When Ty was first diagnosed with Lymphoma, it was easy to get overwhelmed learning about supplements that might help him. I also faced conflicting reports from holistic and conventional sources. For example, some conventional vets are rather skeptical of supplements or holistic methods. See, for example, the skepvet blog, which is interesting reading, and on the very high side of skepticism. Meanwhile, my often recommend guide book, The Dog Cancer Survival Guide (referral link), lists many supplements, and holistic vets also will often prescribe a number of supplements, but keep in mind that many, indeed most, supplements have not been subjected to valid scientific testing. Some do have a fairly good amount of anecdotal evidence of benefits and some have been subjected to moderate amounts of testing, but this certainly doesn’t make any of them a sure thing. Then, I have come across a number of rather outlandish formulas that make all sorts of claims with no backing whatsoever and that I worry could even be danger for a dog. Ultimately, you will want to discuss use of supplements with your vet and your pet’s oncologist
Ty’s Lymphoma Supplements
When treating Ty, I wanted a simple to follow diet and supplement routine, preferably with commercially trusted products instead of some huge cocktail of pills. I also decided to take a middle of the road approach, using a diet and supplements that have some testing behind them or strong anecdotal evidence and that would not be likely to harm Ty. Everything I am giving also has the blessing of Ty’s oncologist. So, I am sharing his routine here and why I choose each item. For information on other supplements, check out the Dog Cancer Survival Guide that I referenced above. I’m also not linking to all the various studies (when applicable) because it got unwieldy. If you want to find more information at that level, simple searches pull them up pretty quickly. For more on Ty’s diet, read this post: The Canine Lymphoma Diet. Basically, he eats a Primal, a freeze dried high pressure processed raw food that is very high in protien and low in carbohydrates. Such a diet is backed by a study performed by Hills Pet Food in their preparation of a dog food. I choose to not feed the HIlls product though as I think the Primal product is superior. I also did not want to give Ty a truly raw diet when he had a compromised immune system, which is why I chose the high pressure processed product. Now, on to the supplements:
Milk Thistle: I gave Ty Milk Thistle while he was on chemo. Ty’s oncologist recommended it to help support liver function. There has been a fair amount of research into its ability to do so. Now that Ty is done with chemo, I removed the Milk Thistle, plus he now takes Apocaps which include it.
Fish Oil: There have been multiple veterinary studies on the effect of fish oil in dogs with lymphoma. It seems to be pretty well accepted that adding a fairly high does of fish oil to the diet can increase remission time. A couple of notes though: Higher doses of fish oil can thin the blood, so you want to be aware of that if your dog is injured or needs surgery. Also, the point of fish oil is to increase omega 3 fatty acids while decreasing omega 6. Some formulations include more of omega 6 than is desired in a dog with cancer. After quite a bit of research, I ended up with Grizzly Salmon Oil (referral link), which had the right makeup of a 10:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.
Green Lipped Mussel: This is a natural antiinflammatory that works similar to fish oil by increasing omega 3 in the diet in a bit different way than fish oil. Ty has always used it for his chronic bursitis and has remained on it through much of his cancer treatment, although it was left out during some of his chemo when he was being picky eating. I do not give it to him because of his cancer. I give it because fish oil does not seem to help his bursitis, while this product does. There is one published study on the benefits of green lipped mussel on arthritis. I use super snouts powder (referral link) sprinkled on his food.
Curcumin: There are studies that show that curcumin (a component of turmeric) can help suppress or perhaps prevent cancer. The problem though is that curcumin has low bio-availability, so ridiculously high doses would be needed. Ty’s first oncologist said that she felt it was of little use simply because it was too hard to get enough of it in the dog without causing stomach upset. So, why am I giving it? Mercola Healthy Pets just recently came out with a formula that they claim has higher bio-availability. Whether it really does have this is hard to say. One thing that annoys me with their product page is the lack of links to show how it does this. Instead it simply refers to technology called microactive. I did manage to run that down to this link, which lists a single study that I could not access. So, I do take the claims with a grain of salt. At the same time, with my vet, curcumin falls under the category of “it can’t hurt to try” and if it really does have the bio-availabilty claimed, it could be a key item in Ty’s care. It also isn’t horribly expensive, so I added it.
K-9 Immunity: K-9 Immunity (referral link) consists of medicinal mushrooms which have quite a bit of ancedotal evidence for helping with cancer treatment and prolonging remission times. The site also lists references to studies, although, I think many are not specific to the K-9 immunity formula and instead are based on individual ingredients. (more info). One of the mushrooms in the compound has also been shown to markedly increase survival time in dogs with a different type of cancer than lymphoma (more info). Ty’s oncologist was of the opinion that it couldn’t hurt to give him the supplement.
K9 Transfer Factor: Transfer Factor is a product from the people at K-9 Immunity to help increase the bio-availability of K-9 Immunity. You can also buy K9 Immunity Plus (referral link), which contains the Transfer Factor, but since it includes maltodextrin, and potato starch, I prefer to give them separately to avoid giving Ty extra starch and sugar (as recommended by the Dog Cancer Survival Guide) .
Apocaps: Apocaps (referral link) are a supplement designed by the vet behind the Dog Cancer Survival Guide. They contain some cross over of ingredients from K9 Immunity, Milk Thistle, and Curcumin, so I discontinued the Milk Thistle. Technically, I could probably leave these out and be happy since the key items I wanted are in the other supplements, but there are a few other ingredients that Apocaps add and Apocaps claims to have formulated things for higher bio-availability. While I have seen references to studies of Apocaps, I do not know how scientifically valid they were. The ancedotal evidence with the product is good and its ingredients are based on various studies. Ty’s first oncologist was of the opinion that there was not enough evidence that they helped much, but she did not mind patients using them. Ty’s current oncologist said it certainly couldn’t hurt to give them.
Kale: OK, this isn’t a supplement, it is simply a very nutritious food with a reputation of helping fight cancer. It turns out that the dogs love it, so I give them chunks of Kale as treats when I happen to have some around.
A Note on Supplements During Chemo
K9 Immunity and Apocaps claim to be safe and useful during chemotherapy. However, some vets have concerns about using supplements, especially ones with antioxidant properties, during chemo. Medicinal mushrooms in K9 immunity and beta glucans in Apopcaps can fall under this. Ty’s first oncologist was not in that camp and was fine with him taking them, but because I came across various conflicting advice on that I held off and did not give those items while Ty was on chemo. Instead, I stuck with Fish Oil, Milk Thistle, and sometimes his Green Lipped Mussel. I added K9 Immunity, Transfer Factor, and Apocaps three weeks after Ty’s last chemo session (to allow the full effective use time of the chemo to expire). I added the Curcumin even later because that is when it hit the market. Check with your oncologist about curcumin use during chemo.I have seen mixed views on that when researching.
So, that is it. Ty is right now in approximately his seventh month of remission and third month of post-chemo remission. He is doing great. Do the supplements help? There is no way to say, but hopefully his current good health continues!