Search the internet, or consult your friends about cancer treatments for dogs that “work” and you’ll hear many opinions and few facts. The reality is this: cancer is the number one killer of dogs, and as of today, we just don’t have a “magic bullet” that will stop it in every dog. Just like in humans — we’re facing a big, bad, sneaky, terrible monster.
But that’s OK! We have been working with readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. Demian Dressler’s BEST-selling book on cancer treatments for dogs, since 2007, and we can say with absolute confidence that even though there is no one right thing to do that works every time…
… there ARE a lot of things you CAN do, and most of them are free.
You really can optimize your dog’s life quality and longevity, starting today. If you calm down, take a breath, and do your research, we promise that you will find that there are things that can really help your dog.
We’ve excerpted chapter 10 of Dr. Dressler’s book below. It covers his soup-to-nuts approach to cancer treatments for dogs. You’ll get the mindset you need, and an overview of the five categories of treatments he recommends when it comes time to choose treatments.
And don’t worry — you have time to do research. Unless you are dealing with lymphoma, which is particularly aggressive AND can quickly be helped with chemotherapy, you have time to do some research before you plunge into treatments.
You really DO have time to adopt a Full Spectrum Mindset and thoroughly research your options before you make treatment decisions.
You can find The Dog Cancer Survival Guide everywhere books are sold and, of course, in our online shop.
Chapter 10: An Overview of Full Spectrum Cancer Treatment for Dogs
Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)
Full Spectrum cancer care is based on the assumption that, no matter how much time you may have left with your dog, you can make the best of it … or, as medical professionals say, optimize it. There are many steps you can take, right now, to help your dog, no matter what stage or type of cancer she has – and a lot of these steps are free.
If you are like most guardians, your relationship with your dog is precious. Cancer doesn’t change that. Your love for your dog can be a tremendous asset for you, motivating you to make high-quality decisions. Full Spectrum cancer care is based on your loving relationship with your dog.
Your love for your dog can be a tremendous asset for you, motivating you to make high quality decisions.
Every cancer case is unique, every dog is unique, and every guardian is unique. No two dogs need the exact same care; you may not choose to use all of the tools available. Even so, it’s important that you consider each one.
That’s why I’ve broken my approach into five steps, each of which is outlined in detail in the next five chapters.
After reading those chapters and considering your own dog’s case, you will have a very good framework from which to design your own Full Spectrum plan. The next part of the book, Making Confident Choices, will help you to fine-tune your thoughts and make a real plan based on your values, your budget, your time and, of course, your dog’s cancer case. Executing this plan with your team’s expert help can give you an edge on your dog’s cancer.
Let’s go over the basics of the Full Spectrum mindset.
Full Spectrum Mindset and Cancer
I have great respect for cancer’s ability to wage war on the body. As you’ve seen, cancer is a sneaky foe and a formidable enemy. Like any smart warrior, cancer attacks on more than one front. Here are the five ways cancer attacks your dog’s body:
- Cancer tumors grow larger and spread wider, crowding and even injuring neighboring body tissues. They metastasize, creating new tumors in new places, sometimes far from the original tumor.
- Cancer suppresses your dog’s immune system, which lessens her natural ability to fight cancer, leaves her vulnerable to outside infections, and slows wound healing.
- Cancer robs your dog of nutrition, causing weight loss (cachexia) and muscle weakness; even when your dog is eating adequate calories.
- Cancer steals resources meant for normal body functions causing otherwise healthy body systems to falter or even fail.
- As cancer wreaks this havoc, life quality and happiness can take a nosedive. This leaves the body even more defenseless and increases the chances that the brain chemistry will change to “fight or flight.” This, in turn, creates more stress and the cycle continues.
Typical conventional vet care defends the first front by removing tumors and/or reducing their size. This makes sense, of course, and is also the first step in Full Spectrum cancer care. But we don’t stop there. We defend on all five fronts.
Conventional vets tend to focus on the first front. We are going to defend your dog’s body on all five fronts.
Full Spectrum Mindset and Cancer Treatments
Imagine that your house is under attack by a gang of five men. There’s one who’s climbing in the garage window, another is sneaking in the back, another one is taking a crowbar to your cellar door, another is shimmying up a drainpipe, and a fifth is throwing a rock through a plate glass window. You wake up, aware that someone is entering your home, but not sure who it is or what he wants with you.
To defend yourself, you have an alarm system, a cell phone that speed dials the police, a knife in your kitchen, and a gun under the bed. If you had to pick just one of these defenses to use, which one of them would you pick?
That’s kind of a silly question, isn’t it? If you were really in this situation, you would at least consider using all of your defenses. And no one in her right mind would tell you not to be ready to use any and all means – the Full Spectrum – to stop the intruders from harming you or your family.
No one in their right mind would tell you to use only one type of defense if a burglar broke in to your home. So why take only one approach to cancer treatments for dogs?
The same could be said of cancer treatments. When we face cancer we are often insufficiently armed. That’s why if a treatment has been shown to help dogs get an edge on cancer, the Full Spectrum mindset demands it be considered for use. In Full Spectrum cancer care, therapies with a solid rationale for being safe and effective are always considered, regardless of their origin.
In Full Spectrum cancer care, we consider all therapies with a solid rationale for being safe and effective. No matter what their origin.
Not every Full Spectrum treatment we discuss in this book is supported by multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. These are not all “gold-standard” treatments.
So, why am I recommending them? Because I have carefully researched them, evaluated them, and concluded that they are safe and may help. There is no doubt that today we have an increased need for managing dog cancer and an increased urgency in treating it effectively.
Just as human cancer patients are more likely than ever to be open to outside-the-box therapies, guardians are both more willing to treat their dog’s cancer and more inclined to explore all of the options. I’m not willing, and neither are many guardians, to wait, when it comes to cancer.
I’m not willing to wait to treat dog cancer. Full Spectrum cancer care includes every treatment that I feel is SAFE and MAY HELP most dogs.
If the treatment is safe and may help, it should be adopted, without waiting many years for the gold standard studies to be completed. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, even some of the conventional therapies used by oncologists today don’t have this “gold standard” support.
Dogs do not have much time; we should move with a sense of urgency and be assertive. When fighting to stay alive, we cannot always do things perfectly or follow all of the conventional rules. We vets and oncologists should allow increased leeway for treatments which may help – and if it feels right to the guardian, we should go for it.
Dogs do not have much time, and we cannot always do things perfectly or follow all conventional rules. If it feels right to the dog lover, we should go for it!
For example, few people used omega-3 supplements for their dogs when I was in school. Now, vets regularly prescribe them for dry skin, kidney disease, arthritis, allergies, and cancer. The same is true for glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which are now used for arthritis, and for SAM-e, which is now used for liver and joint disease.
Why do vets use these supplements? Because pet lovers asked them if they could try. They saw that they seemed to be safe, and also seemed to help, and now they are comfortable using them on a routine basis.
Veterinarians will often follow your lead — if you ask them to.
Even the Food and Drug Administration recognizes the need for speed, when it comes to new cancer therapies. It has instituted a “ fast track” drug approval process, which allows therapeutics that may help advanced cancer
cases to enter clinical trials much earlier than usual. Oncologists also recognize this need for speed when they use chemotherapy drugs off-label. As long as it is safe and may help, let’s apply this same method of thinking to every available tool.
Treatments from conventional medicine, alternative medicine, holistic medicine, and any other medical system – no matter how esoteric – can be used in a Full Spectrum cancer care plan, as long as the treatment has:
- scientific studies supporting its effectiveness, and/or
- a strong history of common clinical use supporting its effectiveness, and
- minimal and/or tolerable side effects given the potential benefits.
The treatments outlined in this part of the book meet these criteria and, therefore, should be considered for your dog’s cancer care. In the next chapters, you will find out how each treatment works and why I think it might help your dog. Many of them are universal treatments, which can help any cancer case.
Full Spectrum cancer treatments for dogs have scientific studies supporting their effectiveness, and/or a strong history of common clinical use, and minimal and/or tolerable side effects given the potential benefits. In other words, they are often universal treatments with more upside than downside.
But Wait: This Doesn’t Mean You’re Home Free
It may be tempting to read this and think “This is great! If I do everything in this book, my dog will beat cancer!”
While I have certainly seen dogs go into remission, or experience extended longevity and life quality, I cannot in any way guarantee that these recommendations will definitely help your dog with his particular cancer.
I’m sure you can understand why I must point out that it is impossible for me, or Dr. Ettinger, to diagnose or treat your dog through the pages of this book or on our website. Our recommendations are for your information only, and do not constitute veterinary advice for your dog.
As always, you are the one in charge of your dog’s cancer. If any Full Spectrum cancer care treatment resonates with you, I hope that you will check it out with your vet. Her expertise and ability to evaluate it, in the context of your dog’s cancer diagnosis, other health conditions, age, and other factors, is invaluable. All decisions about your dog’s care should be made with veterinary supervision and guidance.
With this advice and your vet’s input, you can make an informed decision about what your next steps are … and be confident that you will have no regrets later.
Full Spectrum Mindset and Your Vet
Many of the treatments Dr. Ettinger and I recommend – whether they are chemotherapy agents, other pharmaceuticals, dietary changes, botanical nutraceuticals, or brain chemistry modifications – have potent effects on the body. For this reason, I strongly urge you to check out treatments with your vet and/or oncologist.
Be aware that some vets may not be open to hearing about Full Spectrum treatments. They may not believe that anything unconventional could work for cancer, and some may worry that even discussing these treatments is offering you “false hope.”
Be aware that some vets think that discussing unconventional approaches like diet, nutraceuticals, and supplements offer you “false hope.”
If you encounter this resistance, my best advice is to remain calm and kind. None of us really knows what will work for your dog – including Dr. Ettinger and myself – so getting upset or deciding that your plan is “the right one” is counter-productive and not in the spirit of Full Spectrum care.
If your vet can’t support the treatments you want to use, because he doesn’t believe they will work, you can refer him to Appendix E for references. Every recommendation made in the pages of this book is backed up by thorough and extensive research. Sometimes, seeing real-world research helps to loosen up a resistant mind.
Every recommendation made in the pages of this book is backed up by thorough and extensive research. Sometimes, seeing realworld research helps to loosen up a resistant mind.
If your vet gives you a concrete reason not to use a treatment – for example, because it will interfere with another drug your dog is on, or because it will harm him due to some other factor – then, by all means, take your vet’s advice. Dr. Ettinger and I cannot offer you advice which replaces that of your vet or oncologist, and we did not write this book with that intention. Your vet or oncologist is going to have the fullest picture of your dog’s health from a medical perspective.
If a Full Spectrum cancer care treatment feels right for your dog, check it out with your veterinarian and accept their guidance. Get a second opinion if you need to! Dr. Ettinger and I can’t diagnose or treat your dog via this book. Even those these treatments are USUALLY applicable for all cases, individual factors might determine whether something should be tried. Check with your own vet.
There is value in a second opinion, too. If you and your vet are in disagreement, bringing in another opinion can help you to decide what to do. I include lot of advice about how to work with your vet in chapter 22, including a long list of questions to ask your practitioners.
Full Spectrum Mindset and You
You have probably heard of Lance Armstrong, the champion bicyclist, who not only fought cancer and won but also, went on to win the Tour de France. Lance is an icon of persistence, courage, and belief in self. That’s why I find it so interesting that Lance looks up to children for their ability to face the odds. He once said about cancer, “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: Give up or Fight like Hell.”
“If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: Give up or Fight like Hell.” – Lance Armstrong
Whether Lance faced cancer or the Tour de France, he encountered several obstacles at once, just as you are, with your own dog’s cancer. It may help you to remember that dogs – much like children – have no interest in or knowledge of their odds.
Dr. Ettinger put it perfectly when she said that helping dogs is easier than helping the guardians, because dogs – bless their hearts – don’t know they have cancer. They don’t know they’re supposed to be scared.
They don’t have to obsess over whether a treatment will cause side effects, or whether they will outlive statistical survival times.
You may have heard words as devastating as “two weeks” or as relatively hopeful as “one year” – but your dog has no worry or fear about his prognosis. He simply exists.
Part of him is gloriously, gorgeously alive.
Dogs don’t know they have cancer. They are just gloriously, joyfully alive. Revel in that. Use it as inspiration!
To the degree that you can adopt Lance’s child-like, hopeful, flexible, open-minded attitude, your Full Spectrum mindset will benefit immeasurably. It’s what got Lance through cancer and kept his feet spinning and his heart pumping in those long, grueling bike races.
Five Steps to Full Spectrum Cancer Care
To fully address your dog’s cancer, I advise systematically working through five separate steps. It may seem a little involved, but it’s worth your time and effort. Here are the five steps, each of which is covered in detail in the following chapters:
Step One: Conventional Treatments (and how to manage their side effects)
Step Two: Nutraceuticals
Step Three: Immune System Boosters and Anti-Metastatics
Step Four: Dog Cancer Diet
Step Five: Brain Chemistry Modification
Depending upon many factors, you may ultimately choose to use tools from each step, or only from certain steps. For now, I recommend you become familiar with each step, so that you can make informed decisions later.
Make Confident Choices … Later
As you read through the next five chapters, your Full Spectrum plan will start to take shape. No matter how urgent it seems for you to take action immediately, I recommend holding off until after you have read the final part, called Making Confident Choices. In that section, you’ll find more information about life expectancy and life quality, and I will help you walk through the decision making process in a step-by-step fashion. There are many medical and personal factors to weigh, and approaching this in a systematic fashion usually results in a plan you fully understand and can follow with confidence.
You have time to research and read before you make decisions. Use my systematic process in the Making Confident Choices section of the book to choose your treatments. That section helps you to balance everything and make choices you will not regret.
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