Posts Tagged ‘cat’

Infrared light therapy for kidney failure, incontinence and arthritis in dogs and cats

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

In Chinese medicine we often use a moxa stick for when we need to drive cold out of an area or to improve blood flow. Moxa is a mixture of mugwort and other herbs that are made into a charcoal stick which can be heated and lets off infrared light. Moxa is then used over acupuncture needles or points. Many of my clients have seen me use moxa in the clinic. With our animal friends you need to use caution because you are holding a charcoal hot stick and it is important to not burn our animal friends or set hair on fire.

Many times I want to use moxa treatments more often than I am treating an animal and a good way to have people get a similar action is with an infrared light. These lights can be purchased in the reptile section of pet stores and are usually 50 or 75 watts or from Amazon.com. Never get a bulb over 75 watts as you can easily burn your dog or cat. I have people buy the bulbs and then put the bulb in a clamp lamp. Many people already have a clamp lamp around the house or you can buy one from home depot or the hardware store or more expensive ones at the pet store.

What conditions can infrared light help with?

  1. Kidney failure in cats is the number one place I have people use infrared light therapy. I only use infrared light for ischemic kidney failure, not inflammatory kidney failure. Most older cats with kidney failure have the ischemic type. If you are unsure see Kidney Failure in Cat – How Chinese Medicine and Diet Can Help. Infrared light helps to open up blood circulation into the kidneys and wake up kidney cells that are still living but have inadequate blood flow. I have had cats that have reverted back to normal kidney blood work in as little as 2-3 acupuncture and heat treatments. Of course this depends on the cat and how damaged the kidneys are and how long they have been damaged. Most cats love heat therapy!
  2. Incontinence in dogs – usually with incontinence I use a combination of infrared therapy, herbs and acupuncture. Heat therapy is however a large part of my treatments especially in young dogs. In Chinese medicine we consider incontinence in young female dogs to be cold that has gotten into the bladder during spay surgery. With acupuncture, herbs and infrared light therapy you are driving that cold out of the body. And yes it does work in about 80% of young dogs who can be gotten off western medication and live out their lives without incontinent issues. In the older dogs incontinence is considered a deficiency of kidney yang or kidney fire. Infrared therapy over the kidney yang points can help to stoke this fire and help them to hold urine. See Incontinence – stoking the blue fire sea serpent.
  3. Infrared heat can really help with arthritis support in older dogs and cats. Infrared light therapy helps improve blood circulation, drives out cold and helps with pain control. I use moxa or infrared light over any joints that are sore and often along the back. Infrared heat can also be used over the kidney points to improve energy.

So how do I use infrared heat therapy?

  1. Buy a infrared light bulb, 50 or 75 watts. Once again do not use a light over 75 watts!. Use a clamp lamp from the hardware store or the pet store. Here is a link to buy an infrared bulb on Amazon.com. Clamp lamps can also be purchased through Amazon.com.
  2. One of my patients, Lucy, enjoying her infrared light at home

  3. I usually have people start out with using the bulb once or twice a week for 5-10 minutes at a time. You can do it daily if your dog or cat likes it. Also if they really like it you can set up a bulb a few feet above your dog or cat’s bed and let them sit under it and “self-medicate”. Never leave the bulb on when you are not home and if you animal can not walk or move do not use this option as it is important that they can move away if they get too hot.
  4. When you are using the bulb on your animal, hold the clamp lamp at least a light bulb width away from their body. Move it slowly in figure eights or hold it for 30 seconds or less at a time and then move it slightly to make sure you do not overheat an area. If the bulb is further away this is not as important.
  5. For kidney failure or incontinence you want to use the infrared light over the area of the acupuncture point ming men (aka GV4). The best way to find this point is to find the most caudal part of the last rib and then make a perpendicular line to the spine from it and follow it up to the spine. Ming men is the point in the middle of the spine that forms a right angle with the caudal point of the last rib. Here is a photo of a woman touching ming men in a horse, the area of her hand is where you want to focus your heat therapy.
  6. For arthritis therapy – use the same technique but work over joints and along the spine. Do not use heat therapy along the thoracic spine because there is a danger of using too much heat over the liver, which does not like to be hot. Do not worry about this if you are letting an animal “self medicate” and the bulb is up higher. I especially like the “self medicate” option for older cats who just love the heat.

A few precautions

  • If your animal is prone to seizures do not use infrared heat therapy without directions from a trained veterinarian. Used in the wrong place this treatment can potentially induce seizures in an animal prone to them.
  • If your animal has cancer do not use infrared therapy without the direct of a veterinarian. Absolutely never us it over a tumor.
  • If your animal gets worse from heat therapy – stop
  • If your animal runs very hot, gets overheated easily, or has large inflammed joints check with your veterinarian. This therapy can make these conditions worse if used incorrectly.
  • Do not use this therapy when it is very hot outside

I especially like this therapy in the fall and winter when the sessions are changing and that cold wind creeps into the joints of our old cats and dogs.

Treating weight loss in dogs and cats with cancer

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

It is very common for cats and dogs who have cancer to loss weight even when they are eating well. This is because the cancer is stealing their nutrients and not allowing the body to have what it needs. Weight loss in the face of a healthy appetite and proper nutrition is called cachexia.

There is a simple protocol I use to address this issue if it isn’t just an issue of appetite.

  1. Add in Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil at 2-3X recommended dosage. I prefer the Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil. Cancer can not use fat and Omega 3 oils help to reverse cachexia.
  2. Feed 1-2 tablespoons of canned sweet potato or pumpkin at every meal for the average sized dog. Use a teaspoon for cats. This helps with digestion and helps them use the nutrients in their food better.
  3. Add in 1-2 eggs a day for the average sized dog or part of an egg for cats. Eggs are a very good source of 100% digestible protein. They can grow a baby chicken from two cells to a whole animal – pretty amazing when you think about it. Cooked or raw is fine. You can hard boil a dozen at a time and keep them in the refrigerator to make it easier.
  4. Consider feeding multiple meals a day or increase the amount of food. Feed grain free food if possible. This can help and probably seems obvious but doesn’t normally work on its own without using the above additions.
  5. There are some other herbal formulas that can help but they differ from animal to animal, so consider seeing a veterinary herbalist if the above doesn’t work.

If appetite is an issue then I recommend working with a holistic vet with acupuncture and herbs or consulting with your animal’s regular veterinarian about appetite stimulants and anti-nausea medications.

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

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang – Chemotherapy herbal support for dogs and cats

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang is one of the formulas I take myself when I’ve been under too much stress and my adrenals are a little deficient. It has a deep root flavor with just a hint of citrus – yum!

In my practice, this is the main formula I use for chemotherapy support. Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang helps to support digestion, the immune system, blood cell counts, and adrenal function in the body and at the same time has some strong anti-cancer herbs.

So what is in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang?

  • Huang Qi – Astragulus
  • Bai Zhu – Atractylodes
  • Gan Cao (sometimes Zhi Gan Cao is used instead) – Licorice
  • Ren Shen – Ginseng
  • Chen Pi – Tangerine peel
  • Dang Gui – Chinese angelica root
  • Chai Hu – Bupleurum
  • Sheng Ma – Black cohosh

In 2007 a study was done out of the University of Minnesota by K. HWa Choi DVM. This study looked at dogs being treated with chemotherapy (including doxorubicin) for lymphoma and the side effects from treatment. It was found that dogs administered BZYQT had much less diarrhea and vomiting then dogs getting just chemotherapy. They also did much better than dogs getting chemotherapy and western drugs to control vomiting and diarrhea. In addition the dogs on BZYQT had better appetites. BZYQT also significantly raised white and red blood cell counts. Overall the dogs getting chemotherapy and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang did much better than dogs just getting chemotherapy or those being treated with western drugs for the side effects.

Not bad for an herbal therapy!

There has also been some success in the herbal veterinary community with this herbal to help manage hemangiosarcoma.

So how does it work?

Bupleurum has some amazing cancer fighting abilities. Bupleurum can induce apoptosis or cell death in cancer cells and inhibit cancer cell growth and division. Many studies have been done on this plant especially for lung cancer.

Many of the herbs in this formula work in pairs. Astragulus and ginseng strongly support the immune system and have direct anti-cancer effects. Ginseng and licorice support adrenal function. Dang Gui with Huang Qi stimulates the bone marrow to increase blood cell production. Licorice and tangerine support digestion.

This formula also works to increase peripheral circulation and can help to prevent some skin and nail inflammatory disorders. Many animals with deficient immune function also do well on this formula. I also often use it to support animals with deficient adrenal function (Addison’s disease). Some of its other uses are for incontinence and prolapse.

In Chinese medicine terms Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang lifts up sinking qi, supports the liver and spleen and tonifies lung qi.

When do I use this formula?

Any dog or cat getting chemotherapy which includes the drug doxorubicin also known as adriamycin should be on this formula. This drug is one with the most potential for side effects and Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang can help reduce these.

I also use it for dogs or cats on other chemotherapeutic agents who are having side effects or problems maintaining cell counts.

In addition I will sometimes use this formula in very debilitated animals to help them gain strength and balance. I currently have one dog I treat who has a weakened immune system and is prone to getting nail bed infections that turn to cancer. He had lost three toes to this process before we found a protocol which included his formula.

How is Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang dosed?

I usually dose it twice a day and use powdered whole herbs in my patients. I use 1/8 teaspoon once or twice a day for cats and small dogs, 1/4 teaspoon twice a day for dogs up to 25 lbs, and 1/2-1 teaspoon twice day for larger dogs. For tea pills use 2,4, or 8 twice a day for the above sizes of animals.

If I am using a tincture I use 0.2ml per 5lb once a day.

Many companies will substitute Codonopsis (Dang Shen) for ginseng (Ren Shen). If at all possible use a product that has ginseng as it is a much stonger and more powerful herb than codonopsis.

You can now buy Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang from my etsy store, Kingdom of Basil or you can buy the Yama herb capsules from Amazon.com.

As with all articles on this site, please check with your animal’s vet before starting any herbal treatments.

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.

Si Miao San – slowing down cancer and inflammation

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Si Miao San or Four Marvels Powder is truly one of the workhorses of Chinese medicine. It is probably the most common formula I use. You see, Si Miao San is very good at treating inflammation and our animal companions have a lot of inflammatory disorders. This is my top formula for inflammatory bowel disease, allergic dermatitis, Cushings disease, and diabetes.

Please follow this link to buy Si Miao San from my etsy store Kingdom of Basil Si Miao San powder.

For more information on Cushings disease see my article Managing Cushings Disease in Dogs Holistically.

In Chinese medicine it treats damp heat and is a simple yet powerful little formula of four ingredients.

  • Huang Bai (phellodendron bark)
  • Yi Yi Ren (coix seed)
  • Cang Zhu (atractylodes rhizome)
  • Huai Niu Xi (achyranthes root)

These ingredients are highly anti-inflammatory and often this formula can take the place of prednisone for inflammatory disorders but without the side effects.

So how does this formula work for cancer?

It’s two main ingredients, Huang Bai and Yi Yi Ren, both have anticancer actions. Huang Bai contains berberine, which has been shown in a number of studies to slow down tumor growth and induce apoptosis or cell death. If you search pub med you will find a large list of studies on berberine and its anti-cancer activities.
Here is a good one – Apoptosis of human leukemia cells and murine leukemia cells induced by berberine through activation of caspase

Coix seed also inhibits growth of cancer cells and can induce apoptosis. Here is a great article on coix seed and its cancer actions –
Healthy Doses Job’s tears

This formula can enhance the action of chemotherapy drugs and anti-microbials in a good way. So it can safely be used with chemotherapy. However often times I focus more on the herbals that have strong immune stimulant effects for animals who are receiving chemo.

The main cancer I use Si Miao San for is lymphoma and some of the leukemias. I also often use this formula if animals can not handle Hoxsey-like formula. Animals needing this formula will run hot and often times have a history of past inflammatory diseases.

The Cang Zhu in this formula helps to support good digestion, which can often be a large issue in animals with cancer. While most of this formula is very cold in nature, the atractylodes is warm and makes sure this formula is well tolerated by most animals. It also does not cool them down too much.

For the animals I treat I make my own Si Miao San from whole dried herbs and dose at 1/8 twice a day for cats and small dogs, ¼ teaspoon twice a day for dogs 15-25 lbs, ½ twice a day for dogs 25-50 lbs, 1 teaspoon twice a day for dogs 50-90lb and 1 ½ teaspoons twice a day for dogs greater than 90lbs.

With tinctures I use .2 ml per 5 lbs of animal twice a day. For tea pills and granules, use the human dose for dogs greater than 50lbs and dose down by weight for smaller animals.

If you are working with a holistic vet or Chinese herbalist, get this formula from them. I am now selling powdered Si Miao San out of my herbal shop Kingdom of Basil on etsy. Amazon does sell the Kan Herbs – Four Marvels pills

As with all supplements and herbals, please check with your animal’s regular vet before using this herbal.

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

A magic vial of Yunnan Paiyao

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

As gunshots rang out, he fell from his horse bleeding from where the bullet had entered his chest. As blood ran from the wound, he could feel his life slowly slipping away. Images of his small daughter and wife, who were both far away, ran through his mind.

Quickly he reached for the vial, opening it to swallow the small red pill within and then taking the powder beneath it he quickly poured it in to the fresh wound. His breathing started to return to normal and he felt like he would be able to make it off the battlefield to find help. There was still some bleeding from the wound but no longer enough to take his life.

Sound like something from a fantasy movie? Surprisingly it isn’t.

Yunnan Baiyao, also known as Yunnan Paiyao, is a special formula know to every Chinese herbalist. It was developed in 1902 in China and has been an important remedy ever since. The formula is owned by the Chinese government and the secret of what exactly is in the magic red pill is highly guarded. It is rumored that it is made from gallstones cultivated in very special cows among other things but even the workers in the factories do not know exactly what is in it. We do know that pseudoginseng is probably the most important component of it. When pseudoginseng has been studied alone it has been shown to reduce bleeding times in half.

I use Yunnan Paiyao often in my patients and have been highly impressed with how well it works.

When my husband first moved in with me his cat, Sabutai, was suffering from horrible mouth cancer. One day which he was eating, the tumor in his mouth began to hemorrhage. In a matter of seconds there was blood all over the bathroom and he was just a small cat. Not knowing exactly what to do, I rushed to the medicine cabinet and grabbed one of the little red pills and pushed it down his throat. Within 60 seconds the bleeding had almost completely stopped and he did not hemorrhage again for the rest of his illness.

Another time I was at the vet clinic I used to work at and saw one of my old clients in the waiting room with their older dog, Alki. They quickly explained that they had just found out that Alki had a large tumor on her spleen that was bleeding into her abdomen and that she needed emergency surgery and most likely a blood transfusion. I quickly ran home and grabbed a vial of Yunnan Baiyao and brought it back. We administered the small red pill before she went into surgery and not only did she get through the surgery well and not need a blood transfusion but the surgeon was surprised at how little bleeding there was considering what was happening.

Also see Cosmo – star dog who was a wonderful dog I worked with who lived an extra year because of this herbal.

So why don’t we all have a vial of Yunnan Paiyao sitting around for emergencies? I’m not sure. I know I do! And the western vets I work with do as well.

In our family we often use the powder for any kind of cut or wound. It is not only good at stopping the bleeding but helps keep wounds from getting infected and is not painful to apply like many of the wound cleaning agents. It is safe and can be licked and eaten by cats and dogs without worry.

But isn’t it expensive you ask? Guarded by the Chinese government and that effective!

No! Usually you can buy Yunnan Baiyao for about $10 for a vial or a package of 16 pills of powder. You can even buy this on Amazon.com often.

Currently it has been a little harder to find Yunnan Baiyao. I recommend The Yunnan Baiyao Store or Root and Spring.

When are the best times to use it?

If an animal is going into surgery, especially if there is concern about excessive bleeding, I recommend giving the powder or capsules of powder for three days before and after the surgery. The little red pill can be given right before surgery but while the animal is still awake. Dosage depends on the size of your animal (except the red pill). Cats usually do better with the powder mixed with a little water in a syringe because the capsules are too larger for them to swallow where dogs usually do better with the capsules unless they are very small.

Nasal bleeding can be a very hard problem to control especially if there is a tumor or chronic condition which causes it. Yunnan Paiyao can be used to control nasal bleeding.

Yunnan Baiyao can also be used in many of the end stage diseases where surgery is not an option but there is bleeding in the body which can not be controlled. This is a great herbal to use with hemangiosarcoma and any other bleeding cancer or tumor. The powder capsules can be used daily for this and the red pill once again only for emergency.

There are also many reports of it clearing up existing infections and can be safely poured directly into wounds. Although if a wound is infected I usually reach for the antibiotics.

Yunnan Paiyao can safely be used in any cut or wound although deep wounds should be evaluated to see if sutures are needed. Yunnan Paiyao will actually promote healing and help a wound to close faster.

In addition pseudoginseng helps sensitive tumor cells to radiation treatments and can be used in animals with cancer that are undergoing radiation to make these therapies more effective.

With Yunnan Bai Yao in most dogs I dose at one pill twice a day unless they are very large and then I double that. In cats and very small dogs the pills can be opened and half the powder can be used. In hard to medicate animals the powder can also be mixed with water and syringed into the mouth.

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

Making crazy awesome homemade cat food

Friday, May 13th, 2011

This afternoon I whipped up a batch of my homemade cat food for our four kitties. I serve it raw so it is pretty easy to throw together and a lot of fun to make. It feels like making cookies, only these kids like meat cookies and are much happier eating it as raw cookie dough.

Here’s my recipe if you want to try it at home

Make sure the meat has been frozen for at least 48 hours at some point. I buy my meat frozen.

Also see Making Crazy Awesome Homemade Cat Food Part Two for a higher protein and egg free recipe.

Raven knows I'm making food for him


Can we have some too?


Eight pounds of free range ground turkey


A dozen free range eggs


Yum! Sweet Potato


All set for the freezer and fridge. This will last our kitties about a week. I freeze half of it and refrigerator the other half.


The best part - licking the cookie bowl!


Mom, the girls are hogging the bowl!