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Your Guide on Probiotics For Dogs With Cancer

Katelyn Son

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Sadly research suggests that almost 60% of pets will develop cancer at some point in their lives. This number is devastating and emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and therapy.
Lately, dog food supplements like CBD oil, fatty acids, probiotics, and antioxidants are of particular interest due to their ability to mitigate the effects associated with standard cancer therapies. In this article, we will talk about probiotics for dogs with cancer. 

Are Probiotics Good for Dogs with Cancer?

woman sitting by lake with dog
Yes, probiotics are good for dogs with cancer. But, first things first – probiotics are not a cure per se. However, they can help manage various cancer symptoms and side effects associated with conventional cancer therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery). 

Benefits of Probiotics for Dogs with Cancer

The benefits of probiotics are more extensively studied in human cancer patients than in dogs. Such studies show that probiotics have cancer-suppressing properties and can be used in the prevention and treatment of various types of cancer. 
From what is currently known, probiotics can help dogs with cancer in the following areas: 
  • Strengthen the immune system and formation of T-cells which are critical in certain cancer patients 
  • Increase the food intake and contribute to proper weight management to combat cancer cachexia 
  • Prevent “leaky gut” issues and ensure proper digestion and nutrient absorption vital for overall health. 
However, the implementation of probiotics for dogs is something that needs to be discussed with vets. Although most probiotic supplements are available over-the-counter, a veterinarian must approve whether they are compatible with the rest of the drugs the dog is receiving.
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  • Avoid diarrhea, loss of appetite, constipation, and many other problems.
  • Helps promote the production of natural antibodies, fight free radicals, and support a healthy immune system in your dog.

Causes & Signs of Cancer in Dogs

 The exact cause of cancer is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic factors and exposure to proven carcinogens – household chemicals, air pollution, tobacco smoke, pet food ingredients, and ultraviolet radiation. 
There are many cancer types affecting different body systems and exerting different health issues. Because of their prevalence in the dog population, the following are worth mentioning: 
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Canine Lymphoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Mast Cell Tumors
  • Melanoma
Sadly, the clinical signs and symptoms are not always telltale for cancer and include general issues like:
  • Emergence of lumps and bumps under the skin
  • Persistent sores and wounds that do not heal
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Sudden weight loss and appetite changes 
  • Intermittent vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Changes in the bathroom habits
  • Difficulty eating, swallowing, and breathing
  • Loss of stamina, lethargy, and depression 
  • Persistent lameness
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from body openings
As mentioned, these red flags are not specific to cancer in dogs. Therefore, it is best to have your dog checked by a veterinarian as soon as you notice any changes. Then, if necessary, the vet will refer you to a veterinary oncologist.  

What is the Best Supplement for Dogs with Cancer?

woman petting dog
Probiotics are not the only supplement used for cancer dogs. There are various helpful products, and the best thing is they can be used simultaneously. 
Cannabidiol Products. CBD supplements are the most frequently used product for cancer management. CBD alleviates pain and discomfort, decreases nausea and increases appetite, modifies the immune system, and improves the overall quality of life. Plus, CBD oil has various anti-cancer properties. 
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega fatty acids help cancer dogs on various levels – they inhibit the pro-inflammatory chemicals in the dog’s body, prevent muscle wasting linked with many cancers, and protect healthy cells during chemotherapy and radiation. Fish oil is the best source of DHA and EPA fatty acids.  
Turkey Tail Mushrooms. These mushrooms are known for their ability to boost the immune system, fight off free radicals, and manage certain cancers. In a study on dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma, supplementation with turkey tail mushrooms resulted in delayed development or progression of abdominal metastasis. 
Turmeric or Curcumin. Curcumin is the active ingredient extracted from the popular turmeric spice. In addition to featuring strong anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin affects various processes associated with tumor formation and proliferation. Turmeric is regularly found in many joint supplements for dogs. 
Prebiotics. When using probiotics for dogs, it is best to add prebiotics too. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that promotes the growth of good bacteria in the intestines. In simple words, prebiotics are food for probiotics. In addition to providing nutrients for the healthy gut bacteria, they support various processes in the body. 
Finally, not all supplements are bought in pet pharmacies. Several human foods have excellent anti-cancer properties and are dog-friendly. Common examples include cruciferous vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower), ginger, burdock, collard greens, coconut oil, olive oil, and blueberries. 
In fact, diet plays an important role in managing canine cancer. Namely, a high protein diet is not recommended as the proteins will feed the tumor as well. Carbs can be risky, too, and dogs with cancer need low-glucose carbohydrates like fruits, brown rice, peas, and oats. 

Using Probiotics for Your Dog’s Cancer Treatment 

Dogs who receive chemotherapy drugs almost always suffer from gastrointestinal inflammation, resulting in issues like decreased or absent appetite, nausea, severe diarrhea, and weight loss. This specific condition is popularly known as “leaky gut.”
On the other hand, dogs with cancer need high-quality nutrition to support their immune systems and promote overall health. Even the best diet will not do the trick if the dog cannot consume it or diarrhea prevents adequate nutrient absorption.
Therefore, “leaky gut” is the most common reason pet owners decide to terminate their dogs’ chemo treatments. And this is where probiotics kick in. Adding probiotic supplements to the treatment plan supports a healthy gut microbiome and promotes better nutrient absorption. 

How to Choose the Best Probiotic for Dogs with Cancer

The world of canine probiotics is rich and versatile. However, not every probiotic product is safe, efficient, and of high quality. To make sure you chose the best probiotic for your dog with cancer, stick to this short checklist:
  • The right strains and in right numbers. The best probiotic includes various good bacteria (Bifidobacterium animals, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecium) and in large numbers expressed as CFUs (Colony Forming Units). 
  • All-natural ingredients. Fillers, allergens, and GMOs must not be present in the formula. All ingredients must be natural, including the added components like probiotics, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and digestive enzymes. 
  • Practical form and dog-friendly flavor. Probiotics are available in different forms like powders, liquids, chews, and capsules. For straightforward use and easy administration, manufacturers add flavors like beef, chicken, or cheese. 
  • Reputable and reliable brand. Before making the final decision, pay attention to the brand’s status. A good brand will be transparent about its manufacturing practices and will have no trouble displaying reviews from satisfied customers. 
Once you choose the right probiotic, do not forget to boost its efficacy by combining it with natural probiotics like Greek yogurt and kefir. 

Our Final Thoughts on Probiotics for Dogs with Cancer

dog and owner enjoying the sunset
The introduction of holistic approaches as part of cancer management in pets is increasingly popular. More and more veterinarians recommend supplements – herbs, oils, and probiotics to mitigate the effects of either cancer itself or its therapy.
The use of probiotics is of particular interest. Probiotics have been used to support gut health and healthy immune function in people for years, but their use in pets is relatively new. And so, far quite promising, as long you chose a high-quality probiotic product.