Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 29, 2015

When Cancer Strikes, It's Hard to Not Panic

Posted at 08:51AM - Comments: (11)

 

I received an email from a reader the other day. His 12-year-old German Shepherd has just received a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the anal sacs. The dog received surgery, and now the owner and his wife are being presented with a number of further treatment options. The husband wrote, “We are continuing with traditional medical treatment but are looking to supplement his treatment with potential complementary and alternative medicine options – or even ‘high tech’ traditional medical options such as monoclonal antibody or immunotherapy.” They wanted to know, did I have any further suggestions?

Ah, I wish, I wish, I wish I had a great answer for them – a prescription for the most effective treatment, a phone number for the specialist, a link to a study being conducted on that specific type of canine cancer. Why isn’t there a roadmap for treating cancer? It seems like there ought to be a database, with every type of cancer for every companion animal species, with lists of what therapies have been tried and the success rate of each, with the side effects listed… And then you could just select the course of treatment that’s had the best results with the least side effects – and feel good about your choices.

But in my experience with cancer, you almost never feel great about the choices that you make. Even when treatment is successful, most people I’ve known with cancer, and most pet owners who have had their pets treated for cancer, have been left with niggling doubts. When the patient died, their loved ones all second-guessed their treatment decisions: should we have gone with this approach instead of that one, should we have declined treatment altogether and focused on quality of life instead of making the patient sick with chemo or radiation, should we have started the nutritional and complementary treatments sooner?

And even when the patient lives, whether it’s for a few weeks, months, or even years past the original prognosis, I’ve heard people wonder:  Was that surgery really necessary? Could I have stopped chemo sooner with the same result? The patient had such side effects from the radiation; is the life she’s leading now worth all the suffering?

Another awful question: Is there a study going on somewhere that is testing a treatment for my loved-one’s cancer? Have I not looked hard enough for someone, somewhere in this country, who may have found the treatment that could save my beloved?

For me, a person who likes clear-cut answers, the lack of clarity and the second-guessing that one does, is almost as torturous as being stricken with cancer oneself.

All I could do for my reader is to encourage him and his wife, by saying that whatever they are able to do for their dog is a lot; it’s a hard thing to deal with, especially with an older dog. I also told them to check out the book, The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. It contains a lot of basic and encouraging information.

We did a series on cancer in WDJ a number of years ago, but they contain good information. Here is a link to an article that contains links to the entire series in the first few paragraphs:

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/10_6/features/Cancer-In-Canines_15939-1.html

One article I would strongly recommend is: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/6_11/features/5586-1.html

And last, I told them, best of luck, and let us know how you and your dog are doing as you journey through the unfamiliar land of cancer.

What advice would you give someone who was facing cancer with their dog?

 

Comments (11)

I wish I had known about GcMAF when my sweet lab mix came down with anal sac adenocarcinoma. We decided not to do chemo, just surgery. After 3 months, the ultrasound technician told me she was "dying". I looked at my happy girl and walked out, vowing to do everything I could to give her a life worth living. We had multiple close calls, lots of enemas (as the tumors got bigger and it got harder for her to poop), and lots of supplemnts, including artemisinin, which helped for quite a while. I do believe had I started her on GcMAF immediately after surgery, the course of her disease may have been halted completely. I'll never know. Were the same thing to happen today, I wouldn't hesitate to get started. Look it up! It was recommended to me (for bc) by my holistic doctor, and I was on it for a year with good results. BTW, my girl lived a full year after that ultrasound -- and I mean it both in the time-wise sense, and in the emotional sense. And we had an amazing connection much of that time, too.

Wishing you all the best!

Posted by: wag-n-train | October 3, 2015 6:52 PM    Report this comment

Like others have commented, I would be eternally grateful for such a database of cancer types, treatments options (traditional and alternative), and tests in progress, results of past tests, resources specific to different cancer types, lists of forums or Facebook groups associated with each type, etc.

We have a 6 year old collie mix rescue who was diagnosed with advanced stage nasal adenocarcimona at age 3. She has been through surgeries, CynerKnife radiation, IV chemo, and now oral chemo. Despite everything I had read and was told by oncologists, it was the IV chemo that finally got rid of the bulk of the rapidly spreading tumor and gave us our girl back! Goes to show that you have to take a lot of what you read with a grain of salt when it comes to cancer due to it's unpredictability. I believe that much of her resilience throughout all of her treatments is due to homeopathic remedies/supplements/vitamins that she's been on since her diagnosis.

We also have a 6 year old Bouvier who was diagnosed in July with Grade 2 Soft Tissue Sarcoma. She had surgery (tumor was large and in her armpit) and radiation. We were told by her oncologist that there was a 1% chance that the cancer would return following radiation. A month and a half later she has two more tumors on each side (one of which the radiologist had missed on the initial CT scan prior to radiation) and 5 that have metastasized to her lungs. The biopsy from one of the tumors on her side came back as Grade 3 STS and she now has 5 marble sized tumors that have grown back at the radiation site in her armpit. They have now given her 3 months to live with treatment. It's hard not to feel helpless and hopeless in a situation like this when you rely so heavily on what the oncologists and surgeons tell you only to find out they were completely wrong in their assessment.

Posted by: MWeber | October 1, 2015 10:39 AM    Report this comment

The database that you mention - "Why isn't there a roadmap for treating cancer? It seems like there ought to be a database, with every type of cancer for every companion animal species, with lists of what therapies have been tried and the success rate of each, with the side effects listed... And then you could just select the course of treatment that's had the best results with the least side effects - and feel good about your choices." This would be amazing! Can WDJ authors begin working on putting something like this together? What an amazing resource to offer to readers! I agree with the comment above. At the very least, please provide updated articles on the latest treatments. I believe that the best things we can do when faced with the decision of cancer treatment options is to have access to as much updated information as possible in order to make informed choices and to go forward with lots of love and patience.

Posted by: JillL | October 1, 2015 10:08 AM    Report this comment

** Apologies, I meant to add & correct, Jack's SLO stands for Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy, a disorder of the toenails, not the feet. He still runs with his bro & sis and goes on trips. Vet says his osteo is a result of age and if the generic carprofen didn't work, we would have to look at the possibility of bone cancer. But that medicine worked overnight and his blood work is excellent, so far, something else I have learned is important via my issues of WDJ, thanks again~! ~Nancy & JB

Posted by: NJ | September 30, 2015 4:26 AM    Report this comment

When our 7-year old black lab Jack Black had a golf ball-sized lump on his abdomen that appeared overnight, we made a vet appt. right away and after removal, diagnosed as "intermediate stage fibroblastic sarcoma". Needless to say, it was a fierce, fast growing lump. He was given 6-12 months without chemo/rad and maybe a year with it. We opted for palliative care instead at home fulltime, and today, he is just over 11 years old with a really good quality of life. Since that time, he has gone on beach and river trips just great. The only nagging thing that seems to be ongoing is he has SLO on his feet. You can research that disorder, it's not pretty. Elizabethan collars are wonderful when he has flairups, as is a spray we use from the vet for his feet.

JB is going on 4 years now with NED (no evidence of disease, the cancer). He has been on a regimen of 50% homemade and 50% a highly-rated WDJ dog food kibble. The 50% homemade consists of slow-cooked dried beans (about 6-8 types, including garbanzo, lentils, dried peas, red, navy, white, etc.) slow-cooked sweet potatoes, yellow & green squash, and pureed (in a blender) raw kale, bok choy, brocolli, cabbage & cauliflower. With that also, some whole wheat pasta & oatmeal with ground uncooked flaxseed (extra unused coffee grinder comes in handy). With all of the above, I also add coconut and olive oils. I make their cookies with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, flaxseed, parsley & some of the pureed veggies.

As for medicines and supplements, we've got him down to a small dose of Doxycycline once a day (for life - no one thought we would have him this long, the vet decided to reduce his dose this year). In the mornings, he takes his 1/2 Doxy, vitamin E, niacinamide, chinese herbs called drynaria 12, carprofen (in his case, the generic truprofen just prescribed last month for some painful osteoarthritis he is starting to have) and Milk Thistle for his liver function.

I have probably left something out...suffice to say it's a miracle we still have our precious "old" baby in 2015. I am looking forward to my next issue of WDJ with the homemade recipes, to see if I want to make any adjustments. It is hard to go with your gut sometimes to try to do your best and I love the encouragement of the article above, many thanks!

Nancy (& JB)

Posted by: NJ | September 29, 2015 4:15 PM    Report this comment

My yellow lab was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma November 10, 2013, from a lump I found that was surgically removed and biopsied. His oncologist told us that DHA is "the magic bullet" against cancer. We put him on 2000 units a day, correct for his weight. He is still with us, ready to celebrate his 10th birthday on October 9, 2015. We are in the process of changing the DHA source from Alaskan salmon oil to an algae source, to reduce the risk of contaminants. We also did Chinese herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, raw duck diet (no carbs), and dogtv!
He's still here!!!

Posted by: auntiesharon | September 29, 2015 3:23 PM    Report this comment

My 10 year old Scottie, Cooper, was diagnosed 2 years ago with something called a spindle cell tumor. It was on the top of his head-a hard little bump, and it came up rather quickly. The vet said they usually reoccur-could be in the same spot or a different one. The tumor was successfully removed and up until now, there has been no reoccurence. I've had him on some drops called Essiac Tea that humans use also to prevent cancer. He gets them every day 2 or 3 times a day and I am elated that we have not seen this cancer again to date.

Posted by: cathywday | September 29, 2015 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Re: Newfoundland w/stage 4
He was on a commercial dog food rated very highly on Whole Dog Journal. He also got canned tripe 2xs a day.
We think all the pesticides on people's lawns and run-off into the street was a large component of his getting cancer.

Posted by: lynda | September 29, 2015 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Our Newfoundland was diagnosed with T-cell (the worst kind) stage 4 lymphoma...3 months after his annual checkup...very fast moving. We took him to Angell Memorial and the prognosis was 2-4 months with treatment. We started him on chemo immediately and he lived for one year, and had a good quality of life, with the exception of a couple of weeks until chemo kicked in, for that time.
Good luck. Our guy was 4 years old when diagnosed.

Posted by: lynda | September 29, 2015 11:37 AM    Report this comment

I just read the above article and the one suggested from 2003. Very informative as we all know that just like us our 4 legged friends are being diagnosed more and more with various cancers. I really do believe that most cancers are triggered by food. So when the article finely got to the two various nutritional, herbal and holistic approaches I was encouraged.
I have read many a source utilizing this approach for humans, and think we should be apply this from to our 4 legged from the get go. The commercial and grain diets contain too many ingredients that are contaminated or non essential to good nutrition.
I put my Cocker Spaniel on a raw diet combo dyhydrated grain free diet many years ago and the results have been very good. We started out with major skin problems etc. after the initial multi puppy vaccine and it snowballed for a few years until I stumbled onto the nutritional approach. In 6 weeks we were back to a happy healthy rambunctious puppy. Thank god! He is now approaching 14 years old and we are doing very well and still get compliments on his energy, the way he moves and his coat. There is something to good water, diet, exercise a great holistic vet.

Posted by: Dexter Puccini | September 29, 2015 10:20 AM    Report this comment

These articles are great but since 2003 & 2007 aren't there any updates that can be written about and posted in a new article in WDJ?

Can you concentrate on Canine Lymphoma - the most prevalent form of cancer in dogs?

ANY and ALL information would be greatly appreciated.

Needless to say we are battling lymphoma and would welcome your insights.

Many Thanx.

Posted by: Dalzig | September 29, 2015 9:42 AM    Report this comment

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