If your dog was recently diagnosed with cancer, you’re reeling in the well of grief and shock, and face with a range of treatment options. From surgical, chemotherapy or radiation treatments to supplements, acupuncture or palliative care – there is plenty to wade through while making your decision.
We highly encourage you to consider acupuncture for dogs with cancer. While it may not cure the cancer in a “one treatment miracle cure” storyline, acupuncture is used to support your pet’s wellbeing on many levels – including immune system support, the suppression of inflammation, pain management and stress relief. Acupuncture can also help controls nausea and increases appetite.

How Acupuncture For Dogs With Cancer Supports Wellbeing

Tumor underneath dog hairFirst of all, it’s important to consider that acupuncture is a healing modality, or treatment, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As such, it isn’t typically viewed as a Cure, with a capital-C. Rather, it’s looked at as a medicinal aid that supports the body’s healing process – and facilitates the body’s overall wellbeing – while it’s in a state of disease.
For some dogs, this means acupuncture supports healing as they move through various cancer treatments that may or may not eliminate cancer. For other canine companions, acupuncture will provide the support they need to more comfortably weather their experience – via a more relaxed and pain-free life. This latter version can become part of your dog’s palliative care plan.

Acupuncture supports the immune system

Where research once aimed to completely eradicate cancer by killing cells, we’re now learning that the best methods for treating cancer work collaboratively with the immune system – helping the body to eradicate cancer cells and heal on its own. This method of treatment is called immunotherapy, and you can read cancer.net’s post on Understanding Immunotherapy to learn more about that.
Acupuncture for dogs with cancer is a form of immunotherapy, and has been practiced for thousands of years. Acupuncture has been used to support the immune system to create higher energy and efficacy in the natural body’s healing mechanisms.
After performing systematic reviews of studies pertaining to how acupuncture can support patients (or dogs) with cancer, the National Cancer Institute says:
…acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses,” local and distal, “mediated mainly by sensory neurons…within the central nervous system.” Acupuncture “may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects… Evidence suggests that acupuncture operates through the autonomic nervous system to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and suggests that the anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture are mediated by its electrophysiologic effects on neurotransmitters, cytokines, and neuropeptides. Many studies provide evidence that opioid peptides are released during acupuncture and that acupuncture analgesia is mediated by the endogenous opioid system.
So, when your dog or pet receives an acupuncture treatment from a veterinarian certified in TCM for pets (called TCVM for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine), their nervous system is stimulated to release higher amounts of natural hormones, proteins and enzymes that boost immune system function and provide other benefits as well.

Natural Pain Relief

Both the development of cancer itself, and the pain associated with surgeries or other cancer-related treatments, can cause significant discomfort for your dog. While pain medications are available, they come with their own risks, and we hate to overwhelm the organs and delicate system of an animal who is fighting disease and trying to get well.
Just as we use acupunture to treat arthritis, it can be used to provide relief from pain and discomfort your pet may experience during his/her journey.

Naturally Reduce Stress and Anxiety

We are proud to be a certified Fear Free veterinary practice, so we hope your pets get excited when they see our front door. Even so, repeat visits to a vet, combined with the stress of treatments, chronic physical discomfort and even your anxiety about their illness can all contribute to your dog’s elevated fear, stress and anxiety levels.
The same hormones released via acupuncture (dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins) work as calming and soothing agents, which allow your pet to relax, sleep better and heal.

Reduce nausea and increase appetite

As you can imagine, healthy nutrition is important when a dog is trying to heal. And yet, cancer or the treatments used to treat it can often induce extreme nausea, which decreases your pet’s appetite.
We can talk to you about supplements, nutritional therapy and the use of acupuncture to help quell nausea and increase your dog’s appetite so s/he is able to consume and assimilate the nutrients required to be as healthy as possible.
Has your dog been diagnosed with cancer? Are you wary of subjecting him/her to traditional cancer treatments or interested in supporting your treatment protocol with holistic tools? Contact us here at Wise & Wonderful Integrative Veterinary Center to learn more about using acupuncture for dogs with cancer.