A Holistic Approach To Dog Tumors

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Last year, I discovered something that terrifies every dog owner …

Two of my dogs suddenly had tumors.

Luckily, I had the best holistic experts in the world on my side and, over a year later, both dogs are doing great and are cancer-free.

I’d like to share how I managed to keep both my dogs cancer-free … and give you a warning about biopsies that you might not expect.

Here’s what you need to know about dog tumors.

Cancer Is On The Rise In Dogs

Most adult dogs will deal with cancer … that’s a fact. In fact, more adult dogs will get cancer than those that stay cancer-free.

But if you’re prepared, the chance of survival will increase. If caught early, half of all cancers are treatable

And luckily, you have choices when it comes to treating tumors ….

Why Natural Treatments Are Best

The funny thing about modern cancer treatment is this …

Vets and doctors are using the same cancer treatments they were using over 70 years ago: chemotherapy and radiation. Both work in generally the same manner: they destroy cells. Not just cancer cells, but all cells. The hope is that the cancer cells die before the healthy cells do.

Holistic medicine approaches cancer differently. While conventional cancer treatments kill important immune cells and other healthy cells, the holistic approach to cancer supports the immune system and helps the body fight tumors naturally.

The cancer treatments that have the largest impact on the immune system are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted cancer cells
  • Radiation
  • Steroids

I’ll show you how to bypass these harmful treatments and use your dog’s immune system to fight cancer naturally.

The Immune System Can Fight Cancer

The immune system is already equipped to deal with cancer. In fact, newer cancer treatments (immunotherapy) focus on using the immune system to kill cancer cells.

Cancer cells are different than normal cells, so the immune system is able to quickly recognize and kill them. And, as you’ll see, it uses nutrients in the diet to help it out.

Here are some of the immune cells that help fight cancer:

Lymphocytes

There are two main types of lymphocytes, which are specialized white blood cells:

  • B cells
  • T cells

Both B and T cells are produced in the bone marrow. They mature and then travel to the spleen and lymph nodes, where they’re ready to fight cancer and infection.

B cells make special proteins called antibodies. Antibodies are like little flags that attach to damaged cells … so cancer cells are found and marked as abnormal by these antibodies.

Once the cancer cells are flagged by the B cells, immune cells called phagocytes see the flags and move in and engulf and destroy the cancer cells.

There are two main types of T cells:

  • Helper T cells
  • Killer T cells

Helper T cells control the immune system. They secrete chemical messengers and coordinate all the other immune cells.

Killer T cells attach to any cells that are infected or cancerous and destroy them.

cancer fighting immune cells

Neutrophils

Neutrophils are specialized white blood cells that also help fight cancer cells.

Neutrophils have just one job … to kill stuff! They swallow up the cancer cells and inject chemicals that cause the infected cells to self destruct.

One of the problems with chemotherapy and some radiation treatments is that they can lower the neutrophil count. This opens your dog up to bacterial, viral and fungal infections after treatment.

Because the immune system can detect and kill cancer cells – and because traditional cancer treatments harm the immune system – I chose a holistic approach for Audrey and Alice’s tumors.

I said no to harmful treatments and focused on helping their bodies deal with the cancer cells.

Over a year later, I feel like I made the right decision. Both dogs are cancer-free and extremely healthy. Both girls are 11 and run around like puppies.

So if you’re ready to manage tumors naturally too, let’s get to it!

Managing Your Dog’s Tumors Naturally

If you’d like to try a natural alternative to your dog’s tumors, I’ll share what worked for my dogs. I had a lot of help from the best experts in the world, but I’m happy to share this approach with you so you can have the same success with your dog.

Keep in mind, I’m not a vet … but I think I got this far by ignoring the chemical approach to cancer that most vets recommend.

Let’s face it … if vets had the answer to cancer, half of dogs wouldn’t get it in the first place!

So if you’re ready to rev up your dog’s immune system and fight cancer the way Mother Nature likes it, read on …

Step #1: Stop The Kibble

Remember, your goal is to support your dog’s immune system so it can deal with the cancer cells. So it’s critical that you don’t feed foods that stress the immune system.

That might seem obvious, but if you’re feeding your dog kibble, you’re feeding her ingredients that will take her immune system’s attention off the cancer cells.

There are real and dangerous ingredients in kibbles and processed foods that not only stress the immune system, but can actually cause cancer directly.

The most common pet food issues that increase your dog’s cancer risk include:

Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are cancer-causing molds found in grains and nuts.

The Consumer Council of Hong Kong found that nearly 40 popular pet foods (including Purina, Hill’s and AvoDerm) contained dangerous mycotoxins.

Purina responded to the tests and said these toxic chemicals are an “unavoidable contaminant.”

In the same study, Purina, Iams and Solid Gold were also found to contain melamine or cyanic acid, which is another potent carcinogen.

Heterocyclic Amines

These are cancer-causing substances that are the result of heating meat and fish.

A 2003 study sampled 25 commercial pet foods and all but one contained some sort of carcinogen. Out of those 25 samples, 13 of them contained heterocyclic amines.

In fact, a 2012 study by RJ Tureski showed that 14 out of ever 16 apparently “healthy” dogs had this cancer-causing chemical inside them.

Acrylomides

Acrylomides form when vegetables and grains are heated. They are toxic to the brain and nervous system and can also cause cancer.

PBDEs

Most pet foods contain PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenol ethers.

This is interesting because PBDE is a flame retardant that was banned in the US back in 2004!

Researchers tested the raw materials of pet foods before they were processed and the PBDEs weren’t present … something about heating and processing pet foods produces flame retardants that your dog eats.

PBDEs are similar to PCBs, which are linked to cancer and impaired brain development.

Glyphosate

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. This well-known weed-killer can cause cancer, infertility, brain disorders and heart disease.

Most kibbles contain glyphosate-laden ingredients like corn, soy and beets. 

In fact, researchers Anthony Samsell and Stephanie Seneff analyzed pet foods for the presence of this carcinogen. 

Every pet food tested contained glyphosate:

unhealthy ingredient listing for pet foods linked to dog tumors

Now you might be thinking that millions of dogs eat kibble and do just fine. And they are just fine … until they’re not:

survey results finding links between diet and dog tumors

Researchers at DogRisk.com surveyed thousands of dogs and examined the link between diet and tumors.

The foods circled in red mean the more you feed these foods, the greater the risk of tumor.

Green means the more you feed that food, the lower the risk of cancer.

You’ll see that cooked foods are the foods most linked with tumors. And the foods with the lowest risk of cancer are raw foods.

So that brings us to the next step in managing cancer naturally …

Step #2: Feed Fresh, Whole Foods

Raw foods are associated with a reduced risk of cancer. The more raw foods you feed your dog, the lower his cancer risk.

So if you don’t already feed your dog a raw diet, now’s the time to start. Raw diets don’t contain the chemicals that are linked to cancer.

It’s unrealistic to feed your dog foods that increase her risk of cancer and believe she’ll have a shot at winning.

RELATED: Here’s how to get started with a raw diet for dogs …

Step #3: Add Fresh Fruits & Veggies

In 2005, researchers looked at the relationship between vegetables, vitamins and the risk of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers.

The owners completed a questionnaire about their dogs’ diet and supplements, and the researchers evaluated the risk of transitional cell carcinoma in the bladder.

Dogs that ate dark leafy green, yellow and orange vegetables 3 times a week or more had a whopping 90% decrease in cancer risk … and dogs eating cruciferous vegetables only had a 70% reduction in cancer risk.

And, as an aside, vitamin supplements didn’t have any significant effect on cancer risk. And kibble relies on vitamin supplements for its nutritional value.  

The reason the dogs that ate fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of cancer is largely because of a phytochemical in fruits and veggies called a polyphenol.

Polyphenols can inhibit cells that cause DNA methylation, which is a major mechanism of cancer. They can also reactivate silenced genes in cancer cells and cause their death.

Both in vitro and in vivo studies show polyphenols reduce the risk of cancer.

Polyphenols can also control cell growth and division (and cancer forms when cells divide uncontrollably).

Polyphenols are richest in these foods:

  • Spices including cumin and ginger
  • Herbs like peppermint and oregano
  • Dark berries like blueberries and cranberries
  • Vegetables like artichokes, spinach and broccoli
  • Other fruits including apples, pomegranates, peaches, plums, oranges, lemons and apricot.

You can research all of the polyphenols and their top food sources at phenol-explorer.eu.

Step #4: Fresh Air & Exercise

One of the best things you can do for a dog with cancer is regular exercise.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published a study in 2014 that showed how exercise can reprogram cancer.

They split healthy people into two groups and asked them to cycle for three months … with only one leg. They then compared the DNA in the muscle cells of the exercised and unexercised leg and found there were new methylation patterns on the exercised leg.

Many of the changes were on parts of the genome that play a role in metabolism, insulin response and inflammation. So, exercise silences genes that are involved in chronic inflammation, which could explain why regular exercise decreases the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Exercise also increases the expression of genes that suppress tumors and the expression of oncogenes, which are abnormal genes that predispose cells to develop into cancers. 

Step #5: Remove Any Growing Tumor

When Audrey developed her tumor, it was a very small bump on her left side. So I gave Audrey my cancer-fighting supplements (which I’ll show you in the next step), and just watched the tumor to see if it grew.

Around the same time, Alice developed a mammary tumor that was half the size of a golf ball. I watched both tumors closely for any changes.

A growing tumor means the immune system can’t keep up … it means the cancer is winning.

Over the next four months, both tumors started to grow in size, so I knew they had to come out if my dogs were to have a chance. At this point, I didn’t even know they were cancer, but I skipped the biopsy and took my girls straight to surgery.

Here’s why I avoid biopsies …

Say No To Biopsy

A biopsy is when your vet takes a sample of tissue from your dog and sends it out to the lab to be analyzed. The cells are then examined to see if they’re cancerous.

That’s the good news …

… so what’s the bad news?

The problem with biopsy is that it tends to seed cancer cells. Seeding means the cancer cells can be dislodged during the biopsy … and they can travel to other parts of the body.

This spread of cancer is called metastasis.

For this reason, I chose to just assume both Audrey’s and Alice’s tumors were cancerous and I bypassed the biopsy … and I chose surgery instead.

The difference between biopsy and surgically removing the tumors is that surgery allows the vet to collect a good amount of healthy tissue around the tumor, to make sure all of the cancer cells are cut out. This reduces the risk of seeding and metastasis.

Once the tumors are removed, then they can be sent to the lab to be examined. Which is what I did with Alice and Audrey’s tumors.

The Tip Of The Iceberg

I mentioned before that Alice’s tumor was about half the size of a golfball. On the surface, it looked pretty small. But once the tumor was removed, it was obvious that it was much larger than we thought. Here is Alice’s tumor:

dog tumors

It felt incredibly small on the surface … but beneath the skin was a massive tumor.

Most surprisingly, Audrey’s was also larger than I expected. What felt like a largish wart was actually a baseball-sized tumor!

If I had left that tumor intact and not removed it surgically, the sticky cancer cells would have eventually attached themselves to Audrey’s ribs, making removal much, much harder down the road.

So both tumors were sent to the pathologist to be examined. While I was waiting for the results, I made sure both Alice and Audrey were on the best cancer-fighting supplements I could find. Of course, this was in addition to their fresh, raw food diet, lots of berries and bright-colored vegetation, and daily exercise.

Here are the supplements I found most useful for fighting tumors:

Step 5#: Add Cancer-Fighting Supplements

I knew I didn’t want to just throw the kitchen sink at my girls. I wanted them to enjoy their meals and not have to endure pounds of supplements.

So, with the help of some of the vets who write for DNM, we whittled our supplements down to the ones we knew had good amounts of research behind them.

My final list of supplements, in order of most important to least important is:

Medicinal Mushrooms

Most medicinal mushrooms have two main medicinal components: Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharide-P (PSP). They form part of the mushroom’s cell wall and they give the cell its structure.

Both PSK and PSP are called beta-D-glucans. These beta-glucans can bind directly to receptors in immune cells … and trigger immune changes that can increase the activity of some immune cells, or restore a healthy immune response.

Beta-D-glucans can bind to and activate macrophages, which are the immune cells responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses, and invaders like cancer cells. Beta-glucans can also stimulate other immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells and T cells, which can also destroy cancer cells.

In fact, PSP has been approved as an anti-cancer drug in Japan and China. And PSK is the main component of an anti-cancer drug approved in Japan called Krestin. So beta-glucans play a primary role in my dogs’ cancer care.

Overall, beta-glucans have been shown to:

  • Activate immune cells
  • Increase antibody production
  • Reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines
  • Enhance the immune response to multiple cancers
  • Inhibit the spread of cancer cells (metastasis)

A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine looked at the effectiveness of turkey tail mushrooms in treating dogs with hemangiosarcoma. 

Hemangiosarcoma is a vascular cancer with a high rate of metastasis (spreading to other parts of the body). It’s an aggressive cancer that’s primarily found in the spleen. 

When the results were analyzed, the researchers found the dogs given the PSP had a much longer time until metastasis. And survival time increased with the size of the dose. 

Here are the results of the study:

  • Survival time with no treatment: 86 days
  • Survival time with 50mg-kg/day turkey tail: 117 days
  • Survival time with 100mg-kg/day turkey tail: 199 days

Some of the most popular and useful mushrooms include:

  • Shiitake
  • Maitaki
  • Reishi
  • Turkey tail
  • Cordyceps

Ideally, you’ll want to find a blend of 6 or 7 mushrooms, as they work synergistically.

I had a lot of trouble finding real mushrooms for my dogs.

Most mushroom products are nothing but mycelium, which is a small part of the mushroom that doesn’t contain all of the cancer-fighting beta-glucans my dogs need.

I actually gave my dogs a human supplement because none of the pet mushrooms I could find were real mushrooms. (As a side note, this is why I started Four Leaf Rover … I wanted to make real medicinal mushroom blends available for all dogs instead of cheap mycelium products.)

I gave my dogs a 7 mushroom blend twice a day, and doubled up on the Turkey Tail.

CBD Oil

The next supplement on my list was CBD oil.

Research shows CBD oil and other substances in hemp and cannabis have an anti-tumor effect. It has even been shown to stop cancer cells from growing and increases tumor cell death.

Overall, CBD oil:

  • Helps the immune system’s killer cells to cause cancer cell death
  • Kills cancer cells by blocking their ability to produce energy
  • Has anti-tumor properties that slow and inhibit glioma cell growth
  • Can help increase the efficacy of conventional cancer treatment

So CBD was an important addition to my dogs’ immune-based cancer treatment. For cancer, I gave my dogs 1,000mg of CBD a day.

Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a potent anti-cancer substance that’s found in cruciferous veggies. All cruciferous veggies are rich glucosinolates and myrosinass. which combine to release sulforaphane after they’re chewed, chopped or digested.

Sulforaphane has many impressive health benefits, but let’s focus on its anti-cancer effects …

Research shows that eating cruciferous veggies reduces cancer risk in humans, and animal studies show that sulforaphane can …

  • Help protect cell damage
  • Cause cancer cell death (apoptosis)
  • Inhibit tumor blood vessels
  • Control metastasis
  • Inactivate carcinogens

Sulforaphane’s anti-cancer actions are mainly because it’s an HDAC and methyltransferase inhibitos. These are groups of enzymes involved in DNA transcription. Inhibiting them helps protect your dog’s DNA by expressing special tumor suppressor genes.

So what’s the best way to give your dog sulforaphane for cancer?

Researchers from Oregon State University gave dogs broccoli sprout powder, which is the richest food source of sulforaphane. They found that sulforaphane had the same digestibility in dogs as humans … and that they also saw a better reduction in HDAC activity.

Just 1 oz, or about 1/2 cup of broccoli sprouts contains about 73mg of sulforaphane. Make sure your broccoli sprout powder is freeze-dried … because heat can destroy the myrosinase. A good daily broccoli sprout dose by weight is …

5 – 25 pounds: 250 mg
25 – 50 pounds: 500 mg
50 – 100 pounds: 1,000 mg

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (EFAs) also play a major role in fighting cancer cells.

Omega-3 fats don’t just reduce inflammation … they also have anti-cancer properties.

Omega-3 fats can make cancer cells more sensitive to free radicals by making their cell membrane less rigid. This makes the cancer cells more vulnerable to damage.

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, have also been shown to slow cancer cell replication and create apoptosis (cancer cell death). And studies in mice show that the fatty acids DHA and EPA can slow the growth of certain cancers.

On the other hand, linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, has also been shown to prevent apoptosis in cancer cells and can increase metastasis in human breast cancer. Linoleic acid can also interfere with the conversion of alpha-linoleic acid to EPA and DHA.

This is why it’s important to keep your dog’s omega-6 intake to a minimum and ramp up his omega-3 fats.

Related: The ultimate guide to fats for dogs …

Omega-3 fatty acids are typically rich in fish oil. But I’m not a big fan of fish oil … it’s destroying our oceans and there are better alternatives that are free of radiation, mercury and heavy metals.

Green lipped mussel oil is sustainably grown in clean New Zealand water, and they eat phytoplankton, which supplies a good source of omega-3 fats and amino acids, as well as other important minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Green lipped mussel oil is rich in ETA, unlike fish oil. For my dogs, I combined green lipped mussel oil with ahiflower oil for its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits.

Those are the only supplements I added to my dogs’ regimen. And for cancer prevention, I put all of my dogs on these supplements, not just Alice and Audrey.

I hope these well-researched supplements help with your dog’s tumors and get her back on the path to wellness too.

References

Knize MG, Salmon CP, Felton JS. Mutagenic activity and heterocyclic amine carcinogens in commercial pet foods. Mutat Res. 2003 Aug 5;539(1-2):195-201. 

Marta Venier, Ronald A. Hites. Flame Retardants in the Serum of Pet Dogs and in Their Food. Environmental Science & Technology. 2011 45 (10), 4602-4608

Raghavan M, et al. Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Jul 1;227(1):94-100.

Fang M, Chen D, Yang CS. Dietary polyphenols may affect DNA methylation. J Nutr. 2007 Jan;137(1 Suppl):223S-228S. 

Zhou Y, Zheng J, Li Y, Xu DP, Li S, Chen YM, Li HB. Natural Polyphenols for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer. Nutrients. 2016 Aug 22;8(8):515. 

Lindholm ME, et al. An integrative analysis reveals coordinated reprogramming of the epigenome and the transcriptome in human skeletal muscle after training. Epigenetics. 2014 Dec;9(12):1557-69. 

Brown DC, Reetz J. Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:384301. 

Haustein M, et al. Cannabinoids increase lung cancer cell lysis by lymphokine-activated killer cells via upregulation of ICAM-1. Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Nov 15;92(2):312-25.

A. I. Fraguas-Sánchez et al. (2016) Phyto-, endo- and synthetic cannabinoids: promising chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of breast and prostate carcinomas. Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs, 25:11, 1311-1323.

Lukhele ST, Motadi LR. Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Sep 1;16(1):335. 

Brown DC, Reetz J. Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:384301. 

Robert J. McKallip et al. Cannabidiol-Induced Apoptosis in Human Leukemia Cells: A Novel Role of Cannabidiol in the Regulation of p22phox and Nox4 Expression. Molecular Pharmacology, September 1, 2006,  70 (3) 897-908.

A. I. Fraguas-Sánchez et al. (2016) Phyto-, endo- and synthetic cannabinoids: promising chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of breast and prostate carcinomas, Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs, 25:11, 1311-1323.

Rajendran P et al. Nrf2 status affects tumor growth, HDAC3 gene promoter associations, and the response to sulforaphane in the colon. Clinical Epigenetics 2015 Sep 18;7(1):102.

Emily Ho PhD. Beyond prevention: sulforaphane may find possible use for cancer therapy. Oregon State University. January 12 2015. 

Royston KJ, Tollefsbol TO. The epigenetic impact of cruciferous vegetables on cancer prevention. Current Environmental Health Reports 2015;1, 46–51.

Curran KM, Bracha S, Wong CP, Beaver LM, Stevens JF, Ho E. Sulforaphane absorption and histone deacetylase activity following single dosing of broccoli sprout supplement in normal dogs. Veterinary Medicine and Science 2018 Aug 17;4(4):357-363.

Nabavi SF et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cancer: lessons learned from clinical trials. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2015 Sep;34(3):359-80. 

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