Integrative Oncology with Dr. Kendra Pope
Recently I did a podcast with Dr. Kendra Pope, an integrative veterinary oncologist, trained in holistic modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and intravenous nutrient therapies. She helps pet parents navigate through difficult diagnoses, symptoms, and side effects of treatment for their beloved pets. Dr. Pope also teaches an Integrative Oncology course at the Chi Institute, designed for veterinarians who want to learn about Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and other integrative medicine for their cancer patients. Her website, DrKendraPope.com, is filled with incredible resources, from integrative services to preventative medicine, clinical studies and more!
Listen in to the whole episode:
What is Integrative Oncology?
Integrative Oncology, like any integrative veterinary medicine, is the use of complementary therapies alongside conventional medicine.
Conventional cancer treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy. These therapies are standard, and are what your conventional veterinarian will most likely advise.
Integrative veterinarians still use conventional treatments, but also integrate complementary and alternative therapies to support the patient beyond the conventional treatment. Complementary therapies can help with the side effects of conventional cancer treatments, like the pain, fatigue, and anxiety that come with chemotherapy and radiation. This may include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, ozone therapy, herbal medicine, nutrient therapy, cannabis based therapies and more.
These integrative therapies are not usually taught as a part of typical veterinary education, so integrative veterinarians like Dr. Pope must continue to educate themselves on these integrative modalities.
Regrettably, most pet parents look right past what we’re feeding our pets when health issues arise. However, 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut. That means good gut health is fundamental to overall wellness. So for Dr. Pope, Food Therapy is the very first step for any patient who comes to her practice.
“70% of my patient population have cancer. And then I do get another percent of my population that are coming to me for chronic disease. So what I reach for first, is actually always food. Because there’s no amount of supplements or nutrients that you can give that can fix a patient if they’re on a bad diet.” Dr. Kendra Pope
Dr. Pope shared with us that on average, about 25% of pet parents come to her practice already feeding their pets a non-processed diet. The other 75% are immediately advised to make the switch from a processed diet as their first step.
“Nobody in my practice is on processed food.” Dr. Kendra Pope
Processed pet foods use feed grade ingredients, and are regulated as pet feed. This means they are not required to abide by the U.S. Federal food safety laws. Many companies also use high pressure pasteurization, which can damage the product, removing important nutrients. It’s also highly processed, with added chemicals that can harm the membrane lining the gut. This causes a leaky gut, allowing those toxins into the body, where they end up triggering an inflammatory response.
We recommend a fresh, species-appropriate diet, which can be supplemented with a natural source of probiotics to support gut health. A great way to start the switch is by adding fresh foods to your pet’s current diet, as a way to begin the transition to a healthier diet. Your pets can even share some of the same ingredients or meals you prepare for yourself. A holistic or integrative veterinarian can help you choose what kind of protein, nutrients or supplements are best for your pet.
After Food Therapy, Dr. Pope can then assess what additional therapies may be best for each patient, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrient therapy, herbal medicine or other complementary therapies.
Intravenous Nutrient Therapy
Intravenous Nutrient Therapy is when vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are administered directly into the bloodstream through intravenous injection.
One of Dr. Pope’s most commonly used IV Nutrients for her cancer patients is Vitamin C. Clinical studies have proven that high-doses of vitamin C can improve symptoms and prolong life in patients with terminal cancer. However, due to limited absorption through the gut, an intravenous dose can allow for a much higher plasma concentration. At this high concentration, Vitamin C can be toxic to some cancer cells and decrease cell proliferation, without affecting healthy cells.
Intravenous nutrient therapy is also helpful in the case of pets with a leaky gut, which is commonly caused by toxins in processed dog food, overprescription or overdoses of medication, or infection. This allows them to receive higher doses of beneficial nutrients than if they were taking them orally.
When most people think of mistletoe, they might think of a poisonous plant or Christmas traditions. However, outside of the US, mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies in patients with cancer.
Mistletoe extracts have been shown to enforce the breakdown of tumor cells, reduce the migratory potential of tumor cells, and stimulate immune system cells. In Europe, mistletoe preparations and extracts are one of the most prescribed drugs for cancer patients. Most clinical trials using mistletoe extracts to treat cancer have taken place in Europe.
“It [Mistletoe] is actually the most widely used alternative cancer treatment in the world. It’s been used for over 100 years. It just had its 100 year anniversary. And it’s not alternative at all in places like Germany and Switzerland. In Europe, it’s completely mainstream. Conventional oncologists prescribe it alongside chemotherapy all the time. And there are actually many, many, many published research papers about it. It is not approved by the FDA. So you are unable to get it in the United States.” Dr. Kendra Pope
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on several types of trees, including apple, oak, pine and elm trees. It kills these host trees, and takes on their characteristics. So mistletoe extracts have various properties, and are named based on the host tree the mistletoe grows on. These different strains can each have unique properties that can be chosen to best fit the patient and their specific cancer diagnosis.
Pet Parents: Healing at Home
Pet parents often believe their veterinarians can just ‘fix’ whatever is wrong with their pet. But Dr. Pope reminds us that it’s really up to the pet parents to put in the work. Holistic and integrative veterinarians can help you have the best chance, and provide you with the right tools and resources and advice. However, at the end of the day, your pet is going home with you, and it’s up to you to feed them their best diet and get them the exercise they need and stick to the protocols given to you by your holistic practitioner.
“How much you put in, is how much you get out. And you know, with these natural therapies, it takes time, it takes money, it takes effort, it’s a lot of work. So you have to really be philosophically aligned with that, and really believe in that. And if you really believe it’s going to do something, that’s really going to make a difference.” Dr. Kendra Pope
Finally, to learn more about integrative oncology, or complementary and alternative veterinary medicine, you can visit Dr. Kendra Pope’s website. There you can find many helpful resources, including videos, links to integrative services, clinical studies, and Dr. Pope’s Wellness Wednesday talks.
About Angela Ardolino:
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. She operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. In addition, she owns Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. Moreover, Angela got her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. Next, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets.
Accordingly, she uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day since 2016. Angela has five dogs. Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, and Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle. In addition, she has 4-10 more any time she is fostering or boarding. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the Veterinary Cannabis Association. In fact, Angela has educated hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians on the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals.
About Dr. Kendra Pope:
Dr. Kendra Pope is a board-certified veterinary oncologist that specializes in treating patients that have received serious diagnoses. Dr. Pope’s holistic training is an ongoing journey, with ongoing interests in herbal medicine, intravenous nutrient therapy, mistletoe therapy, as well as all innovative and novel integrative oncology approaches. She successfully obtained board certification in her specialty of oncology and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2015.
She has a strong interest in clinical research and making a difference in the field of veterinary integrative medicine and integrative oncology through publications, lecturing, and education. Additionally, Dr. Pope serves as president of the American Board of Veterinary Botanical Medicine as well as on the Board of Directors for the World Association of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.