Have you heard of LDN (low-dose naltrexone)? It’s a very interesting therapy that, while pharmaceutical, is a very benign and relatively successful therapy for cancer, autoimmune disease, and inflammation.
Naltrexone is a drug that has been around for a long time. It is an opioid antagonist that was originally designed and prescribed for treating opioid addictions and overdoses.
This makes it sound like it would be a relatively useless therapy for our pets, but in the 80’s a doctor was using it in his AIDs patients to treat their addictions and noticed that their immune systems improved while on the drug. He did some experimentation with it and found that the lower the dose, the better effect he had on the immune system up to a certain point.
We don’t really clearly know how this drug works to benefit the immune system, but one proposed mechanism is that when it is taken in a low dose, once daily (twice in the evening for dogs), it provides a partial block of the opioid receptors for a period of about 8 hours, it actually provides an effect of causing the patient’s body to up regulate the endorphins we naturally make. This in turn reduces inflammation, improves sleep, and has beneficial effects on the immune system.
In human medicine we’ve seen this medication improve restless legs syndrome, lupus, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, autoimmune thyroid disease, and cancer to name just a few conditions.
I have used it effectively in cats with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and chronic pancreatitis. I have also had success with autoimmune type arthritis in dogs, and seen improvements in inflammation with cancer. The best part is that the drawbacks of this medication are really minimal. There is sometimes nausea and headaches when getting on to the medication, but that’s about it. This means that, in most cases, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try if we think it might provide some benefit.
Finding a veterinarian to prescribe naltrexone could be difficult. If you are looking for LDN for your dog or cat, please feel free to get in touch by email. I am able to do phone consultations within the United States and provided your pet has a recent exam and diagnosis by a local veterinarian we can get you started on LDN.
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