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

What Is Full Spectrum Cancer Care?

Updated: October 10th, 2018


How does Full Spectrum Cancer Care differ from conventional, holistic, or alternative care? It drops the bias and embraces tools from any system of medicine that have been shown to help fight cancer.

The full spectrum approach is embodied by avoiding personal bias. This means that we do not want to exclude things that may help our dogs just because we don’t like where the information came from. – Demian Dressler, DVM, author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

In Full Spectrum cancer care, we drop any bias we might have, and just focus on what can help our dogs.

The Full Spectrum approach is based on the work of Dr. Demian Dressler, respected veterinarian and author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. He, along with his veterinary oncologist co-author Dr. Susan Ettinger, believes that when it comes to cancer — the number one killer of dogs — we shouldn’t care where a tool, trick, or strategy comes from.

We should care about whether that tool can help our dogs. There are tools from all over the “full spectrum” of treatments that might help our dogs — and they should all be up for consideration as you and your veterinarian come up with a treatment plan for your dog.

Whether a tool comes from conventional medicine, the most recent research, folk wisdom, herbal traditions from around the world, or our own instincts as humans who adore dogs, there are literally dozens of strategies that can help a dog with cancer, and more research is coming out every year. Will every single surgery, supplement, mind-body technique, or change in diet help every single dog? Not necessarily. Every dog is different, and every cancer case is different.

Our job as dog lovers — or Guardians, as Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger call us — is to sift through the evidence for what may help, consult with our veterinarians, and make a plan.

This open-minded, non-biased approach to medicine is the foundation of Dr. Dressler’s approach to canine cancer care, and it’s already changed how dogs across the world are coping with cancer.

Most veterinarians think of themselves as a specific “type” of practitioner. There are conventional veterinarians, alternative veterinarians, holistic veterinarians … and each of these has valuable tools for use in fighting canine cancer.

Sometimes, though, we can get invested in one set of tools, and reject all others. For example, sometimes Guardians find out that our veterinarian is only interested in using conventional tools like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, while dismissing tools such as improved diet, supplements, and mind-body techniques. Other times we find our holistic veterinarian resistant to using conventional treatments.

In Full Spectrum care, we look at the evidence, and don’t worry about whether the treatment is too weird or outside the box. As of right now, we don’t have a sure-fire cure for systemic cancers. And so, why be rigid about where the help comes from?

Every cancer case is unique to the dog who’s dealing with the illness. And it’s also true that there are commonalities among ALL cancer cases.

In Full Spectrum cancer care, Dr. Dressler and his veterinary oncologist Dr. Ettinger examine ALL of the tools. In their book, they write about those that have been shown in peer-reviewed literature (and/or in clinical practice) to be helpful for dogs with cancer.

Conventional western medical tools are certainly included in Full Spectrum cancer care. However, many tools from outside of what Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger learned at Cornell University’s #1 ranked College of Veterinary Medicine are also included in their approach.

In their book they also include the very BEST options from:

  • nutrition
  • alternative medicine
  • botanical nutraceuticals
  • supplements
  • strategic immune system boosts
  • emotional management strategies
  • cutting edge mind-body medicine techniques that deliberately modify brain chemistry to help fight cancer

Not every tool is appropriate for every dog, of course. But when Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger look at cancer from a Full Spectrum, bird’s eye view, they see big patterns that point the way to a five step approach to treating cancer that is comprehensive and helpful for every dog, no matter the diagnosis or prognosis.

You can watch this video to hear the doctors speak about Full Spectrum medicine:

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