A large number of patients I treat are actually hospice care due to terminal cancer. These are very emotional cases and end up being some of my dearest patients. As a matter of fact, it seems that when you get a cancer diagnosis on your pet something amazing happens: people that would never consider acupuncture will open their minds enough to accept it. Maybe it is because they are desperately trying to save their pets or at least have more time with them. Sometimes the cure is not what alternative medicine will give you, it’s all about the quality of life and pain control. I always tell my clients that what is important is not the number of days that you live on this earth, but the quality of such days.
Some owners of pets that suffer from cancers like lymphoma choose to try chemotherapy with a veterinary oncologist because the standard protocols seem to increase survival time for that type of cancer. In general, 70-90% of dogs with multicentric lymphoma treated with the standard UW-25 or Chop protocol experience complete or partial remission of their lymphoma, and this is why we recommend trying it. However, there is still a chance that the pet’s bone marrow can get depleted by all the chemicals and the chemotherapy will fail. Other cancers like certain Mast cell tumors do better with surgery and radiation but still might experience side effects similar to the chemotherapy; inappetence, lethargy, and severe diarrhea.
Most cancers have a common core of energy or Qi deficiency, therefore the approach to “heal” is to replenish the Qi, especially the Wei Qi which is the Defensive or Immune system Qi. Integrative medicine practitioners usually recommend feeding a high-quality protein and low carbohydrate whole food diet along with supplements using mushrooms and other anticancer herbs. Even though some oncologists are against doing acupuncture in conjunction with chemotherapy, in our experience acupuncture can definitively help make the chemotherapy more efficient by preserving the appetite, and energy and controlling diarrhea. I am still grieving the loss of our patient Mr. Bradley, a sweet Yorkie that sadly developed multicentric Lymphoma despite being one of the most spoiled and well cared for dogs I know. He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy but his bone marrow could not handle the chemicals and he lost his fight. We need to understand that Canine lymphomas are a diverse group of cancers, and vary tremendously in their prognosis. Some Lymphomas progress as rapidly as Bradley’s while others progress very slowly and respond better to chemotherapy. Even though we are seeing a large increase in lymphoma diagnoses the cause of lymphoma in dogs is still not known. Although several possibilities such as viruses, bacteria, chemical exposure (roundup), and over-vaccination have been studied and discussed, there hasn’t been a direct link to this awful cancer. The main goal of acupuncture is to stimulate the appetite points, stimulate influential points for the immune system, and control diarrhea. I firmly believe that the integrative approach could work along with western medicine to achieve even longer remission times.