Why are so many of us seeking natural cancer treatments for our dogs?
Cancer is the most pernicious of all the diseases our dogs are likely to be afflicted by, in lets face it, lives that are already far too short.
Unfortunately, like us, almost 1 in 3 dogs will get cancer in their lives with that figure rising to 1 in 2 for dogs over 10 years old.
There are conventional medical means of treating cancers – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy. These interventions treat the cancer not the patient, and cause of their cancer, and they are not without significant side effect, not to mention cost.
Whilst we will not discuss these conventional cancer treatments in detail, it is true to say that despite constant innovation the prognosis for dogs treated conventionally does not offer results that inspire significant hope.
The following is an overview of various natural cancer treatments for dogs based on up to date scientific research.
Conventional Cancer Treatment
In researching cancer in dogs and the various treatment options available, both conventional and holistic, a quote from veterinarian Dr Judy Jasek DVM, stood out – “Conventional medicine will give cancer a name, grade, prognosis and treatment protocol. But there’s little or no mention of supporting the body’s own healing ability.”
Dr. Jasek’s view on surgery, echoed by many other vets, is that ” it’s important to remember that the tumor you see is the outward manifestation of a systemic process. It’s the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”
“Removing a tumor does nothing to treat cancer. It just removes the visual indication of its presence. As a dog owner, it can be a comfort to see a tumor disappear. But if we don’t address the underlying issues that caused it … the disease will persist and manifest elsewhere in the body.”
The problem with chemotherapy is that it is a brutally blunt tool and rarely kills the cancer completely. In the process of reducing the cancer cells it also kills the ‘good’ cells your dog uses to self heal and repair its immunological system.
In doing so it reduces your dog’s ability to fight the cancer and leaves it vulnerable to any remaining cancer cells metastasising and your dog succumbing to rapidly advancing cancer.
Prevention is better than cure.
Understanding what causes cancers and how to best treat, or better yet prevent, the disease should be our first step.
Cancer risks can be distilled into two categories, genetic and environmental (lifestyle).
A genetic predisposition to cancer in dogs can be either breed specific, hereditary, age or a combination of these factors.
Environmental causes of cancer include toxins (medications, herbicides and pesticides, overweight/obesity, nutrition and exercise)
While there is little we can do to treat genetic causes of cancer, as your dog’s parent there is much you can do to reduce their risk of cancer caused by environmental, or lifestyle, issues.
Nutrition and Treatment of Cancer
‘Let food be they medicine and medicine they food’
The impact of nutrition on the health and wellbeing of our own bodies, and our dogs, cannot be overestimated. It is the foundation of good health and an ability for the body to heal.
Science increasingly points to the impact of meat, and red meat in particular, as potential carcinogens. (1) Modern diets, both human and dog, increasingly have an imbalanced Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio which is also pro-inflammatory
Chronic inflammation’s role in cancer development isn’t a small one. As many as one in five cancers are believed to be caused or influenced by inflammation. In a normal inflammatory response, immune cells produce chemicals that can kill a pathogen. These chemicals, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), can also damage the DNA of normal cells, which increases the risk of mutations that can lead to cancer. (2)
Nutrition is perhaps the most important elements of natural treatment of cancer for our dogs.
It is therefore important to feed our dogs food that is a rich source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. This helps to prevent inflammation and oxidative stress and the potential for mutations and development of cancer.
Weight and Cancer
There is lots of high-quality research showing the link between excess weight and cancer. This research has been going on for decades and has involved millions of people and dogs.
We can be sure that obesity causes cancer because the risk increases the more weight is gained and the longer it is held for. There are also good explanations for how fat cells can cause cancer to develop. (3, 4)
It is important not to overfeed your dog and to constantly monitor their Body Condition Score (BCS) to ensure they are at their optimum weight and in their best condition.
understandably we don’t want to feel like our dog is constantly feeling hungry so choosing food that is nutrient-dense with lower calories and sufficient fibre to keep them feeling satisfied, and full, for longer is important.
With over 50% of dogs now known to be overweight or obese, weight management and control is vital to preventing the chronic diseases the condition id responsible for.
Exercise and Cancer
We understand the role that exercise plays not just in keeping our dogs bones and joints strong and healthy but also in managing their weight.
Regular exercise will help with both your dog’s weight and aid in cancer prevention. A study published in May 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a highly respected peer-reviewed publication, showed increased leisure-time exercise resulted in a lower risk of cancer. Although the research was not able to find the mechanism by which exercise works, the results showed a 20 percent reduction in cancer.
Regularly exercising your dog helps to reduce stress, another lifestyle factor in the development of cancer. Uncontrolled stress is known to exacerbate tumour growth in both humans and dogs.
Plants, Herbs and Adaptogens and Cancer Treatment
When looking for holistic, or natural, treatment (or prevention) options of cancers for dogs there is no better place to start than the Plant Queendom.
For centuries, plants have been exploited by mankind as sources of numerous cancer chemotherapeutic agents. Good examples of anticancer compounds of clinical significance today include the taxanes (e.g., taxol), vincristine, vinblastine, and the podophyllotoxin analogues that all trace their origin to higher plants. (5)
In their research piece, Veterinary Herbal Medicine: A Systems-Based Approach, Susan G. Wynn, DVM, RH (AHG) and Barbara J. Fougère, BSc, BVMS(Hons), MODT, BHSc(Comp Med), CVA(IVAS), CVCP, CV Herb Med, MHSc(Herb Med) Enr highlight numerous plants (fruits and vegetables, herbs, botanicals and adaptogens) that exhibit modulating effects on various dog health disorders including cancers.
According to the two Doctors, ‘just about any selection of herbs prescribed to treat a patient will more than likely have some anticancer activity because of the presence of widely occurring anticancer constituents like flavonoids.’
The list of herbs, botanicals and adaptogens they specifically mention as treatment for dogs’ cancers include:
- Siberian ginseng
- Asian Ginseng
- St John’s Wort
- Phytonutrients including flavonoids (proanthocyanidins, anthocyanidins, apigenin, luteolin, genistein, quercetin)
- Green tea
- Reishi mushroom
- Cat’s claw
- Shitake mushroom
- Oregon grape
- Gingko biloba
- Milk thistle
When formulating Bonza’s 100% plant-based, vegan dog food we engaged with Dr Barbara J. Fougère, on the best herbs and adaptogens to include in our food for both preventative and ‘curative’ purposes.
PhytoPlus® is our proprietary formulation of powerful plant-based phytonutrients, herbs and botanicals which are designed to provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support for all the health issues your dog is likely to face through their lives including cancer.
Omega 3, DHA and Cancer Treatment
Researchers are studying the effects omega-3 fatty acids have on delaying or reducing tumour development of cancer. Since our dog’s bodies cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, they must get them from food or supplements.
Whilst it would be a leap of faith, and frankly dishonest, to claim that Bonza might in any way prevent, let alone cure, cancer in dogs, we set out to develop our food to provide your dog with its best chance of reducing the likelihood based on current research, scientific knowledge and understanding of the dreadful disease, that increasingly affects so many of our dogs.