Alternative supplements plus chemo for lymphosarcoma

Q: Dear Dr. Richards,

My 7 year old OES was diagnosed over the weekend with intra-abdominal lymphosarcoma. I've opted for chemo (Madison protocol) as a pallative therapy but as he hasn't been interested in food for five days, would like to supplement with non-traditional therapy in attempt to stimulate his appetite and control the nausea I'm assuming he's experiencing. He's currently on 60mg of Prednisone a day and takes two Pepcid AC a day. I've read that in humans, Essiac and Kombach can be used but don't know if these are safe for canines. My vet couldn't advise me on this (though he has no objection to me using these if they are safe). I would greatly appreciate any info you may have on these or any other ideas you may have on the subject. Thanks very much,

M L.

A: M

There are a lot of reports of people using Essiac tea and I am assuming they are brewing it and giving it as a liquid. No doses are given but no one mentions any toxic effects, either. Evaluations of effectiveness in helping control tumors were pretty variable, ranging from not much help to fairly helpful.

I could not find any information on Kombach in the databases or references that I have access to.

It might be worth considering one of the diets for cancer from Hills or Iams. I have no idea how helpful they are but they are not likely to be harmful. Supplementing omega 3 fatty acids might be worth considering, too. Supposedly the proper percentages of these in the diet are hard to achieve without going to one of the formulated diets, though.

Sorry I can't help more. The chemotherapeutic protocols for lymphoma are pretty good now. Hopefully you'll get a good response to therapy.

Mike Richards, DVM 9/1/99

Lymphosarcoma - Chemo after effects

Q: I am a Sheriff's K9 handler . My 5 year-old German Shepherd partner was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma on March 17, 1997 by my local vet. On her recommendation, I had his condition diagnosed at the Washington State University Veterinary Hospital. Same diagnosis. Chemotherapy treatment began (vincristine, cytoxin, prednisone, the standard chemo protocol). After six months of treatment he is doing very well, has regained the weight he lost and then some. He has been in remission for some time. My concern is the long-term effects of the prednisone. How will this effect him physically, and more importantly, psychologically? I have noticed a distinct change in his behavior when we are working. He is more aggressive in the car and is not as sociable as he was for the first two years we worked together. His concentration is not like it was before. He gets distracted easier, especially when we are tracking. Is this attributable to the drugs? Thank you for the information. Dep. Robert C

A: Robert-

I think it is possible, perhaps even likely, that the prednisone could cause the behavioral changes you are seeing. Unfortunately, so many things change at once when dogs have cancer, then chemotherapy, that it is hard to pin down exactly what might have induced a behavioral change in many instances. In humans I think that occasional (probably rare) psychological effects resembling psychotic behavior are pretty well recognized as a side effect of prednisone usage. I feel that I have seen increases in aggressive behavior in some dogs when they were taking corticosteroids. Unfortunately, this is an important part of the standard protocols for lymphosarcoma so you are stuck with a difficult decision when contemplating stopping it. It would be a really good idea to discuss these concerns with the oncologist at the veterinary school and get his or her opinion, too. I am not sure about the tracking but it seems to me that I remember reading that a side effect of some chemotherapy agents in humans is a reduction in the sense of taste and smell so it seems like that might be a problem, too.

I don't have any good practical advice. Please do call the oncologist to discuss these concerns. Oncologists work with the chemotherapeutic agents other than prednisone much more commonly than general practitioners like myself and are more likely to know the side effects.

Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 01/30/05


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...