Making the Right Decision can be Difficult on your Own!
When your pet is diagnosed with cancer, it can be a frightening experience. The choices your veterinarian or oncologist offer can be expensive, disfiguring, and difficult for your pet to tolerate, AND there are no guarantees that the treatments will contribute to any quality of life or that they will live any longer with treatment. At the same time, the choice to do nothing also comes with its own problems, in terms of losing your pet to its disease.
Although with some cancers its important to act quickly, at the same time, its important for you to be able to think clearly so you can make the right decisions for you and your pet. Getting a second opinion, from an oncologist, or a second oncologist is a good idea. Different oncologists may have different tools at their disposal which could provide your pet with different outcomes.
You may also want to talk to an integrative oncologist or veterinarian about diet and supplements that can help to reduce cancer or cancer therapy side-effects and improve the effectiveness of the cancer therapies. These are not meant to be a substitute for conventional therapies, but instead to augment these therapies. Although integrative therapies are great to use in cancer patients, its important to know that natural therapies can take some time to build up in your pet, and if its cancer is very aggressive, its disease may be fatal before the natural therapies have enough time to work.
Integrative oncology blends the best of conventional medicine with the best of alternative medicine into a single medicine that is more effective and less prone to difficulties.
Conventional therapies for cancer:
- Surgical excision of the tumor (If it is a solitary tumor, and if it is in a location where it can be removed without threatening the life of the patient.)
- Radiation therapy
Often, oncologists will recommend combinations of these three therapies for the best long term patient outcomes.
Each of these conventional cancer therapies have their positive aspects and their downsides as well.
Chemotherapy potentially can cause a number of serious side-effects. Some patients are more resistant to the adverse side-effects of chemotherapy than others.
The only way to know for certain how a your pet will respond to a chemotherapy treatment is by actually challenging your pet with a treatment and observing their response. If the side-effects are too severe to continue with the therapy, at least you gave it a try, and found out that using that specific chemotherapy agent was inappropriate for your pet’s constitution.
It may be that a different chemotherapy drug would be as effective in treating the cancer as that first drug and not cause the same adverse side effects.
A new approach to chemotherapy uses much lower doses of chemotherapy agents on a daily basis, and has fewer side-effects because of the low dosages used, but which nonetheless has been found to be helpful with certain cancers in certain patients. This type of chemotherapy has been termed: “Metronomic Chemotherapy”, and it has been found to be anti-angiogenic, which means it stops or slows down the growth of new blood vessels that provide the tumor with its supply of nutrients that feed its growth. As a result, the tumor growth slows and improves the management of the cancer.
If the tumor is inoperable, or the patient is too weak to tolerate standard high dose chemotherapy protocols, metronomic chemotherapy may be a good option. Discuss this with your veterinarian or oncologist.
Quality of Life
Its all about quality of life when it comes to making decisions about how to help your pet who has been diagnosed with cancer. Quality of life can be evaluated by observing your pet for certain things, like pain that can’t be relieved, or lack of appetite, or loss of consciousness, or loss of control of the bowels to the extent that your pet is laying in its own waste.
Take some time to consider what you will do if you find your pet with a cancer diagnosis. When a crisis occurs, often its hard to think clearly in the middle of it.
Its important to be able to decide at what point “Quality of Life” is more important than life itself. There are no pat answers to this question, and each answer is specific to you and your animal.
You must ask yourself: Do you want your animal to suffer during its last days, weeks, months? How much suffering is allowable, if in the long run your animal will survive longer and if the suffering abates, was it worthwhile to allow it to suffer for a brief period of time so that it can survive for a significantly longer period of time?
Some holistic veterinarians believe that treating with chemotherapy or radiation can permanently affect the immune system to the extent that it will be less responsive to natural and alternative therapies. It is not scientifically certain whether this is true or not, although a study in dog’s looking at their immune system function after chemotherapy did not find any reduction in immune system function.
During chemotherapy, though, we are concerned that there may be a reduction in immune system function, which is the main reason we are concerned about pets on raw diets who are being treated with chemotherapy succumbing to potential food-borne pathogens that can be found in raw meat diets.
In my clinical experience of over 15 years, I have found that integrating appropriate conventional cancer therapies with appropriate alternative and supportive nutritional therapies provides the best possible opportunity for the cancer patient to survive with quality and dignity.