Holistic Help For Pets With Cancer

Part 2 of 2

by Teresa Garden, DVM


In the first part of this series we explored how nutrition, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in treating cancer.  In this article we will focus on herbal treatments and pain management for cancer patients.

The Hoxsey formula is a combination of about nine western herbs each of which may have cytotoxic and immune-stimulating activity. Hoxsey herbs are used to treat cancers that present as Damp and Toxic Heat from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.  Tumors that may have this clinical presentation include squamous cell carcinoma, nasal adenocarcinoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and chondrosarcoma.  At Animal Health & Healing we use a modified version of the Hoxsey formula. It contains the herb boneset which can help alleviate deep bone pain associated with some cancers.  Hoxsey herbs are available as a powder that can be mixed with the pet’s food.

Artemisinin is an herbal medicine shown to kill human and canine cancer cells in laboratory research.  It is derived from the Artemisin plant which is also known as Wormwood or Sweet Annie. Cancer cells sequester and contain large amounts of iron compared to normal cells.  Artemisinin has been shown to cause rapid and extensive damage and death to cancer cells by reacting with the iron in those cells to form free radicals. This will then slow the grow of the  cancer cells while having low toxicity to normal cells.  Artemisinin can enhance the effect of chemotherapy but cannot be used during radiation treatment.  Like most herbs, it is used in cycles-3 weeks on and 1 week off.  It is supplied as a  capsule to be given twice daily with peanut butter or dairy products. Meaty meals must be avoided for 2-3 hours.  Liver and kidney enzymes should be monitored every 3 months.  Research studies have shown it to be effective for osteosarcoma. melanoma, mammary cancers, lung cancers, colon cancers,  renal cancer, and lymphoma.

Neoplasene is an isoquinolone alkaloid derived from the bloodroot plant, Sanguinaria canadensis.  Like the   previously discussed herbs, it too, can be an affordable, practical, and effective alternative treatment for cancer in some pets.  It works by destroying the cell wall membrane of malignant cells while sparing normal cells.  Neoplasene is available in three forms:  topical salve, injectable, and oral liquid.  Which form to use is dependent on tumor size and shape, location, and metastasis.  Treatment protocol is independent of cancer cell type.  Many thousands of clinical applications have been accomplished over the past few years by veterinary oncologists and private practitioners to help both small and large animals.  The oral form must be given with homemade or canned food only.  Raw food and dry food must be avoided.  When large doses of oral Neoplasene are employed, the pet must be given an anti-emetic such as Reglan to prevent nausea and anorexia.  Oral Neoplasene is indicated for internal tumors not amenable to surgery or chemotherapy and for cancers that have metastasized.  The topical salve is practical for small skin and subcutaneous tumors while the injectable is used for larger tumors.

One of the most important tenets of holistic medicine is managing pain in our cancer patients.  All cancers cause inflammation which leads to chronic pain ranging from mild to severe.  Regardless of whether conventional or alternative modalities are employed, all cancer patients must be treated for pain.  I firmly believe this is the time and place when pharmaceuticals should be employed.  Numerous studies have shown the earlier these drugs are used, the better the patient will do.  This is true of people and animal patients—PAIN MUST BE TREATED EARLY! NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are utilized first to combat pain and inflammation. These are prescription drugs ( such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, or Metacam) pets take daily in pill or liquid form on a long term basis.  If NSAIDS are not controlling  pain well enough then analgesics, such as gabapentin and amantadine, are  added to the pain treatment protocol.  Both of these analgesics  work on neurological receptors to control maladaptive pain.  They have been extensively used to help people battle chronic pain and are showing much promise for our animal friends as well. Tramadol, a synthetic opioid, can be used for acute flare-up of pain or break-through pain.

Quality of life must be preserved for our dear pets with terminal cancer.  It is up to each of us to be an advocate on their behalf.  We must pay attention to make sure they are eating and drinking enough.  Can they urinate and defecate without pain? Are they breathing without difficulty?  Are they able to keep themselves clean or do they need help?  Can they ambulate on their own or do they need assistance? Are they happy?  Happiness may be playing with toys, going for walks, chasing squirrels, or interacting with other pets and people in  the household.  When quality of life can no longer be achieved, then humane euthanasia can and should be considered for our beloved pets.  But until that time, we should do our best to fight the good fight against cancer.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area.  Phone: 314-781-1738.  AnimalHealthandHealing.com.