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Fighting Cancer Naturally

It’s one of the worst things a dog parent can hear – your dog has cancer.  It sounds like a death sentence, such a traumatic disease that can spread rapidly and lesson the quality of life in our pets.  If caught early enough, there are quite a bit of alternative options to help fight the disease without surgery or chemotherapy.  This post is to give you, the pet owner, more information to help you make an informed decision.  Age, genetics, overall health and wellbeing of the pet, as well as their human parent, all play a factor.  There is not a right or wrong modality for healing your pet, it’s a personal choice and the right choice is the one you choose.  


One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned with owning 2 boxers, a breed known to have a genetic disposition to cancer, is that if you don’t tell them they have cancer, they won’t know. The emotions that go along with cancer can be just as deadly as the disease. When my first boxer, Brutus, was diagnosed with cancer, I thought my world was ending. Five specialists, all saying the same thing, that my 7 year old boxer had about a month to live without surgery or chemo. I was so sad and depressed and it wasn’t until my mom stepped in and told me that I was making Brutus upset with all my crying, that I realized how it was affecting him. She said, “he doesn’t need to know, nor does he care. He just wants to be the best dog for me.”

I made the personal decision not to have surgery or chemo because they said it might extend his life 6 months.  I wasn’t willing to put him through all of that for the probability for just 6 months.  I was lucky enough to have a mom who had studied and practiced all sorts of alternative therapies for most of my life, including therapies for cancer.   She read about a detox tea called, ESSIAC.  I started him on that and within a month, I started noticing the tumor was getting harder.  I was very worried, as at the time, there wasn’t a lot of information online about ESSIAC.  

Soon after administering ESSIAC to Brutus, I was referred to a pet herbalist in the Chicago area, Mike Durkin, and met with him to discuss ESSIAC.  He assured me that this was part of the process of the tea.  He said the tea starves the cancer, killing any new cells from forming, while then hardening the nucleus of the tumor to eventually break it down.  If I read this somewhere and didn’t go through it myself, I would have never believed this.  Along with other immune boosting supplements and other immune supporting changes (see Immune System Health Article), Brutus lived to be 10 years old.  It wasn’t easy by any means, but his quality of life was there – he was still playing, wiggling and going on walks until the day he died.  That was the most important reason for trying alternative methods.  Over the years, I’ve recommend ESSIAC to other dog parents and it helped most of them, but it didn’t in some.  Not every treatment works on every dog and there are a lot of factors that play in healing. 

Zeus was my second boxer; I love the breed and knew exactly what I was getting into with having another one.  However, this time, I was going to really change things at the beginning and have Zeus live a very long life.  Right from the start, he was on all the best foods, no preservatives, he had filtered water, I used cleaning supplies with no chemicals, I washed his blankets and bedding with non-toxic detergent, etc.  Even with this new approach at the start of getting Zeus, he started getting lumps at the age of 3.  I took him to the vet, we tested them and they didn’t show any signs of mast cell.  However, I noticed a slight change in one of them a year later, took him back for another test and this time, it was a mast cell.  It’s so important to test and retest these bumps, even with the slightest sign of change.  I had the first one removed and thankfully it was grade I, which meant it wouldn’t spread, would never turn to grade II or higher according to the oncologist.  Zeus had many mast cell tumors over the years and found a vet who would remove them under local anesthesia because Zeus was so well behaved.  When I tell people this they are somewhat shocked, even some vets I’ve told, but for me, having a dog go under anesthesia is very concerning, especially after experiencing the side effects with the first few mast cell removals.

I was lucky that Zeus’s mast cells were all grade I, but wanted to find something that would keep them from popping up in the first place. Mast cells tumors are a type of blood cell cancer, typically involved in the body's response to an allergy or inflammation. At the same time, Zeus tore his CCL and I chose not to have surgery since it didn’t tear all the way, and I learned that there is a very high chance that dogs that have surgery on one leg end up injuring the opposite leg. I read a lot of articles about how you can rehab without surgery, one of which was Chinese medicine. I found a holistic vet to do acupuncture on Zeus, to restore blood flow to naturally heal his tear. The rehab route wasn’t easy, it was almost harder than fighting cancer because Zeus was such an active dog. I had to remove all places he typically jumped on, taking his PT very slow, etc. In addition to acupuncture, I worked with the holistic vet to give Zeus Chinese herbs to supply nourishment to his blood and injury. At the same time his walk improved, I started to notice his mast cell tumors didn’t flare up as much. Chinese medicine focuses on the root cause of the illness and the goal is to restore balance. Since mast cell is a blood cancer, Zeus’s circulation was improved by increasing blood flow to his CCL tear, which also helped to improve his overall immune system and restored balance to his entire body.

In addition to the Chinese herbs, I also have used supplements such as Artemisinin for mast cell tumors as well and found it very helpful.  Over the years, I tried many supplements and therapies that have helped – sometimes you need to try a few or go with what you feel is right for your pet.  I have also personally used most of the same supplements and therapies with Zeus on myself to treat knee injuries, headaches, overall wellbeing, etc. so I can also personally attest to the benefits.  Zeus lived to 14, which is amazing for a boxer, however, if I had one wish, it would be that our pets lived longer.  I am determined to learn more ways to help our pet live long healthy and happy lives, naturally. 

While it was my personal decision not to administer any long-term prescriptions with harmful side effects or to do chemotherapy, it may not be the right decision for you and your pet.  I am not a vet, but someone who has experience with supplements and alternative therapies. Supplements and alternative therapies are not considered a substitute for veterinary care. They are a complementary form of health care and I highly recommending working with your vet to make an informed decision.

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