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Natural Cancer Alternative Treatments for Your Dog

Dogs live longer than they used to, so cancer is more common.

Dogs live longer than they used to, so cancer is more common.

Why Does My Dog Have Cancer? What Can I Do?

Dogs live a lot longer now than when I was young and for some reason there is a lot more cancer diagnosed in dogs. Whether this is because of their longer life spans (increased genetic mutations), because of all the carcinogens in the air and water, or because of all the toxins in the commercial food we are forcing them to eat remains to be seen.

Cancer is caused by a mutated cell that grows until it takes over your dog's body. It can be benign, and continue to grow in one location, or malignant, and spread and grow throughout your dog's body. The mutation in the cell may be caused by polluting poisons like pesticides and the chemicals we put on our dogs to control fleas and ticks, as well as the colors and additives in commercial dog food.

For some reason your dog does not recognize the mutated cell. It may be a problem with a weak immune system, or maybe it is because the cells in the cancer are so strong that your old dog is not able to kill them off.

So, what are you going to do about it? If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer this article will discuss some of the traditional and natural remedies you can try.

Older dogs are subjected to many toxins and are often diagnosed with cancer.

Older dogs are subjected to many toxins and are often diagnosed with cancer.

Traditional Cancer Therapies

There are traditional methods in which we try to destroy the mutated cells:

  • Surgery can be effective in removing benign tumors that are easy to isolate and even some malignant tumors that have not yet spread. If the surgery works the cancer is gone, and your dog can expect a normal life.
  • Chemotherapy may be suggested if the cancer is spreading and cannot be surgically removed. The treatment can have a lot of side effects since it kills all rapidly growing cells like blood marrow cells, cells lining the intestine, and cells in the hair follicles. There are supplements to lessen the terrible side effects and sometimes this treatment may extend the dog's life.
  • Radiation is another therapy that is sometimes used. The dogs usually have to be sedated or under general anesthesia for this treatment, but your veterinarian might recommend it if the tumor cannot be operated on. It can cause localized hair loss and localized burns, but there are options for treating the side effects, and it may be the only effective way to treat some tumors.
Breast cancer usually affects females who were never spayed.

Breast cancer usually affects females who were never spayed.

Alternatives to Surgery and Chemicals: Herbal Cancer Therapy for Dogs

If your dog has a tumor that can be removed surgically then that is the best option for her health and long-term survival. If the tumor cannot be removed, though, and you cannot afford or do not want to put her through chemotherapy or radiation therapy, there are alternatives.

Alternative cancer therapy is mostly based on the idea of boosting the immune system and allowing your dog's body to fight off the mutated cells.

None of the natural products is guaranteed, but they have a lot fewer side effects than conventional therapies. None of them is likely to ever have any type of scientific evidence since no drug company is willing to fund a research project on a drug it cannot license and profit from.

  • Astragalus: Herb that strengthens the immune system. It may be most effective in battling the spread of melanoma.
  • Cats claw: Herb from Peru that strengthens the immune system, acts as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and maybe keeps tumors from growing.
  • Echinacea: Supports and strengthens the immune system.
  • Garlic: Strengthens the immune system. Contrary to some of the websites you will see out there, this herb is not toxic.
  • Green tea: Immune stimulant and perhaps an antioxidant.
  • Mushrooms: The Reishi mushroom is used as an immune stimulant and may also be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
  • Mistletoe: Immune system booster and may be helpful for other conditions.
Some older dogs with cancer lose interest in food and lose weight rapidly.

Some older dogs with cancer lose interest in food and lose weight rapidly.

More Alternative Treatments for Your Dog's Cancer

There are some other herbs that do not improve the immune system but fight specific types of cancer. Milk thistle for the liver and dandelion for the kidneys are only a few. There are also several new herbs discovered every year that may help, but they are not available in all areas.

If you can do so, please talk to a holistic vet willing to prescribe the most appropriate herbal supplement for the type of cancer your dog is suffering from.

If you need a general supplement and are not able to consult with a holistic vet, there are quite a few companies that are selling herbs and herb combinations that may be effective:

  • Avemar (AveUltra): Avemar is made with fermented wheat germ, and I recommend it since I have seen the beneficial effects. Besides destroying cancer cells, it is also an anti-inflammatory and helps detoxification. The producers of this supplement recommend you use this product periodically for the rest of the dog´s life and not use Vitamin C supplements while giving this.
  • AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound): Mushroom extracts. Boosts cells that attack the tumor cells. It is supposed to be synergistic with Avemar.
  • Essiac (Essiac tea): Mixture of burdock root, slippery elm, sorrel, and rhubarb root. No clear mechanism has been worked out but the combination of herbs may attack the cancer and clean and improve the dog's immune system.
  • Genesis Resources Canine CAS Options: Mushroom and vitamin blend.
  • Only Natural Pet Immune Strengthener: Mixture of astragalus, cats claw, green tea, and mushrooms, with the addition of antioxidant vitamins and coenzyme Q10. The herbs boost the immune system.
  • Pet Alive C-Caps: Mixture of echinacea, astragalus, cats claw, mistletoe, and milk thistle. This herb mixture is to boost the immune system.
Cancer can affect dogs of all sizes.

Cancer can affect dogs of all sizes.

Dietary Support

The other thing you can do for your dog diagnosed with cancer is to provide a good diet to limit the toxic substances that he is exposed to. I think that all-natural is the best, and feed my dogs a raw prey type diet made up of inexpensive human-quality ingredients.

If you are not interested in feeding raw, a homemade diet will add fewer carcinogens and you can also add ingredients that can fight the cancer. Here's a great organic, homemade dog food recipe (but don't overdo the carbohydrates). There are a few other things you can add to help out your dog that has been diagnosed with cancer:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes: Since your dog's digestive systems are weakened when dealing with cancer, digestive enzymes combined with a probiotic help the body absorb necessary nutrients. This is one of the products that I have found can be helpful.
  • Antioxidants
  • Organic diet: If your dog has been diagnosed and you are not willing to feed raw, a homemade organic diet is the best option.

The great thing about feeding raw and making up a diet at home is that your dog will be more likely to eat. (If your dog has cancer you already know that lack of appetite is a big problem.) You can warm up her food (not too much!) to make it smell better and she will be more likely to eat.

Doing What's Best for Your Dog

If you think that some of these products might help your dog, go ahead and get started.

Alternate therapy in cancer treatment is not emphasized in veterinary college and your regular veterinarian may want to treat your dog's cancer without looking into the alternatives.

It is really up to you to do the best for your dog.

Natural Sources of Antioxidants

  • Acai, Vitamin C, and other Antioxidants
    No one is sure that antioxidants are what a dog with cancer needs, but they might help. Açai is a fruit produced mostly in the Amazon that has antioxidant properties. Vitamins C, A, E, and some other chemicals also act as antioxidants in the body.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is a proper dose of Avemar Ultra for a 20 lbs dog?

Answer: There is not an exact dose. A packet of 17 grams will treat about 90 kilos, so about 1/4 of a packet. (The manufacturer recommends that a packet be thrown out if you do not use all of it. I do not see that this is necessary, so it should be good for 4 days.)


eevie on October 30, 2015:

Thank you so much, Dr. Mark. If he got heartworms it would be over too quickly. I have to weigh this out. I appreciate the time you have given me on helping my boy. Thank you. :)

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 30, 2015:

It really depends on where you are and how big of a problem HW is. If you were in Montana, I would say definitely not. You mentioned that the place you live in Texas has a lot of mosquitoes, however, and when your dog does get better will he be able to get over a HW infection?

It is your call of course, and please make that decision based on how much he is outside in the evenings, how bad the tumor is, etc; you are correct in that Heartgard/ivermectin is just another poison that we add to our bodies.

eevie on October 30, 2015:

Is the heartworm prevention worth the risk of adding to the tumor? I thought these type meds/poisons exacerbated cancer.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 30, 2015:

I would go ahead and give one packet a day then.

If he cannot chew the heartgard, you can give the liquid ivermectin (the sheep drench is less concentrated so easier to measure) and just put the liquid in that little pocket on the side of the mouth each month. He will swallow it just like water.

eevie on October 30, 2015:

Dr. Mark, the packets of aveUltra are 5.5 grams.

eevie on October 29, 2015:

Thank you, Dr. Mark.

I am trying to find an alternative to monthly heartgard+ because of the tumor in his mouth.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 29, 2015:

eevie, I am sorry I cannot help you with a reference to a vet in your area. I do not know anyone in your area.

What do you mean by a heartworm vaccine? Are you referring to a monthly preventative? In my experience, even working in the Mississippi valley where mosquitoes are more likely to carry the heartworm microfilaria, is ivermectin, but there are other alternatives too. You can read this article: and it might give you some useful info on preventatives. Drop me a message on one of the heartworm articles if you have any questions that I can help you with.

eevie on October 29, 2015:

One more question, please...well 2. :) What is a good heartworm vaccine alternative, please? And, i need a reference to a good veterinarian in my area. I'm in mt. pleasant, tx 75455. One of the worst areas for mosquitoes. Thank you.

eevie on October 27, 2015:

Thank you, Dr. Mark. ;) You have taken a lot of pressure from me and now i can concentrate on healing him. If you were here i would hug you!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 27, 2015:

Thanks, eevie, I hope the alternatives work out for him. Is the number of grams written on the package? He can take about 5 grams, but more is okay because of the tumor. As far as I know there will be no drug interactions, so as long as he is not vomiting or feeling worse go ahead and keep going.

eevie on October 27, 2015:

Dr. Mark...sorry to bother you again. My dog is 90 lbs and the aveultra came premeasured in packets. Will one packet a day work and i also have the IMM power for him. Can these be taken while on the aveultra and if so how often, please? Thank you so very much. You are the best help we have had. We have gone to different vets and they all either want to cut his jaw up or just let it do its thing. I'm not happy with any of those suggestions. So yeah...thank you!! :)

eevie on October 27, 2015:

Thank you, Dr. Mark. :)

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 26, 2015:

eevie-two heaping teaspoonfulls once daily, sprinkled on top of the food is easiest.

eevie on October 26, 2015:

How much of the AveUltra do i give my dog? He is about 90 lbs, 12 yrs of age and has a gum tumor. Thank you.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 19, 2013:

I have heard good things about that Only Natural Immune Stregthener too, which has cats claw among its ingredients. I guess it really depends on what you are able to buy in your area. (Since you are in the US you might try Amazon or Ebay also.) As I mentioned before, these types of tumors are not usually malignant, so although it is usually invasive locally you can take care of it and if it breaks open just keep it covered. Molly will still have a good quality of life.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on January 19, 2013:

Hello Mark, thanks so much for this. Do you think Cat's Claw is best to try to help an already aggressive breast tumor in a dog? I am going to go and get some. Do you recommend anything else specifically for this? She may not have long, and this grew to what it is in way less that just two months. From nothing, to a very aggressive and growing daily, tumor. :( It costs so much to just remove it, I can't afford it, and she is over 10 and a half years old. Thanks so much for any thoughts. Brilliant article voted up, etc.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 17, 2012:

Vitamin C is produced by dogs but not at the therapeutic levels suggested by some researchers. I have no idea why the company (that produces aveultra) says Vitamin C is contraindicated.

DoItForHer on July 17, 2012:

Vitamin C is not a vitamin for dogs; like many animals, ascorbic acid is made by the animal itself. Is it just the supplemental ascorbic acid that is not compatible? It does not sound like a contraindication, but seems concerning.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

Nope, she couldn't have treats, she was a brittle diabetic. That's what made it so weird! True it's not as large as an IV, but she always winced when I did it.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:

Did you give treats with the insulin injection? That is one common reason dogs are okay with that therapy, the other being that the insulin needle is very small and they barely feel it, not at all like an IV.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

Ah, point taken. Although, I disagree to a certain extent. Although I haven't had the experience you have as a vet, I had to give my dog 2 insulin shots per day, and after the first 2 days, she would come to me and whine for me to give it to her. I think if it makes them feel better, they understand it. But if it makes them feel worse, like chemo or radiation would do, then yes, I'd agree.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:

I was thinking of the trauma of applying a needle every day to give an IV solution. Dogs just don't understand why they have to be in pain.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

Interesting, why would vit C cause behavioral issues I wonder.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:

The comment was that the product is not compatible with Vitamin C. What a joke. It is expensive, they expect you to use it the rest of the dogs life, and it is not compatible with Vitamin C.

If you had to megadose your dog with Vitamin C intravenous I would expect secondary problems, such as behavioral issues. I hope I never have to try it in my dog.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 16, 2012:

I did actually see the part on Vitamin C not compatible with AveUltra, and I thought that was rather interesting. Why is that?

I was making a joke, but in all seriousness, I do wonder if Vitamin C alone in high dosages (the intravenous quarter of a kilo dosages) would work on dogs as they do on humans. But like you said, no one has studied that, unfortunately.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:

You could potentially titer for anything. I think no one knows for sure if it is more accurate for certain diseases since the research is still fairly new and controversial.

DoItForHer on July 16, 2012:

Titers are interesting. Are titers more accurate (or should I say,"tight"?) with different diseases? How many titers are available?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2012:

Newer research indicates that the titer test may not even be worth it. A dog (or a human, for that matter) can have an undetectable level of antibodies but when stimulated by a live virus (a distemper virus, for example) the dog´s body starts producing antibodies and it does not get sick. The rabies vaccine she received in the past probably gave her lifelong immunity, so if she can get around the legal requirements (such as by providing a titer, like you suggest) there is little chance the dog could ever catch the disease.

DoItForHer on July 16, 2012:

Jaye, have u checked into a titers test?

In Montana the test does not technically comply with the law; however, the people I know who forgo the subsequent rabies vaccinations in favor of titers have had no legal conflicts. Even one dog that is a service dog and travels to Japan to work has no problem with having the titer instead.

The idea of the vaccination is to give the dog adequate antibodies to develop an immunity; why continually vaccinate when the dog has enough antibodies to provide an appropriate immune response several times over?

It'll cost ya; titers ain't cheap. Cheaper than a sick dog, tho.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 15, 2012:

Wow, I hope Baby is okay for the vaccination. You are not planning on any others are you?

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on July 15, 2012:

Good hub, Dr. Mark. Thanks for including the link to my hub about homemade dog food! Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, but I had a very busy weekend.

I'm very interested in herbal supplements that boost the immune system in dogs. My dog had a severe reaction to a rabies shot booster given several years ago before we changed vet clinics. Rabies vaccinations are legally required in this state, but at least they've extended the time from annually to every three years. My girl's vaccination is due next month, and I'm nervous about it. It seems that our previous vet gave too many vaccines simultaneously, and this had a disastrous effect, compromising my dog's immune system. It took quite a while for her to recover completely.

Fortunately, there is a holistic vet in this area who prescribes herbal remedies and preventives for pets, and she will work with traditional vets as well.

The thought of a dog suffering from cancer breaks my heart. Just as with humans, prevention is preferable to cure.

Voted Up, Useful and Interesting


Tripawds on July 15, 2012:

Hi Dr. Mark, please see my email. We can be contacted via anytime. Thanks for sending folks our way!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 15, 2012:

Yes, and the organic diet would be great also. Thanks for stopping by.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on July 15, 2012:

Great informative hub. My dogs already take the omega 3(for allergies) and garlic and brewers yeast tabs. So maybe that little bit will help in keeping cancer away. Hate the thought. Glad you wrote this.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 15, 2012:

DOM, sorry this was too late for your dog. Did you see the comment on the AveUltra not being compatible with Vitamin C? I would be hesitant to use that product and that is one of the reasons I highlighted the other herbal mixture.

Thanks again Tripawd did you see my email? I really need current contact info for your group in the US. I usually give out the Tx telephone number for Tripawds when doing consults.

Tripawds on July 15, 2012:

Dr. Mark, you're so right; after I commented I saw that you are in Brazil. It's enough of a challenge to find a holistic vet here in the States, thank Dog there are vets like you in other countries, someone has to lead the way! Nice work.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on July 15, 2012:

Where's the vitamin C? ;) I'm just kidding, I know you said no one had studied that in dogs. But I wonder if it would be effective?

This is a great hub. Unfortunately it came about 8 months too late for my little dog. But I've bookmarked it in case I need it in the future, and of course shared it!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 15, 2012:

Thanks Tripawds I was overwhelmed at all the companies that are now selling herb mixtures. I agree with you if the person CAN find an alternative veterinarian; it is not easy. I added a link above to the one immune stregthener that looks like it can be used safely. I have no proof of this nor would any veterinarian you would consult with, no matter how far away/how expensive.

Rebecca, I am also going to publish another hub on garlic because of the numerous hubs I have run across stating that the root is toxic.

Thank you both for your comments.

Tripawds on July 15, 2012:

I think you've done a fabulous job giving a general outline of cancer care therapies. The only thing I would like to add is that anyone who wishes to pursue alternative medicine really needs to find a holistic-oriented vet to help in selecting the best treatments and to avoid getting ripped off from the hundreds of snake oil "cures" sold to cancer patients. Also, herbal remedies can do harm when used in improper combinations, so it's critical to find a vet professional to work with. They are out there, you just have to look beyond your backyard sometimes. Nice job on this hub page!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 15, 2012:

Thanks for this! My neighbor had a Great Dane with cancer. It was really sad. They pulled him around the block in a wagon during his last days and finally put him down. I am going to start putting garlic in my dog food. I heard it helps to repel fleas too.