Archive for the ‘cancer book’ Category

Supporting Radiation Treatments Naturally in Dogs and Cats with cancer

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Radiation can be a very effective treatment for certain types of cancer, especially the tumors that are very locally invasive but slow to spread to other regions of the body. However it is also one of the hardest on our animal friends. Not only is there a risk of damaging healthy tissue but the largest issue is that full anesthesia is required for every treatment and often times treatments are required at least weekly and many times daily or multiple times a week. That is a lot of anesthesia for an animal who is already fighting cancer.

So should we completely run out doing radiation? I don’t think so. There are certain cancers that you can get a cure from it and in the case of bone cancer sometimes one or two treatments can significantly help with pain. And the machines used to deliver radiation are getting better and more exact. There are now linear accelerators that have built in CAT scan capabilities so that the technician can see exactly where the tumor is while they are dosing it with radiation.

Is there things we can do to support our animal companions when they are going through radiation? You bet there is!

So if you haven’t already caught on to it, I’m a large supporter of acupuncture. Here is somewhere that it can be very important. Not only to help our animals fight the cancer but to promote helping from radiation damaged tissue and help clear the anesthesia and its side effects from the body. See Acupuncture for animals – stoking the healing power within.

There are also some very important herbs that can help not just with healing and supporting the body but also with enhancing the effects of the radiation treatments. Here’s some herbals to consider during radiation treatment.

  • Milk Thistle is a wonderful herbal for preventing and repairing chemotherapy and radiation damage to tissues through its antioxidant effects. It also helps support the liver which processes some of the anesthesia drugs. It has been shown that milk thistle enhances the effects of both radiation and chemo, making them work better to destroy cancer cells.
  • Ginkgo has actually been shown to sensitive cancer cells to radiation. In addition it helps support blood flow which can aid in healing damaged tissue and helps to support the brain by increasing blood flow. I use a mixture of ginkgo and hawthorn called heart and brain support
  • Formulas that contain Tao Ren or Xing Ren also have been shown to enhance radiations effects in killing cancer cells. These formulas including Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang, Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang or Sanshedan Chuanbeiye. Generally for animals undergoing radiation I use Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for tumors in the front half of the body and Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang for tumors in the back half. Sanshedan Chuanbeiye can be used for any tumor. See Herbal treatments holding cancer at bay for more about these herbal formulas

One more thing to note. Artemisinin absolutely should not be used if radiation therapy is being done. It should be stopped three days before the first treatment and not restarted for a month after the last radiation treatment. Radiation blasts iron from cancer cells into the surrounding healthy tissue and artemisinin can damage healthy cells if used with radiation.

As with all article in this book and on this blog please check with your animals primary care veterinarian before making any changes in their protocol.

Back to Integrative and Holistic Approaches for treating cancer in animals.

Fibrosarcoma – how to treat with surgery and holistic medicine in cats and dogs

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Lucy was a beautiful black cat, her full name being Lucy Furr. She wasn’t very old and had quite a bit of spunk. Most of her acupuncture treatment involved putting her in a small bathroom and trying my best to keep the needles in for at least 20 minutes as she bounced around. She didn’t mind the little pokes but she sure did mind me thinking she should stay still. I took over her care from my acupuncture teacher when she was about eight months out from having a fibrosarcoma removed from her shoulder. Her vets hadn’t hadn’t been able to get clean margins, which isn’t unusual for this type of cancer, so had told her human mom that 100% it would come back. Lucy wasn’t very old however and the recommendation of multiple radiation treatments did not sit well with her human mom so she had explored other options of trying to fight this cancer.

A little over a year later when Lucy reached the two year mark from her surgery, I said goodbye to her and her mom hoping I never had to see them again but with a promise to call me if anything did happen. The tumor had not returned and the likelihood it would at that point was very, very slim. Seven years later I have not heard from them.

As many of you may know, fibrosarcoma is a cancer we see mainly in cats and almost always it is induced by either a rabies or feline leukemia vaccination. These days most of these vaccinations are given down the leg, so if a tumor develops the whole leg can be removed which is most often curative although harsh. There was a recent study that looked at the idea of giving the vaccine in the end of the tail and if this comes into practice removing a tail is obviously better than a leg. Lucy had vaccinations before this practice was used by most vets so full removal of a limb was not an option. Fibrosarcomas are very locally aggressive and while they do not spread to other areas of the body quickly they do usually cause death if not addressed.

I should add that we do see fibrosarcoma in dogs and also in cats unrelated to vaccination.

So what are my recommendation for fibrosarcoma?

  • If at all possible these tumors need to be removed. It is almost impossible to treat without bringing them down to a microscopic level. If they are at a microscopic level either herbal medicine or radiation becomes an option for treatment. If it is impossible to remove these tumors either because of health issues or because of location then herbal medicine can be used to slow down growth. At this point there is no way to have remission if the tumor is not surgically removed.
  • Sanshedan Chuan Bei Ye seems to have a good result against these tumors – For Lucy we actually got this compounded into a transdermal that could be rubbed on her ear. In addition the apricot seed in SSD helps to enhance the effects of radiation if this treatments are used.
  • Medical Mushrooms to include maitake, shiitake, reishi, turkey tail and/or cordyceps. – this is one place where strengthening the immune system really comes in, if you can make them part of the food all the better. I am able to add glycerin mushroom tincture to my homemade cat food, it generally tastes ok and cats tolerate it.
  • Hoxsey like formula or Cancer Detox Formula can help to shrink down these tumors. This is an especially good formula if margins are not gotten from surgery or if surgery is not an option because of health or location. Hoxsey works especially well when tumors are very hot and inflamed.
  • Artemisinin – can be used if there is no radiation treatments and can help to keep cancer from returned, slow down tumor growth and in some cases shrink the size of tumors.
  • Acupuncture – this is a must to strengthen the immune system and is something cats tolerate well.
  • Cancer Diet – yes, using food to fight cancer is very important and especially in cats who can get sick from too many supplements. See You are what you eat – a fighting cancer machine.
  • Talk to an oncologist. This is one of those cancers that often occurs in young animals and because they have their whole life ahead of them I think it is very important to seek all the possible options. There are no machines for radiation treatments that combine a particle accelerator (what delivers the radiation) with a CAT scan machine. These machines are able to target radiation to the tumor disease much more accurately than our old machines could and are much safer to use. Radiation still requires anesthetic and often daily or multiple time a week treatments for between 2-4 weeks. The new machines are expensive but often you can get full remissions if most of the tumor can be removed first.

As with all articles on this site please check with your animal’s primary veterinarian before starting any supplements or herbs.

Back to Holistic and Integrative Approaches to Cancer

How to pick the right herbals without Chinese theory. Whoa! Can you explain that in english?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Ok, so I went a little over your head with that last article and the cancer your dog or cat has isn’t listed in this book. Don’t worry here are some questions that may help.

Usually I use 3-6 herbals/supplements in dogs and 1-3 in cats

For all cancers (except hemangiosarcoma) consider artemisinin

  • Is your dog or cat older (over 10) or weaker?
    Consider the following
    I often pair one of these
    Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang (lungs, upper abdomen, and head/neck), Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang(middle abdomen) or Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang(kidneys and below)
    with one of these
    Xiao Chai Hu Tang (cats and dogs) or
    Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang (if your dog runs hot and pant a lot or have anxiety)
    Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang with Dang Gui and San Qi (if there is risk of a bleed out that may cause death)
  • Is there a chance that your animal’s cancer will cause bleeding?
    Consider Yunnan Baiyao
  • Does you dog run hot but is under 10 and not weak? Consider Si Miao San and/or Cancer Detox Support (for cats I often use these formulas even if they are cold)
  • Does your dog run hot with lots of panting but have hind end weakness?
    Consider Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang
  • Does your dog/cat have a history of mulitiple –itises i.e. diseases that are inflammatory, examples are pancreatitis, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, colitis, otitis?
    Consider Si Miao San
  • Is the tumor is where you can see it – is it ulcerative, oozy, inflammed, bleeding or infected?
    Consider Cancer Detox Support
  • Is their cancer in the middle of the abdomen i.e. liver, spleen, pancreas, or intestine?
    Consider Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang paired with Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang (low risk of lung mets) or Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang(high risk of lung mets)
  • Is the cancer very aggressive and fast moving?
    Consider Cancer Detox and Si Miao San
  • Is the cancer in the lungs or likely to go to the lungs?
    Consider Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Xiao Chai Hu Tang and SanSheDan ChuanBeiYe
  • Is the cancer in the lymph nodes?
    Consider Cancer Detox Support and Xiao Chai Hu Tang
  • Is the cancer in the blood?
    Consider Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang
  • Is your animal anemic?
    Consider Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang
  • Is your animal getting chemotherapy?
    Consider Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang and/or Coenzyme Q10 and/or milk thistle
  • Is your animal getting radiation?
    Consider Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang and/or SanSheDan Chuan Bei Ye and/or milk thistle

For more about the herbals listed above see Herbal Treatments – plants holding cancer at bay

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang – treating liver tumors

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

This formula is very similar to Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang and treats the blood stasis tumors of the liver. I often times pair it with Xiao Chai Hu Tang. I do not use this formula for tumors that originate in the spleen as those are usually hemangiosarcoma.

  • Tao Ren (peach seed)
  • Dang Gui (angelica root)
  • Hong Hua (safflower flowers)
  • Chi Shao (red peony root)
  • Zhi Ke (bitter orange)
  • Chuan Xiong (lovage root)
  • Gan Cao (licorice root)
  • Mu Dan Pi (tree peony root)
  • Yan Hu Suo (corydalis)
  • Xiang Fu (cyperus)
  • Wu Yao (lindera root)

I usually add San Leng (scirpus rhizome) and E Zhu (turmeric) to this formula to enhance its effect against cancer. Studies done on these two herbs show that they have a significant effect in inducing apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.

I dose this one the same as Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. Usually twice a day.

Available through Kingdom of Basil.

Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang – treating tumors of the lower abdomen

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

This formula is very similar to Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang and treats the blood stasis cancers. However this formula works better for cancers in the caudal abdomen. The main cancers I use it for are tumors of the adrenal glands, kidneys, prostate or bladder. It has a wonderful smell to it as it contains the culinary herbs fennel, ginger and cinnamon.

  • Tao Ren (peach seed)
  • Dang Gui (angelica root)
  • herborder

  • Hong Hua (safflower flowers)
  • Chi Shao (red peony root)
  • Chuan Xiong (lovage root)
  • Mo Yao (myrrh)
  • Gan Jiang (ginger)
  • Xiao Hui Xiang (fennel)
  • Yan Hu Suo (corydalis)
  • Rou Gui (Cinnamon bark)
  • Pu Huang (cattail pollen)

I usually add San Leng (scirpus rhizome) and E Zhu (turmeric) to this formula to enhance its effect against cancer. Studies done on these two herbs show that they have a significant effect in inducing apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.

I dose this one the same as Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang.

Available through Kingdom of Basil.

How to safely surf the internet when searching for cancer information and products

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

The internet has made us closer together and further apart. There is so much information out there but it can be from anyone. Luckily there are many good folks who are sharing information to help but there are also many opportunities to make money easily.

So how do you find the information you need, how do you decide which direction to turn?

First off if you can find a holistic vet to guide you, that will help a lot. When I work with clients not only am I treating their animals but I am holding their hand along the way. We work together, I listen to them, they trust me, I trust them. I am a counselor, a hospice worker, a vet, and part of their circle of care. The internet can never replace this.

On to supplements offered on the internet – which ones? How do you decide?

There are many, many supplements out there that treat cancer. Why is there so many? Because we do not have a cure for cancer – there is not one safe treatment that works most of the time. That being said there are many things that can extend life, help our animals feel better and in rare cases cause remission.

Let me first say that anything that claims to be a cure all and is expensive I avoid. There is no cure all out there. If it cures cancer, diabetes, makes the paralyzed walk again, brings back youth, etc it is probably too good to be true. Is there things that can help with all of this – sure but not cure them all. Beware of false claims especially anyone who claims they can cure cancer.

Second, remember herbs are not very expensive. The most expensive herb I use is $180/ lb but that is unusual. So an herbal supplement should not be hundreds of dollars a month. Beware the expensive mixtures out there. Expensive does not equal effective.

Look at who is writing the information you are reading. Is it from a vet? Is it from an herbalist? Is it from someone who has had a dog or cat with cancer? What is their experience with cancer? How many animals have they treated or worked with? Do they have stories of actually animals they have worked with or treating with outcomes?

There are some excellent sites out there developed by people who have had dogs and cats with cancer. These people have had first hand experience about what it is like to navigate the path of cancer. A lot of these sites such as Georgia’s Legacy keep up on the research, check sources and talk to the experts. They have excellent information that goes far beyond just what they learned from their own dog who fought cancer. Others just have information from one dog or cat they have who did well against cancer and can be very helpful but are maybe not the main resource you could use. Most of these sites, both big and small, are run from the heart and while some do make money, it is not the main reason they offer this information. They offer it in the hope that it will help prevent suffering for both animals and the people who love them.

There are excellent vet sites out there as well although many just offer western options for treating cancer. Don’t ignore the western information – gather everything you can.

There are a few of us holistic vets that offer information. The reason I started Path With Paws was because I found I could help animals with cancer but I was only one person and had to turn people away from my practice. This gives me a space to share what I have learned in my years of practice with anyone with internet access. I put off starting my herb store online for a long time but found that it was hard for people to find good quality herbals. I got a lot of requests to buy herbals but did not have the manpower to handle that without the online store. So Kingdom of Basil was born.

There are other holistic and integrative vets out there who have similar websites and sometimes products or stores.

While the internet is great there is nothing that replaces actually knowing and seeing an animal. I have many folks who contact me to say that their holistic vet is suggesting a different treatment protocol than what I have talked about. That is ok – there is not just one way to treat cancer. There are many paths. They have actually seen your animal and probably know better than I do what they need.

Most importantly trust your intuition, if something feels right for your companion explore it more, if you reach a site online that feels wrong turn away.

For my growing list of resources see Other Cancer Resources.

Return to Integrative and Holistic Methods of treating cancer.

Introduction – Welcome to Integrative and Holistic Methods of Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Cancer has become one of the most rewarding diseases that I treat as a practitioner. Strange isn’t it. It is a horrible and debilitating illness and if we can someday find a cure for it I will be ecstatic. But early on I found that in spite of the grave prognosis that was given, these animal with cancer wanted to live and they wanted to share that spirit of living with the people who they loved.

I found that in most of these animals I could do something to ease pain, to prolong life and to bring hope to those who are the caregivers for their lovely animal companions. In the end all the animals I treat with cancer will die but not always of cancer and meanwhile begins the dance of embracing life, of loving every day on this earth.

And in embracing life fully I found that these dogs and cats didn’t progress into death. Once we have embraced death fully there is nothing left but to live. And live they did – the first three dogs I worked with, after I became an acupuncturist, all lived beyond two years when they had been given a prognosis of months. That gave me the inspiration to learn more. And to practice more and to believe that these incredible dogs and cats have something inside of themselves that we could harness and open to help make them better.

There were of course animals I could not help. Cancer has a life of its own and sometimes it is simply too strong, it is too late or the animal is too weak to fight it. Every time I couldn’t help tore at my heart. None of us can stop death, I know that but I always hold out hope.

But more times then not, I felt like I could make a significant difference.

maxine1As I became more known as a practitioner, I found that my practice was often full and I could not help all the animals that I wished I could. I was turning people away who had animals who were dying. And so this book came to life. I thought that if I had knowledge that could help, I needed to make it available to anyone who wanted it

And so I began a couple years ago downloading my brain. Here is the result. I hope that this book can act as a guide and a tool for vets, herbalists, and those people who live every day with animals they love. I hope this book can help dogs and cats to live longer, fuller lives with cancer.

Embrace life, love fully, and never give up hope.
Best wishes,
Lena McCullough, DVM

To read more go to Holistic and Integrative Methods of Treating Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Supplements and single herbs for cancer in cats and dogs

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I don’t use a lot of supplements and single herbs in treating cancer.


Personally I have found that more complex herbals work better in my hands. I feel like you get more bang from the combination herbals and more synergy between the herbals. I can give 4 herbals and end up with 30-40 herbs working together. See Herbal Treatments – plants holding cancer at bay

If I pick out single supplements and herbals and combine them I loss a lot of the synergy. It is also easy to get overwhelmed with supplements – I’ve had dogs come in on a whole shopping bag of them. As I remove them from the protocol one by one, people will ask me, “what is wrong with that one, isn’t it good?”

Sure its good. It is rare that someone comes in with their dog on something harmful. However we can only give them so many things and I want the things that work the best, that are going to help the most.

So here is my very short list of single supplements and herbals that I use with some of the dogs and cats I work with.

  • IP6 – I first was introduced to IP6 by my acupuncture teacher Richard Panzer. He used a lot of it combined with Coenzyme Q10. He got very good results when he combined these with acupuncture and other herbals. I still use a lot of IP6 especially for dogs with hemangiosarcoma. It is very safe and you don’t need to know Chinese medicine to use it.

    Inositol Hexaphosphate, also known as IP6 is important in stimulating the immune system’s natural killer cells to destroy cancer tissue. It is an antioxidant and has effects in inhibiting cancer cell growth and division. Not much research has been done in humans with this supplement but a lot of cancer studies have been done in animals.

    I dose cats at 400mg two times a day and dogs 800-1600mg twice a day when I use this supplement.

    Here are some articles on IP6

    Treatments and side effects IP6

    The holistic vet on IP6

    IP6 cancer research

  • Coenzyme Q10 I often pair with IP6. I use it for any cancer in the heart. I also use it for boxers and breeds prone to heart issues and dogs with active cardiac disease and murmurs. It is a must for any of the chemo drugs like doxorubicin which are know to cause heart damage. CoQ10 has been shown to reduce cardiotoxicity (toxicity to the heart) in people on the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (adriamycin) in clinical studies.

    Coenzyme Q10 is an enzyme made by the body and found in the membranes of many tissues. CoQ10 has effects in stimulating the immune system and works as a strong antioxidant. In animals and people with cancer it has been shown that levels of CoQ10 are lower then in normal individuals. There is some evidence that CoQ10 can increase cancer survival times.

    Reduced levels of CoQ10 have been found in animals and people with heart issues. CoQ10 can help to protect the heart, lower blood pressure and help with repair to the heart.

    I dose CoEnzyme Q10 at 200mg per day for dogs and 50mg per day for cats.

    Here are some additional articles on CoQ10

    Coenzyme Q10 pharmacological and biological treatment

    Cancer Topics – Coenzyme Q10

  • Vit A/D – I used to not be a vitamin pusher but I have seen some very good results with using very high doses of Vitamin A and D in animals with cancer, especially hemangiosarcoma. I use an once a week dosage and because the dosage I use can cause kidney damage and failure I always pair this treatment with either Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang. I do not recommend treating with high doses of these vitamins unless you are under the care of a veterinarian with some knowledge of these treatments. I am happy to give the dosage I use out to vets if they want to contact me.
  • Fish Oil – if you can add Fish Oil to your animals food I start to consider this food and not supplement. Fish oil has some nice anti-cancer effects and can also help prevent cancer cachexia (weight loss in spite of good appetite). The Omega Fatty Acids in fish oils act as anti-oxidants and help support the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. I like the Nordic Naturals brand.
  • Medical Mushrooms are amazing in their abilities to help the body fight cancer and stimulate the immune system, the Chinese have been using these for years.

  • Mushrooms also help with giving animals added nutrition when they need it, such as when they have cancer or are going through chemo.

The best mushrooms to use for an animal with cancer are maitake, shiitake, reishi, turkey tail and cordyceps. A combination can be used or focus on one.

I recommend at least 300mg of mushrooms be given daily for every 50lb of cat or dog. More in fine.

One of the best ways to dose mushrooms is by adding them to your dog’s food (doesn’t work quite as well in cats). My favorite company for dried mushrooms is Fungusamongus. They have a good price on dried bulk mushrooms. You can also use a mushroom powder such as MUSH Mushroom Blend.

  • Milk Thistle – prevents oxidative damage to normal cells and helps to support the liver in detoxification of chemotherapy drugs. There are studies that show that Milk Thistle not only protects normal cells but also enhances the outcomes of chemotherapy drugs, i.e. it helps them work better and kill cancer cells more effectively. I mainly use milk thistle during chemotherapy or when there is liver malfunction or damage. See National Cancer Institute’s Page on Milk Thistle and Sloan Kettering Cancer Center article on Milk Thistle.
  • Last on my list is Curcumin. Curcumin can help with some of the more blood stagnation cancers. Studies have demonstrated its anti-cancer actions. I don’t often prescribe it but will often leave dogs on it if they come in taking it already. In highly aggressive cancers I usually do not use it as occasionally it can cause them to spread faster.
  • Hemangiosarcoma of the heart in dogs – holistic options

    Thursday, April 18th, 2013

    While I use a similar protocol for heart hemangiosarcoma to splenic hemangiosarcoma, there are some differences.

    One is that surgery is not an option for hemangiosarcoma of the heart. Second is that we have a tumor that is pushing against one of the most vital organs in the body. While bleed out is a concern, animals with hemangiosarcoma of the heart are more likely to die from heart failure. Really with this cancer we are buying time and improving quality of life with treating holistically. This is one of the fastest moving cancers out there.

    So we need a three fold approach, slow the cancer, support the heart and prevent bleeding.

    Here is my modified protocol

    1. Acupuncture – every two weeks or more often. This keeps everything moving, helps with discomfort, slows down the cancer and boosts the immune system. Acupuncture can also support the heart and keep blood pressure regulated.
    2. A cancer diet – See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs
    3. Yunnan Baiyao – not only does it control bleeding but also seems to slow this cancer down.
    4. Xiao Chai Hu Tang This formula works well for cancers that cause there is be an excess in the front of the body. All these formulas are available from my etsy store Kingdom of Basil. If you get this formula from another source make sure that these formulas uses ginseng (Ren Shen) and not Dang Shen and that the Chai Hu is not over 25% of the formula.
    5. Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang with E Zhu and San Leng – this formula not only helps fight cancer but also helps support the heart. Also available through Kingdom of Basil.
    6. High dose Vit A/D given orally. If you give this orally it decreases the chances of an allergic reaction. I use the injectible large animal version but use it orally. I dose once a week for four weeks and then once a month. Steve starts with a dose of twice a week. I use in the range of 250,000IU of Vit A and 37,500IU of Vit D per dose for an average sized dog. DO NOT USE THIS DOSE OF VITAMIN A/D WITHOUT VETERINARY SUPERVISION. Large amounts of Vit A are highly cytotoxic to cancer cells, that is great. The doses I use can potentially cause kidney failure, that is not so great. You must be working for a vet to use this high a dose. Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang also help to protect the kidneys when using this high dose vitamin therapy.
    7. IP-6 Inositol Hexaphosphate – this supplement is important in stimulating the immune system’s natural killer cells to destroy cancer tissue. It is an antioxidant and has effects in inhibiting cancer cell growth and division. Not much research has been done in humans with this supplement but a lot of cancer studies have been done in animals.
      I dose dogs at 800-1600mg twice a day when I use this supplement.
    8. Coenzyme Q10– this supplement helps support heart tissue and has anti-cancer effects as well. I often add it to my protocol. I use a dose of 200mg a day for your average sized dog.
    9. This is not a cancer to take lightly, as it can progress very quickly. If at all possible find a holistic vet to work with.

      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

    Questions to ask your vet when your animal companion has cancer

    Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

    Cancer can be overwhelming. Often times the diagnosis comes suddenly and there is almost always an element of shock with it. The little lump that you were convinced was just a wart could be life threatening. The mild weakness was just discovered to be a belly full of tumors.

    It can be hard to ask all the right questions especially when you are having strong emotions. So what do you need to ask and know before deciding on the best course of action to take for your animal companion?

    One of the most important questions

    • What happens if we do nothing? It is easy to get so convinced that we need to treat that we forgot to ask with will happen if we don’t . In older animals with slow moving cancers, it is sometimes better to just treat supportively than to jump into aggressive treatments.


    • What can we do right now to make my animal more comfortable? Another very important question. With cancer, comfort is very important. Even if your animal has very little time left here, it should be as happy and pain free as possible.
    • Is there drugs that can slow this cancer down without doing more aggressive treatments like chemo/radiation or surgery? Prednisone is often a good drug for this. This is also where herbals and acupuncture can come in.
    • Is there drugs that can help my animal eat better? Many animals with cancer are picky eaters. Sometimes appetite stimulants or anti-nausea drugs are helpful.
    • Do you know a good holistic vet I can work with?


    • Is there a surgical option for this cancer? Usually cancers that are isolated to one area are treated with surgery. If a cancer has already spread, or is a blood born or lymphatic system cancer, surgery is usually not an option.
    • If there is, what is the prognosis that my animal will make it through the surgery? Some surgeries are relatively easy and some can be very difficult.
    • Do you recommend I see a surgeon? More difficult surgeries are best done by the experts, unless you are working with a vet who is very skilled at surgery.
    • If we can remove the whole tumor, what are the chances that it has already spread or will come back? What is the prognosis for after surgery? i.e. is there a reason to do the surgery? Will it give my animal a better and longer life?
    • Do you think my animals’ health is such that surgery is a good option? If not why? If you animal is very old, sick or has serious chronic disease, surgery may not be a good option, even if it is the best way to beat the cancer. Remember we are treating the animal not the cancer.
    • What kind of care will my animal need after surgery? Will there be long term complications or disability? This is especially important if you work full time or have a household of small children or if you have a dog you can not carry.

    Chemotherapy and Radiation

    • Do you have experience doing chemotherapy? If the answer is no or a little consider seeing an oncologist at least for a second option.
    • Can you refer me to a good oncologist? Oncologists often have new treatment options that general practitioners don’t use.
    • What is the prognosis with this treatment? This is an important question. Is $4000 of chemo going to give you a good chance of getting a year or more, or only buy a month extra and come with side effects.
    • How long will my animal have to undergo treatment? How often? Is there an option to do part of a protocol and still get results? For animals with a lot of anxiety going to the vet, this can be an important consideration
    • How much will it cost?
    • Will my animal need to be sedated or anesthetized for the procedure? With radiation the answer is always yes, sometimes this is also necessary with chemotherapy.
    • Is there a chance at permanent remission?
    • What are the side effects? Does prognosis out weight the chance of serious side effects.
    • Do you have a plan to treat the side effects if they occur? Many oncologists use drugs to treat the side effects of these treatments.
    • Are you ok with me working with a holistic vet or with supplements/herbs? It is always easier to work with these therapies if you can be honest with your vet.
    • What kind of risk to me or other humans/animals in the household is there with this treatment? This can be extremely important if there are pregnant women or small children in the household.

    End of Life

    • Have you had experience doing hospice care? Is there someone in the community who does hospice care?
    • Is there a good support group in the area or online?
    • When the end comes will you come to the house to perform euthanasia? Is there a house call vet who will?
    • What do I do if there is an emergency in the middle of the night, on the weekend or after office hours?
    • Do not be afraid to ask –

      the question I often get. Most of us are animal lovers, we have seen a lot of animals go through treatments and often times have personal experience with our own animals.
      If this was your dog/cat/rabbit what would you do?

      I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if I have missed any important questions.

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