems to target cancer cells and leave normal cells unharmed.
Poly-MVA is a lipoic acid mineral complex. It supports oxygenation of cells and tissues and improves cellular function.
Apocaps was created by Dr Demian Dressler, author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. It contains the apoptogens luteolin, apigenin, curcumin and silymarin, as well as gingerols, beta glucans, and l-glutamine.
Apoptogens support the body’s natural process of aptoptosis – the clearing out of old and damaged cells from the body.
Charles Loops DVM
Dr Loops is a homeopathic veterinarian with an emphasis on treating cancer. 60 percent of his new cases are cancer patients.
Dr Loops recommends a varied diet containing high quality fresh foods, preferably with raw meat and foods that contain antioxidants.
One important factor in choosing supplements for dogs with cancer is maintaining quality of life.
Some dogs don’t tolerate supplements well in their food or treats, while others will put up with anything. Sometimes trying to give dogs things that taste bad will keep them from eating or greatly stress them. Or at some point their stomach or bowels might reject supplements.
Cost is another consideration as some supplements are extremely expensive and with a large dog you could be spending $500 to $1,000 a month.
Compatibility With Other Treatments
It’s important that your dog’s supplements are compatible with the primary treatment option you’ve chosen, whether homeopathic, Chinese medicine or other holistic therapies – or conventional.
The best person to advise you on supplements for your dog is a holistic veterinarian managing your pet’s primary therapy.
Unfortunately, if you’ve chosen conventional options like chemotherapy or radiation, an oncologist is not likely to be well informed about which supplements will benefit your dog.
Ask your holistic veterinarian to advise you on dosages for the supplements she recommends for your dog.
Dr Loops’ Supplement Recommendations
This is not a complete list but shows some of the supplements Dr Loops has used extensively in his practice.
Feeding dogs oily fish such as sardines, salmon or herring is the best option in healthy patients, but for cancer patients this isn’t enough to provide therapeutic levels of EPA and DHA.
Use a highly distilled or molecularly distilled product to avoid contaminants such as heavy metals. Check the amount of EPA and DHA in your brand and give your dog 1400 mg of combined EPA and DHA per 25 lbs of bodyweight per day with his food.
Fish oils don’t interfere with any kind of therapy, including chemo and radiation … and in fact they may help manage the side effects of these therapies.
There are many mushroom complex products available. Some are extremely expensive.
Most contain at least maitake, reishi, and agaricus mushrooms.
There are many studies and anecdotal cases supporting the efficacy of mushroom supplements, which are used worldwide to treat cancer.
Dosages vary with the product. Toxicity is not an issue but taste can be, especially with the reishi mushroom.
Colostrums come from the first milk of lactating cows. They contain immune factors that stimulate immune system development.
These products may not cure cancer, but they do seem to have benefits as part of a cancer protocol.
When using colostrum (versus transfer factor products), you can use either raw form products or concentrated and refined products. Both can be effective and you can also use them together.
This Chinese herb is best used in combination with other Chinese herbs to boost the immune system.
Ligustrum is the main other herb that can be combined with astragalus to boost the immune system and seems to also have tumor inhibiting effects. At Dr Loops’ clinic he uses a product with a blend of 10 Chinese herbs.
Antioxidants are the one class of supplements that may interfere with chemotherapy or radiation. Antioxidants attack free radicals in the body while chemotherapy and radiation stimulate free radical activity to kill cancer cells.
For dogs treated with chemo or radiation Dr Loops recommends avoiding “potent” antioxidants during radiation treatment periods and for several days surrounding a chemo treatment day.
It’s fine to continue giving your dog foods that are rich in antioxidants, and vitamins in normal doses don’t have to be stopped.
Berries, pomegranates, green tea, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and vitamins A, C, E and selenium are all naturally occurring sources of antioxidants.
This supplement can be useful in high doses. Dr Loops suggests 300mg daily for any size dog dealing with cancer.
Grape Seed Extract
This is a potent antioxidant. Various forms are available such as a pine bark extract, called pycnogenol. The dosage is generally 1 to 2 mg per pound of body weight per day.
This is an important intracellular antioxidant that mostly works in the liver cells to destroy free radicals.
It can’t be taken directly by mouth because the stomach and small intestine destroy it, but components that promote metabolism of glutathione by the body can be taken orally … such as N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), found in many products that increase glutathione production.
If you’re consulting with an herbalist specializing in cancer, your practitioner may create an individualized protocol for your dog using Western herbs as a primary treatment.
Other herbal products can also be helpful for general use in treating cancer.
( Looking for something to help prevent and treat your dog’s cancer? Click here )
This herbal combination has been used, modified and taken in capsule, tincture and tea form for decades to treat cancers. There are many anecdotal cases promoting its effectiveness.
However, Dr Loops hasn’t seen significant results using it as a supplement in his practice.
Curcumin is a useful supplement that seems to slow the progression of tumors by various mechanisms.
The dosage can range from 125mg to 500mg for a 25 pound dog, but some more refined products recommend a lower dosage, so follow the package instructions. If you buy a human supplement, assume it’s for a 150 lb human and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Buy a health store supplement and not grocery store turmeric used for cooking, which contains only a small amount of curcumin.
This is another herbal combination of four to six herbs. There’s anecdotal evidence that some practitioners have seen good results with it, especially with osteosarcoma.
As a general rule when starting a supplement, it’s always best to begin at the lower end of a dosage range and work up to higher levels.
In an ideal world, it’s also best to start one supplement at a time, to make sure your dog will tolerate that particular product.
Take a holistic view of your dog’s cancer. Supporting his overall health with the right food and supplements, instead of focusing on the cancer, can help maintain his quality of life, whatever primary treatment option you’ve chosen.
Read Part 1 of this article – Signs of Cancer And Natural Treatment Options (published April 1st, 2016)