|Dog Health: Natural Cancer Fighters
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When a beloved canine companion has been diagnosed with cancer, most of us fear the worst. But did you know cancer is "normal" for a dog? Yes, that's right, normal. It may not be normal for a young dog to get cancer, but nearly every older dog will eventually get cancer, unless it dies from something else first. Some may be eight or nine years old when they first get cancer, others won't get it until they are thirteen, fourteen or older. But nearly all dogs will eventually get cancer.
Most veterinarians present two options if canine cancer is diagnosed: expensive surgery followed by chemotherapy, radiation and medications; or euthanasia to prevent pain and suffering. There is also a third less common approach, involving diet, which I will discuss here. It is a natural alternative I've had great success with at Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center.
Many dogs with cancer can live healthy lives for months or years without treatment, so unless your animal has lost control of important bodily functions, is immobile, or crying constantly from pain, you need not consider euthanasia. Most dogs will continue a high quality of life, as long as you give them a little extra attention.
The only medical intervention for canine cancer we usually consider at Rescue Me! is surgery, and that is only in cases where a veterinarian advises us a complete cure is likely to result from tumor removal. Once surgery is done, or in cases where surgery is not likely to help, we skip most other conventional treatments. We avoid radiation, steroids and chemotherapy for three reasons. First, these treatments often do not lead to longer survival times. Second, even when they do help an animal live longer, the dog frequently suffers painful, debilitating side effects. In addition, some veterinarians prescribe steroids which may temporarily suppress symptoms, but these also suppress the body's own natural defenses, and can cause severe side effects such as excess panting, anxiety, frequent urination and tremors. Third, treatments like chemotherapy can cost thousands of dollars, depriving you of the funds you need to take fun vacations with your dog, which may help them ― and you ― even more. I believe a calm state of mind for both owner and dog, one you can achieve by walking a dog in nature, helps the most with healing.
If a tumor grows slowly, this is not necessarily a problem for a dog, especially in older animals. Such a tumor may take so long to reach a point where it is a problem, the animal may eventually pass from other age-related complications before cancer even presents health issues. Cancer rarely leads to discomfort or pain unless a tumor is extremely large, or is in an unusual location.
At Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center we treat animals with cancer no differently than those without, other than a change in diet. No pity or sadness from us. No getting out of long walks! If you've been exercising your dog daily, keep doing that. Maybe exercise them even more. Any dog at our center with cancer still goes on group pack walks, up to three miles every day.
Before I describe the special diet we use to help animals at Rescue Me!, let me begin by describing in layman's terms what cancer is, so you can understand how the diet works. Cancer simply means certain cells in the body are reproducing more quickly than normal; older cells in the cancerous area are not dying off like they normally should. This is why cancer tumors can grow so quickly. Most cells in our body are constantly dying and being replaced by new cells. In the case of cancer, however, cells do not die off as they should, and new cells keep reproducing.
At Rescue Me!, we put animals diagnosed with cancer on a special diet containing ingredients that have been scientifically proven to slow the growth rate of many cancer tumors. Remember, it is not cancer itself that usually hurts an animal, it is the excessive rate at which some tumors grow, or even the side effects of cancer treatments, that kill. If one can slow tumor growth, you can often prevent most pain and suffering, and prolong an animal's life by months or years.
A web search will yield hundreds of claims about natural treatments for cancer. The trouble is, many are unproven old-wives tales passed down over the years, and others are get-rich-quick-schemes where a supplement manufacturer tries to capitalize by spreading false hope. Some natural remedies can even be harmful.
Luckily, many scientists and medical doctors do scientific research into nutritional treatments for cancer and other diseases. These studies at respected universities and medical centers around the world result in research published in well respected, peer-reviewed medical journals. The only reason you often don't hear about these studies is that there is little financial motivation to spread this information to human doctors or veterinarians. That's why I'm trying to share a little bit of what I've learned here. The information is out there, you just need to know where to look. Where did I do my research? The same place you can, and the same place many scientists go. Visit PubMed.gov (sponsored by the U.S. government) to search millions of peer-reviewed scientific medical articles, both about conventional medications as well as natural, nutritional treatments. You can read short abstracts for free, and if intrigued enough, you can often order full research papers online, or visit a medical library to read them.
One of the most intriguing things I've concluded after researching cancer for several years is there needs to be two very different diets when it comes to nutrition and cancer. There needs to be one diet to help prevent cancer, and a different diet to treat cancer. I'll explain why. In the case of preventing cancer, you need to protect cells with antioxidants to prevent oxidative damage which can cause them to turn into cancer cells. In the case of treating cancer, you need to kill cancer cells with a pro-oxidant, while still protecting normal healthy cells. If you give antioxidants (normally recommended to prevent cancer) to a cancer patient, these will not only protect the normal cells, they will also protect the cancer cells! Luckily mainstream doctors are beginning to learn this, which is why some now recommend cancer patients stop taking antioxidants a few days before chemotherapy. This gives me hope nutritional research will be getting more attention in the future.
Cells in a living organism contain an enzyme called catalase which helps protect them from small amounts of natural hydrogen peroxide that flows through the bloodstream. Catalase breaks peroxide down into water and oxygen. Too much peroxide can cause oxidative damage to cells. This is why antioxidants are so popular to prevent cancer. If you don't have cancer, eat lots of antioxidant rich foods to protect your cells.
While healthy cells contain lots of catalase, most cancer cells have much less catalase in them. If you take a pro-oxidant instead of an antioxidant, healthy cells with additional catalase will be protected from the pro-oxidant. At the same time, cancer cells, which contain much less catalase, may not be able to neutralize the pro-oxidant. They may be slowed or killed by it. So if one has cancer, be it human or animal, what you really want to take or eat are pro-oxidant rich foods and supplements. The more natural hydrogen peroxide you can create in the bloodstream with pro-oxidants, the more likely you are to slow the growth of cancer. Nutritional pro-oxidants don't create enough hydrogen peroxide to be dangerous to healthy cells, so while pro-oxidants slow tumor growth, they don't usually harm healthy cells.
The base diet I feed all my animals is a grain-free, high protein diet. Such a diet most closely resembles the diet of their closest wild relatives. I prefer homemade foods, or I like using the grain-free base dehydrated foods marketed by Sojos and other companies. A cancer prevention diet might look something like this:
2 Cups Dry Sojos Grain-Free Complete (Turkey and/or Beef, I usually mix both)
3 Cups Water to soak the dry food for at least 45 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator
1/4 pound Ground Turkey Breast (raw, with an expiration date at least 5 days from today)
1/4 cup Organic, Nonfat Plain Yogurt
2 teaspoons Health From The Sun, Pure Fish Oil
1/4 teaspoon Organic Green Tea
1 Finely Chopped Brazil Nut
You can order several of these products from Amazon.com using links at the bottom of this page.
If you have a 30 lb. dog, cut the ingredients in half, and adjust accordingly for other size animals. The amount you feed may also require adjustment depending on activity level. If you include raw meat, make sure it is fresh and kept refrigerated. Unlike humans, dogs can digest raw meat without a problem.
These raw foods are already rich in nutrition and antioxidants, and with the addition of green tea, high in polyphenols, and brazil nuts, high in selenium, there is additional antioxidant power. Cancer rates have been shown to be lowest in some Asian countries where people drink lots of green tea, and antioxidants in green tea might be one reason why. Selenium, another of the most powerful antioxidants, is found in broccoli, brazil nuts and other foods. Note: You might not want to give green tea to a dog diagnosed with unusually fast heart rhythms, tachycardia, or other arrhythmias since green tea can speed up heart rate.
If you can't afford the raw and natural foods suggested above, my second favorite choice is to feed other high quality grain-free foods such as those marketed by EVO, Innova Prime and Earthborn Holistics Grain-Free. You can still add fish oil, green tea and brazil nuts to these dry foods.
Remember, if a person or animal WITH cancer takes high-dose antioxidants, this will protect the cancer! Sadly, many medical doctors, veterinarians and even well-intentioned naturopaths suggest patients with cancer take antioxidants. I believe this is bad advice, and feel a diet to help stop cancer has to be very different from what is suggested to prevent cancer. I feel such a diet must be rich in pro-oxidants, not antioxidants.
One of the best pro-oxidants available is Fish Oil, its high Omega 3 content helps fight cancer. But not all Omega 3 is the same. Studies comparing Flax Oil, which also contains Omega 3, to Fish Oil found only Fish Oil to be helpful for fighting cancer.
Sadly, because it is such a strong pro-oxidant, nearly all commercial Fish Oil products also contains Vitamin E, rosemary or other antioxidants to prevent spoiling. This is disappointing because I believe this added antioxidant will also keep the Fish Oil from helping cancer patients, and at least one study supports this conclusion. Hopefully supplement manufacturers will learn this, and offer more antioxidant-free Fish Oil supplements in the future.
A few early studies about Fish Oil and cancer were inconclusive. Some showed Fish Oil slowed tumor growth substantially, while others showed little benefit from Fish Oil. Then a study was done comparing the effect of fresh Fish Oil without any added Vitamin E, to Fish Oil with added Vitamin E. This study found Fish Oil without Vitamin E slowed cancer growth the most, with tumors growing 90% more slowly when compared to a diet rich in vegetable oil. Even more importantly, this study showed that Fish Oil with added Vitamin E did not have this same positive effect. I believe early studies where Fish Oil didn't help probably used Fish Oil containing Vitamin E, which counteracts its pro-oxidant effect.
This means, in my opinion, nearly all Fish Oil capsules and liquids are not very helpful to cancer patients. There is, however, one readily available form of Fish Oil that I've found contains no added antioxidants, and this is what I recommend: Twinlab, Norwegian Cod Liver Oil, Unflavored, 12 fl oz. Instead of adding Vitamin E, this Cod Liver Oil product is sealed free of air (nitrogen flushed) to prevent oxidation and rancidity. Be sure to refrigerate after opening. Twinlab makes several different Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oil products, be sure to only purchase this one, all others contain Vitamin E.
A short aside, when Cod Liver Oil is given in high enough doses to slow cancer growth, it also contains high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin D that could potentially be toxic over the long term. I soon plan to do my own study on the effects of these high vitamin levels, and add them to this article. I believe the advantages of Cod Liver Oil far outweigh any risk from the Vitamin A and D. If one was commercially available, I'd prefer a standard Fish Oil, not Cod Liver Oil, packaged without antioxidants; but there are no such products available at this time. (Regular Fish Oil does not contain high levels of Vitamin A and D, like Cod Liver Oil.)
Another problem animals with cancer frequently face is bleeding, either internal or external bleeding from fast-growing tumors. There is no conventional Western medicine that can be given to stop bleeding. Synthetic Vitamin K3 (Menadione) was once used for this, but was discontinued due to dangerous side effects. (Note: Synthetic Vitamin K3 is still used in several low-cost animal feeds. I always avoid any pet food that has "Menadione" listed as an ingredient.)
In China, there is an herbal medication known as Yunnan Baiyao which is commonly used by doctors and hospitals to treat bleeding conditions. It works incredibly well, as my own experience, and several studies found on PubMed, will reveal. It is available at very low cost from a few Chinese importers on Amazon.com. (See links at the end of this page.)
I had a dog, Max, who was coughing up blood every day due to a softball-sized lung tumor. Leading veterinarians at a local university vet hospital thought he only had a couple weeks to live, if that. They were going to try surgery, but didn't because the tumor was in too dangerous of a location, between the heart and lungs. As soon as I started Max on Yunnan Baiyao, the bleeding stopped within hours. A diet rich in Fish Oil helped Max live over a year longer, going on a one or two-mile pack walk every day.
Another dog, 13-year old Rebel, who is still with me as I type this, almost died from bladder cancer five months ago. His urine suddenly filled with blood. Some days he strained to urinate and would go 18 hours without urinating. A veterinarian who did an ultrasound on him was somber after seeing he had not one, but two bladder tumors. He was not hopeful for Rebel's recovery. The tumors were inoperable. I tried some Yunnan Baiyao, and within 12-hours of his first dose, the bleeding stopped completely, and Rebel began urinating normally again. It's been five months since then, and Rebel has had only one brief reoccurrence of bleeding two months ago. I increased his Yunnan Baiyao dose for two days, and once again it cleared up. He is also on a diet with a large amount of Fish Oil which I believe contributes to his good health.
This isn't the only cancer Rebel escaped from. Rebel is a boxer, a breed which commonly gets cancer. Four years ago, Rebel had a half-dollar sized sphere of mast cell cancer removed from his face. The entire tumor could not be removed, so it sometimes reoccurs, growing then shrinking as this histamine-releasing cancer often does. But despite a poor prognosis, four years later he is still going strong.
Two years ago Rebel had an even bigger problem with cancer. He stopped eating, and an ultrasound revealed he had so much cancer in his abdomen, there was little hope for him. A talented veterinarian did exploratory surgery and it turned out Rebel had a huge 14-pound tumor attached to his spleen. This vet from a large university veterinary hospital removed his spleen and the tumor, one of the largest tumors they had ever removed from a living dog. (If you are not squeamish, click here to view a photo of the tumor.) Two days later, Rebel was back out on his daily one-mile pack walks.
On top of this, Rebel has a heart condition that can cause his heart rhythm to slow unexpectedly, causing him to faint. Luckily he always recovers fine within a few minutes. Another nice effect of Fish Oil is that it has been shown to have a strong cardiovascular protective effect.
On June 1, 2013, before typing this article, I took 13-year old Rebel on a one-mile mountain hike at 2,500 foot elevation, including going up and down hundreds of steps. He did fine without incident, and the reward: we both got to see Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains! (Click below to see Rebel and Sable at the falls.)
Below is the diet Rebel is on, including supplements. I can't guarantee this will help other dogs, but this diet has helped Rebel and many other dogs with cancer at Rescue Me! There are certain fast growing cancers, however, that nothing can help. I lost two dogs within 8 weeks of diagnosis of cancer, but that is the minority, nor majority of cases. Even then, try a diet rich in pro-oxidants, and show your dog the most love you can for every remaining day of their life.
I've also begun giving Yunnan Baiyao to dogs with cancer, even if they don't have bleeding issues. I do this because all my dogs on it have lived much longer than expected. It may just be because of the Fish Oil they also take, but Yunnan Baiyao seems innocuous enough to give in case it is helps in ways yet to be described. In addition, I give Xiao Chai Hu Tang Wan, a Chinese herbal that has been shown to reduce the spread and metastasis of cancers by reducing inflammation.
The base of my cancer diet for dogs is a grain-free, dehydrated mix from Sojos farms. I add ground turkey breast since it has almost no fat, and this offsets the extra fat a dog gets from high doses of Cod Liver Oil.
Rebel weighs 60 lbs. If you try this, adjust the amount of food and supplements based upon your own dog's weight, e.g., give a 30 lb. dog half of what is shown here. This is a preliminary diet that has shown success in several animals, and I'm sure modifications may be made to it in coming years.
2 Cups Dry Sojos Grain-Free Complete (Turkey and/or Beef, I usually mix both)
3 Cups Water to soak the dry food for 45 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator
1/3 pound Ground Turkey Breast (raw, with an expiration date at least 5 days from today)
1/4 cup Organic, Nonfat Plain Yogurt
1-1/2 Tablespoons Twinlab, Norwegian Cod Liver Oil, Unflavored
3 Times Per Day:
2 Capsules Yunnan Baiyao (double dose if there is severe bleeding)
4 Pills Xiao Chai Hu Tang Wan
2 Times Per Day:
1 Enzymatic Therapy, Super Milk Thistle Capsule 100 mg.
(protects the liver)
1 Glucosamine/Chondroitin 900 mg. Capsule (Natural Factors)
(optional, given to help animals with arthritis)
You can order several of these products from Amazon.com using links at the bottom of this page.
I have tried many other supplements over the years, but have simplified to this diet since it works time and time again. I think the most important ingredients are the Cod Liver Oil and Yunnan Baiyao, but everything works synergistically. Several dogs have lived months or years longer than expected at Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center after being started on this diet.
|DISCLAIMER: We cannot guarantee any of the diets or veterinary practices suggested on this page will help your dog. We recommend you show this information to a holistic veterinarian in your area. You and your veterinarian must then determine what you think will best help your animal. Just because many of Rescue Me's own dogs have done well on these diets does not mean the diets were responsible for their good health. Many years of additional research, and trial and error, will be necessary to determine the best diets to prevent and treat cancer.|
|Order products seen on this page from Amazon.com by clicking items below:
A percentage of sales made using these links goes to the Rescue Me! Animal Rehabilitation fund.
Anticancer Res. 1999 May-Jun;19(3A):1649-55. Growth of human lung adenocarcinoma in nude mice is influenced by various types of dietary fat and vitamin E. Maehle L, Lystad E, Eilertsen E, Einarsdottír E, Høstmark AT, Haugen A. Department of Toxicology, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway. ABSTRACT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10470096
Support Care Cancer. 2012 Dec;20(12):3379-83. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1598-1. Epub 2012 Oct 4. Topical Yunnan Baiyao administration as an adjunctive therapy for bleeding complications in adolescents with advanced cancer. Ladas EJ, Karlik JB, Rooney D, Taromina K, Ndao DH, Granowetter L, Kelly KM. Division of Pediatric Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Columbia University Medical Center, 161 Fort Washington Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10032, USA. ABSTRACT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23052909
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Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2007 Apr 17;87(15):1017-20. The effect of Yunnan Baiyao on reduction of intra-operative bleeding of the patients undergoing transurethral resection of prostate. Li NC, Pan BN, Wang HJ, Li HZ, Wei Q, Wang XH, Cai SL, Gan WM, Na YQ. Institute of Urology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing 100034, China. ABSTRACT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17672962
Jpn J Pharmacol. 1986 Jul;41(3):307-14. Effects of a blended Chinese medicine, xiao-chai-hu-tang, on Lewis lung carcinoma growth and inhibition of lung metastasis, with special reference to macrophage activation. Ito H, Shimura K. ABSTRACT: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3761748