Homeopathic Treatment of Lymphoma in a Dog, a Curative Case, by Todd Cooney, DVM, CVH
Rosie, a 12 year old spayed female German Shorthaired Pointer, came into my clinic in October 2012 looking very weak and thin, with an extremely large abdomen tight with fluid. She was at one time a beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer and had whelped 2 healthy litters earlier in life. Her owner sat down with me and recounted the last 6 months of Rosie’s symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments at her regular veterinary clinic, and how nothing seemed to be helping this dog. Repeated visits to the vet to drain fluid from her abdomen were only giving her temporary relief. The day before I met Rosie, her local vet gave a bleak prognosis for recovery, as Rosie had signs of lymphoma [ascites, severe panhypoproteinemia, hematocrit of 20.1% (39-55), and leukopenia], and recommended that her owner consider taking her to the veterinary teaching hospital at Purdue.
I began to take the case, gathering as much history and symptom information as possible. Rosie was born in 2001, went through a typical puppy vaccine schedule, and had no significant health issues as a pup until maturity. She had annual vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, leptospirosis, rabies, and kennel cough without interruption until 2012, when she became ill. One year, 2009, stands out in her history, as she underwent a spay, dental cleaning, bloodwork, and vaccinations all in one visit.
In the spring of 2012, the owner began a series of trips to her local vet. Symptoms began appearing in March 2012, with vomiting and diarrhea over 24 hours, but intermittent vomiting for the past two weeks. She also had an abscessed anal sac, and was about 10 pounds under her average weight. Bloodwork revealed low total protein [3.5g/dL (5.4-8.2)], hypoalbuminemia [2.4g/dL (2.5-4.4)] and hypoglobulinemia [1.1g/dL (2.3-5.2)], but all other values were normal. No sign of intestinal parasites on fecal examination, and she received treatment with Metoclopramide, Clindamycin, and Diawin for her symptoms. Two weeks later, the vomiting resolved, but Rosie still had diarrhea. Her hematocrit had dropped from 42% to 39% (39-55), still normal, but her total protein level remained too low, which can be a sign of intestinal ‘leakage’.
In mid April 2012, she continued to have profuse, watery, pale brown diarrhea, which was now occurring off and on. She was less active and acting ‘older’ than before. She now had an enlarged abdomen, with her total protein levels becoming even lower [3.3g/dL (5.4-8.2)]. The local vet diagnosed a protein-losing enteropathy by exam and bloodwork findings and suggested a referral to Purdue. The owner declined the referral and began a program of homemade diet and probiotics. Rosie partially improved, but still had a swollen and fluid filled abdomen with occasional diarrhea. On October 11, 2012, Rosie went back to the local vet, as her abdomen was very large and tight. They drained a large amount of fluid from her abdomen and found her total protein level to be the lowest yet at 2.7g/dL (5.4-8.2). Her hematocrit had fallen to 20.1% (39-55), and she also had a white blood cell count of 4,700/uL (6,000-17,000). The vet diagnosed lymphoma, offered again a referral to Purdue, and gave a poor prognosis for recovery even with the treatment Rosie would receive there.
The very next day, October 12, 2012, brings us back to the first day I met Rosie and her owner. She was very weak and wobbly, almost ataxic. The abdomen was now very distended again with fluid, although recently drained, and was also tender. Her gums were pale pink. The owner said Rosie didn’t seem to be herself mentally now either, and when I asked her to elaborate, said she ‘acted like a patient with dementia’ and has a dull attitude. She was thirstless, even after walking in warm weather. Before all this began earlier this spring, she did have a history of a ‘sensitive stomach’ and chronic intermittent diarrhea, depending on what she ate. Her appetite recently has not been very good, and she is more finicky than usual.
The symptoms I gathered from Rosie’s current condition were:
- Dull mentation, not responding normally to cues
- Ascites, distended abdomen, painful
- Cancerous process
- Decreased thirst
I chose not to include vomiting, diarrhea, and anemia as these did not seem to be characteristic or unique to her illness. Using a software program called MacRepertory, and the Kent and Boenninghausen repertories, I obtained this graph after translating the case’s symptoms into fitting rubrics (a rubric is an ‘abbreviated symptom’, cataloged in a repertory, which is followed by a list of homeopathic remedies that have been shown to produce this symptom in a trial or proving, or have cured this symptom in a patient clinically).
The first remedy listed is Apis mellifica, made from the honeybee. Its symptoms include ascites, great soreness of abdominal walls, peritonitis; dropsical swellings without thirst.1 This remedy seemed to fit best after reading the top few remedies in my analysis in a Materia Medica (a dictionary type reference of homeopathic remedies). I gave Rosie one dose of Apis 200c potency.
Over the next two weeks, she had good and bad days, but improved overall. The abdominal swelling slowly decreased and her appetite improved, but she was not consistently eating well.
On November 5, 2012 Rosie visited my clinic a second time. She appeared much brighter now, the ascites was almost completely resolved, but she was now having a few new symptoms. Interpreting the response to the remedy is a key part of successful homeopathic prescribing – what happens after the remedy is given? Rosie now seemed very thirsty, slightly grumpy toward the other dogs, and a little skittish around gunshots, all of which were out of character for her. She had watery diarrhea a few days ago and her stools were firmer now, but not quite normal. She also has ‘food boredom’, as she eats well for a few days then not for several days.
Rosie had a good response to Apis, but the new symptoms that arose did not fit that remedy very well. The abatement of her acute crisis along with the change in symptoms indicated a deeper-acting remedy was needed. Thus, I needed to find a new remedy that was indicated for the treatment of the underlying chronic disease, that fit all of her symptoms, and had a complementary relationship to Apis. Using the new symptoms, I used the following rubrics to find the next remedy:
The first remedy listed is Nat-m, or Natrum muriaticum. While Nat-m and Sulphur are highest ranking in this graph, I chose Nat-m for its close complementary relationship to Apis and it is even called the ‘chronic Apis’ in one materia medica (Boericke). Nat-m is noted for unquenchable thirst, irritability, anemia, watery stools, emaciation, and cancerous affections.1 I gave her a single dose of Nat-m 200c and planned to follow up in 3 weeks.
November 29, 2012 – Rosie’s appetite and attitude began to improve within a few days of the remedy. Her owner reports that she is now eating very well, looking significantly better, and the abdominal swelling is totally gone. She had diarrhea for a single day, several days after the last dose of Nat-m, but now has normal stools. This appeared to be great curative response, as all symptoms were improved, the patient is feeling better overall, and no new symptoms have appeared. I sent another dose of Nat-m 200c home to have on hand, but instructed the owner to wait to administer as long as the curative response seemed to be continuing.
February 2013 – Phone call from owner, Rosie began to have trouble with diarrhea again which lasted more than a few days, thus the second dose of Nat-m 200c was administered. After that, she continued on a good course of improvement and no further problems arose during this time period.
October 18, 2013 – Rosie returned to my clinic for a one-year follow-up exam. She has returned to a normal weight, with an ideal body condition score, and great energy compared to before treatment. The only persistent changes that the owner recently noticed are increased thirst and occasional slight bladder leakage while she is walking. I looked at a brief analysis based on these recent symptoms (see graph below):
Since her current symptoms still highly indicated Nat-m, I gave her a single dose of Nat-m 1M, which is the next higher potency from a 200c.
January 2014 – Owner reports Rosie is “doing great, running with the other dogs, playing with her 8 week old litter of ‘grandpuppies’, and enjoying life.” She acts like a much younger dog than she did before all this started. In hindsight, I can see the remedy Natrum muriaticum in this dog’s symptom picture earlier on in her history. However, since she first presented strongly in an acute crisis state (that fit Apis, with the thirstlessness and ascites), an acute remedy was needed at that time to stabilize the patient, but a deeper acting remedy such as Nat-m was needed to cure the case. This case encourages me to this day, as I didn’t know if homeopathy could help this patient when I saw the state of her condition as she first walked through the door. But we kept a positive attitude from day one, and Rosie has had a great response to treatment.
I believe this case is a great example of how homeopathy can work in a situation where conventional medicine is not providing much benefit, and can ultimately cure the case, given a little time and patience. Rosie’s owner has great confidence in homeopathy, and in the ability of the body’s vital force to bring about great change under the influence of the similar remedy. Similia similibus curantar! Or let likes be cured by likes.
- Murphy, Robin, ND. Nature’s Materia Medica, 3rd ed. Lotus Health Institute, Blacksburg, VA; 2006: pp 186-192; pp 1356-1364.