Canine cancer is the number one cause of deaths in older dogs. Like human cancer, even canine cancer is characterised by the abnormal growth of cells within or on the body.
Unlike normal cells, cancerous cells don’t die, they continue to grow and can even spread into the tissue of surrounding organs.
Non-cancerous or benign tumors are localized whereas malignant tumors have the tendency to spread to other parts of the body. There are different types of cancer-based on the organ from which it originates.
Cancer is caused due to a defect in genes which may occur due to exposure to toxic chemicals or due to inheritance.
Cancer treatment is difficult because of the variety of cancers involved and late detection of cancer.
It accounts for 50% of the deaths in dogs over 10 years of age.
Table of Contents
- What are the symptoms of canine cancer?
- What are the treatment options for canine cancer?
- Is there any link between human cancer and canine cancer?
- Turmeric as an anti-cancer drug
- How could turmeric help in fighting canine cancer?
- Pet stories: What do pet owners have to say about turmeric as a remedy for cancer?
What are the symptoms of canine cancer?
Symptoms of canine cancer depend on the type of cancer. Some symptoms seen generally are:
- Swellings that are persistent or continue to grow
- Bleeding or discharge
- Offensive odours
- Loss of weight and appetite
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Loss of stamina and ability to exercise
- Lameness and stiffness
Consult an oncologist for lab tests to confirm cancer or presence of tumor.
What are the treatment options for canine cancer?
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy are the common treatment options available. A combination of these treatments is generally ascertained by the doctor based on the type and stage of cancer.
Acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional therapy are a few of the treatment modules under alternative veterinary medicine.
Symptomatic treatment for pain or difficulty in swallowing is also given. No therapy to prevent cancer has been discovered yet.
The increasing complexity of human genetics and the need for experimental models shifts our attention to developing animal models to understand various aspects of cancer and also test drugs to treat them.
Generally used model is that of mice. But some features are lacking in mice model such as the complex features involved in human cancer, latent periods before cancer development, recurrence of cancer, etc.
Also, they are genetically more similar to humans, they suffer from a number of diseases that occur in humans and are also exposed to the same environmental toxins as humans.
Also, dog models are genetically simpler to investigate.
Turmeric as an anti-cancer drug
Turmeric is the ‘Golden herb’ of Ayurveda. It is popularly used as a spice in Indian and Asian cuisine. The flesh of the rhizome has a golden yellow hue and it has a bitter, spicy taste. It has two bioactive fractions:
- Curcuminoids: a group of antioxidants that impart the yellow color to the herb. Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid.
- Turmeric oil: a group of organic compounds that impart aroma and pharmacological properties to the spice
- It destroys cancerous cells without damaging healthy cells.
- It prevents cancerous cell proliferation.
- It prevents the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
- It reduces inflammation.
- Turmeric reverses multi drug resistance in various cancer cells.
- It increases the sensitivity of cancer cells to various cancer treatments.
- It selectively kills cancer cells and protects normal cells.
How could turmeric help in fighting canine cancer?
Herein we will go over the common cancers that affect dogs and the therapeutic effects turmeric has on each of them.
1. Bladder cancer
Bladder cancer affects the urinary system and the urinary bladder of the dogs. It accounts for 2% of the reported cases of cancer.
They are different types of bladder cancer depending on the type of cells they affect and Scottish terriers are one of the breeds that are highly predisposed to developing this disease.
It is generally caused by exposure to insecticides or herbicides. Obesity, inheritance, second-hand smoke are a few of the other possible causes.
Role of Turmeric in bladder cancer
An experimental study in rats demonstrated that prevented development of lesions in the urinary bladder and lowered levels of proteins that support the growth of cancerous cells. Curcumin powder was found to exert a protective role against bladder cancer.
Curcumin is also proven to increase the sensitivity of cancerous cells to chemotherapeutic agents, thus increasing their antitumor effect and aiding in management of cancers of the urinary system.
Curcumin in combination with other agents causes cell death and prevents cell growth in bladder cancer cells.
It increases the cell destruction effect of other chemotherapeutic agents like gemcitabine and paclitaxel. Curcumin inhibits the activity of inflammatory chemicals like nuclear factor kappa B and cycloxygenase 2 which prevents cell proliferation in bladder cancer.
What does this mean?
Curcumin offers protection against bladder cancer and also increases the effect of anti-cancer drugs on bladder cancer cells.
2. Mammary Carcinoma
Mammary tumors are cancer affecting the mammary glands. 50% of the tumors are malignant in this case. Spayed females are at a reduced risk of developing mammary cancer. Rarely is a male dog afflicted with mammary cancer?
It is generally seen as a lump along the mammary chain. Genetic basis and abnormalities in hormones could cause mammary cancer.
Role of Turmeric in mammary carcinoma
Curcumin increases sensitivity to retinoic acid, a compound which suppresses the growth of mammary cancer cells.
It also reduces the activity of nuclear factor-kappaB, a protein that regulates cell growth and inflammation and thereby curbs mammary cancer. Curcumin causes cell death in mammary cancer cells by manipulating a number of biochemical pathways.
What does this mean?
In addition to increasing sensitivity to anti-cancer drugs, curcumin individually destroys mammary cancer cells.
3. Canine Brain Tumor
A brain tumor is an abnormal mass of cells in the brain. It can be localized to the brain and its membranes or it can spread to other parts of the body.
Genetic factors, radiation exposure, exposure to carcinogens from food, head injuries can cause brain cancer
A dog suffering from brain cancer is likely to have seizures, demonstrate abnormal behaviour, have vision problems and a disoriented gait.
Role of Turmeric in brain tumor
Curcumin blocks brain tumor formation and destroys brain tumor cells. It effectively suppresses the activity of proteins that are essential for cancerous cell survival and proliferation.
Researchers suggest using curcumin as an adjuvant with anti-cancer drugs like etoposide and temozolomide which are used to treat a brain tumor.
Curcumin inhibits the activity of telomerase- an enzyme that is involved in aging and proliferation of cells. Curcumin nanoparticles have been devised that can inhibit the development of malignant brain tumor.
Curcumin inhibits activity of STAT3, a protein that is commonly used as a target in treating cancer as it is involved in cell growth and proliferation.
What does this mean?
Curcumin blocks formation and destroys brain tumor cells.
4. Mast cell tumor
Mast cell tumors are the most common type of skin tumor affecting dogs. Mast cells are a type of immune cells that help protect against the foreign body.
Mast cell tumors are aggregates of mast cells and these cells secrete enzymes which are designed to attack infection but in this case, they affect other organs of the body.
Mast cell tumors generally occur in the skin covering trunk and limb region. Boxers, pugs, English Bulldogs have a high tendency of developing this disease.
Role of Turmeric in mast cell tumor
Mast cells are generally activated in response to allergy and inflammation. Experimental studies suggest that curcumin demonstrates its anti-allergic activity by inhibiting the activation of mast cells.
One study shows that the concentration of cyclooxygenase enzyme is high in canine mast cell tumors. Researchers suggest that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) which are COX inhibitors can be used to treat such tumors.
Steroids are administered along with chemotherapeutic drugs to reduce inflammation in mast cell tumors. This study shows that curcumin is as good as steroids in controlling inflammation which indicates that it could be used in treating mast cell tumors instead of steroids.
What does this mean?
Turmeric’s anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory activity can help treat mast cell tumors.
5. Testicular cancer
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in unneutered older male dogs. There are different types of testicular cancer based on the cells of the testes it affects.
Age, breed, exposure to environmental toxins are few of the factors that control the development of testicular cancer.
Castration is one treatment option and it can be cured if detected in early stages.
Role of Turmeric in testicular cancer
Curcumin is proven to protect against side effects caused by bleomycin a drug used to treat testicular cancer. When administered along with this drug, curcumin enhances bleomycin’s effect on biochemical pathways and induces cancerous cell death.
What does this mean?
Curcumin destroys testicular cancer cells along with anti-cancer drug bleomycin and also protects from the side effects of that drug.
6. Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer can occur in the canine oral cavity, nose, salivary glands, and upper respiratory tract. Cancer of the mouth is very common.
Difficulty in swallowing, breathing, swelling, bleeding from mouth and nose are few of the symptoms of head and neck cancer. Since these regions are very delicate and sensitive therefore a combination of treatments are used to control the disease.
Role of Turmeric in head and neck cancer
What does this mean?
Turmeric suppresses the growth of head and neck cancer in combination with anti-cancer drugs.
It is generally seen in middle-aged and older dogs. Lymphoma accounts for 15-20% of the malignant tumors in dogs.
Viral particles, herbicides, chromosomal defects, exposure to paints and solvents or weak immune system can lead to lymphoma.
Role of turmeric in lymphoma
Ar-tumerone, a compound obtained from the turmeric oil fraction, inhibits the activity of a protein that is essential for cell survival and destroys tumor cells. Curcumin impacts a number of molecular targets to prevent the growth of the lymphoma.
What does this mean?
Curcumin and ar-tumerone are effective in treating lymphoma.
Melanoma affects melanocytes- cells that impart colour to the skin. It commonly occurs in the mouth and toes of the dogs. Combination of genetic and environmental factors is said to cause this disease.
Malignant melanomas can spread to lymph nodes and lungs making the case more complicated. Scottish terriers, Doberman pinscher, Cocker Spaniel are few of the breeds that are likely to develop this disease.
Role of turmeric in melanoma
- Inhibits cancer cell proliferation
- Destroys cancerous cells
- Increases the effect of chemotherapeutic agents on melanoma
What does this mean?
Melanoma is a commonly occurring type of skin cancer and turmeric is popular for its therapeutic effects on skin disorders. Curcumin is effective in controlling melanoma.
It destroys the existing bone, leads to abnormal growth of new bones and can spread to other diseases.
Radiation, carcinogens, metal implants, bone transplants, and injuries can lead to osteosarcoma.
Lameness and swelling are the primary symptoms. Surgery is the first line of treatment in osteosarcoma.
Role of turmeric in osteosarcoma
Curcumin is found to exert its therapeutic effect in osteosarcoma in a number of ways:
- Causing cell death of osteosarcoma cells
- Preventing growth and spread of osteosarcoma cells in other tissues
- Increasing sensitivity of multidrug resistant cancer to chemotherapeutic agents
- Selectively destroys bone cancer cells over healthy bone cells
What does this mean?
Curcumin manipulates a number of biochemical pathways to destroy and control bone cancer cells.
Pet stories: What do pet owners have to say about turmeric as a remedy for cancer?
Dr. Demian Dresseler, popularly known as ‘dog cancer vet’ recommends turmeric to treat cancer in dogs. Let us see what pet owners have to say about this.
Topical turmeric application for Skin cancer
This is a story about two dogs who were afflicted with skin cancer. 6-year-old Boxer, Abby suffered from skin cancer on his limb while her son, Drake had a tumor on his right front leg.
Among the different treatment regimens followed, the pet owners made a turmeric and coconut oil paste. They mixed 1 teaspoon of coconut oil with 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.
To this, they add ¼ tsp baking powder and drops of castor oil.
This paste was applied daily at night with the help of a gauze pad. In case of large tumors they recommend leaving it for 8-9 hours and for small tumors they suggest rubbing the paste 3-5 times daily.
Within 30 days of treatment, Abby’s tumor disappeared while Drake’s tumor started shrinking. This is definitely a great way to employ turmeric’s anti-cancer activity.
One month of turmeric shrinks canine tumors
Owner of a greyhound shares her dog’s experience with turmeric. Her dog was suffering from mast cell cancer and fibrosarcoma since the age of two. Despite surgery, her dog would keep developing lumps in the body.
After a rigorous search through alternative medicine therapies, the owner came across curcumin. Upon the vet’s approval, the owner started her pet with curcumin.
Since then the incidence of lumps have decreased and existing tumors have reduced in size.
The owner happily shares this story on a forum for the benefit of other pet lovers.
Turmeric and black pepper combo saves a pet
This is an astonishing story we stumbled upon in a pet lovers forum. A dog was diagnosed with mast cell cancer that was so severe that he had only a week or so more in hand.
The owner started the dog on turmeric and black pepper. The dog was given 1/8-14 teaspoon full of both per 10 pounds of the dogs’ weight.
And within a week’s time when the owner took her to the vet, the vet was astonished to see that the cancer was in control. Isn’t that amazing!?
Turmeric as a part of a diet cures cancer
Kelley, owner of a Labrador and French bulldog was devastated to learn that her Lab was diagnosed with rare cancer and had only 7 months to live.
With the help of a canine nutritionist, Kelly whipped a natural supplement derived from greens to which she added anti-inflammatory herbs turmeric and ginger.
Her lab lost its leg but cancer stopped spreading and the supplement cured it. The supplement improved her French bulldog’s health.
Kelley gave up her regular business and started manufacturing this supplement full time. Very inspiring isn’t it?
Since turmeric has not yet evolved as an aid in mainstream veterinary medicine, there is no set dosage for turmeric for dogs. Some say your pet’s weight does not affect the dose while some it does.
The following table guides you about the amount of turmeric your pet should get based on his weight
After deciding the amount of turmeric powder, you should opt for the following recipes since these enhance turmeric’s bioavailability.
The Golden Paste
Take ½ cup of turmeric powder and 1 cup water in a pan and stir on low flame. Develop a thick paste. Adjust the water content based on the thickness of the paste. This can take about 7-10 minutes
Add 1 ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 70 ml coconut or olive oil and mix well to make a good paste.
Based on the amount of turmeric your pet should receive, decide the amount of Golden Paste. Start with small doses and build the dose gradually if it suits your pet.
In fact you don’t need to make a separate Golden Paste for your pet. You can just use the same one that you make, and based on the dose suggested for your pet’s body weight you could feed him that amount.
However to make the paste more palatable and less spicy add boiling water to the paste and mix to form gravy-like consistency. Let this cooldown and then add it to your dog’s food.
You can even add turmeric to your dog’s treats but this might not reach the therapeutic efficacy of The Golden Paste.
Read Turmeric Dosage For Dogs- The Definitive Guide for more details
Consult your vet before adding turmeric to your pet’s diet. Take a health practitioner’s guidance to ascertain the dose of turmeric powder suitable for your dog’s weight.
Turmeric as a seasoning in dog food should not cause any problems. To make the spicy taste tolerable please add plenty of water to the turmeric and dog food mixture. Avoid giving turmeric powder from turmeric capsules to your pet unless advised by the vet.
Your dog may suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms on consuming turmeric, though it is a rare side effect. Discontinue turmeric if that occurs.
Turmeric in the diet does not cause any side effects but you could discontinue it in case your pet is scheduled for surgery to avoid bleeding risk. Once he is stabilized you can start turmeric again.
If your pet is pregnant, turmeric might act as a mild uterine stimulant so it is advisable to avoid turmeric then.
Turmeric is proven to be an anti-cancer agent in many studies focussed on human cancer. However this property can be extended in treating ca,ncer not only in dogs but other animals.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity can help curb cancer.
Including turmeric in your dog’s diet is a healthy start irrespective of whether they are afflicted with any disorder. Feel free to share your stories about your pet’s experience with turmeric.