November 2, 2009

A diagnosis of cancer is a devastating discovery. However new hope is at hand, with modern medicine, combined with holistic modalities, which can help to maintain a pet’s quality of life, as well as extend life much further than was possible years ago.

Working with two vets to provide conventional therapies such as radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, as well as a complementary or holistic vet, is often an ideal approach – although it can sometimes be a challenge to find two vets who are willing to work alongside one another, and respect each other’s work.

What are the holistic treatment options available through my vet, for the management of cancer?

Acupuncture can be extremely useful in helping to combat nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs, and to enhance the immune system, opening up the flow of energy (Qi) through the body and creating an environment that is conducive to healing.

Herbal therapies, including Chinese remedies offer excellent options for helping to boost immunity, alter ‘stasis’, stimulate healing and even help to eliminate nausea, as well as stimulate appetite. Mushroom supplements, like Fungi Perfecti’s Mush contain Cordycaps , Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake and Turkey Tail which are: anti-tumor, anti-viral and overall immune enhancers.

Chiropractic & Massage treatments can help to create alignment in the spinal column and other joints as well as relieve tension in muscles, which is especially important in cancers such as osteosarcoma that result in lameness (or in many cases, amputation to remove an affected limb) and cause compensatory misalignment and pain in other areas of the body.

Acupressure: A point located behind the front ankle, above the secondary pad on the back of the front leg, can be massaged to relieve nausea.

What can I do at home to help with my pet’s cancer recovery?

Nutritional therapy involves amending the diet to lower carbohydrate intake; tumors grow most rapidly with carbs as fuel, so a diet that is higher in fat and protein, with restricted levels of carbohydrates and sugars, will help to slow the growth. Most holistic and conventional veterinarians now recommend low-carb dog food for pets who are diagnosed with and recovering from cancer.

Antioxidants are quite widely used to help combat free radicals which are prevalent in cancer. There has been some recent research to indicate that massive dosages of antioxidants are not always advisable during cancer recovery, as some antioxidants may be pro-cancer in very large mega-dosages. Examples would be the fat-soluble vitamins. Consult your vet for guidance.

More than at any other time, cancer recovery calls for a diet that is free of toxins, chemicals and other ingredients that are harmful to the body as a whole. When cancer has been diagnosed, a switch to organic meats and vegetables where available, can have a positive impact on total health.

Ingredients which have a cleansing or tonic effect on the blood are also beneficial during cancer treatment and recovery; sardines, as well as eggs, apricots, parsley, carrots and beef, all nourish the blood according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ingredients that tonify Qi, the flow of energy in the body, include, beef and chicken, herring, mackerel, oats, brown rice, millet, pumpkin, squash, figs, sweet potatoes and yams. A Qi deficiency may occur during cancer and its subsequent treatment.

As noted in one of our favorite holistic animal care books, Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats by Cheryl Schwartz, D.V.M., you can also take a proactive role in helping your pet to deal with the challenges of cancer recovery:

One of the most important things you can do is provide your animal companion with lots of extra love and attention. Cuddles, massages, stroking and gentle brushing are welcomed by most pets.