Understanding the Holistic Approach to Canine Cancer

Understanding the Holistic Approach to Canine Cancer

When treating a dog with cancer, there are conventional, integrative, and holistic options. Conventional options often involve surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. Holistic options generally involve homeopathy, healing herbs and spices, and other natural remedies. Integrative medicine combines the two.

If you have studied cancer, even slightly, you likely noticed the conventional options are highly emphasized with little to no information available regarding natural options.

It’s important to emphasize here, there’s no ‘one’ best treatment. Every dog reacts differently, just as every person will react differently to each type of treatment. What works for one dog may not work for another. It’s ultimately the pet parent’s responsibility to determine what they want to try- with the guidance of a conventional, integrative, or alternative veterinarian or oncologist.

Conventional Methods

Chemotherapy in dogs isn’t how you would imagine it. In people, we see illness from the chemotherapy drugs, loss of hair, vomiting, and nausea, among other symptoms. In dogs, there are rarely symptoms, and if there are any, they are generally gone within 24-48 hours. This is because, in people, the maximum allotted amount of the chemo drug is provided. In dogs, the chemotherapy isn’t as aggressive.

The overall goal of chemo is to reduce cancer chemically while providing the highest quality of life possible.

a vet treating a sick dog
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

In some patients, chemo is the only option due to intolerability of other alternatives. Other times, there is the time, the desire, and the need for alternative medicine. Some dogs have great success with natural courses of treatment, whereas others must be geared toward a more conventional method.

As mentioned above, other conventional methods aside from chemo include radiation and surgery. We will discuss these in another article or you may research them yourself (or feel free to contact us with any questions).


A nutraceutical is a purified substance, generally dietary, from a natural source which yields some sort of health benefit to your dog (or to us). They’re almost always found in a more potent form than that found in nature, but they are still known to be natural methodologies.

There is a bit of frustration that accompanies a nutraceutical versus a pharmaceutical. A pharmaceutical’s health effects can often be seen rather quickly. Unlike pharmaceutical medicines, nutraceuticals take time to build up in the body to reach their maximum impact. But, nutraceuticals often have significantly less side effects (if any).


Curcumin is one of the main nutraceuticals discussed when it comes to dogs with cancer. Curcumin is a compound found in a common Indian spice known as turmeric (found in the root). Curcumin is well-known for being antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It’s also known to possess anti-cancer properties. Specifically, curcumin is known for the following:

  • In low doses, curcumin is known to be an antioxidant. At high doses, curcumin becomes a pro-oxidant. Pro-oxidants cause free radicals to form which may destroy cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone (chemo destroys the cancer, but destroys the healthy cells in the process)
  • Curcumin increases cell suicide (apoptosis): Cancer cells do not commit cell suicide which is why they grow uncontrollably. Normal cells die when they reach the end of their lives. Cancer cells do not. Curcumin assists in this process.
  • Cancer is known to build it’s own blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis, but curcumin has been found to slow or stop angiogenesis in cancer cells. Without angiogenesis, the cancer cells starve.

CBD for Dog Cancer

CBD has been found to turn on the ‘apoptosis’ or cell suicide switch in cancer cells, therefore, stopping further tumor growth. By turning on the apoptosis switch, metastasis (spread of the cancer) is more likely to slow or stop. As Curcumin has shown above as well, CBD can prevent angiogenesis to further encourage the starvation of cancer cells. Without the ability to create blood vessels, cancer cells are unable to “eat.” More research needs to be done regarding CBD for dog cancer, but it’s definitely showing some promise.

For additional information regarding CBD for various ailments, and to better understand CBD, visit CBD Dog Health for more information from Dr. Zac Pilossoph (Chief Veterinary Officer) and Angela Ardolino (Founder).

Nutrition is Critical to Your Dog’s Health

Determining the best nutritional balance for your dog may be difficult in the beginning, but working with a nutritionist or alternative veterinarian could prove to be extremely beneficial in getting on the right path sooner. You would be surprised with how significant nutrition is in regard to canine cancer. The right diet could make a world of difference.

As a general guideline, carbohydrates should be extremely limited. Cancer has a sweet tooth, and carbohydrates are basically sugar in disguise. Most every nutritionist will recommend a diet high in protein, moderate to high fat, and low carbohydrates.

Note: Commercial kibble (like dog food found in the store) is chocked full of carbohydrates and is known to increase both the risk of cancer and the growth of cancer in dogs.

To learn more about canine cancer and nutrition, watch the video below with Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib:

Best wishes and much love to all of you! -Drake Dog Cancer Foundation

Published by Amber L. Drake

Dr. Amber L. Drake is a celebrated author and a distinguished cancer specialist, renowned for her comprehensive research in canine cancer prevention and nutrition. She is widely recognized for her commitment to helping dogs lead long and joyful lives, as well as for her contributions to veterinary medicine education. As the CEO of Canine Companions Co., the Founder of the Drake Dog Cancer Foundation and Academy, and the Co-Founder of Preferable Pups, she has become a respected and influential figure in the canine community, earning the admiration and respect of dog enthusiasts around the globe.

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