Is Chemotherapy Right for Your Dog?

Somewhere between one in three and one in four dogs will eventually develop cancer. In dogs that live beyond the age of seven, cancer is the leading cause of death and about 30 percent of older dogs die of cancer.

A canine cancer diagnosis causes owners to ask a lot of questions, such as, "Would my dog be better off with chemotherapy?” Often, the answer is "yes." Let's look at the basic facts about chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer in dogs.

Much like chemotherapy for cancer in humans, chemotherapy for cancer in dogs is a series of treatments intended to stop the growth of cancer cells. Different types of chemotherapy available for dogs stop the multiplication of all kinds of cells, both healthy and cancerous. Cancerous cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells, so the goal of chemotherapy is to cause damage to the cancer cells and stop their proliferation.

Chemotherapy for dogs may be offered in combination with surgery or radiation. Dogs receive much lower doses of chemotherapy than humans in pill form, by injection or by IV.

Every case of canine cancer is different, so the only way to determine how long your dog will be on chemo is to consult your veterinarian. Some dogs stay on chemo for the rest of their lives, while others go into remission after a shorter period of treatment.

How will your dog be affected by chemotherapy?

Dogs may experience many of the same side effects of chemo as humans however, due to the relatively smaller doses used, side effects are often far less intense. Canine chemotherapy can cause low energy. This is particularly true when dogs receive chemotherapy drugs that affect the production of red blood cells. They may also experience nausea and vomiting.

Cancer cells tend to operate in a low-oxygen environment. They compensate for their poor oxygen supply through anaerobic respiration. This is the same kind of energy production you experience when you work out so hard that you begin to feel a "burn"; only in dogs with cancer it's involuntary and occurs  all the time.

Anaerobic respiration requires 30 to 34 times more glucose to make the same amount of energy as aerobic respiration. In dogs, the glucose that their cells use to make energy doesn't come primarily from carbs. It comes from excess amino acids in protein. When dogs can't eat high-protein foods, their bodies start to break down heathy tissues to make the glucose that feeds hungry cancer cells. This can create a condition called cachexia, in which muscles and internal organs break down.

That's why Canine Biologics formulates its products for dogs battling cancer with human-grade food, premium supplements and wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil to make sure your dog gets the micronutrients it needs with every meal. Even if chemotherapy succeeds in killing cancer cells, your dog still needs to maintain healthy tissues.

How wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil combats canine cancer

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil is the best source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids that your dog's body needs to make hormones that put the brakes on inflammation. Inflammation is what cancerous tumors use to break free from the adhesion proteins that hold them in place. Without inflammatory processes, cancerous tumors can't metastasize. With the omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA from wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil, your dog's body can better regulate inflammation and metastasis, so chemotherapy has a chance to work.

There is another, surprising reason why salmon supports recovery from cancer.

It's pink.

More precisely, salmon contains the pink carotenoid pigment astaxanthin.

Dogs (unlike cats) can readily convert astaxanthin into vitamin A. This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of healthy connective tissues that hold cancerous tumors in check. Astaxanthin, like the related chemical beta-carotene (found in carrots), is important as a source of vitamin A for supporting recovery from canine cancer.

But that isn't all astaxanthin can do.

Studies at the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine and Royal Canin have found that astaxanthin is toxic to canine cancer cells. Astaxanthin doesn't just hold cancer in check; it helps to kill it.

Canine Biologics’ Integrated Nutrition System uses sweet potatoes in its human-grade food, a rich source of

We're not saying that salmon cures cancer. We are saying that it's an important part of the best nutrition approach for dogs with cancer. That's why we include salmon and wild-caught Alaskan salmon oil in our products for dogs with cancer. Our Integrated Nutrition System also uses sweet potatoes, another rich source of astaxanthin and beta carotene. We believe our three-part approach to nutrition, coupled with chemotherapy, can give your dog a fighting chance against cancer. 

Should you try chemotherapy if your dog has cancer? Every dog is different, but these general principles apply:

  • It's essential to have a definitive diagnosis. Often this only requires an x-ray and maybe a needle biopsy or a blood test. But you can't fight cancer if you don't know which cancer you are fighting.
  • Figure out how much time you have to make decisions. Timely treatment sometimes saves a dog's life
  • Get all the guidance you need. It can help to talk with a canine oncologist.
  • Learn from other owners going through the same thing. Once you have a definitive diagnosis, and you have had a chance to consult with your veterinarian about diagnosis and treatment, it can help to join online forums with other dog owners seeking to keep their dogs comfortable. Always defer to your own vet, however, on matters of diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Learn what your dog's quality of life will be like. Older dogs often have other issues, especially diabetes, kidney problems, and heart disease.

No matter what you decide about chemotherapy, make sure you provide your beloved pet with the best canine cancer diet from Canine Biologics.