Five Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian About Holistic Cancer Care

Dr. Patrick Mahaney is a veterinarian and certified pet acupuncturist who provides holistic treatment for canine cancer patients. He has shared shares his expertise via AOL’s Paw Nation, PetMD’s The Daily Vet, Pet360’s PetLebrity News, Pet World Insider, and Victoria Stilwell’s Positively.com, among others.  He co-hosts Holistic Vets on the Radio Pet Lady Network. We asked him a few questions about using holistic care for helping your dog get through cancer treatment.

Dr. Mahaney’s own dog, Cardiff (pictured above), is not only a pet, but was also a patient of the vet’s holistic cancer care.

What is the most suitable treatment for my dog that will provide the best outcome without causing a reduced quality of life?

A cancer diagnosis for a dog can be devastating for his owner. Cancer is life altering to all parties involved, but the good news is that pets either just don’t feel well or can be completely unaware they have the disease. They don't experience the economic, social, and emotional aspects of cancer treatment like their human counterparts. In treating cancer, it's important that owners consider the pet’s whole-body health, lifestyle, and place in life when formulating the plan to resolve or put cancer into remission. This holistic approach strives to do what is truly most appropriate for our animals.

Technically, any veterinarian is capable of treating cancer, but some doctors are more highly trained than others. Upon receiving the diagnosis of cancer, my recommendation for my clients is to get a consultation from a board certified veterinary oncologist. Such vets work exclusively in the realm of cancer treatments and are well versed in the options available, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and participate in clinical trials that may not yet be available to general practice veterinarians.

Besides chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are there options to support my pet’s body during cancer treatment?

Yes, there are many ways to help ensure a pet will best tolerate his cancer treatment.  Options include nutraceuticals (supplements), herbs, food therapy, acupuncture, lifestyle modifications, and more. The most common supportive care products are nutraceuticals like antioxidants, probiotics (beneficial bacteria), and other agents that help manage side effects of chemotherapy. Acupressure, acupuncture, massage, and other physical rehabilitation-type treatments can promote blood flow, diminish pain, reduce nausea, and generally make a pet feel better during treatment.

What should I feed my pet during cancer treatment?

There's no one particular food that is appropriate for all dogs and cats undergoing cancer treatment. My recommendation is to feed a diet made with human-grade, whole foods instead of conventional pet foods having feed-grade ingredients that exist in a format not found as they appear in nature. Feed-grade ingredients have a higher allowable levels of toxins, such as mold-based mycotoxin, which can have immunosuppressive and toxic effects on the body. Consult with your veterinarian about commercially available or home-prepared diets.

If my dog’s cancer is resolved or is in remission, what can I do to prevent it from recurring?

Cancer is a disease where cells have abnormal DNA and are promoted to grow by various genetic and environmental factors. Owners can reduce the potential a pet develops cancer or suffers a recurrence by reducing day-to-day inflammation and infection in the body. Tactics include keeping the mouth as clean as possible and maintaining a slim body weight. Many species of bacteria prosper in the oral cavity that can get into the blood and cause damage to internal organs (heart, kidneys, liver) or overtax the immune system. Carrying excess bodyweight promotes inflammation, and has been directly linked to certain cancers.

When do I not pursue or discontinue cancer treatment?

As pet owners, we must be the guardians of our animal companions’ quality of life. If the consultation with your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist establishes that the likelihood of achieving an acceptable quality of life is small, then not pursuing treatment is acceptable. Additionally, if a pet suffers severe side effects from treatment or isn’t showing a response indicating the treatment is working, then changing the approach to more of a focus on palliative care or pursuing euthanasia is a humane choice.

Dr. Mahaney belongs to many professional advocacy groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS)

 

Dr. Mahaney and Cardiff were part of the documentary “My Friend: Changing the Journey”

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Photo courtesy Dr. Patrick Mahaney