Holistic Help For Pets With Cancer

Part 1 of 2

by Teresa Garden, DVM


We all dread hearing the word cancer.  All of us are touched by it in one way or another.  Our pets are too.  One half of dogs and cats over 10 years old have cancer somewhere in their bodies.  Why is cancer on the rise?  Genetics can play a role.  Environmental carcinogens are a larger concern.  Cigarette smoke, fumes from newer carpets and furniture, lawn chemicals, polluted air and water, and high-carbohydrate commercial pet foods can all share the blame. As veterinarians, we have more tools at our disposal to help us diagnose cancer: radiographs, ultrasounds, surgery, biopsies, CT scans, and MRI.  Many cancers can be treated or managed after being diagnosed.  Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are commonly employed to save pets lives.  If cancer cannot be cured, it can often be palliated by using these same therapies.


At Animal Health & Healing we strongly believe an integrative medical approach is best for fighting cancer.  We believe incorporating holistic therapies along with conventional medicine will provide the best outcome for our patients. Our goal is to develop an individual treatment protocol for each pet’s need based on type, location, extent of cancer, and the overall  health status of the pet.  We believe this approach produces the best quality and quantity of life possible.  Even in cases where surgery or chemotherapy is not an option, holistic medicine can still help many cancer patients.


Nutrition is the key to good health-especially for our pets battling cancer.  What is the best diet to feed if your pet has cancer?  It is a homemade diet moderately high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates.  Most tumors feed off of carbohydrates.  Reducing simple carbs may reduce substrate for cancer cell energy production.  Cancer cells do not use fats as energy and a diet high in fat will help pets to maintain body weight.  Protein will help to maintain  muscle mass.  Homemade diets should be composed of 50% chicken, turkey, fish, cottage cheese or eggs; 25% cooked whole grains; and 25%  vegetables.  Red meats are to be avoided due to their iron content.  Some tumors will use iron to replicate.  Whole grains to consider are wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, and organic brown rice.  A variety of vegetables can be offered: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peas, green beans, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and squash.  The meats and veggies can be fed raw or cooked depending on the pet’s preference and level of health.  Olive oil or avocado oil will need to be added to the diet along with  bone meal and a vitamin/mineral supplement to balance it out.  Remember to add a small amount of organ meats such as liver, kidneys, and hearts.  They will help boost the level of anti-oxidants and Vitamin A in the body.  Recent decreases of organ meats in commercial pet food may play a role in increasing susceptibility to tumor generation.  Commercial pet foods have also been found to contain carcinogens such as nitrites, pesticides, rancid fats and oils, and preservatives such as ethoxyquin.  This is just one of many reasons to never feed commercial pet foods!  If it is not possible to feed a home prepared diet then consider feeding a grain-free natural diet.  These are available locally at better pet stores in dry or canned form.  These highly nutritious diets are moderately high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates, therefore, are appropriate for cancer patients.


Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil gel caps or liquid salmon oil can benefit all cancer patients.


Research has shown the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA will inhibit tumor growth and metastasis, inhibit muscle wasting (cachexia), and may increase the effectiveness of some chemotherapeutic drugs.  A general dose is 500mg DHA and EPA (combined) per 10 pounds of body weight daily.  Many of our patients enjoy the taste of Grizzly’s Salmon Oil.  This is an all natural and very clean source of  Omega-3 fatty acids and is readily available at local pet stores. CAS OPTIONS is a wonderful supplement made by the Resources company to help support dogs and cats with cancer.  At Animal Health & Healing we will employ its use in the treatment of many types of cancer:  mast cell tumors, lymphoma, sarcomas, melanomas, and squamous cell carcinoma.  This edible supplement contains the antioxidants Vitamins A, C, E and Japanese mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake .  Besides boosting the immune system and slowing tumor growth, CAS OPTIONS can enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy while minimizing the side effects of these cytotoxic drugs.  The polysaccharides found in the Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake  mushrooms have both anti-tumor and immunostimulating activities.  They  enhance activities of macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and cytotoxic T-cells, thereby, slowing tumor growth.  Vitamin A will stimulate white blood cell production, increase antibody response, and can regulate cancer cells.  Vitamin C has numerous immune-enhancing activities among them increasing natural killer cells and increasing interferon levels.  Vitamin E will enhance both antibody and cell mediated immunity.  CAS OPTIONS also contains green tea powder and Coenzyme Q-10.  The ployphenols in green tea powder have anti-cancer properties such as blocking urokinase, an enzyme, that cancer tumors need to grow.  Blocking urokinase can shrink tumors and sometimes causes remission. Coenzyme Q-10 is a potent antioxidant that can strengthen the immune system.  It will also protect against chemotherapy toxicity and protects the body against the localized toxic effects of tumors in surrounding tissues.


Part 2 of this article will continue in the October 2010 issue.  We will explore various herbal treatments for 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.  AnimalHealthandHealing.com; phone: 314-781-1738.