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by Jenny Smiechowski–
Pets are like family. That’s why, as a pet owner, finding out your pet has cancer is one of the hardest experiences you can go through. But once you get past the initial shock and sadness that comes with your pet’s diagnosis, it’s your job to choose a cancer treatment plan that will give your pet the best quality of life for the longest time possible.
Depending on the stage and location of your pet’s cancer, your vet may recommend chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. But regardless of what conventional cancer therapies you choose, you should know that there are natural options that can support your pet by easing symptoms related to their disease and treatment. Here are six of the best natural ways to support your pet after a cancer diagnosis
Studies show that sugar can fuel the growth of cancer (1). But even if you’re not feeding your furry friends sweets (which is an obvious no-no), excess carbohydrates in their diets from grains can lead to blood sugar spikes that contribute to cancer too (2). Besides increasing the amount of sugar in your pet’s blood, research shows that grains increase the amount of a molecule called lactate in your pet’s body, which can also fuel the growth of cancer cells (3). That’s why most holistic vets recommend a grain-free diet to prevent cancer and support those already diagnosed.
The ideal diet for a dog or cat dealing with cancer is a grain-free, high protein diet because the immune system needs protein to operate at its best. Some people prefer to feed their pets a grain-free, raw food diet. But a holistic vet can guide you toward the right diet for your pet based on his or her circumstances. Of course, when it comes to food, remember…pets with cancer may lose their appetite. If that’s the case, it’s always better to get them to eat something (even if it’s not the healthiest option) than to stay super strict (2).
It’s a good idea to supplement your dog or cat’s diet with high-quality fish oil because the omega-3s found in fish oil can support a pet dealing with cancer in several ways. For example, omega-3s strengthen the immune system, combat inflammation and have even been shown to prevent and slow the growth of certain tumors (4). Fish oil has also been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of cancer cachexia, a type of cancer-induced weight loss (5).
Decipher Vitamin D Levels
Just like in people, low vitamin D levels in dogs have been tied to a wide range of cancers. In fact, a 2014 study found that dogs with vitamin D levels below 40 ng/ml were close to 4 times more likely to develop cancer (6). The result of this study makes perfect sense considering vitamin D has been shown to stop cancer cell growth and kill cancer cells in a laboratory setting (4).
Low vitamin D levels could negatively impact your cat’s health too. A 2015 study found that cats admitted into the hospital were more likely to be alive 30 days later if they had higher levels of vitamin D in their blood when they were admitted (7). Now, this study didn’t look specifically at cats with cancer, but it’s still evidence that vitamin D can positively impact a cat’s immune system and healing response. If your cat or dog has cancer, you may want to get their vitamin D levels tested to see if they’re low. If they are, you can talk to your vet about how to boost their levels through diet and supplements. But be warned…both dogs and cats can get too much vitamin D, which results in life-threatening vitamin D toxicity (8). So don’t start tinkering with your pet’s vitamin D intake without talking to your vet first.
Alleviate Uncomfortable Symptoms with Acupuncture
Acupuncture is one of the most scientifically-backed ways to reduce cancer-related symptoms in pets and people. Studies show that it’s an effective pain reliever for animals with cancer and can reduce the need for pain medications, which come with undesirable side effects (9). It’s also been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting, two common side effects of chemotherapy (10). It can even boost the immune systems of animals undergoing chemotherapy, which means it’s a great natural way to support pets undergoing conventional cancer treatments (11).
Learn More about Medicinal Mushrooms
You’ve probably heard of people using medicinal mushrooms to prevent and fight cancer. Well, these potent fungi have an anti-cancer effect on animals too. In fact, a 2011 study showed that certain mushrooms can contribute to a longer lifespan in pets diagnosed with cancer. In the study, dogs with hemangiosarcoma (a type of cancer that starts in the blood vessels) lived for over a year with no treatment but the Coriolus versicolor mushroom (also known as the Turkey Tail) (12). Typically, dogs left untreated with this type of cancer live for two to three months at best, so this was an impressive outcome (12). And that’s not the only mushroom with proven cancer-fighting properties. The Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), Cordyceps (Cordyceps ophioglossoides) and Maitake are all medicinal mushrooms used in the treatment of cancer for pets and people (13). The anti-cancer effect of mushrooms comes from beta glucans, polysaccharides that help immune cells recognize and destroy cancer cells (14).
Harness the Healing Power of Herbs
There are a lot of herbs that promote a healthy immune response and can, therefore, help pets dealing with cancer. Studies show mistletoe extract, for example, can support humans and animals with cancer by helping to boost the immune system, which can, in turn, help fight off cancer cells (15). In animal studies, it also helped reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation (15). In addition, animal studies show that milk thistle can slow the growth of cancer cells and make chemotherapy less toxic (16) and that cat’s claw can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy (17). You can find these herbs, as well as other immune-boosting herbs, in PetAlive’s C-Caps™ for Immune Health & Vitality.
If you’re interested in trying these remedies for your pet with cancer, talk to your vet to see which options will help your pet most based on his or her diagnosis and current treatment plan. Besides determining the best combination of conventional and alternative cancer treatments for your pet, you can also take simple steps to make your pet’s day-to-day life healthier, like giving him or her fresh air and exercise, providing plenty of playtime and affection, keeping his or her stress levels low, offering lots of fresh, filtered water, and limiting his or her exposure to cigarette smoke and chemicals in your home. These simple steps combined with a well-planned cancer treatment plan can go a long way toward giving your pet the best life possible no matter what his or her diagnosis.
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- Fox, Maggie. “Here’s How Sugar Might Fuel the Growth of Cancer.” NBC News. 1 Jan. 2016. Web 21 Jul. 2017. <http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/here-s-how-sugar-might-fuel-growth-cancer-n488456;.
- Henriques, Julia. “Holistic Vets Explain: Natural Treatment Of Cancer In Dogs.” Dogs Naturally Magazine. 1 Apr. 2016. Web 21 Jul. 2017. <http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/cancer-in-dogs/;.
- Sandoiu, Ana. “Lactate may be key for cancer development.” Medical News Today. 19 Mar. 2017. Web 21 Jul. 2017. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316438.php;.
- Pask, Elizabeth and Laura Scott. “The Cancer Diet for Dogs: Fighting Back with Food.” Modern Dog Magazine. N.D. Web 24 Jul. 2017. <http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/cancer-diet-dogs/19669;.
- “Omega-3 Builds Muscle Mass in Cancer Patients.” Mercola.com 24 Mar. 2011. Web 24 Jul. 2017. <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/24/omega3-builds-muscle-mass-in-cancer-patients.aspx;.
- “Researchers suggest vitamin D sufficiency range and its relation to risk of cancer in dogs.” Vitamin D Council. 16 Jul. 2014. Web 24 Jul. 2017. <https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/researchers-suggest-vitamin-d-sufficiency-range-and-its-relation-to-risk-of-cancer-in-dogs/;.
- “Vitamin D levels predict survival chances for sick cats, study finds.” ScienceDaily. 13 May 2015. Web 24 Jul. 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150513145608.htm;.
- Silver, Robert J., D.V.M. “Vitamin D – Is Your Dog or Cat Getting Enough?” Animal Wellness Magazine. N.D. Web 24 Jul. 2017. <https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/vitamin-d-is-he-getting-enough/;.
- “Comforting Cancer Patients With CAM.” Veterinary Practice News. 17 Apr. 2009. Web 24 Jul. 2017. < http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/April-2009/Comforting-Cancer-Patients-With-CAM/;.
- Shen, CH and LY Yang.“The Effects of Acupressure on Meridian Energy as well as Nausea and Vomiting in Lung Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy.” Biological Research For Nursing. 2017 Mar;19(2):145-152. doi: 10.1177/1099800416683801. Web 24 Jul. 2017.
- “Acupuncture (PDQ®)–Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute. 1 Nov. 2016. Web 24 Jul 2017. <https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/acupuncture-pdq;.
- Baillie, Katherine Unger.“Compound Derived From a Mushroom Lengthens Survival Time in Dogs With Cancer, Penn Vet Study Finds.” Penn State University. 10 Sep. 2012. Web 24 Jul. 2017. < https://news.upenn.edu/news/compound-derived-mushroom-lengthens-survival-time-dogs-cancer-penn-vet-study-finds;.
- Mardsen, Steve, D.V.M. “Medicinal Mushrooms.” VCA Hospitals. 5 Dec. 2008. Web 24 Jul 2017. <https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/medicinal-mushrooms;.
- Tremayne, Jessica. “Using Supplements To Fight Cancer.” Veterinary Practice News. 7 Jul. 2010. Web 24 Jul 2017. <http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/July-2010/Using-Supplements-To-Fight-Cancer/;.
- “Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ®)–Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute. 15 Feb. 2017. Web 24 Jul 2017. <https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mistletoe-pdq;.
- “Milk Thistle (PDQ®)–Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute. 26 Jun. 2017. Web 24 Jul 2017. <https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/milk-thistle-pdq;.
- “Cat’s Claw.” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 5 Nov. 2015. Web 24 Jul 2017. < https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/cat-claw;.