Natural Cancer Prevention and Care

Holistic Cancer Prevention & Care in Your Pet

by Dr. Larry Siegler

Cancer is the most feared diagnosis among pet owners because it is so often fatal and the conventional treatments so debilitating.  More than 50% of dogs and cats over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer, and the incidence of cancer in younger animals is growing.  As responsible guardians of our faithful companions it is important to understand the risk factors that contribute to the development of cancer and to learn all we can about prevention.

Cancer is not like a contagious disease – there is no bacterium or virus at fault for the animal’s ill health, no outside invader has entered the system.  Cancer is most often the result of years (and even generations) of substandard nutrition and exposure to toxins in the food and the environment, along with conventional medical treatments that can degrade the immune system, and stress–compounded in many cases by inbreeding creating genetic predispositions to ill health.  Simply put-cancer is the result of an overtaxed system–the body can no longer detoxify or heal itself.

Prevention and treatment start with the same components:

* Optimal diet & nutrition
* Clean, purified water
* Limit the number of vaccinations for cancer prevention
* Eliminate vaccinations if your pet has been diagnosed with cancer
* Reduce indoor air pollution & yard pollution
* Minimize electromagnetic radiation
* Use a safe, non-toxic flea control program
* Minimize stress
* Provide adequate exercise

Diet

Any cancer prevention or treatment program begins with diet.  Nothing will go farther in promoting health than a home-prepared diet of fresh, preferably organic, whole foods.  When the body is supported with the building blocks needed to maintain healthy cells and repair damaged ones, healing from within can begin.  Holistic veterinarians will frequently recommend a diet that is low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, and moderate to high fat for cancer patients.  Cancer cells utilize glucose from carbohydrates as fuel, so a low carbohydrate diet can be helpful in fighting cancer.  Many cancer cells cannot utilize fat as an energy source, and fat in the diet can help combat weight loss as well.

For dogs a diet of roughly 50% meat, and 40–50% non-starchy vegetables, with 10% or less whole grains can be optimal.  Fish oils should be added to provide additional fat–omega 3 fats are best and are abundant in fish oil.  For cats a diet of 80% meat and 20% non-starchy vegetables is recommended–again with fish oil added for additional fat.  For both dogs and cats, proper calcium and a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement should be part of the daily nutrition as well.

When a home-prepared diet is just not possible, try ready made (frozen) raw food, freeze dried or dehydrated diets, or a very high-quality canned food without grains:

Frozen Raw Food
Freeze Dried
Dehydrated Food
High Quality Canned Foods for Dogs – Choose grain-free or low grain varieties, add fresh vegetables when possible.
High Quality Canned Foods for Cats – Choose grain-free varieties.

If cooked or processed foods must be used, adding finely ground fresh vegetables or freshly juiced vegetables can be helpful.  Dark leafy greens, broccoli, and carrots contain antioxidants that are beneficial in fighting cancer, as well as providing enzymes to help break down the food.

For additional information about the benefits of fresh food and a healthy diet please read The Natural Nutrition for Cats and Dogs page.

Water

Depending on where you live, the tap water can be anywhere from almost acceptable to fairly toxic.  It is best to avoid tap water altogether.  The fluoride and chlorine added are a stress to the animal’s already overtaxed detoxification system.  Filtered water is best, followed by bottled water and spring water.  The animal’s water needs to be kept clean and fresh so they will drink as much as possible to help flush toxins out of the system.  If you have a cat who is not a great water drinker, it may be a good idea to try one of the flowing-water style waterers like the Drinkwell or Fresh Flow Pet Fountains.  Raw food is a great source of moisture as well and is the source of hydration for most wild cats.

Vaccinations

Many holistic veterinarians agree that over-vaccination is a significant contributor to the rising rates of chronic disease and cancer in cats and dogs.  A limited vaccine program is highly recommended–and is especially important if your companion belongs to any of the breeds known to be more susceptible to cancer and chronic diseases.  If your veterinarian is not supportive, then find a veterinarian who will agree to a limited vaccination schedule.  Do not succumb to the pressures of a professional who is not willing to look at the overwhelming evidence of the problems of over-vaccination.

Any animal diagnosed with cancer or exhibiting signs of a weakened immune system should not be vaccinated at all.  For more information about limited vaccination schedules please read The Truth About Pet Vaccinations.

Indoor Air and Yard Pollution

We don’t often think about the air in our homes as a source of toxins, but for our companions’ sake it is important to examine our home and yard care practices.  Cleaning chemicals are the first place to look: if the floor cleaner you use contains toxic chemicals (as most do), and your companion’s nose is continually close to that floor then their system is likely having to detox after every cleaning.  Plug-in air fresheners are popular with some pet owners to help cover up that “pet” smell–but they are a constant source of petrochemicals in the air our companions breath.  Choose more natural cleaning products and air fresheners and this can go a long way to limiting the toxins your companion has to deal with on a daily basis.

Non-toxic Stain and Odor Control

The yard is another place to focus on the elimination of toxic exposure to our companions.  Chemical fertilizers and other lawn products should be eliminated.  There are abundant alternatives available now that are organic and natural and will not add to the burden on our companions’ overtaxed systems.
Here is a great place to look: Gardens Alive Online and Catalog Store.

Electromagnetic Radiation

There is some very interesting research that has shown a connection between electromagnetic radiation and cellular changes that can lead to cancer.  Sources of electromagnetic radiation include electrical cords & outlets, cordless and cellular phones, computer monitors, and televisions.  This is especially relevant for cats since they love to lounge in warm places like the top of the TV or computer monitor.  Keep your companion’s bed away from electrical components as well.

Flea Control

Spot on flea control products such as Advantage, Frontline and Revolution or pills such as Sentinel are pesticides.  These pesticides permeate the animal’s system and are found in the organs, the urine and the feces.  The cumulative effect of month after month and year after year of trying to detoxify systemic pesticides would tax even the healthiest cat or dog’s system.  Add in all the other factors draining the immune system of the animal and they hardly stand a chance of avoiding some type of chronic disease or cancer.

Effective flea control does not have to be toxic.  There are effective non-toxic alternatives.  They take slightly more effort than putting a spot of pesticide on your companion’s skin, but they are so well worth it in the long-term health of your friend.  For more information please read:  The Natural Approach to Flea Control.

Stress

You may take a look at the cat sprawled in a patch of sunlight on the sofa or the dog curled up at your feet and wonder “what stress?”  Yet many of our companions experience stress as much or more than we do.  Have you ever known a dog with separation anxiety?  They are feeling extreme stress for a good portion of every day if their guardian goes out of the home for work.  Cats in multiple cat households often become stressed over hierarchies and turf disputes.  And both cats and dogs are very responsive to the stress levels of their guardians–the more stressed you are the more your cat or dog feels and absorbs that stress.  They are totally dependent on you for the signals of the “pack leader” (or in the case of cats – for signs of what goes on beyond their small indoor world)–and if the pack leader is giving off the signal that “life is not safe and there is danger lurking somewhere just out of sight,” then the animal feels stressed.

For dogs one of the best ways to reduce their own stress is proper training.  EVERY puppy should go through a “puppy class” at the very least.  Even when you adopt an older dog both you and the dog can benefit from a few sessions with a good behaviorist.  A good trainer helps you interpret the dog’s behavior and teaches you how to communicate in ways that your dog can understand.  A well trained dog is a secure dog–and a much safer one as well.

Cats are, of course, not so easily trained.  But you can learn to interpret their subtle behavior patterns for signs of stress and look for ways to reduce that stress.  There are books and organizations that can help.
See:  http://www.catsinternational.org/articles andhttp://www.sspca.org/CatBehavior.html.

Exercise

You need it, your pets need it.  It’s one of the best ways to combat stress and is also crucial for the health of the body–human, dog or cat.  Play is even better as it provides both exercise and the joy of fun and laughter.  There is nothing more hilarious than the antics of a cat chasing a laser beam or a toy at the end of a string.  Cats need exercise–so if Fluffy doesn’t like to play–try a harness and go for walks.

Dogs are a bit easier to exercise and a brisk walk can do you both good.  A play date with another dog or a romp at the dog park is great exercise and can provide stress relief in the social interaction.  Some clients insist that their dogs are “house dogs” and don’t like to spend time outside.  If that is the case, then play fetch with them in the house or find some way to give them some exercise every day.  It is important for digestive health, detoxification, and immune health as well as muscle tone and respiratory health.

Treating Cancer

If you are faced with the diagnosis of cancer in your beloved companion, there are many difficult choices to be made.  These choices are best made after you have educated yourself about all the options available–both conventional and holistic or complementary.  You will surely forget to ask many important questions when you first hear the diagnosis, so make sure to schedule a follow up visit with your veterinarian to ask the multitude of questions that are likely to arise.  Ask for a referral to an oncologist who can answer questions about conventional treatment methods.  Find a holistic veterinarian either in your area or one who will provide phone consultations regarding alternative cancer treatments.  Cancer is serious business and a team approach is often best.

For many cancer patients, the conventional treatment options are as bad, or worse than the cancer itself.  In these cases, holistic treatment can at least offer the chance for a better quality of life even if it cannot cure the cancer.  Holistic care is about providing the animal with the resources its body needs to heal from within.  Every case is different.  There is no one way to treat any type of cancer.  There are some basic principles as discussed above that can help no matter what type of cancer the animal has.  There are also some basic immune boosting and cancer fighting supplements that can help in many cases.

We have already discussed the importance of diet.  Digestive enzymes (for Dogs and Cats) are also an important component to help the animal’s system break down and more easily absorb the urgently needed nutrients in the food.  Essential Fatty Acids (for Dogs and Cats) are crucial as well.

Immune Support Complexes

These will typically combine medicinal mushrooms, some antioxidants, herbs that boost immunity such as astragalus, cats claw, pau d’arco, Echinacea or green tea. The following supplements are often utilized in the treatment of a wide variety of cancers and help to boost the immune system, act as antioxidants or aid in detoxification:

CAS Options by Genesis Resources is an immune building supplement that includes mushrooms and antioxidants that have been shown to boost the immune system.

Pet Alive C-Caps is another option containing  astragalus, milk thistle and other tonic herbs for cancer prevention and treatment.

The Chinese Herbal formulas Power Mushrooms and Astra 8 are a good immune boosting combination also.

For cats and small dogs where a liquid supplement may be more easily administered, Vetri-Science Maitake-DMG liquid is a powerful immune enhancer.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help prevent oxidation and increase immune function.  They act as scavengers, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage by destroying free radicals and playing an important role in cancer prevention and control.  Vitamins A, C and E are the most commonly known antioxidants.  Other powerful antioxidants include green tea, selenium, Co-Enzyme Q10, bioflavonoids, N-acetylcysteine, proanthocyanidins (pycnogenol) typically derived from grape seed extract or pine bark, quercetin, soy isoflavones, and zinc.

In addition to one of the above immune support complexes, additional antioxidants can be provided most easily in a combination form:
Seven Forest’s Quercenol
Genesis Resources Canine Antioxidant or Feline Antioxidant
Vetri-Science Cell Advance

Antioxidants are controversial with some oncologists, so if you are also pursuing conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, check with your veterinarian before giving additional antioxidants.

For a more complete discussion of immune support, please see: Building a Healthy Immune System.

Studies utilizing IP6 with inositol have revealed significant anticancer activity with a variety of tumor types, possibly via inhibition of tumor cell growth and differentiation.  Cellular Forte by PhytoPharmica is another good supplement for fighting cancer and can be given in addition to immune boosters and antioxidants:

Cleansing and Detoxifying

Since toxins in the body contribute significantly to the degradation of the immune system, detoxification is an important component in rebuilding the immune system.  There are two formulas widely used in cancer care–the Essiac Formula and the Hoxsey Formula.  Both are named for the original formulators of the herbal compounds, (although Essiac is Caisse, the formulator’s last name, spelled backwards).

Additional Supplements

Artemisinin has been the subject of much discussion regarding cancer care recently.  It is a derivative of Artemesia, a simple plant that grows in Southeast Asia.  Originally used as an anti-malaria drug, it was tested by researchers at the University of Washington for it’s effectiveness against cancer.  The results have been very promising with impressive tumor reduction outcomes, and more research is being conducted.

The amino acids L-Arginine and L-Glutamine are often helpful in fighting cancer.  L-Arginine appears to enhance immune function and may inhibit the growth of some tumors.  It can be given at a dose of 500 – 3000 mg per day.  L-Glutamine may also inhibit tumor growth and helps in protecting the gastrointestinal system and combat the physical wasting and loss of muscle mass seen in some cancer patients.

Curcumin, from the Indian spice turmeric, is another supplement used frequently as it inhibits tumor growth and metastasis and tends to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.  The dosage is typically 15 to 20 mg per pound of body weight daily (150 – 200 mg for cats, increasing appropriately for larger animals).

Homeopathy

Constitutional homeopathy is often very helpful in treating cancer.  I use homeopathy for almost all cancer patients.  Some homeopaths claim they can cure some cancers with homeopathy alone.  Considering there are no side effects and it is very easy to administer, it should be a part of any cancer fighting regimen.  Treatment is very specific to each individual and must be guided by a veterinarian trained in homeopathy.  You can locate one through the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is very helpful for pain relief in cancer patients.  It can stimulate the immune system and assist in promoting detoxification as well.  For a list of practitioners in your area see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association referral directory or the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

While cancer is most certainly a frightening diagnosis, there is much that can be done to both improve the quality of your companion’s life and even extend the amount of time you have with him or her.  Keep in mind that it is crucial to remain as optimistic as possible.  Remember – your companion senses your stress.  If you view your dog or cat as a “cancer patient” or a problem to be solved they will not fair as well as if you see them as your beloved companion who enhances your quality of life.  All of the therapies discussed will go farther when administered with a healthy dose of love and affection.

Additional Links:

Good information about home prepared raw diets–but not cancer specific:
Dog Aware – http://dogaware.com/ 
Pet Grub (some misinformation regarding garlic and other details, but good general information) -  http://pet-grub.com
For cats: Cat Nutrition – http://catnutrition.org/home.html and Holisticat – http://www.holisticat.com/rawdiet.html

More information on limited vaccine protocols:

http://altvetmed.org/pages/articles.html
http://www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/petvacc.htm

Comments