Dear Dog Lovers,
A newer drug is being used frequently lately, and I would like to make sure everyone dealing with a canine cancer diagnosis has heard of it. This medication may help some dogs out there, so let’s keep everyone up to date.
The drug is mirtazapine, also called Remeron.
Now granted, many of the readers of this blog want to know about diet and supplements. In the spirit of true integrated (full spectrum) medicine, we should look at everything conventional science has to offer, hence this post.
But for those who want to know what supplement I use in my patients, here is the quick answer: Apocaps. And yes, of course I am biased since I put it together and use it. It is not a nausea medication, rather it helps to normalize a critical process called apoptosis in the body.
Mirtazapine is a very effective appetite stimulant. This is particularly useful in cases of canine cancer, especially if either chemotherapy or the cancer itself is causing a loss of appetite.
On top of this, it helps with nausea and vomiting, and helps block spasm of the muscular wall of the stomach and intestine. This is useful as it not only improves nutrition by keeping food down, but on top of that, alleviation of vomiting is a major life quality positive.
But there’s more. Mirtazapine has a neat little antihistamine effect. Dogs with mast cell tumor cells in the body often have histamine excess, since the tumor cells secrete histamine. Too much histamine is not good for the body, causing swelling, redness, discomfort, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and even low blood pressure. This makes mirtazapine very well suited for some dogs with mast cell tumors.
Finally, this medication is an antidepressant. Although there is little talk of canine depression’s link to cancer, there are some documented links in human medicine. In my opinion, the same reasoning may be applied to dogs, being sentient beings with happiness and sorrows like ours.
Mirtazapine was originally designed and intended for use in people for its antidepressant effect. However, in veterinary cancer care, we take advantage of mirtazapine’s effects on fighting nausea and helping with appetite. The effects on mood and anxiety are a bonus!
Mirtazapine works by increasing two chemicals in the body, serotonin and norepinephrine. A few other drugs also increase the levels of serotonin in the body. If these effects add up, a reaction can occur. Some other drugs that may significantly increase serotinin levels are Prozac (fluoxetine), Anipryl (selegeline), and Elavil (amitriptyline). You should double check with your veterinarian if your dog is on these drugs already, and you have a prescription for mirtazapine.
For more information on topics like this, check out The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
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.