When Sue Maclennan received the devastating news that her dog Monty had a form of bone cancer which had few conventional treatment options, it set her on a course to find an alternative. Two years on, she shares the story of his remarkable recovery and how homeopathy helped give Monty a new lease of life.
A fateful day
“In October 2017, I was out for a walk with my dogs when my 12-year-old Labradoodle Monty stumbled over and hurt his leg. We were walking along the beach near where we live in Northumberland, and Monty had gone to jump onto a causeway out to a little island near to it, but landed face first. At the time he weighed about 28kg (4st 6lb) and my husband Rhod wasn’t with us, so there was no way I could carry him. So, he limped back to the car with me and our other two dogs, Holly and Scooby.
When we got home, I rested him for a few days and, as I’d used homeopathy to help treat minor things in the past, I gave him some Arnica and Rhus tox. But, a few days on, Monty’s front right leg didn’t seem to be getting any better. In the meantime, I’d also noticed a swelling at the back of his right knee, close to a lymph gland, which raised alarm bells.
I mentioned this to the vet when I took Monty in a week after his fall, and he took a needle aspiration [a type of biopsy] of the swelling. The results came back clear, so at that point the “Big C” went out of my head. The vet prescribed Monty a painkiller called Metacam and told us to rest him and go back a week later if there was no improvement.
The following week, Monty was still unable to walk on his leg without limping, so we returned to the vets. We saw a different vet this time, who upped Monty’s medication and prescribed him another painkiller, Pardale, in addition to the Metacam. He also booked him in for some X-rays as he suspected Monty may have chipped a bone when he fell. He said that if the X-ray did show a chipped bone, he’d remove it there and then while Monty was under the anaesthetic.
We were quite confident it was nothing serious, but later that day we got a call to say the vet wanted to see us. When Rhod and I arrived at the surgery, the vet dropped the bombshell that Monty actually had an osteosarcoma [a type of bone cancer] and by then it had broken the distal end of his radius. We were absolutely floored as we weren’t expecting that at all. He told us our options: palliative care, which would give him a month, three if we were lucky, or an amputation which could prolong his life by three to six months. The vet sent us away and told us to think about it over the weekend.
A different approach
Rhod took it much, much worse than I did. I’m quite a pragmatist so my reaction was more, “Right, let’s see what we can do.” The moment we got home, I began researching osteosarcoma and alternative treatment options. As I do Galen (canine) Myotherapy – massage therapy which promotes health and treats chronic muscular pain in dogs – I have a network of canine expert friends, so I contacted them to see what they thought.
One of these was the wonderful Dr Sue Armstrong, a vet and homeopath. I’d actually been to one of her talks a few months prior to Monty’s fall where she was discussing her book, Cancer in Animals. So, she was my first port of call. She got back to me on the Sunday, by which point I’d pretty much resigned myself to going ahead with the amputation. Sue confirmed that this was the best option: the fact that the bone was broken meant there was no hope of it ever mending. She recommended we get his leg amputated as soon as possible.
At this point we were sure we were on the right path and that going ahead with the amputation would be fairly straightforward. However, when I called the vet on the Monday to let him know our decision, he seemed very shocked. I was firm though and said: “This is our only hope – he’s my dog and I know he’s not ready to go yet.”
Two days later, I took Monty in for the surgery, but when we arrived one of the vets asked if she could have a word with me. She said: “Three of us have been looking at these X-rays and we are questioning the ethics of doing the surgery as it’s a very aggressive cancer.”
I had spent all weekend reading up about osteosarcomas, so I was aware it was aggressive, but I knew in my heart that Monty would want us to give him a chance. I could see he was carrying himself like a dog with three legs and hadn’t been weight-bearing on that limb for a month at least. I said to her: “Look at this dog and tell me he’s ready to go. If he was withdrawing from life, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The decision would have been made on Friday when you gave us the diagnosis.”
But, despite our conversation, another vet continued to question our decision, saying: “He’s an old dog, he’s a big dog, and it’s a front limb.” He then got his textbooks out and started showing me statistics and gloomy predictions. He went on to say the cancer had probably already spread to his lungs and that we should do a CT scan, which we needed to be referred for.
It was the first time we’d been given this information as the vet who had diagnosed Monty told us it hadn’t spread. But of course, I didn’t want him to go through surgery if he had no realistic chance of survival.
The road to recovery
A little later on, the clinic we were being referred to for the CT scan called and asked me to get Monty to them as soon as I could. The reception we got there was totally different. The vet was lovely; she said to me: “Yes, he may be 12 and he may be a big dog. But he’s not overweight, and he still has three good limbs. I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have the amputation, providing his lungs are clear.”
Monty went in for a CT scan in the afternoon, and I drove home feeling a lot more positive. Soon after, the vet called and said the scan had shown his lungs were clear and that she was ready to go ahead with the amputation if we were happy to. I rang at about 8pm that evening, expecting her to say he was comfortable, but it was even better – she said he’d been outside to go to the toilet and had even had his tea. It was wonderful news!
In the meantime, we’d kept in touch with Sue Armstrong and updated her on Monty’s progress. Once Monty was home, Sue advised us to give him the homeopathic remedy Staphysagria for three days, and Hypericum for 10 days, in addition to the painkillers the vets had prescribed. After two weeks, we took Monty to get his 26 staples taken out. His wound had healed beautifully and the fur had already started to grow back. I attribute the homeopathy to his healing – I think it helped enormously.
After the 10 days, Sue advised us to continue with Staphysagria once a week, and a month later she also prescribed Lycopodium every two weeks. Around three months after the amputation, she reduced the Staphysagria to fortnightly and added a single dose of Carcinosin. Once she was happy that he was past the window for any potential spread, the Staphysagria was stopped, but he still takes Lycopodium monthly and Carcinosin every two months. Sue also gave us dietary advice, which involved keeping Monty’s diet mostly to wild food (to keep the chemical load down), as well as dietary supplements, including reishi mushroom and Astragalus.
Since then, Sue has given him an occasional dose of Thuja to treat a wart on his ear and he has a benign cyst on his back which we monitor as, according to Sue, they are good barometers!
I also make a cancer fighting grind from fresh green vegetables, lemon, garlic, shitake mushrooms and flaxseed and put a teaspoonful in Monty’s dinner every evening. This recipe didn’t come from Sue, but when I asked her what she thought to it, she said: “Absolutely!” All of my dogs have it now – I’m a strong believer in prevention being better than a cure!
Slow and steady
The other person who played a massive part in Monty’s recovery was Dr Isla Fishburn, a canine wellness practitioner who is also a good friend. I contacted her that first weekend, and she came over and did some energy healing with Monty, as well as some work with essential oils and zoopharmacognosy [which utilises an animal’s innate ability to self-medicate using plants and other natural remedies]. I believe this multi-modal approach has been the reason for Monty’s success. We are indebted to both Isla and Sue and also to Julia Robertson of Galen Myotherapy for igniting my passion to enrich the lives of dogs and giving me the skills and knowledge to look after Monty’s muscular and skeletal health.
Monty’s progress has been slow and steady. It’s been about allowing him to enjoy life, allowing him to make the decisions, and about us being aware of his demeanour in all of it. I could see the pain in his face before the operation, and within two days that pain had gone.
Just two weeks after having his amputation, he was back on the beach enjoying life again.
Back then I thought, if we have six good months with him, I’ll be happy. But it’s been over two years, four months since his diagnosis, which feels miraculous. He’s amazing, and is an absolute inspiration to so many people.
We have a stroller for him, so we can still take him out on long walks; he just hops in and out when he needs to. As long as he is happy, we will do what we can to keep him going that way.
I did have doubts, especially when I had conventional vets telling me I was making a bad decision, and if it wasn’t for people like Sue and Isla, I would have gone with their judgement. That’s why it’s so worth doing some research and looking at alternatives.
Diseases are all part of life, but I think that the body is designed to heal itself, and homeopathy’s gentle nudges seem a much more sensible way to approach these things. I’m a strong believer in using every bit of nature, especially when you consider that the plant medicines were there long before pharmaceutical drugs. That’s the approach I have for my own health, so it’s how I am with my animals. And if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for me!
A valuable lesson
After Monty’s amputation, needless to say I wanted to change vets. We’d also got a new puppy – a Briard called Fergus – in the meantime. So, I contacted the only independent veterinary surgery in my area and registered my dogs there. Our appointment was with a new vet, who – lo and behold – turned out to be the vet from the old practice who’d voiced concerns about Monty’s amputation.
She soon remembered us when she saw Monty. I said to her: “Look at him now and tell me I made a mistake.” She replied, “Well, I can’t, he looks absolutely amazing.” I asked her to promise me that if she was ever presented with a dog in that situation, she would remember Monty. She said: “I absolutely will.”
I’m just so delighted Monty’s still with us – I count my blessings every day. He’s always been a bit of a head turner – and he still is, but for other reasons now. My experience of homeopathy has been wonderful and I will shout about it from the rooftops every day.”
Sue Maclennan has had a lifelong passion for dogs. In 2011, she took a leap of faith, left her full time employment and enrolled with Galen Myotherapy to embark on a new career.
Galen (Canine) Myotherapy is a branch of massage therapy which promotes health and treats chronic muscular pain in dogs through unique massage techniques and exercise management. Further information can be found here.
More of Sue’s story can be found here.
Disclaimer – This blog was created by a guest author. CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information.
The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health.*Full details can be found on the RCVS website.