Cancer Cachexia: Often referred to as the silent killer as significant changes in carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolisms occur before the clinical signs are detected. Unfortunately, even with adequate nutritional intake, cancer cachexia will result in weight loss, anorexia, fatigue, impaired immune system and a generally poorer response to traditional or non-traditional treatment protocols.

The time to combat cachexia is early and prior to any of the clinical signs. Upon diagnosis, nutritional support becomes a key component in the battle against cancer.

CARBOHYDRATES: Why are simple carbohydrates bad? It has been shown that a diet high in simple carbohydrates contributes to higher levels of lactate and insulin levels. The dog then has to exert extra energy to convert the lactate to glucose. This contributes to an energy gain to the tumor and a loss to the dog. In layman's terms, simple carbohydrates feed the cancer. Unfortunately, most commercial kibble is high in simple carbohydrates.

FATS: Why are polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3/omega3) good? Fatty acids do not feed the tumor, yet can still provide energy to the dog. Omega 3s have shown to normalize the elevated blood lactic acid and insulin levels. Omega 3s can have anti-inflammation benefits as well as can support the kidney and the heart. However, it is a fat and must be introduced slowly and some dogs do gain weight. As amputation is a common course of treatment, one must balance the extra weight with the new challenges of being an amputee.

Omega 6s are generally thought to feed the cancer and therefore should be limited. Many believe it is not so much that Omega 6s are bad, but the ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s.

PROTEINS: Tumors tend to utilize the body's protein. It has shown that quality protein and amino acids as part of a cancer diet help support the changes that occur. Since OSA patients also tend to be amputees, the extra muscle changes and build up also need additional quality protein.

FIBER: Daily soluble and insoluble fiber has shown to maintain healthy bowel functionality. Also, both act as stool stabilizers. Pumpkin and Metamucil are commonly used.

WATER: Access to fresh clean water is very important. However, just as important is the quality of the water. It is recommended to test your water source as well as the quality of your pipes. Bottled or filtered water may provide an excellent alternative over tap.

Cancer, Dogs and Supplements by Lew Olson

Back to the top.



Holistic medicine addresses the "whole" individual from a physical, emotional, and spiritual aspect. Modern conventional medicine tends to address only the physical symptoms of the disease. Holistic medicine generally seeks to find the underlying cause. So, although getting rid of the symptoms of disease is important, it is also recognized that the symptoms may be a method and an integral part of the healing process.

A holistic approach that combines the best of both worlds (conventional and alternative) is called an integrative or complementary approach. Both have benefits and both have limitations.

Although most natural products are safe, some are toxic. There are many controversial topics among the effectiveness of supplements and the combination of different supplements with different conventional medicines.

This area can be overwhelming as there is always someone that swears by a product that cured cancer. It is always beneficial if you have defined clear goals of what you are trying to achieve and then research on the supplements that may help you achieve those goals.

There are several professional organizations that may be helpful:

Finally, do not discount your regular vet or oncologist. Although they may not label themselves as holistic, hopefully they are learning more and more of complementary treatments for the overall benefit of their patients.

Back to the top.



Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves the use of needles that are inserted in the body. It is often part of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. According to TCM, each individual has a life force (qi-pronounced "chee") that moves along meridians or pathways. All pathways can be accessed at specific points near the body's surface. With any disease, the path may be blocked or out of balance. The acupuncture needles help to regulate, rebalance, and redirect proper energy flow.

Acupressure is based on the same principles without the needles. And although we can do acupressure on our dogs, you must seek a professional to do acupuncture.

If you still have the primary tumor, it is recommended not to insert needles at the tumor site or near it. Massage involves the physical manipulation of soft tissue. There is controversy if this actually helps spread the cancer. As we learn more and more about how cancer spreads, the benefits of massage are clearly outweighing the fears. For the most part, massage has shown to improve circulation, stimulate the immune system, break up adhesions, may reduce lactic acid, and promote emotional and physical well-being. Although we can provide massage to our dogs, the professional may be able to address specific areas more appropriately. Professional canine massage is a growing field. Just like acupuncture and acupressure, it is not recommended with direct contact on or near the primary tumor.

Homeopathy. Like cures like. This is the general philosophy of homeopaths. This principle is based on the substance that may actually produce the symptoms may actually eliminate the symptoms when used in a homeopathic form. Normally the solution is the dilution of the substance mixed with water or alcohol. This process is repeated until the desired potency is reached where the more dilute the more potent. For the most part, this is harmless, easy to administer, and easily accessible over the counter at most health stores. Whereas it may be easy to try something for thunder storms, where it comes to the treatment of cancer and cancer pain, it is recommended to seek the advice of a professional.

Back to the top.




Artemisinin is an herb that helps kill cancer cells in the body. It may be used in conjunction with chemotherapy. It may be used before radiation treatments, but should be discontinued when starting radiation therapy, and not resumed until two months after the last radiation treatment.

Dosages for each individual dog are usually determined by the owner with the help of his or her veterinarian, oncologist, or by consulting one of the sources at the end of this article. It is given away from food or supplements containing iron, and is cycled, that is given for a number of days, and then not given for a number of days. It has been used for years as an anti-malarial drug, and does not have toxic side effects at the doses recommended. It may decrease the effectiveness of seizure medication. One should monitor blood chemistry, kidney and liver enzymes, while on this drug, as with most other medications.

More information, including suppliers and researchers willing to consult about the drug with you or your veterinary practitioner are in the following article.


Artemisinin is an herbal drug that has been shown to kill human and canine cancer cells in the laboratory. It is also being used to treat people and dogs with cancer.

It has been an effective anti-malarial drug in Asia for decades, so there is long standing knowledge about its effects and side effects. It works because the malaria parasite collects iron from the blood and stores it. The Artemisinin converts the collected iron into a chemical that releases a free radical, which then kills the malaria parasite.

It is one of four compounds derived from the herb Artemisia annua L., also known as sweet wormwood, annual wormwood, or sweet Annie. (It is not the same plant as perennial wormwood).


Cancer cells also collect and store iron because they need extra iron to replicate DNA when they divide. Therefore, the cancer cells have a higher concentration of iron than normal cells, and can be differentiated from normal cells. Two researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, Professors Henry Lai, PhD and Narendra Singh, MBBS, began to study the use of Artemisinin in human patients. Then, in l999, working with a vet, they began to study its use in dogs with cancer.

Their experience has confirmed that Artemisinin helps stop the growth of cancer cells in dogs. Numerous anecdotal reports from people using Artemisinin for dogs with osteosarcoma, lymphoma, and metastases from osteosarcoma claim that it has extended their dogs lives beyond what was expected.


Artemisinin has two derivatives: Artesunate, which has a relatively short half-life; and Artemether, which may be a more effective derivative, because it stays in the body longer. It also may be more effective than Artemisinin alone in brain cancers, because it penetrates the blood-brain barrier more readily.

A product called Artemix is available from Wellcare Pharmaceuticals. It contains Artesunate, Artemether, and Artemisinin. The combination capsule may be more effective than Artemisinin alone.


The optimal treatment regimen has still to be determined, and researchers are conducting trials to determine the best combination of derivative form, dosage and timing. In the meantime, the following protocols have been recommended.


Dosage: Initially, Dr Lai recommended a dose of 2.2-4.4mg of Artemisinin per pound of bodyweight. More recently, he has said that it may be preferable to use only Artemether and give it two times a day, 12 hours apart, keeping some in the blood stream at all times.

Dr.Singh believes taking all three forms of Artemisinin at the same time (bedtime) once a day is the most effective treatment protocol.

Holley Pharmaceuticals is recommending up to 11-16mg Artemisinin per pound.

(For kilogram dosages, multiply the dose per pound by 2.2)

Timing: Again, there is some variation in timing. Some people split the dose, giving some in the morning and some before bed. Some give it all just before bed.

There is agreement that Artemisinin should not be given within 3 hours of food containing iron - for example, meat. It may also be better given away from anti-oxidants since it works by creating free radicals that attack the cancer cells, and anti-oxidants are harmful to free radicals.

Giving it with some fat is recommended, but not necessary. Many people disguise the capsules in cream cheese or other dairy product, or peanut butter. If your dog won't take capsules, it may be emptied into whipped cream or other non-iron containing food. (It is quite bitter tasting.)

Cycling: Herbal remedies are thought to be more effective if they are "cycled" or "pulsed", that is, given for a certain number of days, and then not given for a certain number of days. It is believed that if the body rests between doses, it will be less likely to build up a resistance to the herb, which will then be more effective for a longer period of time. Artemisinin may be cycled or pulsed by days or weeks.

Examples: One protocol for a 70-pound dog with OS consists of a 100 mg capsule of Artemisinin (Art-E) in the morning, and a capsule of Artemix before bed. This course is followed for two weeks on and then one week off.

A 60-pound dog is given 200mg of Artemisinin in the morning, and 40 mg of Artemether in the evening, 5 days on and 2 days off.

Another dog has been given mega doses one day per week.

Each person needs to determine the amount and frequency of giving Artemisinin and its derivatives to his or her dog, taking into account how the dog responds to the treatment, and other factors. Your holistic or conventional veterinarian or oncologist may be willing to help you with this.


When Artemisinin was tested with monkeys, they showed no toxicity after they received up to 292 mg/kg (642 mg/pound) of Artemether over 1 to 3 months.

Animal research has shown neurotoxic results with massive doses of Artemether-150mg/kg/day (330mg/pound).

Generally, at the lower recommended doses of 2-16 mg/pound, there is no reported toxicity.


It is recommended that kidney and liver enzyme levels be monitored though out your dog's treatment with Artemisinin or other herbal or alternative therapies.


Reported (Oral): Artemisia may cause abdominal pain, bradycardia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, flu-like symptoms, fever, and decreased reticulocyte count. (Bradycardia is a resting heart rate of 60 beats or less.)

(BCD: One assumes these oral reports were from humans!)


Radiation releases iron stored in cancer cells into surrounding tissue. Therefore, it is recommended that it be used before radiation treatments, be discontinued during radiation treatments, and not resumed until two months after the last radiation treatment.


Artemisinin was tested in combination with 22 chemotherapy drugs and was found to enhance the drugs' effectiveness. If used in conjunction with chemotherapy, it should be taken several hours after the chemotherapy treatment ends. (Artemisinin does not alleviate possible chemotherapy side effects.)

Butyrex or Butyrin

May increase the effectiveness of Artemisinin, but there is no certainty of this.


Professor Narenda Singh, MBBS is reported to have developed an instruction page for physicians considering intramuscular injections of Artesunate.


Holley Pharmaceuticals 1-866-846-5539, 714-871-7070

Wellcare Pharmaceuticals 1-877-728-2073

International: A person in Germany was able to reach an International Pharmacy that ordered Artemisinin from: Nutricology.

Make sure the Artemisinin product you buy comes from a source that certifies the strength of the dose as there is wide variation in the amount of Artemisinin collected from plant to plant.


As with other complementary or alternative therapies, Artemisinin's effectiveness is enhanced by a good diet, high in protein and low in carbohydrates. (See files.)

Antioxidants help to clear the body of the waste from Artemisinin's action on cancer cells. Dr. Singh recommends Vitamin C for its anti-cancer properties, but does not recommend glutathione, which may reduce the efficacy of Artemisinin.


Herb-Drug Interactions

Antacids: Artemisia interferes with antacids, sucralfate, proton pump inhibitors, and histamine-receptor antagonists because it increases the production of stomach acid.

(BCD Note: Many OS dogs are on some form of over-the counter antacid for other medications they are on. You might want to add one if your dog exhibits gastrointestinal symptoms when taking Artemisinin, or if the drug is less effective while the dog is on it. Pepcid AC is well tolerated.) Antiseizure medications: According to Dr Lai, after long term use at high doses, Artemisinin increases an enzyme in the body that makes some anti-seizure drugs less effective. He recommends increasing the dose of the anti-seizure drug, if possible, or stopping Artemisinin for several days, and the enzyme levels will return to normal. (BCD Note: One person using Artemisinin for her seizure grey reports no ill effects from the herb. Consult with your vet if your dog is prone to seizures.)


Dr. Lai; Professor; 206-543-1071; Email:

Questions About Artemisinin: (Dr. Lai's group); Email:

Dr. Singh; Professor; 206 685 2060; Email:

Dr. Cuoto; Veterinarian (Conducting Artemisinin study at Ohio State University, and a friend of Greyhounds); Email:


Yahoo Artemisinin_and_Cancer Support Group

Whole Dog Journal

Dr. Singh's recommendations:

  • Keep a record of the animal's weight, before and during therapy;
  • Diagnostic x-ray or biopsy before and after two months of treatment;
  • Measurements of maximum and minimum tumor sizes before and after 2 months of therapy;
  • Observe for fever on 2nd or 3rd day and make a note to give enough water during the night;
  • Keep Artemisinin in dark, indirect light, and keep in cold - 4 degrees centigrade, or 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Avoid iron-rich foods such as meat 3 to 4 hours before Artemisinin dose. Make sure dog has an adequate supply of vitamin A D and enough exercise. (Active, healthy, younger dogs are said to do better with the treatment, but older, less active dogs have done well also.)
Article contributed by Mary A, in honor dancing angel Emma, November 2007

Back to the top.