Cancer is now a leading cause of death in dogs and cats, and will affect about one in three pets, along with kidney failure being the next most common cause of death. I have spent many years trialling a myriad of different approaches in treating a range of different cancers and believe diet can help play a part in supporting pets with cancer. As always diet is one factor and you should always consult a vet on the best combination of surgery, diet, supplements, herbs, exercise and sometimes chemotherapy for your pet’s circumstances.
What is cancer?
On its simplest level cancer is basically a failure of the immune system. It is accepted that the body undergoes mutations on a regular basis, and that mutated cells that have no function are what we call cancer cells. When these cancer cells grow out of control they form a cluster which we now call tumours.
It is widely believed that the immune system is responsible for recognising and destroying these mutated cells on a regular basis, and this process occurs throughout our entire life. It is only in our latter years of life, when our immune system starts to fail, that some of these cancer cells escape detection and begin to grow out of control, thus resulting in the condition we call cancer.
So our fundamental understanding of how the body controls cancer leads us to recognise that supporting and strengthening the immune system is the best defence, and the best approach to treating cancer.
Stimulating & supporting the immune system to prevent cancer
There are many different levels and approaches that we can use to stimulate and support the immune system, but by far the most effective of these is to feed a biologically appropriate diet.
In dogs and cats this means a total raw food diet with meat proteins being the highest and most important ingredient. A good raw food diet should contain at least 60 to 80% fresh raw meat, the appropriate ration of fat somewhere from 5 to 10%, and a portion of cereal and vegetable matter. It must also be appropriately balanced with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and antioxidants.
Probiotics for gut health
One of the most powerful areas of the body to influence the immune system is the gastrointestinal tract. A properly functioning gut both in terms of digestive and and absorption of food, and in terms of its function as an immune organ, is vital to good health and peak immune system function. The healthy gut must have the appropriate balance of probiotic bacteria which prevents intestinal dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome, which have a significantly negative impact on the immune system.
So making sure that the diet the animal is fed as providing optimal probiotic flora and optimal nutrition for the gut and the bacteria living there is a critical step towards improving immune function and therefore fighting cancer. I recommend using a probiotic blend such as Vets All Natural Skin and Coat Powder, along with a combination of glutamine and Aloe Vera which will help to strengthen the lining of the gut.
For more detailed information on probiotics please see my article on probiotics and healthy pets.
The role of antioxidants in fighting cancer
Antioxidants are supplied in fresh foods, and are found in particularly high levels in many of the coloured fruits and berries. Antioxidants play a vital role in protecting the body from oxygen free radicals which are formed during the normal metabolism of cellular function. The clearance of these oxidative free radicals is performed by nutritional antioxidants on a regular daily basis and hence the need for these antioxidants to be supplied in the diet, or taken as supplements in cases where an additional immune boost is required e.g. when treating cancer.
I recommend our Vets All Natural Health Booster supplement which provides a range of naturally occurring antioxidants. A balanced raw food diet will also supply a significant and high level of natural antioxidants. For more information on the role played by antioxidants read my article here.
Other natural treatments for cancer
There are also a range of other herbs and neutroceuticals that have a profound impact on the immune system and can assist in treating cancer. There are so many different types of cancers and equally there are so many different types of supplements that can assist with the different types of cancers. Chinese medicine supplies a range of herbal supplements that have proven efficacy against some types of cancers, and in particular some of the medicinal mushroom extracts are highly effective. More recently medical investigation into the function of salvestrols has also shown increasing promise as a potential supplement for use in cancer therapy.
A summary – diet for supporting dogs and cats with cancer
First and foremost start a raw, natural, low carb, high fat, high protein diet – VAN Grain/Gluten free with added coconut oil (good fats). Cancer thrives on sugar (carbohydrate) so this must be minimised.
Cancer thrives on low oxygen, so keep up exercise with you dog, and you can add food grade hydrogen peroxide to the water bowl (30-40 drops per litre).
Cancer is the result of chronic inflammation, so you need to reverse this – herbs/supplements include Omega 3 (flax, fish, krill oil), turmeric (Metagenics Inflavanoid Intensive care), aloe vera, digestive enzymes (enzyplex, Creon).
Cancer creates free radicals – so pump the anti-oxidants – Metagenics ‘ Oxygenics’, green tea, coloured berries, goji berries, grape seed extract…
Cancer is the result of a compromised immune system – so stimulate the immune system with good diet, supplements, anti-cancer herbs – Transfer factor (colostrum extract) , Salvestrols, Olive leaf extract, artemesia (worm wood). VAN Health Booster powder.
Support the gut – raw balanced diet, high quality complex probiotics (VAN Skin & Coat Formula, Kefir, fermented foods), minimise carbohydrates, add soluble bowel fibre (prebiotics).
My experience has shown me that advanced cancer can be very difficult to treat, and I am always very open and honest when communicating with clients that realistic outcomes must always be considered. The combination of surgery, diet, supplements, herbs, and sometimes chemotherapy, can provide good outcomes for cancer therapy, but on the whole short term remission is very often the best we can hope for.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons), Founder of Vets All Natural.
Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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