The hardest cancer – how to treat hemangiosarcoma in dogs holistically with herbs and supplements

Note:This article is about hemangiosarcoma of the spleen and abdomen. For information about hemangiosarcoma of the heart click here.

I have to say I always have considered hemangiosarcoma the hardest cancer to work with. It is highly aggressive, it can rapidly progress to the point where it causes sudden bleeding and death, and it is not very responsive to herbs or chemotherapy. After a few really hard to treat cases who died long before I wanted them to, I felt like giving up.

Recently I attended a lecture by Dr. Steve Marsden, one of my favorite herbalists, and my whole view on hemangiosarcoma changed. He has a new protocol that he is using for hemangiosarcoma and it is working in some animals. It is not a cure all but it makes it so some of these guys have really good quality of life, live longer and are far less likely to bleed out, even if you leave the primary tumor alone.

The first dog who I got to treat with this protocol just passed away when I first wrote this article, and while I will really miss his wonderful happy golden retriever love of life, I am so happy we were able to make his final months better.

Wilbur was rescued by a local massage therapist I work with when he had active end stage hemangiosarcoma. She was told we would be very lucky if we got a month, most likely we would only get a couple weeks. He made it over three months from that end stage point, without any surgery and he was happy and active up until the very end.

In the past I feel like I was lucky if I could get over three months with early diagnosed hemangiosarcoma even if we did surgery to remove the spleen. That is how aggressive this cancer is. And from my experience there is not a good western option for treating it.

Since writing this article, I have since seen mixed results. I still have dogs who only get three months and because of herbal supply issues I’ve had to change my protocol

Steve has taken dogs over a year with his protocol even without surgery and that is very impressive. I have not had a dog I’ve been able to take over a year in my practice yet. I hope I will someday! I do have a cat who is a year and a half out from hemangiosarcoma diagnosis without tumor removal and happy and healthy. She is also 18 years old!

So how do we treat this?

I am going to stop here and say you need a holistic vet on board. I use Vit A/D at a dose that can cause kidney failure if not used correctly. This needs to be used under the management of a veterinarian. But first…

To remove the spleen or not to remove the spleen.
I always, always pushed spleen removal in the past because I found most dogs did not make it past a month if you didn’t. The tumors would rupture and they would bleed out and die. Many made it much less time. My thoughts are changing on that a bit because of Wilbur and having a protocol which actually seems to prevent bleed outs. I would still say that in a healthy dog where it appears the bulk of the cancer is in the spleen, that spleen removal is the way to go. However in the very old, the very debilitated, or in those that have cancer in multiple organs I am starting to lean against it. This is of course going to be something to discuss with your vet and any other caregivers involved in your dog’s life.

Here is the protocol I use. Thank you Steve Marsden!

  1. Acupuncture – every two weeks or more often. This keeps everything moving, helps with discomfort, slows down the cancer and boosts the immune system.
  2. A cancer diet – See Diets for cancer in cats and dogs
  3. Yunnan Baiyao – not only does it control bleeding but also seems to slow this cancer down. I double the dose for dogs with hemangiosarcoma
  4. Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang or the root formula Xiao Chai Hu Tang which I use quite often for cancer. I use Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang for animals who run very hot and Xiao Chai Hu Tang for the majority of dogs.
  5. IP6 – this supplement is important in stimulating the immune system’s natural killer cells to destroy cancer tissue. It is an antioxidant and has effects in inhibiting cancer cell growth and division. Not much research has been done in humans with this supplement but a lot of cancer studies have been done in animals.
    I dose dogs at 800-1600mg twice a day when I use this supplement.
  6. Turkey Tail or I’m Yunity mushroom supplements have been show to increase survival times in dogs with hemangiosarcoma. I use Turkey Tail but the studies were done on I’m Yunnity’s product. I find I’m Yunnity is about 3-4 times the price of the best Turkey Tail you can buy.
  7. More then any other cancer I work with I think this is the most important one to make sure you have a good holistic vet on board. I know, I know I have said that a few times already. Please see my article How to find a good holistic vet.

    So how do we prevent this cancer? I don’t know that we know for sure. There is definitely a breed/genetic componant especially in golden retrievers. I urge my clients with golden retrievers to follow cancer prevention tips in How to Prevent Cancer. I also have had my golden retriever dog parents adding in 1/4 teaspoon of an herb called Red Root once a day. This herb helps with splenic congestion and lymph node drainage. It makes sense to me that it might help prevent this cancer but only time will tell.

    As with all articles on this blog please check with your animal’s veterinarian before making any changes in their care or adding any supplements or herbals.

    Back to Integrative and Holistic Treatments for Cancer in Cats and Dogs.

    This article is dedicated to beautiful Wilbur – may you be young and free of cancer where you are now.

17 Responses to “The hardest cancer – how to treat hemangiosarcoma in dogs holistically with herbs and supplements”

  1. Liv Says:

    My best friend Oz the Rottweiler is now 7 months post HSA diagnosis and splenectomy. I have been giving him Yunnan, Antler 8, Millettia 9, Aminocaproic Acid, ester c, milk thistle, colustrum, probiotic, home cooked food, lots of green tripe, . He is in the bleeding stages as of recently but been managing… I would love to find a great holistic vet and acupuncturist.. I have had the worst experiences with vets these last 7 months and had i not done my research Oz would have been gone a long time ago… Any advice would be VERY appreciated!

  2. Lena Says:

    Hi Liv,
    I don’t know where you live but if you can find someone who is part of the veterinary botanical medical association I have found that these vets are particularly god with herbal medicine. Use the link in this article and see if there is someone close to you. http://pathwithpaws.com/blog/2011/12/11/how-to-find-a-good-holistic-vet-to-work-with/ . If he has made it 7 months your research has definitely paid off. If you find someone to work with and they have not heard Steve Marsden’s latest lecture I am happy to share info and the exact dosages of herbs I use in my formulas with them if they are interested.
    best wishes,
    Lena

  3. Jeri Says:

    Thank you for this information. Rose De Dan referred me to your website. My Aussie was diagnosed with hemangiosarcma in May. She has been on Vet Immune Tabs, Vitamin C and Tramadoyl since then. I feed her a cancer diet of mostly protein and can sometimes get fish capsules down her. She is getting regular Reiki treatments. She recently communicated that she is determined to beat this!
    After reading your website I just ordered Yunnan Baiyao and xiao chai hu tang through Amazon.
    I want to get her in for Acupuncture for her.
    We live about 40 miles north of Seattle and I did not find anyone close to us that does animal acupuncture. If you know of someone that I missed, please let me know.
    I see you are not taking new clients – so will call those vets you have listed. If you are able to take new clients this month – please, please let me know.
    Thank you for all the wonderful information and service you provide!

  4. Lena Says:

    Hi Jeri,
    Donna Kelleher is most excellent and works in Edmonds and Bellingham. http://www.wholepetvet.com/ . You couldn’t ask for better. I’ve in the south (west seattle) end of Seattle so much further away. I’m on vacation now but will be back on Monday – I’m not sure what my schedule looks like. If somehow it doesn’t work to see Donna leave a message on my work phone for my assistant Diane who schedules all my new clients for me, 206-937-6288 and let her know that Rose sent you. I am not sure what my schedule is looking like since I have been gone two and a half weeks but before my vacation it looked like we could probably get a few new clients in mid-end of September.
    best wishes,
    Lena

  5. Jeri Says:

    Thank you Lena!
    I will follow up.

  6. Jeri Says:

    Dr. McCollugh:
    Donna is not taking new clients. I have left a message for Diane today about a possible opening in the next week or two.
    Thank you!
    Jeri

  7. Liv Says:

    Thank you so much for following up with us! I am in Orange County, California, I am going to check your link but would love the the exact dosages of herbs you use in your formulas! I am worried the aminocapriotic acid has given him GI upset and want to give him every chance! Love him with all my heart <3 Thank you so much Lena! Liv

  8. Lena Says:

    Liv,
    Here is my recipe for modified Chai Hu Jia Long Mu Li Tang. I use 48g of Xiao Chai Hu Tang (recipe for this part to follow), 3g Da Huang, 4g Gui Zhi, 4g Fu Ling, 6 g Long Gu, 6 g Mu Li, 35g Dang Gui, 35g San Qi.

    My recipe for Xiao Chai Hu Tang is 24g Chai Hu, 24g Ban Xia, 9g Gan Cao, 9g Sheng Jiang, 12g Da Zao, 9g Ren Shen, 9g Huang Qin. This gives you about double what you need.

    I did just open a separate business on etsy.com called Kingdom of Basil and am now selling some of my formulas including this one. I highly, highly recommend that you are working with a holistic vet in CA if you are using this as it can cause diarrhea in some dogs. http://pathwithpaws.com/blog/2012/09/06/kingdom-of-basil-has-opened-on-etsy-com-healing-herbs-for-animals/
    best wishes,
    Lena

  9. Diane Says:

    Hello,
    My beautiful 10 year old dog was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma a week ago. She has stopped eating, but still gets up and wants to go sit on the dock for hours at the lake. I just cant put her to sleep – she doesnt seem ready yet? Our vet said the cancer is already in her lungs and there is no treatment for her to help her live more than a couple of months. I also do not want to put her through surgery and recovery from surgery only to die in pain from it all. Is it your experience or point of view that once the cancer has spread you can not help the animal? I can not get her to eat, so I do not know if the holistic diet and herbs could help?
    thank you

  10. Lena Says:

    Diane,
    Acupuncture may be beneficial to help her feel a little better and eat, if you can find a practitioner in your area. I have had dogs do well even with very advanced cancer but hemangio is definitely one of the most aggressive and the hardest to work with. If she is rejecting all food probably her time is close and I would just try to keep her as comfortable as possible and I would not consider herbs or supplements unless she starts eating again.
    I’m sorry
    best wishes,
    Lena

  11. Kris Says:

    Hi Lena,
    My 9 yr old male Rottweiler had an emergency splenectomy 2 weeks ago and the biopsy results that we received last week, confirmed hemangiosarcoma. All other organs at the time of surgery were clean. I have started him on the Yunnan at the recommendation of my vet who just went through the same thing with her own dog. I will also be scheduling acupuncture treatments. I am also giving him CoQ10, Vitamin E, a multi-vitamin, flax seed mixed in cottage cheese, and need to slowly make some diet changes due to the fact that he had pancreatitis at the time of his spleen issue. I have been doing a lot of research and also joined a hemangio group and have found a lot people speak of using K9 Immunity and K9 Transfer Factor. Are you familiar with those, and would you recommend them?
    Thanks,
    Kris

  12. Lena Says:

    Hi Kris,
    I’m sorry about your Rottie – I hope he does well, I’m glad you are starting some acupuncture. I haven’t used the K9 Immunity and Transfer Factor for cancer. I used them a long time ago for some other conditions and just was not highly impressed, especially with the high price attached to them. I have found Chinese herbs and acupuncture to be the most impressive from my experience. Everyone has there own experiences so not to discount anyone else who uses them – just feel like there are things that work better. I don’t know if you saw this article I just put up today http://pathwithpaws.com/blog/2012/11/09/new-study-out-on-using-turkey-tail-mushroom-extract-for-hemangiosarcoma-in-dogs/ – I have not used turkey tail for hemangio yet myself but based on this study will probably be adding it to my protocol (probably the whole mushroom not the expensive extract).
    best wishes,
    Lena

  13. Kris Says:

    Yes, I did see the article that was published about U. of Penn’s study. It sounds interesting, although they do say it is expensive.
    My last dog passed away from histiocytic sarcoma, another aggressive cancer. She was taken very quickly. And after her, my horse passed from complications due to melanoma, which he had for many years and I tried several alternative therapies but also had laser surgery done to the melanoma that had developed around his anus. Long story, but VA Tech had first given him 6 months when I took him there and they did a belly tap and trachea wash and found melanacytic cells. With the help of my wonderful regular vet, He lived for 5 more wonderful years.
    I just didn’t think I’d be going down this road again so soon.
    Thank you for the information. I appreciate it.

  14. Kris Says:

    I wanted to pass along that unfortunately we lost Crosby Tuesday Nov 13 at 12:30 am. 19 days post splenectomy, and his other organs were clean at that time. The night we lost him, xrays showed He had a large tumor on his liver, and nodules in his lungs and fluid in his abdomen. He went into shock and then a seizure. We are in shock at how quickly this progressed and we just pray that he wasn’t in too much pain and knew we were with him when he passed.

  15. Lena Says:

    I’m so sorry Kris – hemangio is one of the hardest cancers to work with because it is so fast to move throughout the body. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  16. Penny Says:

    Hi Lena
    My Staffy Rio, had an emergency splenectamy in May 2012 as it had ruptured & had an 8cm mass on it. Last month they discivered she had another mass on her stomach, and that the spleenic cancer had spiderwebbed to her other organs, she was given 8 weeks, we have just reached week 4 & she is still doing very well. I have her on artermism, the butrex & the K9 immunity, plus have been feeding her home cooked meals for many years due to rhe recovery form scauamous cell carcinoma when she was 5. The chinese medicines you speak of – are they available in Australia?
    Please advise
    Thanks
    Penny

  17. Lena Says:

    Hi Penny,
    Sounds like she has done well considering everything. I’m sure that is because of everything you are doing for her. The Yunnan Baiyao should be available either through a holistic vet or other sources. Here in the US it is available on many websites. My guess is that the Chai Hu Jia Long MU Li Tang is available in Australia but you probably need to find someone with a herbal pharmacy, most likely a herbal veterinarian. Is there anyone on this list near you? http://www.vbma.org/international%20members.html. Elaine and Barbara at the top of the list are very well known in our community. I am also happy to pass on the exact recipe if you find someone to make it.
    best wishes,
    Lena