Lymphoma in dogs and cats – integrative medicine – chemotherapy and herbs with a side of acupuncture

Lymphoma is one of the fastest moving cancers out there. Because it is so fast moving, it is also the most responsive cancer to chemotherapy.

The prognosis with this disease can be very bad, especially if no treatment is used.

However the good news is, with chemotherapy and holistic medicine we can often get 18-24 months and occasionally ongoing remission. Integrative medicine clearly is the best way to go with this disease.

With no treatment I have seen animals die within one week of diagnosis. The average is 4 weeks with no treatment. With using natural medicine, I have found usually I can move that out to 2-4 months. Chemotherapy alone pushes that even further with average survival at around a year.

When a dog or cat comes to me with lymphoma, I highly recommend they consult with an oncologist or a vet who does a lot of chemotherapy work. If you want remission with this cancer you need to do chemotherapy.

The most widely used chemotherapy protocol for this cancer consisted of a multiple drug approach and is given over approximately six months for dogs. In cats the protocol is shorter and the main vet I work with believes that one to three chemo treatments can significantly slow down this disease in felines.

Full chemotherapy for dogs can also be quite expensive, around $4000. Shorter durations can be given for this cancer as well if cost or tolerance of chemotherapy is a concern.

Because so many people choice to do chemotherapy for this cancer I divided this article into four sections.

  • Treatments I recommend regardless of western treatment
  • Treatments I use with chemo
  • Treatments to give if no chemotherapy is used
  • Cats

So first what do I recommend for all cats and dogs with lymphoma? (Follow the links for more information on the supplements and dosing information.)

  1. Weekly or every other week acupuncture. I have seen this make a large difference in survival times and in keeping white blood cell levels within normal range during chemotherapy. Usually just with acupuncture alone I can double any prognosis. Please see Acupuncture for animals with cancer – stoking the healing power within
  2. Artemisinin can reduce node size and make animals feel better.
  3. A good cancer diet without grains. If you are using chemo do not feed raw food, make sure it is cooked. For more information on the diets I recommend seeDiets for cancer in cats and dogs.
  4. Xiao Chai Hu Tang – Sometimes I add indigo and others herbs to this formula for dogs I see in person to customize it but the straight formula works well also. If you are working with a holistic vet ask them about additions.

In addition to this protocol if no chemo is used I often recommend –

  1. Prednisone. Yes it is a western drug, but it will work as a chemotherapy drug and shrink the nodes. Every animal I have treated for lymphoma has been on prednisone and I highly recommend it. If you are considering chemo do not start the prednisone before consulting with an oncologist or vet who knows chemo. If given before chemo the prednisone can significantly reduce the outcome of the chemo.
  2. SanSheDan ChuanBeiYe is great at slowing this cancer down and keeping it out of the lungs.
  3. Hoxsey-like formula or Cancer Detox Support Hoxsey can make some dogs sick, I usually only recommend using it if you are working directly with a holistic vet who thinks it is appropriate. I also use a similar formula I call cancer detox which is less toxic but still has some great anti-cancer properties.
  4. Si Miao San I use a lot less of this these days but still sometimes if the lymphoma is mostly in the nodes or gastrointestinal system.

If chemotherapy is given I add to my main protocol:

  1. Mushrooms – I give a mushroom combo with shiitake, maitaki, reishi and cordyceps There are many of these products. Mushrooms not only have effects directly against cancer but stimulate the immune system and help keep white blood cell counts up.
  2. Milk thistle – improves the outcome of chemotherapy and decreases side effects
  3. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang – there is a great study out there at shows this herbal improves outcomes and reduces side effects during chemotherapy.

In cats

Cats have a hard time with multiple drugs and supplements. With cats I start them on my main protocol and then wait a week. If they are still eating well I will then add in one Chinese herbal formula in addition to my main protocol.

How do I decide which one?

The best I can tell you is usually this will either be Xiao Chai Hu Tang if this cancer is intestinal or centered in the spleen or liver, Hoxsey-like formula if the cancer is in the nodes, or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang if they are getting chemotherapy.

If at all possible find a good holistic practitioner to work with your cat. Cats generally do really well with acupuncture so if at all possible find someone who also does acupuncture.

Cats can get a disease called small cell lymphoma which is very slow moving. I treat this differently and will try to put up another article on it.

As with all advice offered on this website please check in with your animal’s primary veterinarian before using any of these herbals and supplements.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods for Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

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8 Responses to “Lymphoma in dogs and cats – integrative medicine – chemotherapy and herbs with a side of acupuncture”

  1. Ying Says:

    Hi Lena, thank you so much for doing this section up! You’re a Godsend.
    I live in Singapore, and one of my cats, Huang-Huang had been diagnosed with renal lymphoma a few days ago. Chemotherapy was not recommended by the vet, and the outlook she gave was pretty grim. I was crushed. He’s only 4 years old and i had only rescued him from the local pound half a year ago. He ought to have a much longer way to go! I asked her if there is any Chinese medicine or herbs that may work. After she did some sourcing and research, she prescribed him Hoxsey-like formula manufactured by Natural Path company and Si Miao San. He was also prescribed a course of Clavamox antibiotics and Care-o-pet to keep the fever down. He had been taking the meds for 3 days now without any side effects. No vomiting or diarrhea.
    I’m lucky to be living near a Chinese medicine hall, so i can get Xiao Chai Hu Tang in pill form and also Sanshedan Chuanbeiye pretty easily. I’m just wondering if together with the Hoxsey and Si Miao San, can he take those 2 as well? I’m also looking at Artemisinin since you mentioned that this herb can reduce node size. I may be able to get it online at or some large pharmacy.

  2. Lena McCullough, DVM Says:

    Hi Ying,
    You can definitely use all the herbals you mention together however I always worry about using more than three in cats since they tend to have sensitive digestion. If you use more than three I would add in one a week above the three and if she decreases in eating at all stop the additional ones.

    I might also wait until she is done with the Clavamox to add anything else in since that can also upset the stomach. Do you have a vet that does acupuncture in your area? That might also be very helpful for Huang Huang and not something else to add to her digestive tract. I have a link to Holley pharmacy on the artemisinin page which is where I buy mine from. I’m not sure if they would ship to Singapore and you may also find somewhere closer to get it.

    I hope that Huang Huang ends up doing well. I have been amazed at what herbs can do!
    best wishes,

    Best wishes

  3. Ying Says:

    Hi Lena,

    Thanks very much for the advice and info! However, I’m confused. I brought Huanghuang to a vet who did acupunture on Friday night, but he reacted aggressively to it. Is that normal? The vet said his skin is tougher than usual, so had to use larger needles. She also used electro-magnetic currents for turning of the needles. He became pretty edgy and bit me quite badly (I had to get a tetanus shot and antibiotics).

    His kidneys were found to be failing 85% after a blood test as well. This vet told me to continue the Si Miao San and Hoxsey, and prescribed me some Wei Qi Booster as well as Calcium to bind phosphorus in his food. There’s also yet another course of Clavet antibiotics prescribed. Tried to look up Wei Qi Booster on your sife but i couldn’t find any information. Do you know what that is really for?

    I’m more concerned about his aggressive reaction to the acupuncture though. Is this causing him a lot of distress? The session was done on Friday night, it’s Sunday morning now, and his appetite is still very poor (I have to forcefeed him food). Also, because of the acupuncture session, he became a lot more sensitive with the spine area for the next day and it was somewhat difficult to handle him. Should i continue with the sessions?

  4. Lena McCullough, DVM Says:

    Hi Ying,
    I have only had three animals who were so reactive to needles that I could not treat them with acupuncture in my six years of practice. Those animals I could not treat but I also didn’t push it when it became clear that acupuncture was not going to work for them. Acupuncture should not be painful and most of the animals I treat actually really enjoy it. I do have animals who are sensitive to needles but usually we just distract them with treats and then they relax once the needles are in. After acupuncture I will sometimes have an animal who is a little lethargic for 24 hours after treatment and then feels better but most of them feel better instantly. It should not make them feel bad.

    I would see if you can find another acupuncturist to work with Huanghuang. It may be that he will respond well to someone else. I would not continue with this practitioner if Huanghuang felt bad after wards. You may also be able to find a massage practitioner who can do acupressure if he is very sensitive to acupuncture.

    Sometimes Hoxsey can cause some stomach upset so if Huanghuang is not eating well I would stop the Hoxsey until he is.

    Wei Qi Booster is a general qi tonic with qi and blood movers and some heat clearing ingredients. I would consider it an immune system booster. There is nothing wrong with using it, it is just not a formula I use myself although I use ones similar to it.

    I hope Huanghuang is feeling better soon. I’m sorry you both had such a bad acupuncture experience. It should should not be that way.

    best wishes,

  5. rich Says:

    my kitty molly & i are anxiously awaiting the article on your treatment for cats w/ small cell lymphoma (hers is in her small intestine).

  6. Lena McCullough, DVM Says:

    Hi Rich,
    Often with small cell lymphoma the cancer is very slow moving. One of the vets I work with is often able to treat it with one to three chemo treatments. Prednisone can also be very beneficial for these guys. Because it is usually so slow moving I generally stay away from the harsher herbals like Hoxsey and tend to treat with more nourishing or tonifying herbals like Xiao Chai Hu Tang if there are vomiting issues or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang if there are issues with wasting. If it does seem to be it is moving fast then I would treat it the same as normal lymphoma. I’m just about to leave on vacation so it may be awhile before that article is done.

    I hope Molly does well.

    Hope this helps!
    best wishes,

  7. Rita Says:

    I love your website. I am so glad I have had the opportunity to read through it. My 8 year old Collie was diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoma in the mediastinum in Sept 2012. We began chemotherapy following week using the drug, Lomustine. She did not tolerate very well, but is still in remission. My oncologist wants to try the CHOP protocol this week. I also have a holistic vet who is doing acupuncture once weekly. We have discussed starting Artemenisin as well. Since reading your above information, would like to start the milk thistle, mushrooms and Bi Zhong Yi Qi Tang. I am also cooking her a homemade diet, and she is on omega 3 oil, prednisone, metronidazole and K9 Immunity Plus. I would so appreciate any feedback as far as her treatment and any suggestions you might have. She is feeling very well right now, and I am hesitant to start chemo again because she was sick with it, would love to hear your opinion. Thank you in advance.

  8. Lena Says:

    Hi Rita,
    I’m so glad that you have a holistic vet you are working with and doing acupuncture. I have had a couple dogs have very severe reactions to Lomustine. Lymphoma is a hard one – I’ve seen the best results with using chemo and holistic together and have found that often if we add in herbals and acupuncture they sail through the chemo. Of course if it continues to make her sick I would not continue it. I’m ok with one or two days of mild not feeling 100% but not all out sickness. I might give her a week or two of acupuncture and some herbal support and then see if she can do the other protocol. Above all else though listen to what your heart is saying. I have two lymphoma dogs I am currently supporting through chemo. They are both on artemisinin, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a modification of Xiao Chai Hu Tang with indigo (I use this modification specifically for lymphoma), good food, and acupuncture. One is also on milk thistle and one on mushrooms. So I think you approach above sounds very good. I might talk to your holistic vet about adding in Xiao Chai Hu Tang with the indigo as well. Many holistic vets have their own lines of herbs and there are many good quality ones out there. If you have any problems finding herbals I also sell chinese herbs through my etsy store and can custom anything she recommends if she doesn’t have herb access. I hope your girl stays in remission!
    best wishes,