Shrinking tumors nonsurgically

Tumor bulk reduction

Older dogs often get mammary tumors and benign masses. Though benign, these lumps can cause problems if they get very large or start to restrict movement. But owners are often reluctant to put their older dogs under anesthesia for surgery, or they do not have the money.

Calcium chloride in alcohol, which is used as a testicular injection to shrink the testes for nonsurgical neuter, may be an option for tumor bulk reduction too. The first known report of this use was in 1977 (Koger LM, see below). Also available for download: a 2011 report, with photos, of bulk reduction in a mammary mass. Besides allowing veterinarians to offer their clients an anesthesia-free treatment for older dogs, calcium chloride in alcohol has the advantage of being made from readily available ingredients and thus being an option for use in exceedingly low-resource or remote settings. It provides an option for treating animals that otherwise wouldn’t get treated.

Mammary tumor reduction in older dog using injection of calcium chloride

Bunny Tumors

Left: Mammary tumor before treatment; Center: Inflammation that occurred after calcium chloride injection, which subsided within 2 weeks; Right: Reduction in size of tumor following treatment.

Warning: Calcium chloride/alcohol injection and fatty tumors/lipomas don’t mix! Calcium chloride-alcohol injection seems to turn fatty tumors to jelly. By 24-48 hours after injection, it can seem like a miracle, with the mass shrunk down by half. However, the body seems unable to process/resorb the resulting material. The skin can then rupture, creating a draining wound that must be treated with multiple rounds of antibiotics and may ultimately need to be surgically removed. Calcium chloride-alcohol injection should not be used on masses containing fat until/unless further research reveals techniques with more acceptable outcomes (such as perhaps aspirating the material after 24-48 hours, plus prophylactic antibiotics).

Since it is in the published literature, with publications from both 1977 and 2011, there is precedent for veterinarians to cite when using calcium chloride. Calcium chloride alcohol injection is ordered from a sterile-filling-capable compounding pharmacy by requesting “20% (w/v) Calcium Chloride Dihydrate, USP in Ethyl Alcohol 190 proof, USP.”

Are you a veterinarian who would be willing to offer calcium chloride injection in alcohol for nonsurgical tumor bulk reduction of solid (non-fatty) tumors? Please contact us if you would like to be added to a list of veterinarians who offer the service, and tell us your experience after you’ve tried it.

Learn more:

First descriptions of use: Koger, LM, 1977. Item #451 of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin, July 24-27, 1977. Abstract

Koger, Nov 1977. Calcium Chloride, Practical Necrotizing Agent, Journal of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (USA), (Nov 1977), v. 12, p. 118–119.Free full text.

Albers GW, Theilen GH, 1985. Calcium chloride for treatment of subcutaneous lipomas in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 186(5):492-4. Abstract. This study used a lower concentration of calcium chloride and no alcohol, but still got surprisingly good results (shrinkage in all tumors).

Lissner E, Montilla H, Kutzler M, 2011. Intralesional injection of calcium chloride dihydrate in alcohol for minimally-invasive bulk reduction of a mammary mass. Poster download.

Calcium chloride for male dog and cat sterilization, with link for formulation and injection procedure (see “Ingredients Technique”)