Paws & Claws Address
Search

 

Questions for Dr. Shawn - Seizures

Back to Ask Dr Shawn page...

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”My dog Alex, a 9 year old male Labrador retriever, has been diagnosed with a type of cancer called lymphosarcoma. His veterinarian has prescribed an aggressive round of chemotherapy and feels that if we follow this regimen, Alex might be able to live another 18-24 months. I’m interested in pursuing this as Alex means everything to us, but also wanted to use diet and supplements to help him as well. Do you have any suggestions?”

Answer:
”The kind of cancer Alex has if very common in both dogs and cats. Fortunately, it is one of the “better” cancers in that while we can’t usually cure the pet, with proper therapy the pet can live up to 2 years following diagnosis. In some cases, I have had patients live even longer.

Here’s the approach I take to treating cancer in my practice that you should consider. First, for lymphoma I would recommend chemotherapy for several reasons. Side effects are very rare in pets treated with chemotherapy compared to people. The reason is that we use lower doses of drugs in pets in order to minimize side effects (the bad news is that by using lower doses, we also are not as successful in killing all of the cancer, so there is a trade-off.) Also, the cancerous cells (lymphocytes) are quickly killed by the chemotherapy drugs, so the pet feels better and becomes “cancer-free” quickly. Keep in mind that “cancer-free” is a relative term:while most of the cancer cells are killed, some survive chemotherapy and reappear later in the disease, bringing the pet out of remission.

Now let’s talk about what diet might be best for Alex. Research in people and pets has shown that cancer cells prefer to use carbohydrates for food for growth. This means that a diet designed to assist in the treatment of cancer should contains fewer carbohydrates and more fats and protein. This “anti-cancer diet” is the exact opposite of the typical commercial dog food. Therefore I would recommend a diet high in fat (especially omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil, which slows down the growth and spread of cancer cells,) high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. There are various diets that might work for Alex, and I suggest you work with his doctor to find the best one.

Finally, there are many supplements that are useful in treating cancer. While they all work on various cell mechanisms, in general supplements used in treating cancer have 2 main goals: minimize side effects from conventional treatments and boost the immune system.
Here are some supplements to consider (keep in mind that holistic veterinarians all have their favorites for treating cancer.)

Arabinogalactans - These are compounds from the larch plant which boost the immune system.

Antioxidants - There are numerous choices of antioxidants, but all of them serve to reduce oxidation (cell damage.) Some of my favorites include bioflavonoids (plant pigments,) coenzyme Q-10, and green tea.

Medicinal mushrooms - Various mushrooms, including reishi and maitake, have immune-stimulating properties.

Herbs - Some of my favorites include astragalus, dandelion, garlic, and red clover.

Homeopathics - I use several homotoxicologic supplements (such as Lymphomyosot and Berberis) which aid in patient detoxification by cleansing the blood and lymphatic system, GI system, and urogenital system.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - As I mentioned under diet, these fatty acids from fish oil are powerful inhibitors of cancer cell growth and spread.

In my practice, I don’t use individual herbs, antioxidants, and homeopathic products. To make things easier for pet owners, I prefer to use proprietary products (some are made specifically for my patients depending upon the type of cancer they have) that contain a variety of ingredients. This allows me to fine-tune my treatment to fit the patient’s needs and minimizes the number of supplements that must be given to the pet.

In addition to these supplements, I also like to support the liver (which must detoxify chemotherapy drugs and dead cancer cells) and the GI tract (to minimize damage from chemotherapy medications.) Supplements containing milk thistle, choline, and methionine can be used for liver support; supplements containing probiotics and glutamine are useful for GI support.

Finally, current research shows some benefit in treating cancer with non-steroidal medications (I prefer piroxicam) and low dose tetracycline (an antibiotic that inhibit enzymes cancer use to spread.)

As I mention in my book, The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, a balanced, integrative approach using conventional therapies plus the proper selection of diet and nutritional supplements work best for treating most pets with cancer. In my practice, pets treated with this approach have the best prognosis, suffer fewer side effects, and feel well while dealing with their cancer.”


<Top>

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”My sister’s cat has cancer and is being treated with alternative therapies in additional to chemotherapy. Her doctor is doing something called “autosanguis” therapy. My own dog recently had a biopsy and more tests are being done due to the possibility of cancer. I want to do anything for him and was wondering if you’ve ever heard of this therapy and if it might help if he does have cancer?”

Answer:
”Autosanguis therapy is a very potent form of homeopathy. As I discuss in my new book, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, autosanguis therapy utilizes injections (usually intravenous) and oral administrations of various homeopathic remedies (usually 10 or so remedies are actually used.) Some of these remedies are actually mixed with small amounts of the patient’s own blood prior to the IV injections, which makes them especially potent.

In my own practice, I integrate a number of “alternative” therapies such as herbs, diet, nutritional supplements, and homeopathics. I have used autosanguis therapy as part of my cancer treatment if the owner is open to trying it. The cost is about $650-750 for the treatment, which lasts for about a month. I suggest if your dog does have cancer you find a holistic doctor who can offer this and other therapies to help your pet. In my experience pets with cancer respond best when as many therapies as possible are used!”


<Top>

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”What do you think of shark cartilage for cancer? My friend told me that it’s supposed to help shrink tumors. Is this true? Is there anything else you recommend for pets with cancerous tumors?”

Answer:
“Several years ago shark cartilage was the “fad” treatment for treating cancerous tumors. It supposedly worked as the cartilage contains angiogenesis inhibitors; these chemicals inhibit new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in tumors. A few isolated reports coming out of Mexico indicated that some of the people with inoperable tumors were “cured” when given shark cartilage. Unfortunately those reports were difficult to verify and follow-up.

Many doctors, including myself, have not been impressed with using shark cartilage to control cancerous tumors in people or pets. Interestingly anti-angiogenesis is a major focus both of natural practitioners and pharmaceutical companies trying to create or discover drugs that might prevent blood vessel formation in tumors (without a blood supply, cancers can’t grow or spread and eventually die.) There are many supplements I recommend for pets with cancer, and my column space is way too limited to get into any specific recommendations.

In general, I would recommend working with a cancer specialist plus a holistic veterinarian to put together the best plan for your pet. This plan may include a combination of conventional therapies and natural therapies, including a special diet, herbs, homeopathics, and various supplements. I would also suggest you keep your eyes open for my latest book, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, due out in early 2006."


<Top>

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”I know that you discourage giving pets with cancer vaccinations. My Labrador Ally was recently diagnosed with lymphosarcoma cancer. She is seeing a specialist for chemotherapy, and we’re giving her the diet and supplements you recommend for boosting the immune system of pets with cancer. Here’s my dilemma. Even though you and her cancer specialist recommend not giving her vaccines, her regular veterinarian says she should have vaccines, especially rabies vaccine, to comply with the law. However, I don’t want to do that as she’s doing really well with her treatment right now. Can you help?”

Answer:
”I agree that pets with cancer and other chronic serious immune diseases should not be vaccinated. Ally is doing well and we don’t want to upset her immune system. While very rare, giving pets with cancer any vaccine might cause the pet to come out of remission. Just today a client told me her pet developed the same kind of cancer Ally has within 2 weeks of receiving a rabies vaccine! Therefore, I agree with cancer specialists who advise against using any vaccines in pets with cancer. I encourage you to have your regular doctor confer with the cancer specialist for confirmation. Maybe the regular veterinarian does’t know the potential harm the vaccines could cause. The fact that rabies vaccination is required by law does complicate matters. However, in most areas we can use a 3 year vaccine, which means pets like Ally may not ever need another rabies shot. While I don’t encourage you to break the law, I think anytime a vaccination is recommended we must use common sense. Is there greater harm to Ally giving her a vaccine she probably does’t even need, or is there a greater chance she’All contract rabies? In most instances, the answer is the former, and owners choose not to give their pets any vaccinations.”


<Top>

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”My dog was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. One of the chemotherapy drugs his doctor wants to use is something called “doom.” A side effect of this drug is a heart attack. Would you recommend I give him this or see if another chemo drug might be better?”

Answer:
”The drug you mentioned, “doxo,” is short for doxorubicin (also called Adriamycin.) It is a potent form of chemotherapy that is useful for treating a variety of cancers. While usually safe, every drug has potential side effects. The major side effect of doxorubicin is heart toxicity; the higher the dose the greater the chance of toxicity. However, supplementation can help prevent this problem. Coenzyme Q-10 is used in cancer as an antioxidant and also specifically to minimize (acute and delayed) heart toxicity from the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (other chemotherapy medications including 5-FU, mitoxantrone, and cyclophosphamide can also cause heart toxicity.) While other antioxidants such as NAC and vitamins C and E can help prevent acute toxicity, coenzyme Q-10 is especially helpful in preventing the chronic form of toxicity, which is not prevented by other dietary antioxidants.

As I mention in my book, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, doxorubicin produces oxidizing agents (free radicals, specifically the highly toxic hydroxyl radical) through an iron-dependent process. Coenzyme Q-10 combats this free radical damage to the heart when given after chemotherapy is completed (it should not be used during doxorubicin treatment as it may worsen heart toxicity.) While other drugs may also be useful, I would follow your oncologists recommendations. Using doxorubicin is acceptable, but certainly consider using coenzyme Q-10 (at 1 mg/pound per day) to limit heart problems that may occur.”


<Top>

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”What do you recommend for fatty tumors? My veterinarian has suggested we remove them but I want to avoid surgery for my dog if possible.”

Answer:
”First you must make sure that the tumors you noticed are in fact fatty tumors (lipomas.) You can’t tell that a tumor is a “fatty tumor” simply by looking and feeling it. Tell your doctor to aspirate the tumor to determine if it is a fatty tumor. Many times cancers can appear as fatty tumors, so it’s important to know what we’re dealing with in order to recommend the best therapy. The aspirate is easily and painlessly done in the doctor’s office, and you’ll have an answer as to the cause of your dog’s lumps within a few minutes. If the aspirate suggests something other than a fatty tumor or cyst, I recommend removal and biopsy.

Let’s suppose that the tumors you’ve seen are in fact simply fatty tumors. You have a few options. First, if they are small and do not cause your pet discomfort, you can simply ignore them. Any new lumps that arise must be aspirated of course to make sure they are not cancerous. Another option is to surgically remove the tumors. However, I only remove fatty tumors if they grow or interfere with the pet’s comfort.

Finally, some fatty tumors may respond to herbs and homeopathics. In my practice, I’ve had the most success with the homeopathic Thuja in combination with an herbal remedy called Lipoma Formula (specially made for our practice.) I usually wait 2 months before deciding upon the success of this approach. Fatty tumors can be removed if they do not respond to the herbal and homeopathic therapies.”


<Top>

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”My 9 1/2 year old female miniature dachshund had a growth removed from her hind leg that turned out to be a mast cell tumor. She had further surgery to remove as much of the surrounding tissue as possible and had the lymph node removed as well. That pathology report came back with clean surgical margins. Three days after the surgery she started on Prednisone and we were told to "watch her closely;" no further treatment was prescribed. Do you have any recommendations for treatments or supplements that could increase her chances for survival?”

Answer:
”It sounds like the prognosis is good for your pet. Mast cell tumors, when caught early and treated appropriately as you have done, as usually curable. However, they can recur and of course new cancers can always develop.

Here’s what I would suggest. Follow the diet and supplement recommendations I made in my book The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs. The best diet for pets with cancer is high in fat (specifically omega-3 fatty acids obtained from fish oil,) high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. This diet literally starves cancer cells (whereas the typical dog food which is high in carbs and low in fat and protein serve as food for cancer cells.)

There are many supplements I recommend in the book to help boost the immune system and kill any remaining cancer cells. While there is no one perfect supplement, various herbs and homeopathics can help pets with cancer. Antioxidants, arabinogalactans, DMG, garlic, curcumin, and medicinal mushrooms are commonly prescribed. I would use this regimen for about 6 months, and if no cancer has returned your dog can be placed on a good natural diet and a few supplements to maintain health and decrease the chances of the cancer returning. I would also not vaccinate your pet unless absolutely necessary, and would try not to use chemical flea and tick preventive medications. Our goal is to make your pet healthy by decreasing unnecessary exposure to toxins. Keep up the good work!”


<Top>

 

"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”I was wondering if you could give me any tips on how to prevent cancer in my dog. He’s a 5 year old Scottish terrier, and from what I’ve read his breed is prone to certain cancers. His mother recently passed away from cancer at the age of 12 years and I want him to live as long as possible.”

Answer:
”I applaud your desire to try to prevent cancer. While there are never any guarantees, I think there are several things you can do to minimize the chances of your dog developing this horrible disease. In my new book, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, I detail a complete program so pet owners can take the necessary steps to minimize and even prevent cancers from forming in pets. For example, early neutering and spaying dogs (and cats) will prevent cancers of the reproductive tracts and almost totally prevent breast cancer. Minimizing the use of vaccines will greatly reduce cancers due to decreased immune system stimulation (and subsequent abnormal immune responses) and chronic inflammation. Minimizing the use of chemicals (especially herbicides and dips for fleas and ticks) will reduce cancer (especially bladder cancer in Scottish terriers and lymphoma in all breeds.)

Finally, keep in mind that using an integrative approach to many diseases, including cancer, is the best approach to health care for your pet (and yourself.) In my practice, I see the best results when sensible conventional therapies are combined with nutritional supplements, diet, herbs, and homeopathics. No matter how much chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation you use to treat cancer, if the pet’s immune system is not functioning properly, he will die quicker as a result of the cancer. For those of you whose pets have cancer, check out the many natural remedies in my book and work with your veterinarian to design a program that will allow quick kill of the cancer cells as well as boosting the immune system to minimize the recurrence and spread of cancer. Good Luck!”

 

<Top>

 

Terms of Use | Privacy Statement
Copyright 2007, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital, All Right Reserved