Posts Tagged ‘acupuncture’

Prostate cancer in dogs – herbs and holistic support

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Prostate cancer wasn’t originally on my list when I began this book, as it is rare and I hadn’t treated a dog with it before. However I recently started treating a very energetic lab named Joey who has prostate cancer. He is one of the most rambunctious, friendly dogs I have met and oh so strong. His coat shines, his eyes sparkle, and he has the most powerful tail I have encountered. I swear he could fuel my whole house with it.

There is no way you would know he has cancer if you met him and he was diagnosed almost three months ago.

In dogs, prostate cancer is highly aggressive with the prognosis after detection often times being less than a month. Prostate cancer is fast to spread and also in a delicate area of the body. As the cancer grows it can block the urethra making peeing impossible. This is a disease of neutered male dogs, the one cancer that is more common in fixed dogs.

There are no good western treatments for prostate cancer in dogs. Surgery is usually impossible because of the location and the early spread of this cancer and radiation and chemotherapy add little time to a dog’s life. Because of this and the effectiveness of herbal therapies with this disease, holistic treatments are a good option.

A while back there was a product on the market to treat prostate cancer in people called PC-SPES. This herbal combination actually helped quite a few people but was taken off the market because of problems with contamination. I am not suggesting that you should use this product or some of the others that have replaced it but I do think it is worth considering the ingredients. It contains some of the same ingredients as in one of the main herbals I use for cancer, Xiao Chai Hu Tang and reishi mushrooms which are known to be quite effective again cancer.

This is my protocol against this deadly cancer (follow links for more information about herbals and links to buy on or other places)

  1. Acupuncture every two weeks if possible, every week if there are significant clinic signs. It is important to keep these guys peeing and acupuncture can help and also slow down the cancer.
  2. Xiao Chai Hu Tang – this is a great herbal for cancer especially when there is an obstruction in the abdomen like you get with an enlarged prostate. This formula will also help keep cancer out of the lungs
  3. Artemisinin – this compound helps to slow down cancer and prevent spread.
  4. Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang – cousin to Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for the lower abdomen, this is a very effective formula for prostate and urinary bladder cancer, especially when they manifest with bloody urine. I add San Leng and E Zhu to mine for extra cancer fighting ingredients.
  5. Mushrooms – these really help with prostate cancer with their direct action against cancer and their ability to strengthen the immune system. I like Reishi, Shiitake, Cordyceps, and Maitake. Make sure you use reishi for prostate cancer. These can be added to food or given as a supplement.
  6. Hoxsey like formula – This formula can be especially helpful in dogs with excess personalities and lots of energy. Do not use it in dogs that are old, thin or very sick.
  7. Diet for cancer – this is a most for any animal with cancer – see Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

Joey has already exceeded my main expectation which was to keep him happy and pain free. I don’t know what the future holds for him but I know he enjoys every day he is here and the more days we can give him the better.

As with all advice on this website please check with your dog’s primary veterinarian before starting any treatments or herbals.

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

How to find a good holistic vet to work with

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

The number one question I receive from people visiting this blog is “how to I find a good holistic vet to work with?” It is a good question!

Here are some suggestions and resources to do this

  • Ask your animal’s veterinarian From my experience there is not as large a divide between western medicine and holistic veterinary medicine in this country as there is in the human medical community. Part of the reason for this is that we are all veterinarians. I had a full western veterinary education and practiced it for six years before I learned acupuncture. I still use my western training daily. Because of this the mainstream vets trust us, they are less worried that we will do something that harms an animal or makes their treatments not work. I receive about half my patients through vet referrals. The vets that refer to me, know me, trust me and give me full access to their records and that makes it easier to coordinate treatments with them.
  • Take a visit to your local pet food store. I’m not talking the big box stores like Petco and Petsmart but your local independent stores or small chains. In Seattle these include Next to Nature, Mud Bay, All the Best, Pet Elements, and many more. Hopefully you have one in your area. These stores are very good at educating their staff on nutrition and options for people’s animals with disease conditions. They also hear stories from people all day long about their animals. They know the local practitioners and who is good. Ask them! They are always happy to share.
  • Ask people at the dog park or you meet walking dogs.The best referral is word of mouth. People love to share stories about their dogs and I think we just naturally want to recommend practitioners who have helped our animals.
  • Search holistic veterinarian or veterinary acupuncturist “your city” online. The internet got you here, it should help you with this also.
  • Use one of the tools from the various holistic veterinary societies.

Do all holistic veterinarians know acupuncture and other kinds of natural medicine? What is the best type of holistic veterinarian for my animal?

Most of us do not practice all holistic modalities, and even those with a wide area of systems they work with, usually have a few they are very good at and some that they just do a little of.

I consider myself a very good acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. I am a TCM or Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner. In addition I do some western herbal medicine, know something about supplements and vitamins, occasionally dip into homeopathy and flower essences and am pretty good at nutrition. I can not do chiropractics, do not know aryuvedic herbal medicine, and can not do classic homeopathy.

Because of this if you came to see me with your animal I would most likely recommend acupuncture and Chinese herbs because those are the two modalities that work best in my hands. If you went to someone who specialized in aryuvedic herbal medicine and homeopathy they would probably recommend a therapy that included those modalities.

Ever holistic vet is going to be a little different in their knowledge.

What is the difference between all these methods of treatment?

I am going to use mostly links to websites since there are so many good explanations already out there and then adds my own thoughts so please click on the links for more info.

  • Naturopathic medicine – I think of most naturopaths as using a combination of dietary therapy, supplements, vitamins and western herbals to cure disease and bring about balance in the body. In Washington state human Naturopaths are on the same level as MDs and can prescribe most drugs, do blood tests and do small surgical procedure. Of course veterinary naturopaths will be western veterinary doctors already.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine – This is the type of medicine I practice. It includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine used together in synergy. TCM also uses it’s own system of diagnosis that is very different than western medicine. Through TCM I am often able to fit many symptoms and diseases an animal is suffering from into one Chinese diagnosis and I find it easier to treat hard to diagnose and chronic conditions that western medicine has trouble with
  • Acupuncture There are many practitioners who practice acupuncture alone under the TCM system or practice acupuncture under a more western system. From my experience the best practitioners use TCM to diagnose and treat.
  • Botanical or Herbal Medicine There are many types of Botanical Medicine. The most common are
    • Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine – This is an Indian system of treating disease and dysfunction that also includes diet.
    • Western Herbal Medicine includes European, American, and Native American plant medicine.
    • Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine – see TCM above. Most Chinese herbal medicine uses herbal in combinations that work together so that the formula is not the sum of the herbals used but how the herbs react with either other. This makes it possible to use herbals that would be toxic alone by combining them with others which reduce their toxicity and also makes it possible to target herbs to a certain area of the body, among other things.
  • Homeopathy – Classic homeopathy is a very complex system and takes many years to learn. Many of us use more of a “cookbook form” of homeopathy.
  • Chiropractors – focus mainly on adjustments to the spine

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

Squamous cell carcinoma – holistic, herbal and integrative treatments in dogs and cats

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

The good news about squamous cell carcinoma is that it is very slow to metastasize; the bad news is that is locally very aggressive, eating through anything in its path. In addition because this cancer commonly occurs in the mouth, there isn’t a lot of space to easily remove it. While I see more squamous cell carcinoma in cats it also occurs in dogs.

White cats and black dogs

Most squamous cell carcinomas occur in the mouth. However it is also a common cancer on the ears and noses especially of white or light colored cats who go outside in the sun. Another very common spot for squamous cell is in the toes of dogs especially black toed dogs.

Squamous cell often starts with chronic irritation of infection. On the ears of cats it is often from repeated sunburn. In the mouth it is many times secondary to tooth issues and infections.

The prognosis with squamous cell carcinoma is very good if you can remove the whole tumor but unfortunately this is many times not possible. Without removal, the prognosis is pretty poor and these animals experience a lot of pain if it works it way into the bone. However there are therapies that can slow things down and significantly improve quality of life.

I am going to break this article into three sections and talk about squamous cell in toes, in the mouth and then a section on the other places squamous cell can form and a little about cats. Follow the links for more information about herbals and therapies.

Squamous cell on the toes of dogs

Most squamous cell carcinomas start on the toes as a broken nail or a non-healing infection in the nail bed. Often times a few rounds of antibiotics are prescribed before the cancer is diagnosed. I have only seen squamous cell carcinomas in black furred toes, however it is possible to get the disease in dogs of other colors also.

In some dogs squamous cell causes infection secondary to the cancer and is some animals it is chronic nail bed issues and infections, which cause it to develop.

The treatment of choice is to remove the toe as soon as the diagnosis is made. If the whole tumor can be removed then this is almost always curative.

Many dogs will be done at this point and can live normal lives however I have had some dogs who go on to form multiple cancers in other toes, usually this is because their immune system is not working correctly and also most likely has a genetic component.

Occasionally surgery is not an option to remove the toe because of poor health or heart conditions and then other treatments need to be used.

I treat a wonderful happy Gordon Setter named Hudson, known to most of those who love him as Huddie. He has lost three toes to this disease and also has Cushings disease, which makes his immune system not as strong as a normal dog.

With Hudson we have developed the following protocol, which I recommend for any dog who has had multiple squamous cell carcinomas in the toes.

  1. Remove toes as soon as diagnosis is made
  2. Artemisinin – I have found artemisinin to be very effective in slowing squamous cell down.
  3. Mushroom supplements – these help to strengthen the immune system and have anticancer properties. I recommend a supplement with a combination of Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi and Cordyceps mushrooms.
  4. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang – this herbal helps to move blood down into the toes and extremities and also has some strong anti-cancer herbs.
  5. In Hudson’s case we also have him on long-term antibiotics. It seems like his squamous cell started with chronic nail bed infections that could not be cleared with antibiotics once they took hold. As much as I would prefer not to use long-term antibiotics, in his case I believe they are a good precaution. This is not a recommendation I make in every dog.
  6. Acupuncture – we know Hudson has a weak immune system so we try our best to strengthen what is there with monthly acupuncture.
  7. Cancer diet – see Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

So what about the dogs where toe removal is not an option? Here are some options

  1. These guys need pain control. Squamous cell is a very painful disease once it gets in the bone. Many times a multiple drug approach is needed
  2. Artemisinin – see above and link
  3. Acupuncture – can help to slow down progression of this disease and help with pain. If there is active cancer treatment should be at least every two weeks.
  4. Xian Fang Huo Ming Yin – this can be a powerful formula for treating active squamous cell carcinoma in the toes but should be used with caution, as it is very cooling. Never use this in a very debilitated, weak or cold dog and always check with a holistic vet before using it. (no article up yet).
  5. Hoxsey like formula with boneset or its gentle cousin Cancer Detox Support – this can also be a very powerful formula against squamous cell, like XFHMY this formula is very cooling. See link for more information. Boneset should be added to this formula to control bone pain.
  6. Antibiotics – many times there are secondary infections in these dogs. Antibiotics are often needed.
  7. Prednisone – this western drug can help slow this cancer down although it also has some side effects. Talk to your vet about if it is a good option for your dog.
  8. Cancer diet – See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

So on to Squamous cell carcinoma in the mouths of cats and dogs.

This is a horrible place to get a squamous cell carcinoma. The only way to get a cure is to remove a fourth of the jaw if it is in the lower jaw and there is no such option if it is in the upper jaw. Because this disease is so painful many animals will not eat and that is usually the factor that ends up ending their life. That being said I have seen animals do well for about a year after diagnosis, with integrative treatments. Usually dogs do a little better than cats, who usually don’t make it a year. This really varies animal to animal and involves being able to medicate an animal with a painful mouth.

How can we help these animals with squamous cell in the mouth?

First let me start off by saying in cats I often times just rely on injectable antibiotics, steroids and pain meds plus acupuncture. The amount of pain with oral administration of herbals is not worth any benefit we get from my experience. Occasionally I recommend oral pain meds as well. Below anything oral is mainly for dogs.

  1. Consider removing part of the lower jaw if it is in that area. I know it is a large and very harsh sounding surgery but these animals usually do quite well. This surgery is not for everyone so if you can’t do it there are other options below.
  2. Prednisone – I know it is a western drug and yes it has side effects but it really slows things down and also stimulates appetite in the process. This is one place I highly recommend considering it.
  3. Artemisinin – this herbal can really help slow things down. I treated a little Pomeranian named Panda who lived quite well for over a year on just Artemisinin, antibiotics as needed and pain meds.
  4. Acupuncture– can help with appetite, pain and slow this cancer down. Usually treatments need to be no more than two weeks apart.
  5. Hoxsey like formula with boneset – can help to slow this cancer down and help with bone pain.
  6. Pain medication – these animals need pain control!
  7. Antibiotics as needed. Having squamous cell in your mouth is like having a giant ulcerative wound open sometimes even up into the nasal passages. Antibiotics are sometimes used long-term and sometimes just as needed.
  8. Soft food and a cancer diet. These animals need to eat so give them what they will eat and use appetite stimulants if needed. Use very soft, easy to swallow foods. If they will eat a cancer fighting diet even better. See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs

Squamous cell other places in the body

Squamous cell can also arise other places in the body. The ear pinnae of white cats are a very common place and also the tip of the nose. Many people will make the decision to remove the ear pinnae and get a cure. For the nose usually a few radiation treatments is curative. Usually squamous cell on the pinnae or nose is slower moving then in the mouth and sometimes if the cat is old the decision will be made to just leave it. When squamous cell occurs other places, surgical removal is the treatment of choice if at all possible. If surgery or radiation is not an option then the treatments above can be used.

An extra note on cats

In many cats giving more than three drugs or herbs can cause side effects and reduced appetite. Depending on how many western treatments a cat is on usually I only recommend adding in two or three herbals and focusing on diet and acupuncture to supplement their effects.

Some cats cannot tolerate anything going in their mouth if they have cancer there in which case I only treat with acupuncture to try to make them have quality of life while they are here. If only one thing can be given it should be pain medication as this is a very painful disease.

As with all articles on this website please check with your animal companion’s veterinarian before starting any herbals or supplements. This disease more than any other of the cancers I have talked about really needs an integrative approach to treatment involving western drugs and interventions.

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

Acupuncture for animals with cancer – stoking the healing power within

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Much of the year I am so booked up that I am not able to take new patients but my assistant Diane knows just the right thing to say to make me sneak in an extra special one. “Lena, there is this amazing dog I meet at the clinic who was just diagnosed with cancer, is there any way you think we can work them into the schedule?”

I can’t say enough about the power of acupuncture for animals with cancer! Of all the work I have done with this disease I am still amazed at how well acupuncture can help these wonderful animals live with cancer.

I love being able to make animals feel better and it brings tears to my eyes to be able to help the people I work with have their beloved animals for longer. Currently I have a number of animals who are living, and living well, more then a year out, with cancer that should have taken them in a matter of months.

When I first became an acupuncturist I took over doing acupuncture for an amazing dog named Rooney. Rooney had been diagnosed with bladder cancer about 4 months before I meet her and she was supposed to be gone within three months of her diagnosis, even with the chemotherapy she was getting. I started treating her every week and over that time was blessed to get to work with one of the most amazing dogs I would ever meet and her wonderful moms. Rooney was not supposed to live but she made it almost three years with chemotherapy and acupuncture. She was rarely sick during that time and she lived a very normal dog life up until her last month. See Rooney’s Wisdom.

Rooney is unusual in that I only worked with acupuncture with her and not herbs. For most of the animals I treat I recommend an integrated approach that combined acupuncture, herbs and often times some western treatments as well.

The wonderful thing about acupuncture is that there are not major side effects like with chemotherapy, surgery and even some of the herbs I use. Because of this, it can be used in some of the most sick and old animals. Although I find it works best if it can be started before an animal is severely debilitated.

So what are the main benefits of acupuncture?

  • Increased longevity – almost all the animals I treat for cancer end up living much longer than the normal prognosis, usually at least double prognosis time. In some animals this ends up being years beyond prognosis. For a treatment with no major side effects this is pretty amazing.
  • Increased well being and energy – acupuncture can increase energy and help to regulate the hormones in the body. Cancer can make animals feel sick – acupuncture helps to reverse this. This is the most important benefit I see with acupuncture treatments. Animals are happy again and people feel like they have had their beloved companion returned to them.
  • Decreased pain – cancer can be painful. Acupuncture can significantly reduce that pain and help to reduce side effects to some of the pain drugs. I had a dear little bunny I treated who had a very painful spinal tumor. With acupuncture every two weeks we were able to keep him happy for about six months.
  • Immune system support – cancer is a failure of the immune system. Acupuncture stimulates the immune system so that it can fight the cancer better.In some animals, I have actually seen tumors shrink with just acupuncture alone.
  • Increased blood circulation – to the cells you want to get blood. There is some thought that acupuncture can help to pull blood away from cancer cells and give it to the parts of the body that need it. Often times with cancer the body ends up without enough nutrients and energy because the cancer takes it all. Acupuncture helps to reverse this.
  • Increased appetite – some animals with cancer feel so sick that they don’t want to eat. Acupuncture can help to stimulate appetite.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation support – both these therapies are very hard on the immune system and body. Acupuncture helps to keep white blood cell numbers up during these therapies and helps decrease the side effects. If white blood cells drop too low, chemotherapy needs to be stopped. Acupuncture can usually raise blood cell numbers within a week.

How often should an animal with cancer be treated?

I recommend scheduling acupuncture treatments at least every two weeks. In some very sick animals I will recommend weekly treatments and I usually start with weekly treatments for a few weeks. I have a few animals I have treated every three weeks and I had one dog who did very well with monthly treatments but over all I have found animals do much better with weekly or every other week treatments. The acupuncturist you work with may have different experiences.

Where do I find a veterinary acupuncturist to treat my animals?

The best tool I have found is through the International Veterinary acupuncture Society’s website. Find a veterinary acupuncturist in your area.

I should note that all good veterinary acupuncturists are not on this list. I’m not because the certification program I went through is not recognized by IVAS. In addition someone being listed just means they are certified by IVAS or one of its recognized programs, not how experienced or good they are. Ask around in your area to see if there is someone that is highly recommended. Ask your vet, at the local pet store, at the dog park, at the local groomer or among friends and co-workers or search the Internet.

When is the best time to start acupuncture?

Now! Really as soon as possible is best. It is much easier for me to keep an animal from getting sick then try to make them better after they are very ill.

My normal vet or oncologist says I should not do acupuncture or alternative medicine with my animal? What should I do?

Most vets I have worked with are very open to what I do. In my state and in most states you need to be a veterinarian to do acupuncture on animals. I think that helps us have more support from the mainstream vet community. Since most vets don’t have training in acupuncture or herbal medicine sometimes they just need a little communication. I am always happy to talk to someone’s regular vet or oncologist if there is a conflict when I am working with their animal. Hopefully your veterinary acupuncturist will be willing to also. While I am not always as current on western treatments for cancer, I am usually much more current on the herbal studies and the studies about combining western and alternative medicine.

Should I use acupuncture with chemotherapy?

Yes! I have found that animals getting acupuncture with chemotherapy not only do better with fewer side effects, but also live longer.

But I don’t want my animal to suffer longer? What if acupuncture helps then to live longer but they are miserable during that time?

I have found that the animals I treat with acupuncture live well and die fast when it is their time. The quality of life while they are alive is usually quite good and they are happy. I have found that when it is time to go they tend to get sick quickly and the passing seems to be easier for both the people involved and the animals because it is so obviously time for them to pass on.

What if I can’t find a veterinary acupuncturist in my area?

While I do think acupuncture works better than acupressure, I think there is a lot of benefit to acupressure and it really can make a large difference in an animal’s health. See if you can find someone who does acupressure treatments or learn yourself. I will publish an article in the near future about how to do acupressure for cancer.

Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute has a tool to find a practitioner and offer classes in acupressure.
Find an animal acupressure practitioner.
There are also many good books out there on acupressure. Focus with stimulating the immune system and working with lung, kidneys and spleen. Here are some of my favorites:
Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs
Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure
The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure

I think there will come a time in my life where we will look back on some of the harsher treatments we use for cancer as being somewhat barbaric. Many of the new treatments emerging work by getting the body to fight cancer itself. There was an amazing article I just read about using modified white blood cells to get rid of leukemia. New leukemia treatment exceeds wildest expectations. Acupuncture fits nicely in with some of these emerging new therapies.

Acupuncture supports the body and helps it to do what it should have been able to in the first place, fight cancer. Most importantly it helps to support our animal friends in their journey through cancer treatment. It helps them to live and love living and gives us more time with them. For me there is no greater joy than seeing that sparkle come back into a dog’s eyes that says I choose life!

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

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

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

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

Pascal’s feeding box and night time yowling

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

My friends Jenn and Jeff made this awesome feeding box for their new cat Pascal. He is 15 years old and needs to eat in the middle of the night but they have another cat who would eat all the food if they left it out.

Jeff bought a large rubbermaid box and a cat door with a magnetic collar and put them together. I think this is genius and I wish he would start marketing these. I know so many households with one very large hungry cat and one very small cat. Jeff has some great photos on his blog of the resulting box and more about Pascal. Here is Pascal’s story.

Pascal also recently became a patient of mine and gets acupuncture and herbs for his recently diagnosed renal failure and for night time yowling. Jenn and Jeff have reported back that Pascal’s yowling is much less and he is playing more and seems happier.

Yowling can be a problem in older cats. In Chinese medicine we say it is often from the water of the kidneys being deficient and not controlling the fire of the heart. Because of this, yowling is common in cats with renal disease. Acupuncture and herbs can be a great tool for treating this in many cats. Although unfortunately I had another cat I treated recently where the acupuncture did not help.

Night time yowling can also be a sign of thyroid issues which needs to be treated with western medicine. So if your cat is yowling at night the first step is to get blood work run to rule out a thyroid issue. There is a great western treatment for thyroid disorder which involves injecting radioactive iodine which destroys the benign thyroid tumor that causes this disorder. Sounds strange but it is a safe and effective treatment. I have been through it with two of my cats and a number of the animals I work with have had this treatment including Pascal.

Kidney failure in cats – how Chinese medicine and diet can help

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Food sitting in a dish uneaten does not help a cat get better.

In other words, the best food left uneaten does nothing.

Yet many cats with kidney/renal disease are put on a low protein diet such as Science Diet’s K/D diet that they will not eat. And from my experience cats with renal disease should not be on K/D or other low protein kidney diets to began with.

Many cats get kidney failure as they age, yet western medicine does not have a good treatment to reverse or prevent this disease. The most common treatments involve a low protein diet and subcutaneous fluids.

So what do I recommend for cats with renal disease, if you know they do not have inflammatory kidney disease (explained later in this article)?

A high protein canned or home cooked diet made with good quality protein. I recommend using Instinct, Weruva, or Go/Now grain free if you use a commercial diet. Raw food is ok if they will tolerate it and are not severely sick.

What high protein?!
But my vet said I need to feed low protein!

Here is one of the commonly sited studies on PubMed that proves that high protein does not make kidney disease worse in cats.
Protein and calorie effects on progression of induced chronic renal failure in cats

So let’s talk a little about what is going on with renal disease and why I recommend the diets I do.

From a Chinese Medicine view we have two main types of renal failure, inflammatory and deficient/ischemic.

Deficient or ischemic kidney disease

This is the more common type of renal failure. These guys are usually thin, not great eaters and may or may not be vomiting. The inflammatory cats may also shift to this after you get the inflammation down.

I really hate to see these guys on K/D or low protein.

In this form of renal failure there is not enough blood going to the kidneys and the cells are dying from ischemia (lack of oxygen). They may also have renal hypertension (high blood pressure) which causes even more damage. Many of these cats are also anemic making the problem even worse.

These cats need protein both to increase blood flow and blood volume (you can’t make blood without protein) and to repair the damage to the kidney cells (you can’t repair cells without protein).

And yes many of these cells are not dead and can be repaired once you improve blood flow.

  • I recommend a high protein canned food such as Instinct, or grain free Weruva or Go for these guys.
  • I highly recommend acupuncture for deficient cats. They not only feel better, eat better but often we can reduce their kidney numbers or get them back to normal
  • Infrared light therapy can be very helpful for these kitties and can be done at home. Infrared light helps to improve blood circulation into the kidneys and wake up kidney cells that are still alive but don’t have enough blood flow. See my article Infrared light therapy for instructions on how to use this therapy.
  • I also often put these cats on a Chinese formula containing Shu Di Huang (also known as rehmannia). Shu Di Huang formulas help repair kidney cells, lower kidney numbers on blood work and lower blood pressure. It is best to find a holistic vet to help you determine the best formula. If you can’t find someone to help you the base formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan can be used. This formula is now available in powder form that can be made into a tea from my etsy shop Kingdom of Basil

I’ve had many cats convert back to normal through diet, acupuncture and herbs.

From my experience, if they stay on K/D, I can not convert them back. They need to be on high protein if they have this type of kidney disease to improve numbers. If they are inflammatory we get rid of the inflammation and then put them on high protein even if the numbers are normal to keep them stable and out of renal failure.

Although it is not my favorite approach, I have maintained cats with ischemic renal disease on dry Orijen or high protein/no grain diets. If somehow they have to be on dry I always go with a high protein. They tend to stay stable on high protein dry and sub-Q fluids. I also find sometimes you need a little dry in the old guys. My old cat Basil needs a little dry to maintain his weight because he just didn’t eat enough canned.

So why does my western veterinarian recommend a low protein diet?

We do know that high phosphorus can be bad in renal disease. There is higher phosphorus levels in protein so it is hard to get low phosphorus without doing a low protein diet. So low phosphorus has translated into low protein. My experience has shown me that the higher phosphorus doesn’t seem to cause as large an issue as the low protein does in cats with kidney failure.

Inflammatory kidney disease
We do not see much inflammatory kidney disease in cats and most of it is in cats younger than 10 years old. In inflammatory kidney disease, there is inflammation in the kidneys that causes the the kidneys to not function well and reduces the blood flow to the cells.

It can be hard to tell these cats from deficient kidney kitties as there is much overlap in symptoms. These cats tend to vomit a lot but still have a fairly good appetite. They almost always have a high cholesterol on blood work and tend to have kidney numbers that are just barely elevated. They also may have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, elevated liver enzymes, chronic pancreatitis or vomiting. And these cats tend to be younger, usually the old thin kitties are not inflammatory.

Usually with acupuncture and herbs we can clear this stage up in a month or two. If it is mild and recent their kidney numbers may go back to normal. If they have had it awhile we then see the ischemic renal disease underneath.

These guys should not have high protein but also should not have high grain (which causes inflammation).

  • I recommend a normal to moderate protein canned food such as Avoderm, Pinnacle or Nature’s Variety Homestyle. High protein increases blood flow which will cause more inflammatory cells to go to the kidneys, we don’t want that but also we need some protein to maintain the cells
  • I also recommend acupuncture for these cats to reduce the inflammation and support the kidneys
  • For inflammatory kidney disease herbal treatment can be amazingly effective. It is best if you can work with a holistic vet to determine the most appropriate formula.
    • So what do I do if I can’t figure out if my cat has inflammatory or ischemic kidney disease?

    • 1. Find a holistic vet who can help to make that determination.A holistic vet can also help you get your cat on an appropriate herbal formula and do acupuncture to help support the kidneys .
    • 2. If you can’t find a vet to work with, feed a moderate protein canned food.
    • What can I do to prevent kidney failure in cats who are currently healthy?

    • 1. Do not overvaccinate. We now know that the FVRCP causes many cats to have antibodies against their own kidneys. See the article To vaccinate or not to vaccinate that is the question.
    • 2. Do not feed your cat a dry food only diet. Make sure your cat is on a high protein, good quality diet of canned food, home cooked or raw food. Cats on dry food only diets are always in a mild state of dehydration. Long term this dehydration can hurt their kidneys. See How do I pick the best food for my cat’s health.

Dementia and anxiety in your older dog – What you can do.

Monday, February 1st, 2010

It is sad to see our beloved animal companions get old and even harder to see them start to loss their mind. In many dogs the first sign of this is anxiety in the evening or throughout the night, although dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome can manifest in many different ways.

Not all dementia has an anxiety component to it and not all anxiety in older dogs is from dementia but the two often go together.

So what causes dementia in older dogs?

There are four main causes of dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

  1. Free radical formation Free radicals harm healthy cells in the brain.
  2. Hypoxia to the brain In other words there is not enough blood getting to the brain.
  3. Alterations in neurotransmitters There is too much or not enough of certain necessary neurotransmitters in the brain. You need neurotransmitters to have your neurons or brain cells function together.
  4. Neural infiltrates such as B amyloid and lipofusion These infiltrates destroy healthy brain tissue, similar to alzheimer’s disease in people.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (or TCM), anxiety in older animals is caused by too much heart fire related to the kidneys becoming deficient as your dog ages. Kidneys are considered to be the water element and as we age the kidneys get deficient and water in the body system decreases to a point that it allows heart which is a fire element to flare too much and cause anxiety especially during the heart peak hours of 11pm – 1am.

According to TCM, another issue is that older animals can become what is called yin deficient. Yin holds the yang at night so we can sleep. If there is not enough yin, the yang is not held and sleep doesn’t happen.

Sometimes these problems are reversible if caught early but even when they are not, there are things you can do to help slow down the progression of the disease and help with symptoms. Usually in spite of everything we do, dementia is progressive and eventually gets to the point that nothing helps anymore. This process can happen quickly or occur slowly over a number of years.

Here is a list of some things that I have found can help your older dog with dementia or anxiety. Please check with your veterinarian to come up with a plan that is safe for your dog.

  1. Walking is the most important thing you can do for your older dog. Walking just ten minutes twice a day can significantly increase brain blood flow and reverse symptoms of dementia from hypoxia. Plus it can help prevent muscle atrophy and help with arthritis.
  2. Ginkgo Biloba does three important things. It helps increase blood flow to the brain by vasodilation , it helps regulate dopamine in the brain and it helps prevent amyloid deposits. I dose ginkgo at 100mg per 50lb of dog or more. I sell a powdered herbal formula called Brain and Heart Support Formula through my etsy store Kingdom of Basil which can be added to food. In animals with picky appetite you can also use the Animals’ Apawthecary Hawthorn Plus
    which contains hawthorn and ginkgo. Another option is to use the product Senilife
    which contains ginkgo and other antioxidant ingredients (see Peggy’s comment in the comments section). I find ginkgo can help slow the progression of dementia
  3. Fish or Cod Liver Oil and other antioxidants help prevent and repair free radical damage and stimulate brain function. In addition Fish Oil also help with arthritis and dry coat problems in older dogs. I dose Fish Oil at 500mg per 40 lb of dog. I prefer the Nordic Natural Cod Liver Oil. Extra vitamin B and E can also help these dogs.
  4. SamE helps increase dopamine function in the brain, stimulates brain function and works as an antioxidant. It also helps with joint pain and liver function which many older dogs have problems with. I dose SamE at around 425mg per 50lb of dog. I prefer to use the dog product Nutramax Denosyl.
  5. Remove any compact fluorescent or fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting can cause a high pitched hum that humans can not hear but dogs and cats can. Older dogs loss their high frequency hearing last so even almost deaf dogs can still hear very high frequency noises. In addition fluorescent lighting can affect brain function and can cause headaches. See The danger of compact fluorescent lighting.
  6. Get rid of the dry food. Many older dogs do better on home cooked food or canned food. I don’t recommend switching an old dog to raw food if they have not been on it before. From a Chinese medicine view, dry food is too processed and dry for an older dog who already is kidney deficient.
  7. Oneof my patients, Luna wearing a T shirt

    One of my patients, Luna wearing a T shirt

  8. 5.Wearing a T-shirt, Thundershirt, or Anxiety Wrap can help your older dog if they have problems with anxiety. It sounds weird I know, but it actually does work.

    It is based around the ideas from Tellington TTouch of using an ace bandage. See the article Put an ace bandage on my dog?. Wearing the shirt enhances your dog’s sense of their own body and makes them feel more confident in their movements and behavior. You can use a snug fitting human T-shirt, a Thundershirt, or an anxiety wrap. I have found however that if your dog has a lot of arthritic pain the anxiety wrap is too hard to put on, so try the Thundershirt or a T-shirt in that case. This is also an idea that can work in young dogs with anxiety.

  9. Melatonin can help old dogs sleep at night. Sometimes older dogs can get confused between night and day and end up sleeping all day and then pacing and panting at night. This can make it very hard for us humans to sleep also. Giving Melatonin in the evening can help regulate night and day for these guys and get everyone a better night’s sleep. I dose Melatonin at 3-4mg per 50lb of dog.Many brands of Melatonin contains xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs. Make sure your brand does not!
  10. Small meals more often and right before bed are sometimes better for these older dogs. A small meal of wet or cooked food right before bedtime can help get these dogs through the night and help them sleep better.
  11. Acupuncture can help decrease anxiety especially at night time by treating the yin, kidneys, and heart fire. In addition acupuncture can help with arthritis pain, weakness, and kidney function and help your dog age more gracefully as they get older. I often combine acupuncture with Chinese herbs for these dogs.
  12. Reiki can help to relax older dogs and calm anxiety. Reiki is a nice calming way of helping improve health and well being as animals age.
  13. Bach Rescue Remedy and other flower essences can help with anxiety and fear. Flower essences are homeopathic in nature and very safe for older animals. Rescue Remedy is the best know but there are many lines for treating a variety of behavior and emotional issues.

    You can dose flower essences by putting 3-4 drops in your dog’s drinking water every time you change their water. It’s ok to use flower essences in the water even if other animals drink from the same dish.

  14. Other herbal medications are out there for helping with anxiety in older dogs.

    Making a tea or tincture from hops leaves can help calm some older dogs. You can also buy hops leaves and sprinkle them in your dog’s food. Animal Apawthecary makes a Tranquility Tonic that if used at their recommended dosage is safe in most animals. I also have a formula I make and sell in my store, Kingdom of Basil, which helps to treat anxiety in older dogs and also contains ginkgo to help with brain function called Calm and Peaceful Formula. Also see my article Helping anxiety in an old friend – calm and peaceful formula.

    I recommend consulting with a holistic veterinary to decide on what is right for your dog.

    Some of the calming herbals can be dangerous if used incorrectly or in the wrong animal.

    To use Chinese herbs correctly you should consult with a veterinarian with a background is Chinese herbal medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine.

  15. Western Drugs are always an option. There are may drugs that help with anxiety and can be given if the natural alternatives do not work or are not enough. There are also drugs out there that help with dementia such as Selegiline (Anipryl). Most of the western drugs like the herbs are not cure alls but can help make things better.
  16. Some dogs are anxious because they are painful . This is an important thing to rule out before assuming there is a dementia component.

    If your dog is not on pain medication have them evaluated by your veterinarian. If they are on pain medication talk to your vet about increasing the dose or trying something else if there may be a pain factor. Dogs can’t always tell us when they are in pain and pain certainly can cause sleep disturbance and anxiety.

  17. Talk to your dog about the change in their position in the house. Many dogs especially the herding breeds take their job of watching the house very seriously. As they get older and can not do it the way they would like to anymore they can become quite anxious. Explaining that your accept them in their old age and making changes to help them, can ease anxiety. See the article Love me for who I am today.
  18. 13. Take care of yourself!. This is very important when you are caring for an elderly or sick animal. To be a good caregiver you need to be healthy and well rested.

    If you have a dog that is anxious at night and you are not sleeping consider putting them in a different room than you sleep in, crating them if they are ok with crating, or finding another solution. If you get sick because you are not taking care of yourself you will not be able to care for them.

    It may seem mean to kick them out of your room but it is kinder than letting them sleep with you and being a grumpy caregiver. I had to do this with my old dog Jake and it actually ended up with us both sleeping better. Before we slept in separate rooms, his anxiety made me anxious, which made him more anxious and by the morning we were both a mess.

Dementia and anxiety are some of the most frustrating and painful problems I see in older dogs and can be very difficult to deal with. Be gentle on yourself and your dog companion and try to find a healthy way to work with these problems for everyone in the household.

When dementia progresses to a point where you beloved companion is no longer present and enjoying life or in pain sometimes the greatest gift we can give them is to help them to go through euthanasia. This is not an easy decision to make and there are no set guilds that tell you when it is time. This can differ from dog to dog. The best we can do is to look into our hearts for what is right.

Also see Follow up to Dementia and Anxiety in Older Dogs – Sadie’s Hospice Care.

Please join me in the Path With Paws forums for more discussion of dementia and with any questions.

My animal companion has to go under anesthesia – what can I do to help?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

If we are lucky our animal friends only have to go through surgery once, when they are spayed or neutered. However many animals do need to be under anethesia other times either for a dental cleaning, to get sutures, or to have surgery. Whatever the reason, surgery and anethesia are hard on our animal friends. But there are things you can do to help them recover faster and more comfortably.

As always, check with your veterinarian on any supplements you use.

  • 1. Arnica
    Arnica is a homeopathic remedy which helps with bruising and trauma. Over the years I have been amazed and impressed at how much difference this very safe remedy can make in healing. I have seen incisions heal in half the time and dogs have very little bruising and swelling in situations you would normally expect to see it.

    I always recommend Arnica for all my animal patients who have to undergo surgery or any other procedure that there will be tissue or bone trauma. Because it is a homeopathic remedy it is very safe ever for old and debilitated animals.

    I use the Arnica 30c pellets and dose them at 2-3 pellets (usually 2 for cats/small dogs and 3 for dogs) the morning of surgery, the evening after surgery, and then three times a day for three days. Because the pellets are so small they can safely be given the morning of surgery.

    Arnica can be bought at most health and supplement stores or by clicking on Arnica.

  • 2. Acupuncture
    I highly recommend an acupuncture treatment right after surgery or anesthesia. Acupuncture can help with clearing anesthesia from an animal’s system and decrease the chance of them having a hard recovery. Acupuncture can also help ease pain and speed healing.

    If possible acupuncture can be performed the day of surgery after an animal has woken up. Many times this is not possible because of the hours acupuncturists work and I end up treating most animals the day after surgery.

    Acupuncture can also help dogs who have had bad recoveries to anesthesia in the past and and make it possible to perform dentals or surgeries on these sensitive animals.

  • 3.Yunnan Baiyao
    While I don’t recommend Yunnan Baiyao (also called Yunnan Paiyao) for all animals undergoing surgery or anethesia, it is still one of my most important herbal formulas. I mainly use it in any procedure or surgery where there is a concern about bleeding. This includes many tumor removal and abdominal surgeries. I have seen this wonderful herbal formula save animal’s lives before.

    Please see my article, A Magic Vial of Yunnan Baiyao and the wikipedia article.

    I usually dose Yunnan Baiyao at one capsule twice a day for a few days before and after surgery for your average sized dog. Cats and small dogs, I use the powder and put about a 1/8 of a teaspoon in their food twice a day.

    Yunnan Baiyao can be bought in most international districts and by clicking on Yunnan Baiyao above.

  • 4.Reiki
    If one of my animals need to undergo surgery I always give them a reiki session before to get them into a good place for surgery. I usually work with a local practitioner, Rose DeDan, who also does animal communication. She is able to help explain what is going to happen and put their body in the best possible place for surgery and/or anesthesia.
  • 5.Pain medication
    Enough can not be said about pain medication. Make sure your veterinarian gives your animal pain medication before surgery and sends you home with something you can give at home. Nothing is worse then seeing our animals in pain and not being able to do anything about it. Routine dentals do not usually need pain meds.
  • 6. Companionship and love!
    You are the safest person to your animal. They want to be with you after surgery and they want to feel loved and cared for. If possible consider taking a day off work after their surgery or plan your animal’s surgery or procedure on a Friday.
  • 7. Somewhere healing to recover
    It is so important to have somewhere safe, quiet, warm and soft to recover after surgery. Anesthesia can make the senses more sensitive and many animals get headaches coming out of surgery. Often times the drugs used also make our animal friends disoriented. Make sure that there is no access to stairs and nothing to fall off of. Keeping lights dim and sound to a minimum also helps. Sometimes classical music played softly will help relax our friends.
  • I hope these simple suggestions are helpful! I know they have helped many of the animals I work with and my own beloved animal companions.

    The mysteries of nerves – paralysis, seizures and old age neurologic conditions Part 1 paralysis

    Friday, May 1st, 2009

    Did you know that one out of seven dachshunds will become paralyzed in their lifetime? That many older dogs and cats suffer from strokes and vestibular disease in their old age? That seizures are so common in some breeds that they can affect 15-20% of the breed?

    Neurologic problems are quite common in our companion animals and are some of the most expensive and frustrating problems to deal with. Often times the only way to diagnose these problems is with a MRI, which can cost $1000 and requires your animal to be under anesthesia. Many times in older animals the risk of anesthesia to too great and these problems go undiagnosed.

    I am often surprised that veterinarians do not offer alternative options for working with these neurologic problems. Many times the only things western medicine can offer are expensive surgeries, a lifetime of drugs, or steroids with their many side effects.

    For example, traditionally a course of treatment for paralysis, back pain or paresis in a dachshund would include steroids, months of cage only confinement and possibly an expensive surgery. While surgery is a good option in some cases, especially if there is no deep pain, it has it’s own set of risks including that sometimes it does not solve the problem and can actually make things worse.

    But there are other options out there!

    Let’s talk about the dachshunds first! I love working with dachshunds!

    They are some of the best responders to acupuncture out there. In fact I have never worked with a dachshund who did not respond to acupuncture. And they really seem to understand that you are helping them. I have been able to work with dachshunds who were completely paralyzed and with acupuncture and herbs have had them back to walking in as little as three acupuncture treatments! Wow!

    OK just to be realistic, most take longer than that but the majority can be gotten back on there feet as long as they still have deep pain. Meaning that if you squeeze a back toe really hard with a surgical hemostat they can feel it. On average I would say it takes four to six months of weekly treatments.

    Of course it’s not all dachshunds and I have worked with other animals with paralysis including cats and all breeds of dogs. Of these others, I would say about 90% have had a positive response. That’s still pretty good!

    Most of these dogs I also put on a herbal I use called Back Support Formula.

    Even better is if I can get these animals with paralysis to hydrotherapy. Swimming helps keep the muscles working well while we are getting the nerves to work again and helps keep the muscle mass from wasting away. Dachshunds and other dogs can be amazing little swimmers and it gives these animals a way to move on there own if they can’t support their weight on land.

    Unfortunately for cats this is not an option as you can well imagine!

    I often work with Wellsprings in Seattle, Washington but there are more and more hydrotherapy clinics opening up around the world.

    I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to be able to work with these amazing creatures to help their body to heal and to see them be able to walk again.

    Here are some wonderful resources on disabled pets

    • Handicapped Pets is a great site for disabled pet supplies and runs the best forums for people with special needs animals. I have had some time to hang out and participate on these forums and these folks not only are super educated on the options out there for working with these animals but have amazing stories about their own very loved handicapped companions. It is a great place to go for education and for support from others going through the same thing.
    • One of the dogs I treat has his own blog. Buddy’s blog is a great place to check out the story of a very cool little dachshund and one of my favorite patients.

    Soon to come neurologic problems in older animals and seizure disorder.