Using Black Salve in Dog Cancer - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Using Black Salve in Dog Cancer

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,

Dr D

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM

Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.

  • diane corbett

    our loved Divot is going on Monday for a cat scan. He has nasal carcinoma. your book just barely touched on this subject. what do I need to be doing for him. the tumor was too large to cut out and there is another one. it is protruding out on his head. our vet said there was a scooped out place and some type f hole. he seems to be fine except he sometimes can not seems to have blood inside of it.he has some antibotic left from his bioposy. we are going to a hospital called gulfcoast in houston texas. i want to do what is right for our almost 10 year old snauzer too tired to put the correct spelling but how about pour little boy. i have heard of baking soda washing the area out that cancer is some type of fungus. an i wash his nose out with baking soda and water? what should i do to make his PH level where this cancer will die and he can recover? please let me haver your advice. i was crying so much that i could not read your book and it is long i need just the cut down emergency what to be feeding etc. the vet said that hills does not make an md formula for dogs just cats. what about the mushrooms etc. please let me hear from you.this dog is a very important part of our family. thanks for caring about both the dog and the owner!

  • diane corbett

    also your video skips when i was trying to work and listen so i hope that i did not miss something important.i am giving him a vitamin right now called juice plus. diane

    • Kathy McLeod

      A friend of mine had good success with a similar situation. The dog was treated at University of Washington Veterinarian Teaching Hospital, and very successfully. I realize they aren’t in your area, but if you could find a University with a veterinary teaching hospital anywhere even close to you GO! They are on the “cutting edge” of treatment, and it sounds like your situation needs immediate attention. Don’t misunderstand me..I work with a fabulous Holistic vet with my dogs, but you likely need to work with both. The dog I mentioned earlier, did end up having radiation treatments by the skilled Dr’s at Univ. Washington. He’s doing really well. I personally just returned from Washington with my own little guy who was no longer responding to chemo treatments, and with a cancer which radiation isn’t a common treatment option, but they found a way, and I’m following up with a combination of Western and Eastern medicine and things are looking pretty good.

      By the way …my friend and also myself, travelled from Canada to have the University’s expertise.

      Look into the radiation option!


  • Kathy McLeod

    I hope you realize I”m responding to your concern for your beloved Schnauzer….not using black salve as the side bar states!!!
    I haven’t blogged before to know how to make sure you know I’m responding to you.
    The other thing I wanted to mention to you was to try to go somewhere where you can have an MRI done on your boy. It will give you and the Dr’s so much more information to create a treatment plan.

    Also, Washington State had an Emergency intake, so check and see if your Teaching Hospital has one, and self referr….and take your boy there now. Don’t wait for Monday if you don’t have to. It won’t help your boy any at all, and you’re going to worry yourself sick all weekend anyway. I wish I knew the closest teaching hospital to you, but I’m in a different country. Good luck to you and your little boy, I’ll be thinking about you and sending positive thoughts.

  • My dog has a condition called forbrosing steatitis myositis. Inside
    of this scar tissue and muscle, their is cancer in pockets that is
    causing the tumor to get larger as time goes by. The tumor is getting
    out of control as far as size, and very possibly life threatning. Is
    Neoplasene something that I should consider. Can someone help. I’m
    also wondering about Ambratose or Artemesinin. Phil

  • jo

    My 9 year old dog has had her right rear leg removed as she had osteosarcoma in her femur. She has gone well through 4 bouts of chemo, blood tests etc but after the last one she has kept a temperature after being on antibiotics for over a week and is eating little. Another xray showed bones were ok but the vet is thinking that possibly there were cells in the muscle that was left behind – in the stump area. She tends to lick there a bit still even tho it was removed 4 months ago. She is now on pain relief as well. Any answers or what I should do next?? Thanks

  • Black Salve Advocate

    You really need to check the validity of ‘quackwatch’. That photo has been circulating but I have never heard of one person having an adverse reaction to black salve yet I have known many, including deaths, to issues with prescribed medications. My black salve was given to me so no one profited from my worry. My issue was fixed and it was a spot that the dr hadn’t picked up in my skin scan.
    I have come to this site searching how people have gone with treating animals but was disappointed to find that link on here.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler

      Dear Black Salve Advocate-
      Being a clinician who uses escharotics I can tell you there are dangers as well as benefits. This site is dedicated towards a balanced information delivery, not advocacy, including Black Salve Advocacy. We are interested in presenting both sides of the equation.
      Dr Dressler

  • Dr. Debi

    Ambrotose, Balm of Gilead, Shankapushpi and Willard Water

  • James Wilson

    I used black salve on my Beagle’s mast cell tumor with great results. My Vet helped with the pain tolerance issues. The key to making this work is getting the salve from a good source with a lot of experience with it. Oh, and switch your dog to a raw diet, NO kibble food!!