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8 Alternative Dog Cancer Treatments

Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation aren’t the only options when your dog is diagnosed with cancer. We run through some alternative dog cancer treatments.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Dec 15th 2017


If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, your priorities quickly become making sure that your dog is comfortable, and able to access the very best veterinary treatment. Dr. Barbara Biller, an Associate Professor of Oncology at the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center and a member of the American Animal Hospital Association Oncology Task Force, who authored the 2016 Oncology Guidelines for Dogs and Cats previously shared with us that one of the best things you can do if your dog is diagnosed with cancer is speak to a Veterinary Oncologist right away. They will be the best qualified to walk you through all of the traditional therapies, and discuss pros and cons of different options from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation to more alternative dog cancer treatment options.

Cancer is one of the scariest words to hear about your dog’s health, but the good thing is that there are many treatment options available to support you and your dog, including traditional, alternative and experimental procedures.

Confused about alternative dog cancer treatments? Let’s take a look:

1. Electrochemotherapy

A sick dog at the vet.

Should you consider alternative dog cancer treatments? Photography ©Chalabala | Thinkstock.

One of the newest alternative dog cancer treatments is electrochemotherapy. According to Aspen Veterinary Specialists, electrochemotherapy involves a veterinarian using “small doses of systemic or intralesional chemotherapy followed by electric pulses applied to the tumor.” Electrochemotherapy makes cancer cells absorb chemotherapy more effectively. This is generally used as part of a cancer treatment plan after surgery has removed most of the cancerous tumor.

2. Chinese Veterinary Medicine

It’s only recently come to the US, but Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to care for animals for thousands of years in other parts of the world. According to the Chi Institute, “Chinese Medicine is a complete body of thought and practice grounded in Chinese Daoist philosophy. Though it’s existed for over two millennia in recorded history, it, like any medical system, continues to evolve today, and current research on acupuncture and herbal medicine is beginning to shed light on its mechanism of action.” This holistic treatment can be used on its own or in conjunction with a western medical treatment plan.

3. Diet

Rodney Habib, a blogger and lecturer about dog health, has dedicated his life to touring the world looking for new and alternative dog cancer treatments. Habib says he believes “40% of cancer can be impacted by dietary changes” and that “you have the ability to turn on or turn off cancer growth with what you put into your dog’s bowl.”

Specifically, Habib and some of the holistic veterinary researchers he works with are concerned with the amounts of sugar and carbohydrates in commercial dog foods, because they believe sugar speeds up growth in cancer cells. Although cancer experts at The Mayo Clinic dispute that sugar has any impact on the growth of cancer, Habib says changes in diet plus the addition of glycolysis inhibitors “blocks the cancer’s ability to suck up sugar” and can help fight cancer.

Habib says cancer-fighting foods for dogs include human-grade meats, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. 

Read more about diets for dogs with cancer here >>

4. Supplements

Habib also encourages pet parents to talk with holistic veterinarians about access to natural supplements and to explore the medicinal benefits of natural ingredients. “Everyone has heard of turmeric root, but the active quality destroys cancer more effectively than chemotherapy,” Habib explains. A study from Dallas Texas’ Baylor University shows the promising nature of the healing properties of turmeric for fighting cancer. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is an antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties that support wound healing as well as fighting cancer.

5. Mushrooms

Researches are increasingly validating the claims that holistic healers have made. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania looks at the healing properties of the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom. This mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that dogs who treated their cancer with this mushroom had “the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.”

6. Oxygen

Dogs breathe air all the time, but — believe it or not — some alternative dog cancer treatments center on increasing the amount of pure oxygen that dogs receive. This is hyperbaric therapy and Habib says that there are only a few types of these clinics in the US. Habib believes that if your dog is diagnosed with cancer “the first thing you want to do is engulf your dog in oxygen.” Hyperbaric therapy involves putting a dog into a chamber where the oxygen levels can be raised. This means that the levels of oxygen absorbed and dissolved into the blood are higher than possible under natural circumstances. This may help the dog’s body fight off the growth of cancerous cells.

7. Acupuncture

More and more dog parents are turning to acupuncture treatments to decrease a dog’s pain, both from the cancer itself and the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. In addition, acupuncture treatment is credited with increasing blood circulation, and boosting your pup’s immune system, which have both been shown to support dogs staying healthier while fighting cancer. To find a professional certified in Veterinary Acupuncture near you, visit  ivas.org.

8. Clinical Trials

One of the best ways to keep your dog’s treatment on the cutting edge of cancer research is clinical trials. Veterinary researchers are always working to identify new and more effective cancer treatments that will help prolong the life of dogs and, in most instances, participation in a clinical trial has no cost to pet owners. You can search for clinical trials for your dog’s specific condition on ebusiness.avma.org and caninecancer.org.au.

The Right Treatment Plan For Your Dog

Scientists are learning more about cancer every day, and many pet parents are opting for a combination of treatments to keep their dogs comfortable while fighting cancer. Often, there is no possible harm in adding holistic treatment options into your dog’s cancer care plan. Holistic and alternative options can often be used in conjunction with a more traditional course of treatment.

Finances, personal values and accessibility of treatments are key factors to think about when selecting cancer treatment(s) for your dog. You also want to take into account your dog’s age, overall health, temperament, quality of life during treatment and prognosis for quality of life after treatment. Getting a cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking, but trust your instincts and find a veterinary team that takes your budget, values and, most importantly, your individual dog, into consideration.

Thumbnail: Photography ©undefined undefined | Thinkstock. 

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author. Her novels have been honored by organizations ranging from the Lambda Literary Foundation to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix and a Newfoundland puppy, along with two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com.

Curious about alternative cancer treatments for humans? Learn more here >>

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