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Integrative approaches to canine hemangiosarcoma - IVC Journal
Integrative approaches to canine hemangiosarcoma
Barbara Royal, DVM, CVA
February 9, 2021
Combining conventional and alternative treatments is the best approach for dogs with hemangiosarcoma (HSA).
Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a relatively common and devastating tumor often found in the spleen, skin, heart, or liver. It accounts for approximately 7% of all cancers in dogs. The prognosis depends on many factors, including location/size of the tumor and the overall health of the patient.
Current research does not describe chemotherapy or other conventional approaches to be truly effective for HSA. With pharmaceutical and/or surgical intervention, the conventional prognosis remains similar — less than 10% of HSA patients survive a year. But other tools that can improve outcomes.
Fighting cancer will always require a multi-pronged approach. We need the body’s immune system to recognize and remove the aggressive cells, and fortify the affected system. Chemotherapy and surgery are helpful for removing aggressive cancer cells, but often tax the immune system. The best medicine is one that works with the body, not against it, to recreate a healthful dynamic for all systems.
While HSA patients should have an individualized integrative treatment plan, the behavior of HSA (e.g. its presence in the active vessels affecting circulation, internal bleeding and energy), creates chinks in its armor that this approach can exploit. We begin therapy with conventional approaches and then use integrative support to help the body recover.
Is the tumor resectable and is the patient healthy enough to withstand surgery?
Do it, if possible. Once the troublesome and likely bleeding tumor is removed (typically in the spleen or skin), we can rely on nutrition and supplements to help the body fight any other circulating tumor cells.
Weight and diet
- Assess the dog’s Body Condition Score (BCS). Thinner is better. Extra “padding” to fight cachexia won’t increase longevity as much as an overall healthy body will. Decrease food and carbs to help lose weight.
- Avoid foods and treats with high carbs that can cause inflammation or cancer. Of the three components in food — protein, fat, and carbohydrates –decreased carbohydrates (max 10% to 20% of diet) should be a feature of cancer diets. Avoid dry kibble foods which typically contain 40% to 50% carbs.
- Consider ketogenic diets. Fresh, balanced, raw foods and homemade balanced diets can help. Darwin’s makes a raw food Cancer Support diet (by prescription). For homemade recipes, use the Animal Diet Formulator program (animaldietformulator.com) to find cancer support recipes, ketogenic diets. and/or to formulate your own recipes.
- Reduce exposure to carcinogens. Sadly, many unhealthy ingredients/carcinogens are found in pet foods – preservatives (e.g. BHA, BHT), pesticides (e.g. glyphosate/Roundup), and by-products of processing/storage (e.g. high heat in kibble foods, BPA lining cans). These toxic compounds are absorbed into the vasculature during digestion. Fresh, balanced, and well-sourced (organic) foods are best.
- Yunnan Baiyao is a well-researched, effective Chinese herbal used to decrease bleeding and support patients with HSA.
- Mushrooms, with a plethora of useful bioactive compounds, are essential. Research has shown that mushrooms like Turkey Tail improve cell growth inhibition by inducing apoptosis, and have immunotherapeutic effects.
- Milk thistle has been shown to prevent oxidative stress damage within the arteries, and to protect against environmental toxins/injury to liver and spleen.
- Turmeric improves vascular health with its effects on inflammation, oxidative stress, and structural proteins of the artery.
- Red clover has traditional applications for anemia.
- Burdock root is a powerful herbal remedy used to fight cancer.
- Selenium has been shown to provide long-term vascular protection.
- NOW Pets has an Immune Support combination that includes these and a few other helpful supplements for a cancer diagnosis.
- Daily Omega-3 fatty acids from well-sourced fish oil can be helpful for free radical scavenging.
- A good probiotic or unpasteurized goat milk also offers benefits (Answers Pet Foods offers a frozen goat milk product).
Barbara Royal, DVM, CVA
Dr. Barbara Royal, is a Chicago veterinarian, IVAS certified acupuncturist, author and lecturer with extensive experience in veterinary care, including zoo, marine and wildlife animals, nutrition, acupuncture, emergency medicine, pathology, conventional practices, herbal remedies, physical rehabilitation techniques and alternative treatments. Dr. Royal was past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (ahvma.org). Author of The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, she is also is the founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago.