Sensible Supplements For Immunonutrition


By Alice Villalobos, DVM

For Veterinary Practice News

Highly metastatic cancers can kill their victims despite a timely and complete excision of the primary tumor. This aggressive biologic behavior results from the early dissemination of  scout cells into the lymphatic and circulatory system before detection of the primary tumor.

Mom Dog was given a poor prognosis
following splenectomy and liver lobectomy
for a bleeding hemangiosarcoma. Her
owners were using a combination of
supplements that added up to 51 items.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Villalobos


These abnormal aggressive scout cells acquire an immortal nature, survive the body’s immunosurveillance and are able to develop into new clones of cells that accumulate into metastatic tumors.


The new metastatic clones are often more resistant than the primary tumor because of the hardiness of their progenitor scout cells.


It would be ideal if there were a safe way to fortify high-risk breeds, aging pets and post-operative cancer patients against cancer.


It seems obvious to me and to others in research and clinical medicine that people and animals can, and do, benefit from immunonutrition and/or chemoprevention.


I started using anticancer supplements for my patients in earnest about 12 years ago. The difference in my patients’ physical conditions, quality of life and survival times has been impressive.


Chemoprevention is the concept benefiting high-cancer risk patients by giving natural or synthetic compounds that may reverse or suppress the process of carcinogenesis, recurrence and metastases.


Hundreds of natural compounds have been formulated as supplements or nutraceuticals with claims that they can fight cancer. Some of these compounds have been shown to play a role in the cell cycle to reduce cancer risks. I like to call these natural compounds “foodiceuticals” as well as nutraceuticals to emphasize to clients that they are generally nontoxic and found in nature.


Immunonutrition Protocol Suggestions


There are hundreds of products on the market. These are the products that I trust for my immunonutrition protocols because I know they have proven in-house quality control.


I tell my clients that the nutraceuticals will change their pet’s physiology to handle the treatments and to resist recurrent cancer so they should continue to use the products long after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are complete.


I use Inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6) from rice. It is derived from soybeans, rice, sesame seeds, beans, legumes and cereals. IP-6 is a polysaccharide found in fiber that is anti-carcinogenic, has potent anti-oxidant action and enhances natural killer-cell activity. For more information, visit


I also recommend beta glucan derived from the Agaricus blazei mushroom. Beta glucan has the ability to stimulate macrophage activity to destroy viral, bacterial and malignant cells. It is used widely in Asia as a health supplement. For more information, visit


To enhance adaptogen activity during stress, I recommend Advanced Protection Formula (APF) Drops. It contains extracts from several types of Siberian ginseng.


Humans and animals on this product have increased energy and appetite and maintain higher white-blood cell counts while under stressors, such as chemotherapy. APF drops also may help increase insulin use in diabetic pets and may help stabilize hyperglycemic cats. For information, contact Dr. Mike Van Noy,


If the pet has liver disease or cancer, I recommend milk thistle for its proven ability as a flavonoid to improve the solubility of bile and enhance the detoxification process. Milk thistle also prevents depletion of glutathione, raises glutathione levels up to 35 percent and protects the liver from damage.


It can be used for pets on chemotherapy to help the liver process and detoxify drugs. It can be found in several products such as Larchmont, N.Y.-based Rx Vitamins for Pets Hepato Support.


I also like to use Platinum Performance’s vitamins product and its Repress minerals as comprehensive and beneficial supplements for my cancer patients. Some dogs get diarrhea because of the OM-3 fatty acids, so we introduce it to the diet gradually. For information contact Dr. Doug Herthel,


Standard Process Inc., in Palmyra, Wis., a well-known nutraceutical firm, has recently entered the veterinary market with its quality products.


Rx Vitamins for Pets offers excellent high-quality supplements and support products formulated by Dr. Robert Silver. It is introducing a new formulation called Onco Support. It will be available in January. For more information visit


For pets with cancer cachexia or pets with feeding tubes, I use glutamine powder, ImmunoPro (whey protein) and Organic Colostrum from Biomolecular Sciences Inc., in Marina Del Rey, Calif.,


I also like DeToxMax, an oral detoxification formula from Bioimmune Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz. I also use its liquid Ultra Ascorbic C and Immune Response Powder. Bioimmune provides excellent but demanding protocols and products for terminal human cancer, cardiac and diabetic patients. If applicable, protocols may be beneficial for animal cancer patients. For more information,


When Gregory Ogilvie, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, was at Colorado State University, he looked at the theory that cancer cells survive best on sugars and carbohydrates.


Hill’s Pet Nutrition formulated a diet high in protein, fatty acids and l-arginine, and low in carbohydrates and sugars. The concept of the diet was to “Feed the patient and starve the cancer.”


Fifty dogs with lymphoma were given the same chemotherapy protocol and divided into two groups. The group on the special diet had an additional 100 days of remission.


The diet is currently available as Hill’s n/d or neoplasia diet. Many oncologists recommend n/d for dogs with lymphoma and dogs receiving radiation therapy. To avoid diarrhea, we advise pet owners to gradually blend n/d into the pet’s regular food.


– A.V.


The scientific community is taking a closer look at substances that modify the differentiation of cells and affect the proliferation or the mutation of cells as they progress from inflammation toward malignancy.


The medical and scientific community has found it difficult to reach a consensus about nutraceuticals because these products are not regulated.


Unfortunately, 38 percent of the compounds evaluated for content in the marketplace did not meet their label claim. So, we can’t trust them all.


The National Cancer Institute has formed a Chemoprevention Branch to fund studies testing the efficacy of some nutraceuticals in populations of susceptible and high-risk patients.


It took 70 years for the scientific community to accept that vitamin C cured scurvy. It may take repetitious studies and more time before flavonoids, vitamin C, beta-carotene, NSAIDs, selenium, vitamin A (retinoids), Inositol hexaphosphate, mannose, fucose, beta glucan, fatty acids or antioxidants are credited for their roles in the battle against cancer.


My interest in how nutrition affects cancer was inspired by the work of hundreds of distinguished researchers who have published more than 300,000 articles and papers. They have looked at the effect that antioxidants and fatty acids and hundreds of other natural compounds have on cancer.


Journals such as Nutrition and Cancer and the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Assn. have presented evidence that shows we can place our patients on a better plane of health through nutrition.


Pet owners are constantly searching for the best supplements for their pets, especially when cancer strikes. They often have their pet on 10 to 50 different supplements by the time they come in for consultations.


Pet owners select the supplements based upon variable advice from health-food storekeepers, books, friends, the Internet, nutritional consultants and animal communicators.


It is time for practicing veterinarians to look into the subject of sensible supplementation for their patients to keep the patient’s health in balance.


Dr. Villalobos is a recipient of the Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian and the UC Davis Alumni Achievement awards. She is president-elect of the American Assn. of Human Animal Bond Veterinarians. She directs Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills and is associated with VCA Clarmar Animal Hospital in Torrance, Calif., and VCA Coast Animal Hospital in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Her e-mail address is

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