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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Can melatonin be used with lymphosarcoma in dogs?

Updated: December 18th, 2018

Before we go back to linoleic acid, the last blog topic, this question has been festering in my mind and needs to be addressed.

Should be be using melatonin in dogs with lymphosarcoma?

This is an interesting question, especially because as I am about to disagree with what is all over the internet….”don’t use melatonin” with cancers of the white blood cells (like lymphoma/lymphosarcoma, myeloma, and other leukemias….all are cancers of white blood cells).

I disagree (I told you I would do that!  Oh boy, here we go…sorry everyone, but I have to say what I really think…unedited, unabridged…)

The basic issue is this: melatonin has been shown to stimulate the immune response, including certain types of T cells and NK (Natural Killer) cells. These cells are involved in the normal surveillance and destruction of cancer cells, which occurs naturally in the body (melatonin also stimulates other white blood cell types).  Maybe we out to say…”melatonin is good for dogs with cancer.”

Thus, it might seem logical to give melatonin with white blood cell cancers, right?  Well, the sticky bit is that white blood cells are involved in the immune system, but white blood cells also include those T cells and others that have transformed (become cancerous) in lymphosarcoma and other cancers…oopsy.  Are we stimulating these cancers if we give melatonin?

Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful information and tools

For full disclosure, I need to point out that there is not a whole bunch or research on this specific question.  But I dug up a paper that will interest y’all: check it out here.

This 2006 paper shows that in mice afflicted with leukemia, melatonin stimulated normal white blood cells, but not cancerous white blood cells.  As a matter of fact, the survival rate of leukemic mice was 30-40% when treated with melatonin, while the survival rate of the mice without melatonin was…0%.

And to top it off, I have not been able to find an actual reference that showed that cancerous (transformed) white cells, whether they be T cells, B cells or other, were able to respond to melatonin the same way that normal (non-transformed) white cells could.

So, I feel that the blanket recommendation to avoid melatonin for lymphoproliferative or leukemic cancers, including lymphosarcoma, may be more fear based than fact based.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler


Leave a Comment

  1. Dar on March 17, 2010 at 4:44 am

    I just found out my baby (dog) lucky 6yrs old has lymphosarcoma. (Guarded) ?? They gave her about a month to live. At the same time I found out i had to put down my Other baby who was ten years old, (Cookie) who had liver Cancer. I didn’t know she had it untill I had to put her down. so, I ask what to do?? I am lost. these are my first dogs and took them to the vet all the time. Now this. What can i do for Lucky with Lymphosarcoma. I changed her diet to Wellness brand dog food. She also just had 17 large stones taken out. Is there any thing not to do or anything i should be doing to prolong her life??

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