When pets receive a cancer diagnosis—one of the scariest diagnoses a pet parent can hear—coming up with a plan for treatment is one of the first steps in their hopeful recovery. Conventional approaches to pet cancer treatment typically include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, but these are not cures for cancer. Their goals are largely to help your pet into cancer remission, but there is no guarantee they will be effective.
Because treating cancer can be a complicated, intense and sometimes risky endeavor, more and more vets are beginning to take an integrative approach to veterinary medicine—implementing both conventional and alternative practices to create a single holistic treatment plan for your furry friend.
There are many potential alternative treatments that may be applicable to your pet’s condition. Alternative treatments may help supplement conventional therapies to strengthen your pet’s body and improve their quality of life as they work hard to fight such an invasive disease as dog cancer or cat cancer.
If your pet has been diagnosed with cancer, speak to your vet about the following six alternative treatments and inquire whether any would be useful in potentially increasing the effectiveness of their treatment plan.
- Medicinal mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms, or specific mushroom types with a range of compounds beneficial for treating illness, have gained a lot of traction in the world of alternative medicine. Mushrooms like Turkey Tale, Shiitake, Reishi and Maitake are believed to have immune-boosting, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. These mushrooms may help slow the spread of cancer cells or even help the body destroy tumors on its own. They are often used to improve a pet’s quality of life and aid in cancer remission.
- Herbal support: The history of conventional medication stemmed from plant-based sources and herbal remedies, and some medications today still use plant sources for their effects on the body. Herbs may contain beneficial ingredients that are easily harnessed by the body to bolster immunity, reduce inflammation, provide antioxidant support, assist in digestive problems, improve brain health and so much more. There are a wide range of herbal remedies available for pets suffering from cancer, as well as other serious illnesses. Many integrative veterinarians rely on Traditional Chinese Medicine to inform their herb choices.
- Diet modifications: Feeding pets a high-quality diet is one of the most common recommendations after a cancer diagnosis. Some vets believe that sugars “feed” cancer cells, enabling faster tumor growth and spread. Thus, feeding your pet a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet filled with vitamins and minerals that support great health may be an essential first step in helping their body fight cancer. Some vets may recommend a raw food diet, while others may suggest certain store-bought foods featuring organic, high-quality ingredients.
- Nutritional supplements: Supplements containing high amounts of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, all antioxidants, may help bolster your pet’s immune system and protect cells from future free radical damage. Other nutritional supplements may provide the body with other helpful nutrients and compounds, including amino acids, probiotics, enzymes and proteins, to keep it strong and healthy while it endures stress from chemotherapy and other treatment methods.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture, a method that uses the strategic placement of needles to illicit a healing response, may provide a number of benefits to cancer patients, particularly when combined with conventional treatment methods. It may be used to relieve pain throughout the body, as well as to potentially stimulate the immune system to encourage its fight against cancerous cells.
When considering alternative cancer treatments for your beloved pet, be sure to speak with your veterinarian before administering any additional treatments. Some herbs, supplements or other treatment types may not work—or may even be detrimental—when used alongside conventional forms of treatment. Thus, it’s important to get your vet’s approval to ensure your pet’s ultimate safety.
Alternative cancer treatments for pets—while not as extensively studied—have the potential to make a major difference in your pet’s prognosis and quality of life. Even though these options are not proven to cure cancer and may not be effective in removing tumors in their entirety, they may be able to add months or even years to your cat’s or dog’s life and help them feel more comfortable as they live out their days.