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

Dog Cancer and the Malaria Drug Artemisinin

Updated: May 15th, 2024


Artemisinin for dogs with cancer? Yup. This herb can help make chemo more effective, and may also target cancer directly.

The anti-malarial remedy artemisinin may be beneficial for dogs with osteosarcoma (the most common bone cancer). And more good news: it may also help several other cancers.

Studies have shown this herb can help chemotherapy do its job, and may also target cancer directly!

Let’s take a closer look at using artemisinin for dogs with cancer because there are several things to consider.

From Malaria to Cancer

Artemisinin is most famous for treating malaria infections.

It is derived from sweet wormwood, which has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat fevers.

Chinese scientist YouYou Tu even won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for her discovery of the compound and its anti-malarial properties.

Many drugs and remedies originally used for one thing turn out to have additional properties.

And as it turns out, artemisinin is also helpful in the fight against cancer.

How Artemisinin Works

Artemisinin reacts with iron in the body. How could that help with cancer?

Well, cancer cells take up more iron than normal body cells, because of their habit of rapidly dividing.

More Iron Uptake Creates Free Radicals Which Damage Cancer Cells

This iron uptake creates free radicals, which are little unstable atoms that can cause major damage in the body.

Normally, this is not good, because we don’t want healthy cells to encounter free radicals.

But when those free radicals are in cancer cells, it’s actually a good thing.

The free radicals caused by the extra iron in cancer cells react with parts of the cancer cell to cause injury.

Since normal body cells have much less iron, they are less affected by this damage.

For more helpful information and tools, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Again, when it comes to cancer, more free radicals (inside cancer cells) is desirable.

But that’s not all that artemisinin does!

Other Artemisinin Benefits

Some of the other properties that artemisinin has shown in studies include:

Problems with Using Artemisinin

One of the challenges of using artemisinin is that it has a short half-life. That means it doesn’t stick around long.

It also has low bioavailability. This means that the digestive system may destroy it before it gets to the cancer cells where it is needed.

To help counteract these factors, some synthetic versions have been created. These forms can be more effective.

Artemisinin for Dogs

In a recent podcast (episode below), my colleague Dr. Nancy Reese, DVM, PhD, says that artemisinin has been shown to be beneficial for these cancers:

  • Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
  • Melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Rectal Cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Kidney cancer

For dogs and owners battling osteosarcoma, anything that might help is welcome!

Many of the artemisinin studies have been done in vitro (in the lab). Others have been done using human subjects.

Humans and dogs are very similar when it comes to cancer, so what helps us may help them, and vice versa.

But some artemisinin studies have used or looked at dogs.

And one study even showed increased survival times for dogs who got artemisinin.

How Much Artemisinin to Give to Dogs

We are still learning the best dosage and dosage frequency.

In the past, it has been recommended to give artemisinin for five days or so and then take five days off. This is called “pulse dosing.”

But the current general recommendation is to give a lower dose every day consistently.

This still gets good results, but with fewer side effects.

The possible dose spread is huge, vaguely around 2 to 15 mg per pound one time a day. There is much variation on recommended doses.

It’s best to work with your veterinarian about dosing artemisinin, because there is no “one best dose” and frequency that fits all dogs and all situations.

Note: Keep in mind that if you are using my other “big gun” herbal apoptogen, Apocaps, you shouldn’t use both Apocaps and artemisinin on the same day. They are both potent, and artemisinin can be hard on the stomach (see below). If you want to use both together, rotate their use.

How to Give Artemisinin to Dogs

I recommend giving artemisinin with a small amount of something with fat. This could be fish oil, krill oil, peanut butter, or cream cheese.

This is because fat helps to increase the bioavailability of artemisinin.

NOTE: as always, if your dog has pancreatitis, avoid extra fats!

Some people recommend giving artemisinin with iron-rich foods, such as red meat.

Others are concerned that the artemisinin would react with the iron in the stomach, before it can get to the cancer cells.

Because of this, I recommend giving artemisinin four hours before or after a meal. This helps make sure the artemisinin targets the iron in the cancer cells.

But as always, ask YOUR vet the best plan for your dog. Your dog may have unique needs!

No Antioxidants With Artemisinin

When your dog has cancer, you often use more than one supplement, and sometimes you use an immune booster or antioxidant supplement.

If you do, remember that artemisinin is pro-oxidant and works by creating free radicals in cancer cells.

Antioxidants can counteract artemisinin’s effects.

Antioxidants will destroy those free radicals that are killing the cancer cells.

Because of this, giving artemisinin along with antioxidants can make it less effective.

How to Choose Artemisinin for Your Dog

As with any supplement, choose your product wisely and choose a reliable brand that makes a product to human-grade standards.

The absolute best way to pursue artemisinin with your dog is to see a veterinarian who uses it regularly and can recommend a reliable product.

They’ll also be able to give you the best dose and timing schedule for your dog’s situation.

When NOT to Give Artemisinin

Artemisinin is a powerful compound and can have negative effects as well as positive ones.

  • Do not give artemisinin if your dog is getting radiation therapy. The current recommendation is to separate these two therapies by a couple months.
  • Dogs with seizure disorders also should not get artemisinin.

Overall, artemisinin is very safe with low toxicity. However, it can cause adverse effects, such as:

While we still have a lot to learn about the best dosing for artemisinin, this herbal compound has a lot of promise as an adjunctive treatment for cancer in dogs.

Best to all,

Dr. D

For more details, you can also check out the recent interview with Dr. Nancy Reese on Dog Cancer Answers.

Here is the video version of the podcast:

Have a Great Question for Dog Cancer Answers Veterinarians?

Call the Listener Line at 808-868-3200

Further Reading and References:


Anticancer and Antimalarial Efficacy and Safety of Artemisinin-Derived Trioxane Dimers in Rodents

Antitumor Activity of Artemisinin and Its Derivatives: From a Well-Known Antimalarial Agent to a Potential Anticancer Drug

Cytotoxic Effects of Artemisia annua L. and Pure Artemisinin on the D-17 Canine Osteosarcoma Cell Line

Experimental Therapy of Hepatoma with Artemisinin and Its Derivatives: In vitro and In vivo Activity, Chemosensitization, and Mechanisms of Action

Inhibition of angiogenesis in vivo and growth of Kaposi’s sarcoma xenograft tumors by the anti-malarial artesunate

Retrospective study of small pet tumors treated with Artemisia annua and iron


Leave a Comment

  1. personal injury lawsuit on July 28, 2018 at 2:03 am

    Hello to all, the contents present at this site are genuinely
    remarkable for people experience, well, keep up the nice work

  2. Joanna W on June 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Dr. Dressler,

    I know you say above in the post and in the book that you do not recommend iron to be given with artemisinin.

    But in this post I found it says all dogs referenced in the following paragraph were given iron along with the artemisinin.

    “Early Success with Canine Osteosarcoma
    Treatment with artemisinin was started on a dog with a bone cancer so severe it could not walk across the room. Within five days of treatment the dog was able to walk normally, and X-rays confirmed the disappearance of the tumor. Several dogs with lymphosarcoma had also been treated with artemisinin with an immediate reduction in tumor size. In all these canine cases, an iron supplement was used.”

    Do you know where that information on those cases mentioned can be found ?

    Thank you,

  3. bernadette on December 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Hello My 12 year old lab pit Linda was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on Oct 13 2014 after I noticed she was limping. The vet just sent me home with Toradal and 20 mg prednisone. After doing research I started her on Artenisinim. I also changed her diet to grain free. Supplements I give her include: Aloe Vera, Omega 3, Vitamin C (Intramuscular), Chlorophyll, and Vit D. I did not decide to amputate or do any chemotherapy because I did not want her to have to go through more bad side affects. She is hanging in there still gets up goes to the bathroom, still wags her tail, still excited when she sees me with her leash, she is still eating well (always has). I just rested her from the Arteminisin for 1 week and started her on the Artemix to see if any she has better results. I pray a lot for her and I am just grateful for the time we have together. It is not easy, I cry a little every day but I am learning to let her go when necessary. she has never really showed any sign of pain that made her cry or whince, she just has that sad tired look on her face. It’s a hit or miss situation, every situation is a little different , just do the best you can and love them all you can and pray they will pass away in peace. God bless you all.

  4. Joanna on April 23, 2014 at 9:02 am

    This is very interesting. i have just ordered Artemix, the compound studied by D
    rs. Lai and Singh at Wash. State. I also just started my dog on Apocaps. He has adenocarcinoma in the lung which spread to his elbow joint. He’s had five rounds of vinoralbine/palladia, which worked , then stopped working on the week they “rested” him. The new protocol being tried is carboplatin (given 2 weeks ago). I stated the Apocaps last week — so far 2 a day because he’s also on piroxicam, although my oncologist said there was no need to reduce the Apocaps dose. I’m trying to play it safe, however, due to his sensitive stomach. I’m increasing the Apocaps to 3 per day for a few days and see how that goes. But I’d like to add the Artemix — what say you, Dr. Dressler — you are the only one out there who “speaks” to we guardians who find ourselves in an often frustrating morass of double-talk. I don’t want to keep this see-saw of chemo going. He’s scheduled to alternate the carbo w/ adriamycin next week … until that stops working. So, I’d like to try and use nutraceuticals that won’t conflict with the “science,” but at the same time, do a complete switch to nutraceuticals like Apocaps, Artemix and maybe K-9 Immunity in the next few weeks. I honestly do not believe my boy will have a better quality of life living week to week on poisons at this point.

  5. Amber Schooley on November 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Does artemisinin work on lymphosarcoma? I have seen studies including bone, skin, breast, and even prostate cancer, but I don’t see much on lymphosarcoma

  6. Susan Kazara Harper on September 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Tony,
    On page 171 of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr Dressler addresses using other powerful apoptogens as follows; “Using potent wormwood preparations such as artemisinin, Artemix or artemether at the same time as Apocaps, has not been evaluated for safety, so it is not recommended. If you choose to use wormwood preparations, use them in alternation with Apocaps, on a rotating schedule of five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), five days on artemisinin (and stop Apocaps), five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), and so on”. There is much more in the guide which I think may help you on this journey, but I hope this quoted section addresses your current question. All the best to you both.

  7. Tony on September 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Dr. Dressler
    Do you feel it is possible to take Apocaps along with Artemix? I’m not certain of the toxicity levels of either and would like to know you thoughts on the toxicity levels of Apocaps. I am currently giving my 8 yr old Rottie (osteosarcoma) 3 Apocaps – 3x per day. I am thinking of trying Artemix as well.

    Many thanks

  8. Tony on September 20, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Can we use Apocaps and Artesiminin?

    • Susan Kazara Harper on September 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Hello Tony, The easy answer is yes, you can use both Apocaps and Artemisinin but in a rotational basis (not on the same days), but the longer answer actually lies in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide on pages 170 through 175. Artemisinin is a powerful apoptogen and can potentially cause nausea in some dogs. In all cases, please make sure you consult with your veterinarian about the nutraceuticals you wish to use. Good luck!

  9. Melinda on May 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Hi, Dr Dressler,
    I have written before with my dog, Paco a PWD with AGA with mets to lymph nodes. Just to refresh, they can’t do surgery because lymph nodes in tricky place… said was too invasive. I went to see Dr. Ettinger, but the price for the CT scan and then potential surgery was too much for me. Also, the Palladia would’ve been too expensive. I’m sorry to say… So we’ve been going to Holistic Vet who recommended 300 mg Arteminisin 2x’s a day. I’ve only been able to do the night dosage and the other morning he threw up and had diarrhea. I’m pretty sure from the Arte, since all else has been good. But with work and travel I cannot keep up the cancer diet and he won’t eat it anyway. So I’m mixing some Orijin 6 fish with cooked meat. I try to vary it but he’s picky and as you say in your book, better that he eats something than nothing. I can’t even get the fish oil in him without bad diarrhea. Anyway, back to the Arte… Dr. Singh says you don’t have to pulse it and it should be given on empty stomach. But Paco def needs something in his stomach or it gets upset. (I give pepcid ac in the am but prob should do a night dose too) Is there a snack that is good for this? I give a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese and then put the arte in philly cream cheese balls. That’s helpful… but any suggestions as to what I can give him to help with the upset stomach would be greatly appreciated. He’s been doing well on that dosage, though I notice some fast breathing that seems to lessen when we take a day or so break. I have Apopcaps but as I said, I haven’t done the 5 days on/off as you say because of what Dr. Singh recommends. Sooo confusing!!!
    He’s also on Carsinosin, Cancer formula by Animal Nutrition… Quercenol and K9 immunity plus. I just read that you don’t rec that one! oy.
    Well, appreciate your thoughts…

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 30, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Melinda
      has your vet discussed an antiemetic like mirtazapine or metaclopramide with you?
      I’d be thinking along these lines right now
      Dr D

  10. Pat on April 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

    My dog was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma. I was interested in your blog.


Scroll To Top