When my English Bulldog Georgia was diagnosed with cancer at only four years old, I knew that there was virtually nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. No treatment, no alternative therapy, and no specialty supplement was out of the question. If it could help her and she was up for it, we would make it happen. Before her cancer diagnosis, I had practically no awareness whatsoever of Traditional Chinese Medicine, glandulars, Bach flower essences, medicinal mushrooms or Reiki. But, in the course of her cancer fight, I abandoned any prejudices I may have had and we ended up trying all of these things. In general, we found that they all contributed to her overall well-being and helped her to stay better for longer. Some worked better than others, but they all played an important role.
Some traditionalists might say that the aggressive chemotherapy is what kept her cancer at bay, and the alternative treatments were “harmless”, but not the real reason behind her successful 13 month battle against the disease. Those on the other side of the fence might say exactly the opposite. Personally, I believe that while the chemo was the primary reason that Georgia stayed in remission for as long as she did, the rest of her treatments and dietary changes were responsible for the QUALITY of life she lived during treatment. And without good quality of life, what’s the point?
Unfortunately, when it comes to supplements and alternative healing methods, there are a lot of choices, but often no clear consensus on what really works. That’s one of the main drawbacks to choosing healing methods rarely subjected to extensive scientific study and detailed clinical research. It doesn’t mean that these methods and supplements don’t work, but you do have to be extra careful. There are a lot of people out there, some well-intentioned, and some not, who want to convince you that their method will lead to cure. And what desperate parent doesn’t want to find a cure to their child’s cancer — human or four-legged? But, when selecting cancer supplements or alternative treatments, you have to be careful.
I recently came across a supplement from a company that I had done business with in the past. They make a variety of natural products for pets and I had had success using their products in the past. This cancer supplement was touted as a cure for virtually any type of cancer, and there were dozens of stories and case notes to back this up. It was almost scientifically proven. Optimistic but realistic, I called the company to learn more. I hadn’t seen any specific cases of the supplement working for advanced lymphoma, and wanted to see if this was an option. Well, to my surprise, I ended up having one of the most upsetting phone conversations of my life.
I explained why I was calling — hoping to be able to share this great cancer treatment option with other pet owners, as I myself had a dog who died from cancer — and was instead met with a gruff, unpleasant voice on the end of the line who proceeded to tell me about how horrible conventional veterinary medicine was, and who specifically told me that I had sent my little girl to her death by pursuing chemotherapy for her. Even though Georgia has been gone for more than two years now, that comment was still so incredibly hurtful. I was in shock. Trying to get past this rude behavior to my real purpose in calling, I asked about specific cases involving advanced lymphoma. Would this supplement help? The answer was enlightening, but not in the way I had hoped. I did not get any clear answers or documented case histories. I did get a lot of adamant assertions that this supplement was essentially a guaranteed cure…unless of course a pet owner was stupid enough to try conventional treatment first and then if they did that, or waited too long to try this supplement, then it may not work. But that would then be the fault of the pet owner. Obviously this conversation sent up huge red flags to me that were later confirmed by speaking with people who had used the supplement. I knew that no matter how many case histories they threw at people or how adamant they were about the science behind the “cure”, that I could not, in good conscience, ever recommend this product to someone else.
Now, you may not have time and energy to call every company that wants to sell a product to you or to research the history behind every alternative therapy. So, here are 5 quick things to consider before choosing a new treatment or supplement for your pup, especially if you don’t have a trusted holistic vet nearby to help guide you.
1. Is it marketed as a “cancer cure”? If it is, don’t believe it. If there were one magic cancer cure out there, cancer would be wiped out tomorrow. Cancer has too many faces and subtleties to be cured by just one thing. That doesn’t automatically mean it won’t help, but don’t expect a cure.
2. What’s the theory behind it? Whether it’s a combination of herbs, a ‘tried and true’ alternative healing method, or a ‘breakthrough’ supplement, there should be something behind it and an awareness of how it fits in relative to conventional cancer treatments. Your provider should be willing and able to explain how and why it works and if applicable, any ingredients in it. Remember, just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
3. Is there information about how or if it will interfere with conventional treatments or other supplements? If there isn’t, be wary, and take the initiative to find out about potential interactions. For example, some herbs can make chemo drugs or radiation less effective and some can cause complictions with surgery. The last thing you want to do is counteract any progress you’re making through primary treatment methods.
4. Does the provider have respect for differing opinions and your right to pursue an integrative approach to treating your pup’s cancer? If not, find someone who does. They don’t have to personally agree with other therapies, but they have to respect you and your decisions. Since no one has found a way to cure all forms of cancer, no one you work with or buy products from should presume to have all the answers either.
You are your dog’s best advocate, and although there may be times that you feel willing to try anything to help your dog fight cancer, don’t throw all logic and suspicion out the window. Sometimes a few questions at the outset can save you a lot of heartache, and money down the road.
For more information about canine cancer, visit Georgia’s Legacy at www.fightcaninecancer.com.