When you hear the words, “your dog has cancer”, there are many questions and decisions that have to be made concerning their treatment. Certain factors will apply to most situations: the dog’s age and overall health, estimating how much quality time remains for him, the receptiveness of the dog to treatment, including what you think your companion’s wishes would be, and the personal investment in both time and money that you can devote to his care. The type of cancer, location, and aggressiveness of the tumor are important in answering some of these questions. Since each situation is unique, I will review one of the more common cancers that I see in my practice.
Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is a dreaded tumor for lovers of large and giant breeds. This tumor is rarely seen in cats but is frequently found in dogs. On average, I will treat twenty dogs and one cat with osteosarcoma each year. Osteosarcoma is most common in large and giant breeds, with 90% of the cases involving dogs weighing over 50 pounds. It occurs most often in the front limbs, secondarily in the rear legs, and occasionally in the skull, spine and pelvic area.
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive, fast-growing, and painful condition that generally metastasizes (spreads) to the lungs or less frequently to the brain, spine and other bony locations. The median age for dogs acquiring this tumor is seven years, but my cases have ranged from three years to 14 years at onset. As with other types of cancer, it seems the age at which dogs are aﬀected is getting younger.
Cancer is always unexpected and we are oﬅen shocked when it occurs. Osteosarcoma frequently begins with a simple lameness. It presents like an injury and most veterinarians treat the lameness symptomatically before delving deeper. It may respond to palliative treatment such as using the homeopathic remedies, Arnica montana or Rhus toxicodendron. Anti-inﬂammatories or NSAIDS will also yield temporary relief but the lameness returns. Radiographs are generally diagnostic for these tumors as osteosarcoma has a very characteristic appearance on X-rays exhibiting both bone destruction (lysis) and abnormal bone growth. I do not recommend biopsies with this tumor as they can facilitate metastasis and increase the pain.
Metastasis occurs early in over 95% of cases, even before diagnosis, so amputation is rarely a curative treatment. These tumors can be very painful for dogs even in the early stages, and eventually, pain control becomes extremely diﬃcult with either homeopathic remedies or drugs. At this point, the dog’s quality of life becomes severely compromised from the pain.
I strongly recommend amputation whenever the patient has three other, reasonably good legs and has a body type that can be supported on three legs. (A great reference website for amputees is www.tripaws.com) One has to remember that going from four legs to three legs is much diﬀerent than going from two legs to one!
Dogs with osteosarcoma respond well to homeopathic treatment. Generally, without amputation and homeopathic treatment alone, dogs will only survive a few months because of the pain issues – although I have had patients survive over two years post-diagnosis. With amputation as the only treatment, survival will average three to nine months before metastasis occurs. With amputation plus aggressive homeopathic cancer treatment, I commonly see good results of one to two years. Some are living more than three years and occasionally, dogs are cured. Once the symptoms associated with metastasis appear, survival for more than two months is rare.
Comparing outcomes with dogs treated conventionally (with amputation and chemotherapy), there are similarities and diﬀerences. Survival outcomes following diagnosis can be similar to dogs treated with homeopathy, with potential life span about the same. Everything else is diﬀerent.
There are the potential negative side eﬀects from the chemotherapy. At the very least, there will be several days of impact following each treatment. There will be stress and possible pain associated with IV injections of Cisplatin or Carboplatin. Other chemical agents can have much greater side-eﬀects. The main chemotherapeutic agents used for osteosarcoma treatment have remained the same for 30 years. The cost, assuming there are no additional complications from the therapy, will be in the $3,000 to $5,000 range or even higher in some parts of the country. By comparison, in my experience, a one year course of treatment with consultations and follow-ups, including the cost of homeopathic remedies would be less than $1,000.
Classical homeopathic prescribing, the selection of the one, most similar homeopathic remedy, repeated only when the eﬀects of the previous dose have subsided, and with the correct potency matched to the energy of the patient and their disease, is the highest and most eﬀective use of this great system of medicine. In the case of aggressive cancer, when the balance of the vital energy of the body has been overwhelmed, I ﬁnd that it takes more to slow or stop the progression of the disease and the demise of the patient than single remedy prescribing. To help more of my patients deal with cancer, I have struggled over the past twenty years to ﬁnd methods of treatment that provide more consistent and reproducible positive results.
The treatment methodology I have developed stimulates homeopathically, the patient’s ability to re-balance their immune system, thus attacking the tumor by taking both a constitutional remedy (Classical) and secondarily, another remedy that speciﬁcally relates to the tumor type or location. The genetic and environmental inﬂuences that have predisposed this patient to cancer can be addressed with a third homeopathic remedy.
An example would be prescribing the remedy, Hecla lava, because the tumor relates to bone and Carcinosin because there is a familial tendency in this dog’s line for developing cancer. Selecting these two remedies with the addition of this dog’s constitutional remedy would be the treatment trio this patient would take in an alternating dosing schedule.
These several remedies are given on separate days. Because of frequent dosing (twice daily), I prefer using LM potencies which have a high potency but shorter action, allowing each remedy dose the necessary time to resonate with the patient. This gentle “jabbing” by the energy of the alternating remedies provides results without overwhelming or aggravating the patient. Therefore, the side eﬀects of homeopathic treatment are positive. These dogs feel better, have more youthful energy, an increased appetite and interact normally with their family and environment.
In addition to homeopathic treatment, I recommend certain supplements to boost and support the patient’s ability to respond to remedies. High levels of omega-3 oils, antioxidants, vitamins and immune system boosters are helpful. Feeding a high quality, low carbohydrate diet is also essential.
Currently, I have two patients with osteosarcoma under homeopathic treatment that have passed the three year mark and three dogs that have passed the two year mark. Only one of these patients didn’t have amputation. My longest surviving patient is currently a German Shepherd that had an amputation with biopsy three years and eleven months ago. This dog is twelve years old now. I have another German Shepherd/Collie mix that lived almost four years and died at the age of sixteen. There have also been several dogs over the years where the tumor never reoccurred.
I don’t feel that the dog’s age at onset of the tumor aﬀects the potential outcome and response to homeopathic therapy. It may aﬀect the criteria for choosing amputation, however, if the dog is severely arthritic.
If you love the large and giant breeds as companions, you will see osteosarcoma at some point. It is a tragic disease but it isn’t without hope or treatment. There are also other types of cancers that these large breeds are highly susceptible to and I will address these in future articles.
Published in Dogs Naturally Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 6, November/December 2011: Osteosarcoma
Addendum : February 2017
Currently, I am treating seven dogs living past the two-year mark, post-diagnosis, with treatment using my homeopathic protocol. Three of the seven dogs have exceeded three years. Six other dogs are in the six month to 1 year range, post-diagnosis, and are still free of metastasis and are expected to continue doing well. Most of these dogs have had amputations. Some case examples are listed below.
My homeopathic protocol has been refined and has more frequent potency changes than before. These
changes have improved results with a higher percentage of dogs
diagnosed with osteosarcoma surviving longer on average. Of the twenty-five to thirty dogs I treat each
year, and with the varying tumor locations and start times for beginning
homeopathic treatment post-diagnosis, I expect a 20 -25% potential survival rate of at least two years with my future cases.
Recent Past Cases
5 year old, male/neutered Malamute, tumor on proximal tibia lived almost 2 years with homeopathic treatment and without amputation.
7 year old, male/neutered Greyhound, tumor on distal radius, had amputation and lived over 5 years with homeopathic treatment.
8 year old, female/spayed Hound Mix, tumor on distal femur, no amputation and lived 1 ½ years giving homeopathic protocol
6 year old, male/neutered Golden Retriever, tumor on distal radius, had amputation and lived over 5 years with homeopathic treatment
7 year old, German Shepherd X, tumor on proximal tibia, had amputation and lived 5 1/2 years.
12 year old, male/neutered Golden Retriever, tumor on distal radius, had amputation and lived 14 months.
12 year old, female/spayed, Shepherd X, tumor on distal radius, with amputation lived 2 ½ years giving homeopathic protocol