In Part I of our Pets and Cancer blog, we provided proactive measures you can take to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer in your pets. Although being proactive with your pet’s care is a good idea, sometimes they develop cancer regardless of the care we have given them. There are so many factors that contribute to or cause cancer that it’s often impossible to know why or how your pet fell ill. If your pet does develop cancer, we encourage you to adopt an integrative approach to treatment which includes considering both Western intervention and holistic therapies. Being aware of your options is the first step in obtaining the best care possible. In human medicine, the most highly esteemed hospitals and medical centers in the country now offer an integrative approach to treating cancer, including cancer support therapies like acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, chiropractic care, and holistic nutrition. Pet owners often ask us “How can holistic medicine help my pet with cancer?”
The Benefits of Holistic Therapies in the Treatment of Cancer:
- Immune system support:
Supporting immune system function is essential. The body needs its strength to fight rapidly multiplying cancer cells. If your pet is on chemotherapy, the immune system is further taxed by the drugs meant to fight cancer. Since chemotherapy also kills healthy cells in the body, one of the challenges facing oncologists is keeping your animal’s healthy cell counts high enough so that your pet can complete the chemo treatment. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help maintain healthy blood cell counts. Certain herbs are useful in promoting the formation of blood cells, such as Dang Gui, Ji Xue Teng, and Bai Shao. Many herbal and nutritional supplements also have cancer-fighting properties that can inhibit cancer cells and bolster immune function.
- Reduces chemotherapy side effects:
Nausea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue are common side effects of chemo drugs. Nausea and vomiting often interfere with a cancer patient’s ability to maintain proper caloric intake. If the body becomes too malnourished and weak, the patient may not be able to continue with the recommended dose of chemotherapy. Therefore reducing nausea and fatigue is important in helping your pet succeed in completing their treatments. It can also greatly improve the quality of life for your pet. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can alleviate nausea and vomiting, reduce pain, and improve energy levels. Acupuncture point Pericardium 6, or Neiguan, is a classic point for nausea. It is used to smooth and circulate energy in the body and soothe the stomach. Chiropractic care can also help manage bone, muscle, and joint pain, and can improve mobility and strength issues. Chiropractic care can also promote relaxation and overall wellbeing.
- Reduces radiation side effects:
Radiation therapy can commonly cause skin problems that are painful or itchy. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help reduce inflammation, soothe irritation, and promote tissue healing. Herbal formulas may be used internally and topically to address skin problems.
- Stress reduction:
Chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, and herbal therapy can all help to relax the animal and reduce the anxiety and fear that often accompanies invasive or uncomfortable treatments. Since stress can also inhibit immune function, it’s important to address the mind-body connection when treating cancer. Complementary therapies can assist in making the animal as comfortable as possible for the duration of their treatments. Acupuncture and massage trigger the release of chemical substances called endorphins, or “endogenous morphine,” which reduce pain levels.