In the world of Full Spectrum care for dog cancer, we try to look for anything that gives us an edge. This edge could be related to survival, life quality, decreasing treatment side effects, or finding something that just works better than the old way.
Since new information is always emerging, new strategies can be used and applied for dogs with cancer. An interesting option, especially for dogs with melanoma or mammary cancer, is the use of flax.
Flax has been around for millenia and used for a variety of things. These days it is garnering major attention for it’s possible benefit in women with certain kinds of breast cancer.
Why the excitement?
There is some real evidence, at least in lab animals with experimental tumors, that large amounts of flax in the diet have real-life effects in real-life bodies.
For example, it has been shown that mice with malignant melanoma had less metastasis when given flax. This means that the melanoma cells spread into the body less often. In another study in mice with certain kinds of breast cancer, the addition of flax slowed the spread of the cancer by metastasis. When mice with breast cancers had them removed with surgery, the rate of cancer spread after the surgery went down when the mice were supplemented with flax.
How does it work? Here are a few of the most well documented ways. The most interesting thing that flax may do is help cancer cells decide to commit suicide. This process is called apoptosis. The components in Apocaps do this very potently, so it is neat that flax has a little of this effect as a side feature.
Flax contains a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which have benefit for cancer patients. There are also compounds called lignans in flax, which seem to exert many of the anticancer effects.
Finally it seems that flax lignans are able to decrease the accumulation of zinc in cancer cells, studies show. Cancer cells seem to need these high zinc levels to function, and it may be that by blocking cancer cells’ zinc uptake, flax exerts an effect.
There are several different flax lignans, but the one with the highest amounts has been shown to be secoisolariciresinol. I can’t pronounce it either.
We should all keep certain things in mind. One consideration is that the studies were in mice with implanted cancers and not dogs. Another is that very large amounts of flax were given to these mice, 10% of their diet. If you imagine a dog eating a diet that is 10% flax by weight, it might not even be edible.
Nonetheless, flax is safe, palatable, and can be mixed in a home-made or canned ration pretty easily. I would imagine three or four times the human dose for a large breed dog would be a decent guess at dosing, but please consult with your veterinarian or oncologist before changing anything in your dog’s health care plan.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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