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
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.
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 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.
**The company only sells through healthcare practitioners so you will have to buy this through your vet.
Beta Thym by Doctor’s Best For Your Pets. This is one of
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.
Mushrooms. Several kinds of mushrooms are known to boost immunity.
Animal Medical Center in New York, the world’s largest small animal hospital, uses mushrooms 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% 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.
Omega-3 oil. 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.
Mushroom Complexes. 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.
RELATED: Cancer and the health benefits of mushrooms for dogs
Colostrum. Colostrum comes from the first milk of lactating cows. It contains 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.
RELATED: Benefits of colostrum for dogs …
Astragalus. 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. 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.
CoEnzyme Q10. 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.
Glutathione. 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.
Herbals. 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.
ESSIAC. 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 (turmeric). 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 supplement made for dogs (or humans) and not grocery store turmeric used for cooking, which contains only a small amount of curcumin.
Hoxsey Formula.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.