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

Mind-Body Therapy for Dog Cancer

Updated: November 12th, 2021


Mind-body therapy fights dog cancer: by reducing stress, it allows your dog’s immune system to focus on the real threats.

Brain chemistry has a huge impact on cancer. Which makes mind-body therapy a critical part of any cancer treatment plan.

And better still, it is enjoyable too!

What Is Mind-Body Therapy?

The big word for mind-body therapy is psychosomatic therapy.

“Psychosomatic” means the interaction between brain signals and body processes… including the body’s ability to fight existing cancers and those that may develop later.

Basically, if your dog is emotionally stable and happy, she will be less susceptible to physical illness.

Interactive Network

As you know, your dog’s brain controls everything in your dog’s body. The communication process works something like this:

  1. Your dog’s brain gets information from the world using the senses – eyes, ears, touch, and so on.
  2. The brain processes the info and makes patterns.
  3. The brain sends chemical signals into the bloodstream that “talk” to organs in the body.
  4. The organs “listen” to the signals and respond.
  5. These responses trigger signals that go back to the brain.
  6. The brain processes this new information and sends new signals as needed.

If your dog has a problem, such as feeling thirsty, she can fix it.

First her body tells the brain she is hot, and then the brain tells the body she needs water and triggers walking to the bowl for a drink.

Once she has hydrated, body and brain communicate that all is well and she moves on.

Cancer Caused by Stress

Unsolvable situations produce stress in the body.

The brain computes that something is wrong, but it cannot fix the issue.

Signals are sent from the brain to the adrenal glands, nerve endings, and other areas in the body.

The adrenals and nerve endings respond to the signals by secreting hormones and chemical signals of their own.  These signals are detected by immune system cells.

If the immune system is busy dealing with stress signals, it isn’t paying attention to potential cancer formation.

For example, suppose your dog gets lonely often. Or maybe he or she needs to get some exercise and feels frustrated. Perhaps your four-legged family member is bored frequently.

All of these are situations that don’t seem solvable to your dog (at least, without you taking steps to solve your dog’s problem).

Unsolvable situations produce stress in the body.

Stress once in a while is a normal part of life.

But chronic stress is NOT normal and can increase cancer risk.

Long-term feelings of isolation, anxiety, boredom, and agitation lead to increased cancers in the body.

Please note: in order for cancer to start, grow, and gain foothold, many things must happen.

There is no one cause for cancer — lots of things have to go wrong in order for it to arise.

So if you have had to leave your dog at home alone for work, for example, and now he has cancer, it is NOT your fault.

It does mean, though, that whatever we can do to reduce boredom, anxiety, stress, and isolation is helpful!

Reducing Stress for Your Dog

How many situations in your dog’s life contribute to isolation, boredom, anxiety, and a lack of physical or mental stimulation?

Take some time to really put yourself in your dog’s shoes, and honestly ask yourself whether your dog could be creating these brain states.

If the answer is yes, you don’t have to feel guilty!

You can make changes TODAY that could add time to your dog’s lifespan and help life quality to boot.

Start by making a journal of your dog’s typical schedule:

  • When your dog is alone
  • Social interaction with people and other pets
  • Mental stimulation (training, puzzle toys)
  • Physical stimulation (exercise that leaves her panting)
  • Interactive play with you (bonding time)

This can help you identify areas that your dog might need a little more attention, and then you can act on it!

Mind-Body Therapy for Your Dog

Set aside 20-30 minutes a day for time with your dog.

We’re all super busy. If you don’t have a planned schedule in mind, you will forget or get caught up in other tasks.

Here are some things to do in that time that can improve your dog’s brain chemistry and her health:

  • Praise, praise, and praise more for accomplishments, big and small! Let your dog feel your excitement for things she does.
  • “Beam” at your dog – let them see how happy you are just to see them.
  • Alter your dog’s environment.
  • Take trips to new places.
  • Change the route you take to walk your dog.
  • Increase your dog’s number of walks.
  • Provide your dog with new toys and use them to interact.
  • Schedule play dates with other dogs.
  • Bring your dog to places where there are new people, or bring new people to your dog.
  • Engage in new physical activities (stairs, hikes, change the pace of the walk, etc.).
  • Start new gentle training programs (sit, shake, fetch, roll, stay, heel, catch, etc.).
  • Groom your dog at home.
  • For older dogs, try warm compresses before exercise, then cool ones afterward.
  • Massage your dog.
  • Meditate with your dog.
  • Talk to your dog, and ask her questions.

Add your dog’s favorite activities to the list above!

And as an added bonus, these activities are good for YOUR mental health and quality of life too!

Consistency Matters

Don’t just do these things a few times, and then forget. Do them consistently, as many as possible.

Stick to this fiercely.

Without discipline, life’s flow will carry you downstream, leaving your dog on the bank of the river.

You will be amazed at how good it makes both you and your dog feel.

This is why Dr. Dressler included brain chemistry modification in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide and his Full Spectrum approach to cancer treatment.

Quality of life matters!

Paws and wags,


Further Reading and References:

The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Now Available in Your Favorite Format

Full Spectrum Cancer Treatment for Dogs to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity

A model of gene-environment interaction reveals altered mammary gland gene expression and increased tumor growth following social isolation

Stress and immunity in humans: a meta-analytic review

Tumor rejection in rats after inescapable or escapable shock

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