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

Supplements for Dogs with Cancer

Updated: May 15th, 2024


There are dozens of supplements that are supposed to help with cancer. How do you know which ones are worth using with your own dog?

We once heard Dr. Demian Dressler, veterinarian and author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, tell “Ask Dr. Dressler” webinar members something very interesting…

“Nature has already invented the wheel – it’s just our job to find it.”

Dr. Dressler credited Albert Einstein with the original insight. Dr. Einstein once said:

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

What this means, Dr. Dressler explained, is that even though veterinarians typically use synthetic drugs that were created in a lab, nature still has much to offer us.

Over his decades of research and clinical experience, Dr. Dressler has seen many substances help many dogs.

Some of those substances are created in laboratories, bottled and sold as pharmaceutical drugs.

Other substances are found and easily absorbed when they’re in the diet.

And others are easily found in the supplements section of your local health food store or online in The Dog Cancer Shop.

When Dr. Dressler was developing his formula for Apocaps, the nutraceutical (a very potent supplement) he designed, he asked Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney to help him with the research. Dr. Johnson-Delaney is an expert in exotic animals and known internationally for her work. She has contributed to several veterinary textbooks, and also has a background as a pharmaceutical testing expert, which makes her a recognized expert on veterinary drugs and nutraceuticals. She actually lectures to other vets about the subject.

So when Dr. Johnson-Delaney reported she was “very pleased” with her experiences using Apocaps with animals in her clinic (see Chapter 12 for more details), Dr. Dressler asked her if she was surprised that Apocaps had such an effect.

Actually, she said, she wasn’t.

Dr. Johnson-Delaney pointed out that some natural substances are just as effective as pharmaceuticals, but they are not patentable, so they slip through the cracks and “don’t make the evening news.” Dr. Johnson-Delaney also said that some countries regulate natural substances and officially approve their uses for diseases because they are potent and viable therapeutics. Our own FDA only just recently began a process for regulating botanicals and lags behind other countries in this regard.

She also pointed out that nutraceuticals operate according to the laws of chemistry, just like pharmaceuticals do.

When you look at the substances from the chemistry viewpoint and study their actions in the body, she said, it quickly becomes obvious what is therapeutic – and what is not.

You should know that when Dr. Dressler first started researching dog cancer he did not expect to recommend as many supplements as he does.

“My personal bible for dog cancer — used it three times now 🙁 but it helped each time.” – Sally M.

It just wasn’t in his background. His training and education at Cornell Veterinary School, which is ranked number one year after year by U.S. News & World Report, did not prepare him for using natural supplements and substances in his work.

But as he looked at peer-reviewed literature, and he started to understand how these things work in the body, and more importantly, he started to use them with his own dogs in his own clinic, he changed his mind.

Supplements like Apocaps, which includes several nutraceuticals, like luteolin, curcumin, and apigenin, may be an important part of any dog cancer treatment.

In particular, Apocaps can usually be used in any dog cancer case, because it can be used as a standalone nutraceutical, or to support chemotherapy and radiation treatments. There are chapters dedicated to this and other nutraceuticals in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, but the thing to know now is that while most of us tend to think that antioxidants are very good for the health, it’s not so simple when it comes to cancer.

Instead, we often want to use pro-oxidant strategies for cancer, because they can help cancer cells become unstable and commit natural cell suicide, or undergo apoptosis. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are also pro-oxidants, although they can also produce many unwanted side effects.

As a pro-oxidant nutraceutical, Apocaps can usually be used along with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which is why so many vets recommend it. It can also help on its own, as a palliative. Of course, you should ask your own vet about using this and any other supplement for your specific dog with your dog’s specific cancer.

Like any other treatment covered in Full Spectrum cancer care, Apocaps may not be appropriate for every dog. Every dog, every cancer, and every case is different. Every technique or strategy will not “work” in every case.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a “cure” yet for most cancers – and so it’s important to note that we’re talking about supplements that can help and have helped hundreds of thousands of dogs – but we’re not making blanket recommendations for your dog. You have to do your own research, and you have to ask your vet – because supplements like these, which are covered in the book, are not just “nice.”

They’re doing something! And they interact with other medications, treatments, and health conditions.

So please, do your research and ask your vet about the following:

If your dog is already on supplements, make sure you look them up, too. If they’re not included in the sections about Dr. Dressler’s approach and what he’s found has helped dogs the most, it may be for a couple of reasons.

Appendix B: Excluded Supplements, starts on page 415, and it lists nearly fifty supplements that Dr. Dressler has looked at and decided not to include. That may be for one or more of several reasons:

  • The supplement might interfere with more important therapies. Many antioxidants are excluded from Dr. Dressler’s approach, because they actually can interfere with cancer treatment. Antioxidants can be very helpful for a healthy dog, but some may actually not be good for a sick dog.
  • Unconvincing evidence. Dr. Dressler is big on peer-reviewed literature. If he can’t find peer-reviewed papers, the anecdotal evidence on the supplement has to be extremely convincing, for Dr. Dressler to recommend it across the board.
  • Not effective when given by mouth. You’d be surprised at how many supplements would be fantastic if injected into tumors, but are totally ineffective when given by mouth.
  • Bioavailability issues. If a supplement gets broken down by the digestive system or the liver, before it can get to the bloodstream, Dr. Dressler doesn’t include it.
  • Questionable safety. Dr. Dressler can’t recommend supplements that don’t have demonstrated safety records.
  • Batch variability. This is something that many of us don’t realize is a big problem with supplements. Some supplements don’t have the same amount of active ingredients in each capsule, because they aren’t carefully formulated. Others contain herbs that are potent at one time of year, but not if harvested at another. Others may be cut with lots of fillers. Depending upon a lot of different factors, batch variability can at best make a supplement less effective, or at worst cause a danger to dogs.
  • Unsafe with common treatments. Some supplements can cause more serious problems when combined with other common medications or treatments.
  • Impractical dosing requirements. If a supplement requires mega-doses to be effective, it can be really hard to get a dog to take them.
  • Unreasonable pricing. Every supplement costs something, but a few – especially some with questionable helpfulness – are priced so high that Dr. Dressler excluded them.
  • Research not available in English. Many supplements from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, and aboriginal medical systems were excluded just because Dr. Dressler can’t really evaluate them, because the available research is not written in a language he understands. This does NOT mean that they are not used or useful – just that you would want to consult with a real expert in those fields for their use.

To wrap this up, keep in mind that just because supplements don’t come out of a pharmaceutical lab doesn’t mean they aren’t potent.

Supplements can be potent and helpful, not helpful at all, or even potent and harmful in certain circumstances.

And more of a good thing is not necessarily better. That’s why Dr. Dressler includes general dosing guidelines for each supplement he recommends. Check with your veterinarian to see what the doses should be for your dog, of course.

We’re not going to promise you that every one of the thousands of supplements out there is helpful for cancer, or is covered in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, but we will promise you that the supplements that Dr. Dressler has found to be most helpful, least harmful, and most compatible with other common sense cancer treatments are included.

Including supplements in your dog’s cancer treatment plan can be a little uncomfortable if your vet is not “into” supplements. However, it’s really important to consider their use in treating your dog cancer.

You’ll find plenty of good research, including the scientific papers Dr. Dressler uses to rationalize his choices, in the book. You’ll also get plenty of information about how to talk to your vet like the Pack Leader you are.

After changing your dog’s diet, there is nothing more satisfying than giving natural supplements that can help your dog. It’s something you can do, yourself, every day, and feel good about contributing to your dog’s health care. For example, those of us who have seen what Apocaps can do now give our dogs EverPup, the other supplement Dr. Dressler designed. EverPup is for healthy dogs. It’s got low-doses of many of the same ingredients in Apocaps, plus other herbs and minerals that help our healthy dogs stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. And our dogs go crazy for the taste (it’s a powder, we just add it to their food).

Look, you don’t have to go crazy and give everything under the sun to your dog with cancer. Most dog owners are happy with the results from just two or three, carefully chosen supplements. That’s especially true when supplements are combined with the other steps in Full Spectrum care: Conventional Treatments, Diet, and Brain Chemistry Modification.

Best Wishes & Doggy Kisses from Our Homes to Yours,

Dog Cancer Vet Team

(The Team of Dog Lovers Who Understand What It Means to Have a Dog with Cancer)

Leave a Comment

  1. Amy Lease on August 21, 2022 at 10:45 am

    My 13 yo female Dachshund mix was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her urethra about 2 weeks ago. She kept getting UTIs and our vet just kept treating with antibiotics. My gut told me it was something more and we switched vets and they were able to find the tumor right away. I’ve been feeding her the Full Spectrum Dog Cancer Diet Recipe and I am waiting on the book to arrive so I can read the whole thing. I just have a question about the Calcium Citrate. I am making the full recipe even tho she is only 18 lbs. She and my other Dachshund mix eat it even tho he does not have cancer so it makes for about 6-7 days of food for us since they are fed twice a day. Anyway back to the Calcium Citrate. It says 8 tablets in the mixture ingredients on pg 208 and 12 tablets for Citracal Maximum in the copy on page 211. It seems like a lot but for a batch of food that big I suppose it makes sense. I was hoping for a link to buy the right kind of calcium like there is for the other supplements. How do I calculate how much calcium to use?

    • Molly Jacobson on August 27, 2022 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Amy — if you are feeding the chicken necks and/or calcium and using a supplement like EverPup as a multivitamin, that’s the preferred way to go. The reality is that calcium is something that could go too much or too low depending upon other factors, so especially since you are sharing food with your other dog, I’d just leave it out and skip the math.

  2. Bevan Manson on October 25, 2021 at 11:50 am

    Would Apocaps, since they contain curcumin, be appropriate for a dog about to undergo surgery (in a week)?
    Not sure, but I thought curcumin (turmeric) was not advised for in that situation.
    Thank you

  3. Patricia Smith-Rosen on April 20, 2020 at 6:03 am

    My 10 yr 9 month old 80 lb neutered male yellow Labrador was just diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his tongue. We do not yet know if surgery will be possible given the location on the right mid lower tongue area. Preserving the use of his tongue is paramount for him to have a good quality of life. (He’s a Lab! Food is his passion!!) His diet is the Volhard AM Porridge/PM Crumble combination of premixes. He gets them reversed because he is a low energy dog, so PM with meat or fish for breakfast, and AM with whole milk yogurt and steamed veggies for dinner. I have learned through reading Survival Guide book that I should stop giving him the sweeter, higher carb fruits and veggies, and move to the recommended veggies and berries. Sauerkraut has been recommended by Volhard as well and he has no problem eating it.
    He takes Myristin, Flexadin, Hepato support, Concentrated Body Sore (Chinese Med), Vitamin B complex powder. We are considering ordering CBD medicine from King Harvest, as well.
    I do not know if the oncologist we will see tomorrow is familiar at all with Apocaps or these other supplements, so I need to ask if you know if any of them will interfere or magnify the effect of Apocaps. We want to do all we can to balance his quality of life and life expectancy.
    Thank you so much.

    • Molly Jacobson on April 20, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Aloha Patricia, thanks for writing. I’m not a veterinarian, so I can’t direct your course of treatments for your dog, but I will say that generally, yes, low-carb diet is the best for dogs with cancer. As for combining all those herbs, I’m not familiar with the TCM supplement, and for the others the only thing I see as overlapping Apocaps benefits is possibly the milk thistle supplement (milk thistle is in Apocaps). Now, if your boy needs extra liver support, your vet might think that Apocaps will be fine to add-in, or maybe he/she will want to replace the Hepato Support with Apocaps instead. But I would be very sure to get your vet’s guidance on all of these, because every dog is different and their different health issues can modify plans. There really is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. If your vet wants to consult with Dr. Dressler directly, the best way to do that is via email (it’s a courtesy consult for professionals) Type DVM before with the @ sign in between. I hope that helps!

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