When your dog is diagnosed with canine cancer, there is a lot to learn and consider as you try to work with your veterinarian on a treatment plan. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many dog owners as cancer accounts for fifty percent of deaths for canines over ten years old. Though it is difficult to see your pet undergo cancer treatment, it is necessary. However, there are now alternative treatment methods available to try for many types of cancer, including lymphoma.
What is Lymphoma?
Understanding what cancer is, specifically lymphoma, and how it is treated traditionally is an important part of being able to evaluate the legitimacy of holistic treatments for dogs with lymphoma. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide rapidly and destroy healthy tissue within the body. There are almost as many types of cancer as types of cells in the body, but some of the most commonly seen in canines are bone cancer, skin cancer, lymphoma, mouth and throat cancer, hemangiosarcoma (cancer that arises in the linings of the blood vessels), and breast cancer.
Lymphoma, therefore, is cancer of the lymphatic system. This bodily system is a network of tissues and organs which help rid your pet’s body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
As with all canine cancers, lymphoma is more effectively treated when caught early. So, keeping an eye on your pup and taking note of these symptoms will help ensure the development of lymphoma is caught sooner rather than later:
- Enlarged lymph nodes, such as the mandibular lymph nodes (under the jaw) and the popliteal lymph nodes (behind the knee) which are the easiest to locate
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
- Swelling of the face or legs, known as edema
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
The most common treatment therapy for canine lymphoma is chemotherapy and it is one of the most effective methods. The type of chemotherapy your vet recommends will vary depending on the type of cancer, and in some cases the vet may also suggest radiation therapy or surgery. The most common side effects of chemotherapy in dogs are mild vomiting and diarrhea, decreased appetite, and decreased activity levels. However, watching your dog go through treatment can be difficult so you may choose to consider holistic treatments for dogs with lymphoma.
Holistic Treatment Options
If you decide to incorporate alternative treatment methods into your dog’s care plan, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Many holistic treatments can be used in conjunction with more conventional methods to help aid recovery or ease suffering.
- Electrochemotherapy is one option that some vets may consider using instead of traditional chemotherapy. This involves using small doses of systemic or intralesional chemotherapy followed by electric pulses which are applied to the tumor. The process of applying electric pulses increases the cancer cells’ absorption of the chemotherapy resulting in a more effective treatment. Most vets, however, choose to use electrochemotherapy as part of the post-operative treatment plan following a tumor removal given that it is a relatively untested method.
- Chinese Veterinary Medicine is likely most effective when used in conjunction with a western medical treatment plan. Though only recently introduced in practice to the United States, the Chinese use of herbs, acupuncture, and other elements has been used to care for animals for thousands of years in other parts of the world. Further, recent research at the University of Pennsylvania found that dogs treated with the Coriolus Versicolor mushroom, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, had “the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.”
- Diet & Nutrition can play a huge role in your dog’s ability to recover but, unfortunately, most commercial dog foods do not provide proper nutrition for our dogs. In general, they are loaded with byproducts and fillers which contain no nutritional value. As a result, some believe that adjusting your dog’s diet and preparing more natural whole foods can improve your dog’s prognosis. However, cancer experts at The Mayo Clinic have not found conclusive evidence that diet has a strong impact on cancer, especially lymphoma, growth. Talk to your vet for recommendations on how to choose dog food that’s right for your furry companion.
- Hyperbaric Therapy places your dog in a chamber where the oxygen levels can be increased higher than possible under natural circumstances. As a result, the levels of oxygen are absorbed and dissolved into the blood at higher levels which can help your dog slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.
- Clinical Trials help veterinary researchers identify new and more effective cancer treatments which can prolong the life of dogs with cancer. As a result, they are always looking for volunteers to participate in their studies, and usually at no cost to the dog’s owner. Try searching for clinical trials in your area that are specifically focused on holistic treatments for dogs with lymphoma.