Canine Glandular or Organ Therapy

Kidney, thyroid, and/or adrenal supplements can revitalize and heal.


The premise seems simple – if your dog has liver problems, feed him liver. What if it’s a kidney, thyroid, or adrenal problem? Then feed kidney, thyroid, or adrenal tissue. This is, in its simplest form, glandular or organ therapy.

The process has become much more refined over the years. Now your dog can experience the benefits of glandular therapy even when you can’t find the raw glands or other organs to feed him. Now, glandulars (the common term for products containing animal cells even if they aren’t from glands) are available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form, depending on the manufacturer.

The use of tissue from one species to help rebuild damaged tissue in another species dates back thousands of years. The papyrus of Eber, the oldest known medical document from about 1600 BC, describes the injection into humans of preparations made from animal glands. In the Middle Ages, the physician Paraclesus wrote and practiced the maxim “heart heals the heart, lung heals lung, spleen heals spleen; like cures like.”

While these crude forms of glandular or cell therapy were used for hundreds if not thousands of years, the techniques weren’t significantly refined until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hormonal influence
There are a number of theories about exactly how glandulars work. The earliest medical hypothesis was that the glandular preparations supplied the hormones that the patient’s damaged glands failed to produce themselves. This led to the isolation of those hormones and the manufacture of their synthetic equivalents, and was how the drugs hydrocortisone and prednisone were ultimately discovered.

Researchers found they could maintain the lives of adrenalectomized cats by giving the cats adrenal extracts. (In fact, the Pottenger cat study, which most raw feeders are familiar with, was originally designed to help Pottenger regulate the potency of an adrenal extract he was manufacturing. The nutrition study evolved out of his observations of the adrenalectomized research cats.)

After discovering that the extracts could keep the cats alive, the key hormone cortisol was isolated. From this discovery, scientists developed synthetic hydrocortisone and prednisone to mimic the activity of naturally occurring cortisol. However, patients who receive these very narrow-focus drugs (which lack all the other potential activity of the glandular tissue) often experience harmful long- and short-term side effects. Incorporating the whole tissue, or extracts of tissue, must therefore have additional value.

It turns out that Paraclesus’ thinking was right on target. It turns out that cells are attracted to and nourish “like” cells – even if they are from a different species. By tracing stained or radioactive cells, research has shown repeatedly that the injected cells accumulate in the like tissue of the recipient.

For example, one study conducted in 1979 by T. Starzyl, showed that when animals with chemically damaged thyroids were given thyroid cells, there was a marked regeneration of the damaged thyroids.

In 1931, Paul Niehans the modern discoverer of cell therapy (injection of tissue into a patient rather than oral ingestion) came upon the treatment quite by mistake. A colleague of his had accidentally removed the parathyroid glands from his patient. Dr. Niehans was called upon to transplant bovine parathyroid glands into the woman. Because the woman was convulsing so violently and concerned that she wouldn’t survive the transplant surgery, he quickly sliced up the glands into minute pieces and injected her with them. The woman not only recovered, but lived another 30 years.

“Tissue decoys”
Another interesting benefit of glandulars is their use as an apparent tissue decoy. In 1947, Royal Lee (founder of Standard Process, a well-respected supplement manufacturer) and William Hanson published a book, Protomorphology, Study of Cell Autoregulation, in which they presented their theory that when taken orally, protomorphogens (PMG) – portions of cellular chromosomes – speed the elimination of tissue antibodies. This concept is now referred to as oral tolerization and is being researched extensively in the treatment of the human autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, uveitis, and multiple sclerosis.

“When the body is attacking itself and you give a PMG decoy, the body will attack [the decoy] rather than the organ,” explains Arthur Young, DVM, CHO, a holistic veterinarian based in Stuart, Florida. By stopping the autoimmune attack on the body’s own organs, you give those tissues a chance to recover.

This is what contemporary researchers are finding with their experiments using glandulars to combat autoimmune diseases. In the research on MS, when bovine myelin is administered orally, the autoimmune process against the body?s myelin basic protein is suppressed.

Nutritional value, too
In addition, glandular supplements provide a wide variety of nutrients and enzymes. These amino acids, peptides, enzymes, and lipids may directly help with the functioning of the glands and organs. Besides that, they’re good nutrition.

“Glandulars are one of the primary modalities I work with,” says Gerald Buchoff, BVScAH, owner of Holistic Housecalls for Pets and vice president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. “I find most pets have imbalances and I have three things I use to rebalance in my bag of tricks: chiropractic, acupuncture, and nutrition. Glandulars are a key part of nutrition.”

When to use glandulars
Many holistic vets use glandular supplements in combination with other modalities, such as homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (including Chinese herbs and acupuncture), flower essences, and chiropractic. Dr. Young feels that rather than competing with the energy medicine of homeopathy, glandulars work synergistically with the modality. He says, “Glandulars support the organ systems involved while homeopathy helps the body to heal itself.”

For instance, with a dog exhibiting signs of hypothyroidism, Dr. Young will use a product such as Standard Process’ “Thytrophin PMG®” to support the thyroid gland and act as a decoy to possible autoimmune activity that could be damaging the gland. Because thytrophin has been processed to remove the hormone thyroxine, it doesn’t impact the complex and sensitive pituitary-thyroid feedback system. In contrast, the medication Soloxine replaces endogenous thyroxine, thereby suppressing the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones itself.

In combination with the glandular supplementation, Dr. Young completes a thorough homeopathic workup and prescribes the appropriate homeopathic remedy. The remedy is chosen to help balance the body so that it can heal itself. Dr. Young has found that using this combination of glandulars and homeopathy benefits a wide variety of health issues, including inflammatory bowel disease, skin problems, liver disease, fertility issues, and even cancer.

In Dr. Buchoff’s experience, diseases of the kidney and liver respond the best to glandular therapy. Contrary to Dr. Young’s experience, Dr. Buchoff has found that dogs with hypothyroidism can benefit from glandulars, but usually need to continue taking conventional medications as well. “Hypothyroidism is frustrating that way,” he adds.

Spay incontinence is one of the common problems that Ihor Basko, DVM, of Kapaa, Hawaii, treats with glandulars. He’s seeing the problem more frequently as animals, particularly shelter animals, are spayed at younger and younger ages. He has had the most success with “Resources Incontinence Formula” made by Genesis Ltd. This product’s ingredients include bovine ovary and herbs such as licorice and wild yam, which contain phytoestrogens. In his opinion, this supplement is very effective and safer than the estrogen (usually DES) or PPA (phenylproanolamine) commonly used in conventional veterinary practices.

Dr. Basko has found that glandular supplements are also effective for treating geriatric dogs experiencing cognitive disorders, and he far prefers this approach to the conventional pharmaceutical drugs used for cognitive disorders in aged dogs. He recommends adrenal glandulars in particular for these dogs, finding that they can give older animals a boost.

In addition to addressing specific issues such as liver, kidney, or thyroid disease, Dr. Buchoff recommends using supplements with glandulars as a preventive to keep the endocrine system balanced. He recommends that all of his patients receive the gender-specific version of the Standard Process product, Symplex® (Standard Process makes a male and female version). This product is a combination of bovine ovary or orchic, adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid PMG extracts. He also recommends Catalyn® to patients not on a raw diet.

Other suggestions
Your veterinarian should conduct blood tests to establish pretreatment values for hormone levels and other indicators, reminds Dr. Basko. Be sure to follow up with additional testing to confirm whether or not the therapy helps. If you don’t notice results initially, the dose may need to be increased. Not enough has been done to determine optimal doses of these supplements, he adds.

Despite a possible need for more research on dosing for animals, glandular therapy is quite safe. “There are no contraindications, glandulars aren’t drugs or toxins, but naturally occurring nutrients,” explains Dr. Young. Do be sure to use fresh products from quality suppliers. And don’t over-supplement with glandulars; more isn’t always better.

Also With This Article
Click here to view “Help for Dogs with Hypothyroidism”
Click here to view “Case of the Missing Hormones”
Click here to view “Symptoms of Addison’s Disease”

Shannon Wilkinson is a TTouch practitioner who lives with two dogs, two cats and a husband in Portland, Oregon.