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.
However, 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 from distraught dog owners looking for advice.
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 you can detect a tumor by feeling it … noticing a bump or an enlargement. In some internal cancers (like pancreatic or liver), the signs can vary depending on the organ.
Usually there’s nothing very specific. Instead there are signs (such as reduced appetite) that the dog isn’t feeling well.
For all types of cancer, the most common sign is what’s called cancer cachexia. This is a continued weight loss and wasting away. It usually happens in the later stages of disease if the cancer is not treated. 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. Then there might be chemotherapy to kill the cancer (and the patient, thanks to the chemicals). Then 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 generated by the body. It’s 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. They rebalance the life energy so the tumor is no longer needed or supported.
Then it’s 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 had surgery, radiation or chemo.
This is quite remarkable compared to the conventional methods. It 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 Pointing The Bone At Cancer; 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 owners … 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, there are other signs.
- Weeping sores that don’t heal
- Lameness that won’t go away
- Neurological signs that fail to respond to treatment
- 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 with 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. And quite apart from actually eliminating it from the body.
But, there is often a telling sign once the cancer reaches this stage. It’s cancer cachexia – the wasting cancer syndrome.
Now we watch helplessly as the cruelly futile medical merry-go-round accepts another rider.
The conventional approach uses surgery to de-bulk or remove the cancer … then bombards an already-compromised body with chemical poisons and radiation.
This conventional approach is rarely curative.
If these treatments don’t kill the patient immediately, they usually lead to a more damaging and aggressive form of cancer.
Obviously there are exceptions to this dismal picture … but they are rare exceptions.
Metastatic cancer kills – that is the universal rule.
Meanwhile, the dog’s life becomes an endless round of treatments, tests and misery.
At this stage, everybody is clutching at straws. They’re hoping against hope … that this particular cancer in this particular patient is 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 … the far more rational (and scientific) approach is to strengthen the body. To give it the nutritional tools that allow it to fight the cancer. At the same time I use nutritional means that weaken and take the power away from the cancer.
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, I make no attempt 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
In my experience … common signs of cancer like lumps and lameness often follow vaccination.
- 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 mean tumors behind the eyes.
Be aware of these possible symptoms if you vaccinate your dog regularly. Or if you use other pharmaceuticals or pesticides like flea and tick or heartworm meds.
Also, if you’re a smoker… secondhand smoke can affect your dog … 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 and mushrooms as well as acupuncture.
Many medicinal mushrooms have anti-cancer benefits. They are often successful in adjunct treatment of tumors.
Here are some of the cancers studies show certain mushrooms can help with:
- Shiitake, maitake, chaga and turkey tail for breast cancer
- Turkey tail, maitake and cordyceps for leukemia
- Turkey tail, reishi, shiitake, maitake and phellinus for liver cancer
- Cordyceps, reishi, maitake and turkey tail for lung cancer
- Cordyceps for lymphoma
- Shiitake and phellinus for melanoma
- Reishi, turkey tail, maitake and shiitake for prostate cancer
- Reishi for sarcomas
- Phellinus, turkey tail and chaga for cervical and uterine cancer
- Phellinus, maitake and turkey tail for stomach and colorectal cancer
Important note about buying mushrooms:
Make sure you buy whole mushrooms and not just mycelium. There’s an important difference.
Many mushroom products are just mycelium grown on grain or rice. Mycelium is the part of the mushroom the fungus grows from … (it’s like the root of a plant) … and it’s not the whole body. Mycelium grown on grain has more starch and lower medicinal benefits than whole mushrooms.
Neoplasene comes from bloodroot extract. It comes in topical, oral and injectable forms. It causes apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. There are many cases showing its successful use in treating tumors. It’s especially good for tumors of the skin (like mast cell tumors and mammary tumors).
The maker of Neoplasene restricts its use to veterinarians. 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. It contains burdock root, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb root. Canadian nurse Rene Caisse (Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards) invented in the 1920s. Essiac is controversial though. It has many fervent supporters but there are others who doubt its efficacy.
Other options include intravenous vitamin C and B vitamins. l 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 CO2 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. Or use cannabinoid products made especially for pets.
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 these are the big signs a dog may have cancer:
- Labored breathing
- Severe lethargy
- Pale gums
- Consistent lameness
There’s a big difference between conventional and holistic treatments. The biggest difference? Conventional treatment is more cancer oriented, and holistic is more patient oriented.
Conventional medicine focuses on the cancer. On 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 is necessary if a tumor is limiting the functionality of the patient.
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 suggest a cancerous state.
Statistically, any dog over six years old is at risk for cancer, especially if they’re:
- Eating a commercial diet
- Receiving frequent vaccinations and drugs
- Exposed to pesticides and other toxins
Certain purebred dogs also have a common inherited tendency to cancer. These include Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Rottweilers and Beagles.
Typical conventional treatment includes:
- Radical surgery
- Multiple doses of poisonous chemicals
- Multiple caustic burning “treatments” to the affected area
In other words … 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 to a fresh, homemade diet, specific for the type of condition and the symptoms present.
Nutritional supplements to support detoxification and gut health are critical. So is reducing free-radical damage with mushrooms and B vitamins.
Jodie Gruenstern DVM
Jodie Gruenstern DVM CVA
Founder of Dr Jodie’s Natural Pets, Integrating People for Animal Wellness (iPAW), Dr Jodie’s Integrative Consulting, PLLC, and former owner of the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex in Wisconsin.
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 include surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy or immune suppression.
Holistic or integrative vets have many more tools to manage cancer.
Some pet owners use holistic help in conjunction with conventional oncology treatment. This supports the body and helps manage side effects.
In my practice, cancer management varies greatly. It depends on 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
- Caustic herbal products for external masses … especially when surgery is not an option.
I always prescribe 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:
- Gets a fresh food diet
- Is never vaccinated after 16 weeks of age
- Doesn’t get chemical parasite prevention and other drugs
- Lives in an 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.