What Should I know about my Dog’s Cancer?
Over the last month your dog lost a few pounds, seemed a little listless, and could not tolerate much exercise. When he decided he no longer felt like eating, however, alarm bells sounded and you had him to the vet the same day. Most likely your vet ran some blood work, shot a few x-rays to back up the findings and now you are sitting in an exam room with your faithful companion and wondering how you missed the warning signs for cancer. Cancer in dogs is an all too common problem and much like the human equivalent of the disease, there are so many types, treatments, grades, stages, and protocols the pressure to know what is best for your dog is intense and unrelenting.
What is Cancer?
The correct name for cancer is actually ‘neoplasia’ meaning ‘new growth’ and there are two types – malignant and benign. For an accurate diagnosis of whether your dog’s tumor is benign or malignant, your veterinarian or, preferably, a pathologist must examine a sample under a microscope.
- Malignant tumors invade, grow and destroy healthy tissue. They can look more like an octopus with long tentacles. Malignant tumors ‘metastasize’ or spread through the lymphatic system, the circulatory system, and through growth.
- Benign tumors grow in one area and do not invade or spread into other parts of the body. Benign tumors are also easy to remove because they have formed edges like an egg.
Types of Cancer
Approximately half of all dog cancer is skin tumors with 60% of these being benign. The next most common form of cancer in dogs is mammary tumors which account for almost 60% of tumors in females with half diagnosed as benign. Only 10% of tumors in dogs are in the digestive or ‘alimentary’ system, ten percent in the lymphatic system, 5% in the reproductive system and the remaining 5% are a variety of types.
Some breeds of dogs are more prone to specific types of cancer then others. For example, large or giant breed dogs are more likely to develop bone cancer, while large breeds such as the Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Standard Poodles and Giant Schnauzers are prone to Hemangiosarcoma or malignant spleen tumors.
Dog Cancer Terminology
The terminology veterinarians use to describe cancer can be as confusing as how best to treat it.
Stage – describes how far along, or progressed, a tumor is when examined. An early stage tumor means it is small, singular, and non-invasive where as a late stage tumor is large, there may be multiple sites, and has invaded other parts of the body.
Grade – describes how aggressive the cancer is and how quickly it will invade or spread to other parts of the body. The grade is much more important for some kinds of cancer than for others. For most kinds it is a somewhat secondary factor, but for a few kinds of cancer, notably certain brain tumors, prostate cancer, and lymphomas, it is extremely important.
Metastasis – describes the spread of a cancer.
Dog Cancer Protocols
- Chemotherapy/Radiation: How you treat your dog’s cancer is an important, and often heart wrenching, decision. Although chemotherapy is an option, research the type of cancer your dog has, the prognosis of the disease, and the overall advantages in trying radiation therapy. Second and even third opinions are a vital step in dog cancer treatment and if there is a canine oncologist available in your area, book an appointment for you and your four-legged friend.
- Naturally: Approaching cancer treatment naturally is often the most humane protocol for pets. If you have not already done it, clear away all possible carcinogenic materials from your pet’s area such as household cleaners, pesticides, insecticides, and other toxic substances. Use only metal or ceramic food dishes and serve only clean, filtered water.
3. Nutrition and Supplementation
In holistic medicine, cancer is considered an imbalance of the immune system so part of the treatment is supporting and regulating its normal function. Feed your dog only whole foods that are properly balanced for the extra nutrition required to help strengthen and fight this invasive disease. Good quality protein and Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplements are vital to help build the new tissue. Without proper nutrition and supplementation, the cancer robs the body of these substances leading to muscle wasting, weight loss, and, eventually, kidney and liver failure.
A healthy digestive tract is the next step in a natural cancer treatment protocol. You can spend a fortune on high-quality organic meats and vegetables to give your ailing pet but if his body is not capable of absorbing the nutrients, all that good food is not doing him any good. Soil-based probiotics support a healthy intestinal flora, allowing the full impact of those nutrients to be digested and used to help fight the invading cancer.
Antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, selenium, and zinc all help strengthen and support your dog’s immune system. There are many herbs and homeopathic supplements that help fight dog cancer. Modified Citrus Pectin is widely known and used to slow or stop the growth of melanoma and metastatic prostate cancer. A visit or consultation with an expert in canine nutrition is a mandatory step in natural cancer treatment in dogs.
Sunshine, exercise, and love are all vital to your dog’s fight with cancer. Even if he is feeling sluggish, get him outside in the fresh air and encourage him to chase a ball or go for a walk. Depression is a part of the disease and we all know how much a little exercise can help release natural endorphins and alleviate stress.
Cancer is treatable and researching the many choices your dog has available to them will help you to feel informed and educated about choosing the right path for your beloved pet. Whether it is a few weeks, a few months or, hopefully, a few years, make the time special, treat him with kindness and patience and always keep his comfort and happiness at the forefront of your mind throughout your days together.
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