Holistic Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Charlotte Hacker, PhD
By

Charlotte Hacker, PhD

. Reviewed by Veronica Higgs, DVM
Published Sep. 27, 2023
A vet pats a dog in an exam room.

Hearing the word “cancer” from your veterinarian is difficult.

Conventional treatment options such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and surgery can be overwhelming. However, there may be other options under the umbrella term of integrative medicine treatment.

Integrative medicine treatment includes conventional treatment plus holistic or alternative treatment options.

Essentially, integrative medicine provides additional aspects of holistic medicine that can complement conventional treatment plans.

Discussing your goals, budget, and dog’s specific needs with your veterinarian can help you determine what treatments are best for your pup and their specific type of cancer.

Key Takeaways

  • Cancer is common in dogs.
  • Integrative cancer treatment includes conventional treatment plus holistic or alternative treatment, and may be an option for some pups.
  • All dogs and their cancers are different. Be sure to consult with your dog’s veterinarian about all cancer treatment options.

What Is Holistic Cancer Treatment in Dogs?

Holistic remedies have been around for thousands of years. Despite this, their use in treating cancer in dogs has only recently started to gain traction in veterinary medicine.

There are many reasons why a dog parent might seek holistic cancer treatment for their pup, including:

  • Holistic cancer treatments may be less expensive if pet parents on a budget.

  • Holistic cancer treatments can help complement conventional cancer treatments by boosting their success rate and minimizing negative side effects.

  • Conventional cancer treatments may not be an option because of a dog’s type of cancer or any underlying health conditions they may have.

Conventional cancer treatment is typically the gold standard of care due to evidence-based medicine.

Your vet may offer integrative treatment options alongside conventional care to create a robust treatment plan depending on your dog’s health.

How Effective Is Holistic Cancer Treatment? 

Holistic cancer treatment options can be controversial. Most of these treatments lack definitive scientific evidence proving that they are effective.

However, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, these treatments may help improve the dog’s quality of life when paired with conventional medical treatment. 

Choosing the right complementary or integrative medication supplements and therapies should be done in partnership with your veterinarian and specifically tailored for your pet.

As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, these treatments may help improve the dog’s quality of life when paired with conventional medical treatment. 

What Are the Options for Holistic Cancer Treatment in Dogs?

There are many holistic dog cancer treatment options.

Most of the time, holistic cancer treatments will be used in conjunction with more conventional therapies.

Your veterinarian can help you decide which treatment is best, depending on your dog’s cancer and medical history.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Hemp-Based Products

CBD and hemp-based products can help ease the negative symptoms your dog may be experiencing from their cancer or conventional cancer treatment.

There are currently no FDA-approved products containing CBD for dogs.  It is important to discuss the pros and cons as well as any risks before adding these supplements to your pet's treatment regiment.

Commercial Supplements

Supplements can help give your dog a boost of beneficial compounds.

A multivitamin can help ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are being met if they are struggling to eat due to their cancer or cancer treatment.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has been in practice for thousands of years and now can be used to help companion animals. It includes the use of herbs and herbal formulas, acupuncture, and massage.

Some herbs can be given for their immune boosting or anti-inflammatory properties in dogs. Acupuncture can help stimulate your dog’s central nervous system. Massages can help reduce your dog’s anxiety and physical pain.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms contain compounds that help stimulate the immune system and prevent tumor growth.

In a study on canine hemangiosarcoma, dogs that were given a high dose of turkey tail mushrooms (Coriolus versicolor) had longer survival times than dogs receiving chemotherapy.

Mushrooms may be prescribed on their own or as part of a blend of other herbal supplements. Dogs are given mushrooms orally, and they can be in capsule, powder, chewable tablet, or liquid extract form.

Nutrition

Your dog’s diet may help in their fight against cancer. Balanced diets with highly digestible proteins and fats and that are calorically dense may be ideal for cancer patients. 

The ideal diet may include immune boosting ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids and additional vitamins E and C, as well as probiotics.

Consulting with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist can help you formulate a diet that meets your dog’s needs.

Conversely, Hill’s® has recently developed a prescription ONC Care diet specifically for patients with cancer that your vet may recommend. 

Is Holistic Cancer Treatment Right for Your Dog?

All dogs and their cancers are different. Be sure to consult with your dog’s veterinarian about all cancer treatment options. Here are a few questions you should consider:

  • What holistic options are best for my dog’s type of cancer?

  • Are there holistic treatments that may be harmful to my dog?

  • Is a combination of holistic and conventional treatment possible?

Holistic treatment may be the right choice for your dog if they aren’t a candidate for conventional treatment options or if there are financial constraints.

Consider Pet Insurance

Costs for conventional treatment and holistic treatment will vary depending on where you live and the veterinarian’s office.

Pet insurance may help offset these costs, including insurance programs such as Chewy’s CarePlus. Unfortunately, cancer is common in dogs.

However, pet insurance companies recognize that conventional cancer treatment coverage is important for pet parents.

If your pup was recently diagnosed with cancer and you’re curious about their treatment options, speak with your veterinarian. Your vet can help provide insight into what treatment plan is best for your dog.

Featured Image: Stock.adobe.com/Gorodenkoff

References

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Brown DC, Reetz J. Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcomaEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012;2012:384301.

Gross C, Ramirez DA, McGrath S, Gustafson DL. Cannabidiol Induces Apoptosis and Perturbs Mitochondrial Function in Human and Canine Glioma CellsFrontiers in Pharmacology 2021;12:725136.

Kawasoe Y, Yokouchi M, Ueno Y, Iwaya H, Yoshida H, Komiya S. Hyperbaric oxygen as a chemotherapy adjuvant in the treatment of osteosarcomaOncology Reports. 2009;22(5):1045-1050.

Lana SE, Kogan LR, Crump KA, Graham JT, Robinson NG. The use of complementary and alternative therapies in dogs and cats with cancerJournal of the American Animal Hospital Association. 2006;42(5):361-365.

Lin WF, Zhong MF, Zhou QH, et al. Efficacy of complementary and integrative medicine on health-related quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysisCancer Management and Research. 2019;11:6663-6680. Published 2019 Jul 22.

Morrison WB. Cancer chemotherapy: an annotated historyJournal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2010;24(6):1249-1262.

Musser ML, Mahaffey AL, Fath MA, et al. In vitro Cytotoxicity and Pharmacokinetic Evaluation of Pharmacological Ascorbate in Dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 2019;6:385.

Roudebush P, Davenport DJ, Novotny BJ. The use of nutraceuticals in cancer therapy. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 2004;34(1):249-269.

Shin H, Nam A, Song KH, Lee K, Rebhun RB, Seo KW. Anticancer effects of high-dose ascorbate on canine melanoma cell lines. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology 2018;16(4):616-621.

References


Charlotte Hacker, PhD

WRITTEN BY

Charlotte Hacker, PhD

Freelance Writer


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