In memory of Jill and Sakura

A Balance Approach to Care

When a human or pet is diagnosed with pet cancer, the first reaction is that you feel the entire world crumbling down on you. Thereafter, the doctors or vets might seem like God to you. Their words are always true and their prognosis final.

Some would turn to God for a miracle. Others may shut friends and relatives out and ignore any form of advices completely. If you have encountered a friend in such circumstances or a near death experience yourself, all these would sound familiar to you.

Cancer in your pet isn’t the end of life. Cancer is a journey of experiences and healing. Having a quality life is very highly possible.  We call this a Balanced Approach To Cancer.


Demian Dressler, DVM
Author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and The Dog Cancer Diet

Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)
Author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and The Dog Cancer Diet

JRobert C. Rosenthal, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVIM, Dipl ACVR
Author of Veterinary Oncology Secrets

Richard H Pitcairn, DVM
Founder of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and coauthor of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

Richard W. NelsonDVM, DACVIM
Contributor to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). Author and Co-Author of 120 peer-reviewed journal articles



In order to redefine Medicine for Healing, we first need to gain a better understanding of the numerous medical options available. The image on the left is a chart of most methods of healing. Embracing one of it is never enough. You need to embrace it all.


Integrative medicine is defined as healing-oriented medicine that revolves around the well-being of the individual. It addresses the full range of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors that affect an individual’s health. Integrative medicine encompasses all forms of treatment, conventional or alternative. It should go beyond treating symptoms and to seek the underlying causes of the illness. However, locally, claimed practitioners of integrative medicine have yet to fulfill all aspects of integrative medicine.



Even though modern conventional medicine has become more specialized, it was done at the expense of neglecting many other therapeutic options.

Modern medicine treats any sickness with 2 major options: either medication or surgery. That is what it was developed to do. When it comes to emergency interventions, it is no doubt the best approach currently. For instance, when a patient comes into the emergency room with a severed leg, conventional medicine using surgery and antibiotics treat the immediate problem with incredible efficacy. In most cases, surgery and medication is enough to see the patient to recovery.

But when it comes to chronic illness, the conventional approach ALONE might not be sufficient.



If we refer once again to the chart of medical spectrum, we would realise that conventional medicine, i.e. pharmaceutical drugs, invasive surgeries, physical modalities, covers only about 25% of the spectrum. This means that conventional medicine is neglecting as much as 75% of the available therapies which could contribute to patient’s well-being and recovery. Over 95% of the doctors are practising within the boundaries of this small 25%.

Yet, despite the hyper-attention to biochemical activity and Newtonian science, these methods have yielded sub-optimal results, as is witnessed by the great increase in chronic cases in the world. As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults has two or more chronic health conditions AND one out of three dogs has cancer – SOURCE: CDC.

Within this small section, we can find a growing number of specialties, from cardiac electrophysiologists to vascular neurologists. Often, patients will be sent from one specialty to the other, each focusing on a more precise area of the body without taking in the complete picture of the body working as a whole.

Sadly, majority of the veterinarians in Singapore still practise within the walls of conventional medicines thus depriving their patients of more chances of recovery. On the other hand, we are seeing more veterinarians in the UK and US venturing into alternatives therapies as they found what conventional medicine could offer is somewhat limited.



Alternative medicine encompasses a larger segment of the medical spectrum. It ranges from nutritional supplementation and neutraceuticals to energy work such as acupuncture.  Many areas of specialties are encompassed within ‘alternative’ medicine; some focusing only on one segment of the wheel and such alternative medical practitioners often dismiss conventional medicine, leaving orthodox medicine to the hospitals and specialist physicians.

Many fields and specialties are encompassed within ‘alternative’ medicine; some focusing only on one segment of the wheel. It is common for alternative medical practitioners to dismiss conventional medicine, leaving orthodox medicine to the hospitals and specialist physicians.  It is also not uncommon for each alternative modality to take a non-inclusive approach that emphasizes only one small segment e.g. nutritional supplements, natural medicines or holistic therapies, making the claim that “this type of medicine” is best and the only answer to a majority of diseases, while dismissing and opposing other areas of the medical spectrum. Specialists in this realm range from chiropractors to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) practitioners, and may vary wildly between types of treatments and treatment recommendations.

From our experience, when pet owners embrace only alternative treatments and entirely reject the conventional medicine, they too failed their pets.


Mental Wellness includes spiritual practices and psychological needs. Both helps balance the patient and in this case, the pet patient and its owner. A positive effect on mental wellness is the Placebo effect.  The Placebo effect refers to a phenomenon where by a placebo or else known as a fake treatment can sometimes improve the patient’s condition simply because the patient expected it. The fake treatment is usually an inactive substance such as water, sugar or saline solution. While the Placebo effect in humans has been well documented, very little is known about the effect of Placebo Effect on our pets and if pets could create their own placebo effect.

Does the placebo effect exist in dogs? Until recently, the presumed answer was a resounding no because animals were thought to lack the cognitive capacity to understand the intent of medical care or the power of suggestion, or to have hope of recovery. Since placebos are generally thought to work by creating the false belief that one is getting an effective treatment, how can animals experience placebo effects when they do not appear to have explicit beliefs about their own health? However, we believe placebo effects are relevant to pets. And placebo-controlled studies would be critical to an accurate understanding of whether medical therapies truly work for our animal companions.

The most significant aspect of placebo effects in animals is the caregiver placebo. Animals cannot directly report their subjective symptoms, such as pain or nausea, so veterinarians and owners must observe animal patients and decide whether they are responding to a medical therapy. Often, the humans will perceive improvement even when objective measures show none or when the animal is actually getting a placebo treatment. This sometimes translate to actual improvements in the pet’s conditions.

Placebo effect in canine epilepsy trials

Is There a Placebo Effect for Animals?