Using homeopathy for dog cancer is a mixed bag in terms of the literature, but it may be useful for certain cancers.
What Exactly Is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the administration of very diluted amounts of substances that mimic the symptoms of the disease being treated. The underlying idea is that “like cures like.” For example, a homeopathic dose of coffee cruda helps lower anxiety, even though coffee in full dose can cause anxiety. It’s counterintuitive, right? But there are many people who swear by it.
The substances used in homeopathy are diluted so much that there is very little “active” ingredient in the final preparations. Some homeopaths make their own dilutions, and give them to you in droppers. Sometimes you can take the sugar-pill versions found in health food stores, or those preserved in tinctures. In any case, a homeopath has been fully trained in the system, and should be consulted for your dog’s health if you are considering using homeopathic remedies.
Does It Work?
Western medicine usually assumes that a stronger dose of an active ingredient will have a larger effect on the body — but homeopathy says the exact opposite. So when a conventional veterinarian looks at these remedies they often debate their use, arguing there is not enough active ingredient to even do anything.
But it seems there is some evidence that there might be something here, after all.
Homeopathy for Brain Tumors
The most interesting use of homeopathy in cancer medicine is for brain cancer, by far. In a real clinical study at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, a number of human brain cancer patients were treated with a homeopathic remedy called Ruta 6. One type of brain cancer, gliomas, appeared very sensitive to the effects of the homeopathic remedy.
(Remember, humans and dogs are close when it comes to cancer. In fact, dogs are the preferred test subjects in cancer trials for human medicines.)
The Ruta 6 was combined with another agent ( Ca3(PO4)2 ) and used to treat these glioma patients. Out of 7 patients treated, 6 of them had complete regression. This is quite an achievement.
Brain cancer, in particular in veterinary medicine, is extremely difficult to treat. Very, very few have access to the facilities needed to diagnose and treat brain tumors in the dog.
Ruta 6 is made from the common rue, otherwise known as the “herb of grace”. This is a shrub that is used both in medicine and also as a cooking herb. However, please remember that using the plant itself is not the same as using the homeopathic remedy, and potent extracts can cause some potent effects including causing abortions. Read more here.
Remember, homeopathic remedies should only be administered to your dog by a licensed vet familiar with their use.
More Studies on Homeopathy
Some in vitro (literally, “in glass”, or in test tubes, as opposed to living bodies) studies showed that homeopathic remedies were able to cause cancer cells to commit suicide. Hey, apoptosis is a good thing!
In this study, homeopathy was found to slow the rate of growth of prostate cancer cells that were implanted in lab rats. There were no effects on cancer cells that were exposed to any of the five homeopathic remedies. It seems that the remedies were able to alter the rats’ physiology enough to increase their bodies’ ability to fight the tumors a bit.
However, the evidence for using homeopathy across the board for cancer does not exist. Take a look at these tidbits.
Another study, which was a systematic review of a lot of other studies, found no real evidence for the remedies helping cancer patients. Yet another showed no benefit of Ruta 6 in extending the life of lab animals with solid tumors.
Should You Use Homeopathy for Dog Cancer?
What is the bottom line? If your dog is suspected of having a brain tumor, contact a vet with knowledge of homeopathy and consider Ruta 6. Also, if your dog has prostate cancer, you may be well served to get homeopathic intervention. Since options are usually limited in these cases and side effects pretty limited, homeopathy is one possibility that could (maybe) make a difference.
For other cancers, I wouldn’t hesitate to use homeopathy, as long as you are consulting a vet familiar with its use. As long as their reasoning for using remedies is sound, they can’t hurt and may help.
For more on dog cancer treatments that you may have not heard of before, see The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.