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

Can I give supplements with Chemotherapy?

Updated: December 12th, 2018

In the world of dog cancer, we find ourselves in a war where we can be under-gunned.

I must confess that when I look at this statement, I find myself wondering whether it is healthy. To think about dealing with malignancies as a war?  Perhaps this analogy is too violent, too antagonistic, too contrary.

The facts as they stand are that in spite of surgery, chemo and radiation, this disease can kill.  And when something kills, this sure seems like a survival-stakes deal.

So the question comes up often, “Can I use this or that supplement with chemo in my dog?”

When we are mixing and matching therapies (supplements along with chemo and other treatments), we often have little to lose and a lot to gain.

I have found there is so much fear abounding about lessening the effects of chemotherapy by using certain supplements.  Yet, does the chemo insure a survival? No, chemo does not insure survival, with a few rare exceptions.

Instead we are just going for palliation, defined as a decrease in the signs and symptoms of a disease.

A remission is a sort of high level palliation.

The odd thing is that I find this fear in myself as well, and am learning that perhaps it is not wise.  I have seen some real benefits from the supplements written about in these posts and in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

No, I am not claiming these are the cures of cancer.  But objective tumor shrinkage in some cases, extended life spans beyond what you would expect, and improved life quality.  Good stuff.

There is some evidence that certain compounds that have antioxidant potential interfere with chemotherapy, and there is some evidence to the contrary.  The fact is that the jury is still out, and there are no generalizations that can be made because the data is sparse.

If you have a dog with a long median life expectancy (the cancer is very slow, or can be cured with surgery), you can afford to not mix and match. Get the chemo or radiation treatments done, wait 2-3 weeks, then get on the supplement program. This is because it is still wise to be prudent and err on the side of caution…

When you have the luxury of time on your side. And only then!

If you have been told that your loved dog, your best friend or family member, has months to live, I say it’s time to come out with guns blazing.

Worried about less chemo efficacy?  But a licensed medical professional (and yes, I am aware I am in this group) has told you in spite of doxorubicin, peroxicam, mitoxantrone, prednsolone, vinblastine or whatever, your dog has months to live…

what does your dog have to lose?

We must all recall that medicine, in spite of current dogma (bad pun), truly is still an art.  There is more to it than formulas and algorithms. Dogs are not decision trees.

Yes,  many flavonoids  (EGCG, luteolin, curcumin) have some anti inflammatory effects like piroxicam.  Maybe we should avoid overlapping side effects from piroxicam plus EGCG to protect the kidneys, liver, and lining of the stomach and intestine?

If I have a dog with a raging bleeding transitional cell carcinoma killing someone’s best friend, you can bet I would suggest both EGCG right along with piroxicam, both at full strength dose. After consideration, it is worth the risk.

As long as we are think about what we are doing, and consider the risks from a overarching viewpoint, in some cases it should be no holds barred.

This is the art of medicine.

As long as we do not harm in the big picture, why not give our dogs every chance they can get?

Best to all,


Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

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  1. NS on June 12, 2014 at 5:29 am

    My 7.5 year old lab Beau has recently been diagnosed with histiocytic sarcoma. He presented with lameness in his right leg which is confirmed to be a tumor. Biopsy confirms the diagnosis and further staging confirms infiltration in the lungs (small nodule) one sublingual lymph node. The liver and kidney are considered “open” because on ultrasound they could have had a node but it was unconfirmed. Spleen is clear. We elected to start Lomustine and he is one week into treatment. His calcium continues to stay elevated (.4) and his wbc is now low at 2800. He is feeling good, eating well and otherwise pretty happy. We feed him a great grain free diet with a 80:20 protein to carb diet with fresh complex carbs, sardines and greek yogurt daily. My oncologist is not on advising any dietary supplements but all of my research suggests otherwise. I would really like to add tumeric and maybe some other natural antioxidants but my fear is that they will affect the efficacy of the chemo. I also would like to know how I can best support his immune system. My goal is to fight this the best we can and see if it responds to the first few doses. I got the feeling we would know how the cancer might progress after the 3rd dose. His life expectancy was 4-6 mo. without treatment. If he does respond the next step would be to amputate the affected limb. I agree with an article I read on this blog about fighting aggressive cancers with “all guns blazing”. I really want to make sure I use all of the tools we can while we have the chance, without causing harm. I would so appreciate any input or advice.
    Thank you!

  2. suzi earl on March 20, 2013 at 3:55 am

    I really enjoy learning from you on this website. I am shocked at the news of my 10 yr old mixed terrier Buddy having chronic CLL, white cell count of 80,000 as of a week ago. He starts Leukeran and Prednisone tommorrow. My vet feels he may have about 2 years or little longer with or without chemo. Our income is social security and therefore limited for on going vet bills. We want quality of life for Buddy in the time he is with us and need to make the best decisions in his interest and within our money limits. So will chemo and prednisone give him more time and less quality due to side effects of prednisone and chemo on going? What will happen to Buddy if in the middle of his therapy we can no longer afford to go forward with more protocols?

    Thank you for your answer and your time Doctor,
    Suzi Earl

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Dear Suzi,
      I am sorry to hear of your Buddy and the CLL. One of the first steps is doing a treatment plan analysis with your vet, and one of the first questions is to ask your vet “What is the GAINED life expectancy of this treatment in my dog?”
      Its an estimate since your vet knows your dog’s overall health and can take some guesses. This is all in the Guide, which I would advise you take some time to read…
      I hope these help
      Dr D

  3. colleen kittmer on October 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    my 8 yr old gsd has “terminal” cancer, lookin to learn everything i can

  4. Kuma and Joann on June 22, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    My dog Kuma has melanoma cancer we finished the melanoma vaccines and are now on Leukeran. What results can I possibly have from this chemo pills??

  5. Susan on April 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Dr. Dressler:
    Our 13 year old dog has mast cell cancer type 3 with 2 surgeries. 3 months ago he went through 4 rounds of chemo and did great. About 2 months ago we started him on Palladia and everything went very well up until about 2 weeks ago when he suddenly refused to eat his wet dog food. We started him on dry food and he was very happy with that for about 2 weeks but now he will only eat people food. I was not to upset about that as I wanted to start him on your dog cancer diet anyway. Now I am struggling to feed him people food. It is almost as if his sense of smell is not working properly. Foods that he used to eat such as baked chicken, hamburger, and steak are now a complete turn off to him. He will only eat roasted chicken, he will not eat vegetables any longer, and carrots used to be one of his favorite foods. I know he is hungry because he walks around looking for food. What can I do??? He will not eat your dog cancer diet. He is very active and always looking to go on walks or play ball. We got him from the SPCA when he was 5 years old and his energy level is as high as the day we brought him home. I am at my wits end with making sure he eats.

  6. Rochelle Surgan on March 22, 2012 at 3:21 am

    I have a 15 year old cockerspaniel. He was diagnoised with melanoma of the nailbed. It was removed in September. In January it came back in a lymphnod. He tool Pallida and got sick on it. His tests are normal and his lungs are clear. They suggested radiation. He had the melanoma injections.

  7. ursula on February 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Hello Dr Dresser,
    I have a 8 year young very healthy and happy male rottweiler that went into ER on 1/29/12 and underwent a splenectomy after a ruptured tumor on his spleen was found… Hemagiosarcoma 🙁 My last rottie had Osteosarcoma and i researched for 3 years to find a Rottie with a clean and cancer free line and got Oskar at 71/2 weeks.. My boy Oskar is my best friend and family 110%! I did everything to avoid cancer with Oskar, only titered, no flea meds, the best human grade food for him… I don’t understand 🙁 When they performed surgery on him they said he looked really clean and upon biopsy no other cancer was found but in the tumor… I understand that since it ruptured the cells infiltrated his system… I started out with metronomic chemo and a TON of supplements ASAP, D3 10,000iu, IP6 10caps p/day, Nano Co Q10, Agaricus bio, Carlsons Omega 3 super DHA, Probiotic, Onco support, Super Bio Curcumin, Doxycyclin 3 p/day, Valproci acid capsules 1, Lipo-Spheric Vit C, No carbs -home cooked meals, Filtered water….
    On Feb 20th i have ceased the last protocal and started Adriamycin treatment 1 of 5, stopped ALL his supplements and giving DOXYCYCLIN 3 per day, 1 VALPROIC ACID CAPSULES, and adding metronomic chemo on Feb 27th Cyclophosphamide 25mg every other day, Laxis 100mg every other day, Piroxicam 15mg everyday… Can I give any supplements? I am a research aholic and understand that antioxidents can interfere with the efficacy of the chemo.. I have heard that Curcumin can aid in effects of chemo but also interfere… What can i do to give my boy every possible chance.. I know there is a very poor prognosis but cancer is a gamble you could get 2 weeks you could get 2 years! I need ANY help i can get, this whole thing could not have happened a worse time in our life… Thank you! Kindest Regards, U
    PS you can find Oskar aka “Oz the Rottweiler” all over the web 🙂 I have been helping people forever with the proper training, socialization, and education of the breed.
    and i am INJECT WITH T-CYTE – STUDY.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on February 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Dear Ursula,
      I am sorry to hear about these tough times.
      Having said that, this supplement protocol is all over the board. You should read the Guide.
      Drop the oral D3. IP6 has merit but is lower priority. Combine curcumin with other pro oxidant apoptogens (apocaps) and drop the biocurcumin. Add a blended beta glucan (AHCC or K-9 immunity old formulation, no flavor) instead of strait agaricus. Probiotics are beneficial but low priority. Onco support is a supplement that has internal conflicts, no offense I hope to anyone. Oral vit C is insufficient and should be dropped, change to high dose IV. Add modified citrus pectin. Please use veterinary supervision for all steps.
      I hope this gets you started and helps-
      Dr D

  8. Donna on January 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Dr. Dressler,

    I just got told my 13yr old dog has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. They ran blood tests and his WBC is 6x higher than normal. I’m not sure what that means exactly as to how far along it is? My vet said he does not recommend any treatment due to his age. I am kind of having a hard time with that since my 13yr old pup and I say pup because he’s never grown up or shown any kind of ailments of getting old. He still acts like he always has, so just because he’s 13 why shouldn’t something be done based on that? He’s never been sick in 13yrs and still runs around like he’s a pup. He hasn’t slowed down at all.

    I wanted to get your opinion on not treating it at all and also what you recommend doing as far as supplements for this type of cancer. I’m not sure my vet now is going to be very good at helping me with any type of guidance since he believes his life should be over since he’s old.

    I appreciate your opinion and advice.

    Thank you,


    • Dr. Demian Dressler on February 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Donna
      the good news is this is a very slow cancer. However, treatment is recommended typically if the white count is high enough. What is the white count?
      I would most certainly be at least doing a proper cancer diet (in the Guide and also free download above), apoptogens, immune support (yes, even in leukemia), fatty acids (krill oil/fish oil/DHA/EPA…in the GUide) possibly supplemental melatonin at night (in the Guide too), as a start. Chemo depends on the condition of your loved dog and the white count.
      Please have veterinary supervision for all-

  9. Nancy on July 17, 2011 at 11:03 am


    My 14 year old collie/shep mix was just dx with lymphoma. He wasn’t showing any signs of not feeling well and eating great, my vet just found it when checking him over during a visit. Pathology just said lymphoma, not what kind, grade, if it’s the kind that would or wouldn’t typically respond to chemo. He has hip displasia and 3 bouts of vestibular syndrome due to inner ear infections. A culture was done and he’s on an antibiotic that shows it will respond to. The last 2 vestibular events, he didn’t go back to normal and has a pretty good head tilt, which makes him a little more unsteady on his hind legs. Since he went into anaphalatic shock from an iv steroid about a year ago when he went down in his hind legs, I’m leery about iv chemo and in general, I hate to risk him taking chemo with his other issues. I’ve been through chemo and even though everything I’ve read said most dogs handle it well, it’s still poison going in his system. In the last 10 days since his lymph nodes were found to be swollen, they haven’t gotten any bigger. I have him now eating, Blue dog food and treats, trying to get him the best nutrition possible. Are there any supplements that appear or do show signs that they slow down the growth of cancer cells? I know cancer cells love sugar, another reason he’s on Blue dog food and treats. My animals are my kids and I want him as long as I can have him, and him have quality of life. I’m actually surprised my vet is pretty much pushing for the chemo at his age and with his other health issues. Anything you can recommend that I can put him on that could help, I would appreciate it. How do you feel about prednisone if one isn’t going through chemo? How toxic, side affects. Do you see putting him on them now even though he’s eating as much as he’s suppose to and lathargic….. not in the least, he acts completely normal, or is waiting for him to start getting picky about eating, too late to help? Thanks!!!!

    • DemianDressler on July 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Dear Nancy,
      this is a complicated question. Have you taken the time to read the Guide? I would suggest it if not- it is an easy read and can help you sort out your thoughts on the issue. We do not have a cure for systemic cancer, and so we focus on increasing longevity and life quality. Chemotherapy is being brought up by your vet since this cancer usually responds (goes into remission) very well using chemo, unlike some other cancers. Often (not every time) we can increase life expectancy and get a median survival time of more than 10 months. But the deeper questions you are asking is whether this makes sense for a dog of this age. Clarifying the odds of side effects with your vet would be a good start and also doing a treatment plan analysis discussed in the Guide. There are supplements that may help like apoptogens, immune support, artemisinin, and perhaps Neoplasene. Most are again discussed in the Guide and can be searched for on this blog using the search bar (upper right). there is a free dog cancer diet pdf you can download on the top of the blog. You may also consider oral chemo as a secondary option. Pred alone often gives an addition few months.

  10. karen on January 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Emailing from down here in Australia.
    Looking at giving my dog Artemisinin, but need advice.
    The is the last resort for my ever faithful companion dog Poppet, 13 yr old medium size dog 22.5kg.
    She has had multiple myeloma for 5 yrs, controlled by chemotherapy (alkeran 2mg tablets, 1 every second day)
    In the last 2 months she developed osteosarcoma in the hind leg and although I didn’t want to, I had it amputated and she is coping quite well.
    On xray there were no metastasis in the lungs, but they could have been too small to pick up.
    Further chemo may make her ill as she has already been on chemo for 5yrs and has a reduced white cell count.
    As she is 13yrs old (but spritely, no arthritis) I don’t want to put her through chemo again ( and we really cannot afford it, she is already the $10000.00dog, but we love her)
    I was reading an article about Artemisinin and was hoping I could get her onto that herbal supplement.
    I cannot seem to find anyone here in Australia to advise me.
    There are the different deriviatives and im not sure what to give her and the quantaties and I don’t want to kill her by overdosing as I believe one of them can be toxic.

    Could you please set me on the right path.
    Sorry to be of bother.

    Thank you for any help or advice you can give.


    • DemianDressler on January 13, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Dear Karen,
      At this time we do not have consensus on the best form of artemisinin to give to dogs with cancer. The toxicity you are thinking of is for a related herb, not artemisinin (although anything, including even a diet change, can in theory create a side effect).
      Have you read the Guide?? This is an easy read. There are other things that can be done in addition to artemisinin, although there is a whole section on the use of this herb for dogs with cancer. How about diet? Beta glucans? Omega 3? Pamidronate? These are steps that can be done in addition to what you have mentioned. You can also search this blog using the search bar on the right side.

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