Dear Dog Lovers,
I wanted to touch base with you about some information from the real-life streets of veterinary medicine.
Occasionally I will get a question about the use of “black salve”. This rather ugly looking ointment is in a group of medicinals called the escharotics. An escharotic is a preparation that injures the tissue it is applied to, and creates a scab. A scab is an eschar.
So the idea is you put the stuff on the external cancer, the ointment kills the cells that you presumably want gone, they die, and then slough off.
Most of the black salve preparations contain an “olde-time” active ingredient called bloodroot, or Sanguinaria candensis. This plant contains some mighty strong alkaloids, including one called sanguinarine. This is potent stuff folks. Sanguinarine paralizes a pump in the cancer cell membrane vital to survival, and the cells die.
There is a really significant issue that you need to know before slathering your dog’s skin tumor with sanguinarine-containing goo.
The problem is, although it does a pretty good job of killing cancer cells, it is very tough to tell how far a given cancer has spread into the surrounding neighborhood (around the tumor) before applying black salve. Why does it matter?
The reason this is so critical is that some cancers really spread radically. They send cancer cell sheets out around the visible growth, but these spreading cancer cells are invisible to the naked eye. Guess what happens when they die off (after some potentially severe inflammation and discomfort)?
The dead cancer cells slough, leaving in some cases large swaths of open tissue where the tumor cells used to be. This can sometimes be a nuisance and other times a horror show (warning: graphic).
Bottom line? I would never advise the use of any version of black salve unless it is under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, and even then, use caution. Sometimes things turn out great, but there have been nightmares.
Best to all,