Robert McDowell ~ Herbalist
July 1999

Some reading for you from articles Robert McDowell wrote recently on canine cancer which is becoming endemic.

Canine Cancers - Understanding, Prevention and Treatment


Cancer is a breakdown of the immune system, pure and simple. Our immune systems identify and destroy foreign, mutant and imperfect cells found in the body as its main function. It does so quietly and efficiently from day one and, it only when this system is compromised, that cancers can develop.

There seems to be a cruel parallel between the rise in the incidence of Canine Cancers and the same trend in Human Cancers. Cancer in dogs was pretty rare not so long ago. Now Osteosarcoma and Lymphoma are becoming increasingly commonplace followed closely by the emergence of others including Fibrosarcoma, Melanoma, Thyroid and Anal Gland Carcinoma for example.

The argument that the modern prevalence of human cancer is only an illusion, based on the fact that we are living so much longer and we are succumbing to Cancers only because we are not dying from other illnesses, never held water. High infant mortality rates in previous centuries allowed us to say that the average life expectancy was 45 years or 55 years or whatever. This, in fact was never true if you took the life expectancy of someone who had already reached the age of 12. Starting from this age even 200 years ago, life expectancy was no more than 10 years shorter than currently.

We don't hear this particular life expectancy argument so much anyway nowadays, because it is blindingly obvious that younger and younger people are falling prey to more and more Cancers. Maybe all we have achieved in 100 years of modern medicine is to keep non-viable infants and sick adults, alive beyond their natural span.

In the case of domesticated dogs. Cancer is on the rise, developmental disorders are commonplace, life expectancy is shortening and they are more fragile and more expensive to maintain nowadays, than ever before. There has also been a massive international industry built up around processed dog food, health treatments, and more recently 'snack foods' for our dogs which is in very spooky juxtaposition to the same trends in our own lives.

Horses still eat grass (most of them anyway) and Cats still catch birds (almost all of them).

Dogs nowadays don't get to eat much raw or ripening meat and don't get to eat many bones. They don't get to catch their own prey or scavenge for food. They don't eat the raw stomach contents of dead animals they only ever get to eat (gulp actually) cooked, commercial and chemicalised feeds. They don't get enough exercise and they often share the stress and the boredom of our own lifestyles. They are getting sicker and this is no surprise.

I came across the ultimate nonsense, a couple of years ago when I was invited to comment on the new "natural" range of dog products being manufactured by an international company with a factory in my home town in rural Australia. There was the display rack with rows and rows of brightly packaged snack foods for dogs and cats and 90% of them had no English writing on them at all, it was all in Japanese and Korean.

Then, these two bright young technicians tried to tell me that spraying a yoghurt derivative on the outside of a bone shaped object made out of what looked like treated plastic (not ground bone, because it was too messy on the carpet) was somehow a healthy product innovation.

This is the same factory that makes a large part of its income from a very popular dried dog feed which is largely composed of the protein and fibre found in a local woody weed tree which no dog in the wild would ever eat, even if starving. This is the same multinational which built its wealth on an extraordinarily rich chocolate and caramel bar which was one of the very first snack foods advertised and marketed to us humans, back in the 1950's.


Neither Cancer nor good health is solely dependent on what we put in our mouths. In fact as humans, we are able to subvert our immune systems and our health in a vast number of different ways including what we eat, drink, inhale, inject, rub on, do, feel, sit in front of, work amongst, transmit as electromagnetic waves etc, the list goes on. Our dogs have somewhat less complicated lives and, although stress, boredom and artificial environments are emerging problems, their modern diet and subverted exercise patterns are the major factors in the increase in Canine Cancers at this point in time.

My friend and Veterinary Surgeon, Dr Ian Billinghurst has produced two simple and practical books, which have made his peers a little uncomfortable. These books are entitled respectively "Give Your Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pups with Bones". They are both based around what he calls the B.A.R.F. diet, which is an acronym for Bones and Raw Food.

I really have nothing much to add to his contentions that commercial dog food along with subverted exercise patterns in our modern dogs lives, is almost completely responsible for the decline in Canine health since the 1930's. This includes increasing incidence of Reproductive and Skeletal problems along with Cancers, Heart and Kidney problems, Arthritis, shortening life spans, poorer health and life quality generally. I can strongly recommend his books to you.

As a Herbalist, I endorse the simple and very practical approach to life that states we were designed within our environment and for the demands of surviving within it. Any time we subvert the support systems built into this environment, we run risks. Mankind, in the second half of the 20th Century, has embarked on a massive and unrestrained experiment in the subversion of almost all aspects of his environment, diet and support systems and is beginning to pay the price. In this experiment he has taken with him his faithful friend the Dog, who is now also now paying the price for all this foolishness.

Become familiar with, and practice the Bones and Raw Food principles of feeding. Re-establish biologically appropriate exercise patterns and see your puppies grow free of reproductive and skeletal problems and your ailing adult dogs return to good health.

Ian suggests a combination of commercial and natural sources of supplements and nutrients along with bones, meat, offal, and a variety of vegetables and grains. I certainly agree with his recommendations regarding Eggs, Garlic and Honey for example and his raw lean meat and vegetable patty recipes. My suggestions below are to be seen as a herbalist's perspective on the same requirements, only really differing in the preference toward natural sources and in the more detailed understanding of the medicinal value of plants and grains as apposed to simply their nutritional value.

As a Medical Herbalist, I don't see the need for a lot of commercial mineral and vitamin supplements preferring to suggest that natural sources of such things are preferable, usually cheaper, and more easily assimilated than the commercial variety.

Let us consider some of the Vitamins and Minerals one at a time.

Vitamin A: Is found in Eggs, Fish Oil, Carrots and Leafy Green Vegetables and is therefore much better fed as such, rather than as processed supplements.

Vitamin B: Is found in all grains, and the idea of giving Vitamin B supplements to animals which have grain in their diet is a complete nonsense. Vitamin B12 is a little harder to get and is best found in the herb Comfrey, which can be included OCASIONALLY AND IN SMALL QUANTITES, and in these doses is a valuable supplement.

Bioflavinoids: Can be supplied with a little Buckwheat to provide Rutin especially for healthy blood vessels.

Calcium and Silica: Are found in Bones, Cereals and Leafy Greens. I contend that diets high in dairy food and calcium supplements are inappropriate and detrimental for pups and for adult dogs. This mostly because the balance between Calcium and other minerals and fat, while suitable to growing calves, is not suitable for either dogs or humans.

The specific cereals I strongly recommend be included in all dog diets are freshly ground Millet and Linseed to which can be added some Buckwheat and fresh Wheat Germ. The Calcium to Silica and other minerals balance found in Millet and Linseed is absolutely perfect for the growth, health and strength of bones and for the health, strength and elasticity of ligaments. In other words this simple cereal combination does it all.

Vitamin C: Is found in fresh greens in abundance. At times of illness, shock or unusual physical stress, a few Rosehips Tea Bags steeped in boiling water and allowed to cool will provide massive extra amounts of Vitamin C and Iron to aid in recovery from such an episode.

Choline: Is found in bitter vegetables and the leaves of Dandelions and is critical for effective liver function. A dandelion leaf can be included sometimes in the vegetable component of the raw food diet. Otherwise let a few dandelions and other weeds and grasses grow around the yard and watch your dog seek them out for liver support, occasionally.

Vitamin D: Is synthesised by the action of Sunlight on Skin and found in Fish Oils. Not needed so much for the working dog living outside, but could well be important for the house pet waiting inside all day for its owners return. Cod Liver Oil provides the entire Vitamin A and D requirement.

Vitamin E: Is found in fresh wheat germ along with the whole range of Vitamin B's and is the commercial source of both E's and B's. A little fresh wheat germ included with the cereal components of the raw food diet is all that is required. Anything more expensive or more processed is a nonsense.

Iron: Is found in Meat, Wheat Germ and in Green Vegetables especially Parsley and Nettle.

Trace Elements: Are all found in Kelp.

It all boils down to Meat, Offal and Bones, Eggs, Millet and Linseed, Green and Root Vegetables, Wheat Germ, Cod Liver Oil, Kelp and a small amount of table scraps. To this I would add Garlic as a protection against infection and a sulphur source, the inclusion of the odd weed like Dandelion and Comfrey and the odd exposure to Rosehips.


I base my treatments around the twin approach of providing the extraordinarily powerful antioxidant properties from the Maritime Pine Bark in extract form, along with a combination of other herbal ingredients in support of the immune systems' particular area of weakness. In addition to cancer specific formulations, I have developed mixtures supporting recovery from surgery and for recovery and damage minimisation from radio and chemotherapy protocols.

The whole thrust of my treatment programs is to assist the body to reverse the process of cancer altogether and to act as both support and stand-alone treatment.

Many dog owners and their Vets, prefer to retain some aspects of their orthodox treatments whether it be surgery and/or radio or chemotherapy. There is no conflict in combining orthodox and herbal treatment programs although, after I have demonstrated a remission or a reversal, I strongly recommend ceasing ongoing or follow-up chemo or radiotherapy, as these treatments are so destructive to the immune system itself.

My experience with treating Canine Osteosarcoma and after following up on each individual case over the past three years especially is, that I expect to produce remission conditions often for many months with the absence of pain and return to vitality. Dogs seem to respond quickly to these programs are remain able to sustain this improved life quality for 6 to 12 months or more in most cases. Quite often then, they seem to deteriorate rapidly although I do have a significant number of cases, which appear to have been totally cured.

My success rate in treating Canine Lymphoma appears so far, to be better than for the Osteosarcoma program. This is probably due to two factors:
Firstly; the cell replacement rate in soft tissue and the lymphatic system within the body is much faster than it is in bone tissue, thereby allowing a more rapid response within the body.
Secondly; unlike with my human patients, I am able to stimulate the lymphatic system and clear toxins more aggressively with my canine patients. The risk in humans is that being so aggressive could spread the cancer cells more widely in the early part of the treatment. This runs the risk of my being held legally responsible for a worsening of the prognosis in some instances. My canine patients seem to be able to cope with the more aggressive lymphatic tonics and they are also less inclined to sue.

The Herbal Prescriptions:
Bone Growth, Bone Healing:

Besides the dietary recommendations above and especially the inclusion of Millet and Linseed in the daily diet the herbal stimulants to healthy bone growth and healing are Comfrey, Equisetum, Nettle and Yarrow. With these I include the Bach Flower essence Oak.

Lymphoma Treatment Support:

Besides the Maritime Pine Bark extract the herbs I include in this treatment include Bladderack, Comfrey, Equisetum, Golden Seal, Parsley, Rosehips and Violet Leaves. With these I include the Bach Flower essences Oak, Olive, Pine, Water Violet, Walnut and Wild Oat.

Osteosarcoma Treatment Support:

Besides the Maritime Pine Bark extract the herbs I include in this treatment include Bladderack, Comfrey, Equisetum, Golden Seal, Parsley, Rosehips and Yarrow. With these I include the Bach Flower essences Oak, Olive, Pine, Water Violet, Walnut and Wild Oat.

Chemotherapy Support:

This combination seeks to minimise the damage done to the organs and systems in the body including the liver, pancreas, thyroid and the digestive and immune systems generally. Herbs I include are Chamomile, St. Mary's Thistle, Alfalfa, Rosehips, Thuja, Parsley, Fennel, Blue Flag, Ginger and Liquorice. With these I include the Bach Flower essences Rescue Remedy, Walnut, Wild Oat, Scleranthus and Honeysuckle.

Radiotherapy Support:

This combination seeks to minimise the damage and impact of the radiation both during treatment and during the 3 months following treatment where damage continues to occur. Herbs I include are Comfrey, St Mary's Thistle, Kelp, Yarrow, Thuja, Fennel and Sage. With these I include the Bach Flower essences Olive, Scleranthus, Gorse, Holly and Wild Oat.

Too much of a Good Thing!

In my experience with Canine Cancer I have come across the most extraordinarily patient and accommodating dogs who are submitting themselves to the most complex and onerous regimens by their owners.

These owners are the ones who are the most desperately attached to and concerned for their dogs. They implement programs, which consist of every single thing ever recommended or found on the Internet which they sometimes list to me in exhaustive detail. More is not better, your dog is only submitting to all this stuff out of love for you.

My advice is to institute immediately the B.A.R.F diet possibly modified as per my discussion above. Then settle on and persist with a simple program of immune system and antioxidant support along with other programs addressed to the specific type of cancer and to the health and treatment history overall. Then enjoy, and let your pet enjoy, the health and improvement that flow from this. Don't give your dog any "treats" other than raw meaty bones and space to run freely in. Keep the whole program going forever, even if recovery seems to be complete.

Allowing bad old habits to creep back usually precedes dropping out of remission.

Robert McDowell
July 1999.

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