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

Disruptive Stress and Dog Cancer

Updated: August 14th, 2019

disruptive stress and dog cancerCoping with dog cancer is extremely stressful.

Certain life events, like coping with dog cancer in your loved family member, create such stress that it actually disrupts normal thinking.  This is called “disruptive stress.”

This is very natural and common.

However, disruptive stress has been shown to have a real negative effect. Disruptive stress creates certain changes in the mind that can interfere with clear decision making. Clear decision making in canine cancer is critical in improving life quality and longevity for your dog.

When a person is experiencing a disruptive stress, the brain has the tendency to shift to a certain type of thinking.  This kind of thinking relies on what are called “rules of thumb”.

A rule of thumb is exactly what is sounds like.  It is a general guiding principle that uses very little incoming information to create a decision.  A rule of thumb is often created in someone’s mind based on little actual data or awareness of the situation at hand.

This can be problematic when coping with dog cancer.  A guardian is suddenly placed in a situation where they are forced to make complex decisions involving many factors.

When the mind experiences disruptive stress and rules of thumb are used for these decisions, errors can be made.

Here are some rules of thumb:

  • “Antibiotics are poison.”
  • “Diet has no effect on diseases”
  • “Chemotherapy is bad.”
  • “Acupuncture has no effect.”
  • “If a lump does not change size, it is safe.”
  • “Nutraceutical supplements have no effect on the body.”
  • “Lifestyle has no effect on the immune system.”

These are all beliefs that, as generalities, are false.

Information gathering is central to making decisions in dog cancer. We cannot process information properly when we are experiencing disruptive stress.

For this reason,  several techniques in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide are designed to lessen disruptive stress.  These include Three Deep Breaths, Fire Bellows Breathing, meditation, Cheat Day, Massage Message, Pledge of Thanks, and Life Story.

When these are used, they help lessen disruptive stress to help you be the best Guardian you can be.


Dr D


Leave a Comment

  1. Texas Julia on September 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Dr. Dressler,

    Thanks so much for all of this great information! Avery is our 12.5 year old “mutt” who, after 3 weeks of testing, was diagnosed with stage 4 b-cell lymphoma yesterday. It is in her liver & spleen, and all lymph nodes. We thought we were going to say goodbye to her today after learning this devastating news, but our wonderful oncologist vet told us not to give up. “She’s back there wiggling, and smiling – don’t give up on her yet!” We started the Wisconsin-Madison Protocal today, and we are amazed at the turn around. Watching my father die of a sarcoma cancer, I’m a firm believer in nutrition, and have fed her high end canned/kibble through her life. I’ve switched to your diet as of today – just wondering your thoughts on the product, Dinovite? I’ve used it for years with great results for her allergies, and overall well-being. That being said, now that we are in a cancer state, I would appreciate your professional insight. It does have dried yeast as the 4th ingredient. I just bought the liquid supplement – and will gladly donate it to someone in need if this is something that will not help Avery get (and stay) in remission. Thanks so much! Avery’s Mom – Julia

    • DemianDressler on September 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      Dear Julia,
      I went to the site but the ingredient page was down, so I can’t comment on it with respect to canine cancer. I would say though if it has anti oxidants there could be some theoretical interference with certain chemotherapy drugs as well as apocaps. Are you also paying attention to immune support? Have you read the Guide yet?
      Just wanted to be sure

  2. Heather on August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Dr. Dressler, what is causing me the most stress is the overwhelming fear that I have with making the wrong decisions in all the decisions I am suddenly having to make, and having to make them all so quickly without yet having had time to do all the research. Yet, I am scared that if I wait to read and find out information that might be lost time I could be taking towards fighting my dog’s cancer. I have a female standard poodle 7 years old that was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. 3 and a half weeks ago we found the lump in he back leg, took her for X-rays the next day (monday), had her in the oncologist the following day (tuesday) and her amputation was that same Friday. She came through amazing and the tumor was biopsied after leg removal and was found to be cancerous. Now we are faced with treatment options, which we want to pursue and I don’t know where to begin. How do I determine what is the next step? I have had an oncology appointment for the chemo and gotten those options, and I have an appointment with the holistic vet to discuss nutrition. Can I get her started on supplements already at this point, namely the apocaps. What else can she start taking now? Another source of stress for me is putting her on proper food. She has protein allergies and is on a hydrolized protein dog food. How can I do a cancer diet and still not cause her to have allergy flareups? I have all these questions and don’t know the right order in which to do things and don’t know how to determine the best course of action. We want to do everything right to prolong her life as long as we can. I am afraid that if we wait to read or do research, the cancer is going to pop up in her lungs and it will be too late. By the way, the blood work, X-rays and ultrasounds of her lymph nodes all came back clean. I am reading your book now and it’s great. I am just overwhelmed with all info and choices and I am an action person. How do I know what is best for her so we can get her down the path of treatment? One more thing…I have ready about Essaic Tea. Have you had any experience with this and what is your thoughts on it?

  3. Ros on July 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Dear Dr Dressler I am from London, United Kingdom and am a desperate dog owner who is confused and effectively seeking an opinion that is unbias and open, one that considers all that is effective. I know you are the person for that. I spent hours over the past couple of days looking at your material/ videos…

    I have a beautiful miniature poodle (Travis), male, 6 yrs old. He has recently been unwell, he had a 6.5cm spleenic mass that had ruptured resulting in a complete splenectomy. The problem I have is as follows:

    The surgery was June 28th, to date we still do not have a ‘definitive’ diagnosis on the biopsy.

    1st pathologist said they had 95% of confidence the mass was ‘lymphoma B type’- after running ‘stains’ they communicated that IF this is a lymphoma it was definately Bytype, but still not 100% clarity.

    2nd pathologist said they were 100% confident it was a lymphoma Btype.

    3rd Lab in Michigan ran PCR based clonality tests and concluded with 75% of confidence that the mass was NOT lymphoma.

    We have asked for a Thymidine Kinase blood test (results pending for July 29th) and we may be visiting an oncologist. I say may because I am not convinced that is the right course of action, we need an ‘open mind’ to look at what is going on.

    Do you have any suggestions?? I am desperate. We are giving Travis wheatgrass, 1000mg vit c, flax oil/cottage cheese (all daily).

    Pease can you help us?

    Best Wishes,


    • DemianDressler on July 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      Dear Ros,
      I assume the PCR was PARR? If so, there is a 25% false negative incidence. Thus a negative test result will miss what is really there one quarter of the time. If the other two pathologists concluded lymphoma, I would go with that personally.
      Given this, you would likely want to consider the chemo options for this cancer. You will also want to use an appropriate dog cancer diet (see pdf above, or ND), apoptogens, fatty acids that may have more benefit like krill or salmon oil, immune support such as modified citrus pectin, consider melatonin with the chemo, and deliberately increase life quality daily. You may want to read the Guide, which has done the work of assessing the various supplements and so on for you. You can search the blog using the search bar in the upper right as well.
      I hope this helps,

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