D.R. asks from Milford, CT on March 28, 2009
Chemo for Dogs
I really need help on this one. My dog was just diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma which is a cnacer of the blood vessels. I was told it is very invasive and that I should go see an oncologist for him. We went on Friday and my heart was crushed over and over as I received more bad news. I am so shocked by this and having such a hard time b/c other than the lump I had removed he is fine. He is acting the same is eating the same is plying the same. I have the hardest decision to make. They are telling me that it has most likely spread (waiting for some results) and that I should do chemo to make him more comfortable. But he doesnt seem uncomfortable! Not to say he wont become uncomfortable but should I really do chemo and risk him vomiting and having diarrhea and feeling lousy if he is acting fine now? Has anyone ever had chemo for a pet before? Please let me know ifyou have had any experience positive or negative with chemo and pets. Please only provide the necessary details...I don't think I can handle too much bad info. Thanks for all your help.
So What Happened?™
Thank you all so much for your support and advice. I really felt better after reading all the responses. After several bumps in the road we decided to just let our dog live his life. He is just healing from his first surgery which was about over a month ago. His wound opened back up and he had to be restapled! Poor guy. So we decided to leave him alone and just enjoy his life. It has also made it easier for me to just enjoy him. If he was going for chemo I would constantly be reminded of his illness and would be so sad all the time. Thanks again for all your stories, input and advice. It means so much to me!
L.S. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
D., are they telling you that you SHOULD get chemo, or just offering it as an option. My question is, what is the prognosis long term with chemo, and will it really improve his quality of life and lifespan. That's what I'd be thinking. You said chemo to make him more comfortable, but you say he's not uncomfortable, so did they say what that meant?
E.B. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
Thanks for the opportunity to help out while on maternity leave :) I am a veterinary oncology technician. We advise people to at least try the chemo. While your dog may not be exhibiting any signs of discomfort right now, he may feel different and not be showing it. Dogs are stoic. The cancer will spread, no doubt about it. If you go for the chemo, you will be helping is body fight the cancer. We don't dose chemo at the same strength in animals as they do in human oncology. (We aren't hoping to get 40/50 years of remission.) So therefore, unless your dog is particularly sensitive, the side effects aren't that bad. Animals don't lose their fur (it's different than hair) but may lose whiskers. A lot of the time clients report to us that their pet is acting like a puppy again. We can only assume that they feel so much better b/c the chemo is fighting for them. Sometimes people want to stop chemo because their dog feels so good they can't believe the dog even has cancer.
We always send home anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medications to prevent any side effects. Our goal is to prevent nausea instead of treat diarrhea.
Try it. If he gets sick, or whatever, then stop. At least you'll know you attempted something to help him. Tell your oncologist that that is your plan. They should be open to your concerns... your exact dilema is the most common we hear from clients.
Keep me posted on your progress/decision!!! Good luck.
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J.C. answers from Albany on March 29, 2009
This is my opinion. My first response would be to say chemo is out of the question for some of the same reasons you expressed. I am a nurse and I don't feel chemo is the best way to treat humans. I really don't feel it is the best way to treat animals. I would start by considering some of what may have caused the cancer and in today's world there are many things that contribute to the toxic environment we and our pets live in. Beyond that, I am a proponent of only the highest quality pet food with virtually all good things and no fillers. Those are sometimes hard to find even in a pet store or vet's office. Changing a pets food is a transition process and to do it all at once may cause a considerable detox reaction in your pet so transition slowly by mixing the current food with small amounts of the high quality food and progressing to the complete change over. The next thing I would do is supplement with those nutritionals known to support the immune system and help fight the cancer from an all-natural approach. I have been a nurse over 30 years and working with humans have gained a very clear understanding of all the bad chemo can do and the amazing potential of nutritionals. I have seen evidence it is no different in animals. In my opinion, the all-natural approach is best. At least your dog will not have to suffer the ill effects of chemo.
1 mom found this helpful
S.B. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
First off I would like to say I am sorry about this bad news. It is always hard when a pet is sick, they are part of the family. Alittle about me. My name is S.. I was an assistant manager of a pet store, currently I am a pediatric nurse. I am a huge pet lover and have alot knowlegde of pet illnesses. I have also rescued 2 dogs from shelters. I aswell try to work with a coworker of mine that does rescue. I have 2 dogs of my own, a 15 month Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a Corgi/ German Shepard mix (yes, she is very weird looking).
About chemo for your pet. There are some factors that you have to way out. First off, how old is your pet. If your pet is 14 and they are saying to do chemo..it really is not going to extend the life of your pet. Is Chemo affordable for you? What are the chances or percentage that the chemo will work? Will the Chemo extend the life of your pet by months or years? What stage is the cancer? All of these questions are very important coming up with a decision. A pet is a family member. We, last year had to put our beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "Colby" down. He was only 4. It was heart breaking. We did everything humanly possible for him, Mri, spinal tap, treatment. It was very hard. So, I understand what you are going through. I hope this helped you. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.
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M.L. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
Hi, D.. I used to work at a major veterinary hospital in Boston. I cannot speak to prognosis, I am not a vet, but i can tell you that most dogs handle chemotherapy better than people do. They don't tend to get as sick and tired. Veterinarians do not administer chemo drugs for dogs the same way they do for people; the dosages are not as high and the combinations of drugs are more limited. It is less overwhelming for the system and produces fewer side effects than chemo in humans.
Dogs can be stoic and I would personally take the advice of my vet and not necessarily go by my dog's outward appearance. Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer and I would treat it aggressively to maximize the quality of my dog's life, if I could. Typical treatment calls for both surgery and chemo so I don't think your vet is out of line.
I'm sorry that you have to deal with this; I have a few friends in the dog cancer community if you would like me to help you find support resources.
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D.B. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
I am so sorry to hear that one of your dogs has been diagnosed with cancer....its a heartbreaking diagnosis, even when its an animal, and not a person, because they, too, are an important part of our families.
I also lost a dog to cancer a couple of years ago. Casey, our Golden Retriever, who was only 3 years old became deathly sick very suddenly, and was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, so I know exactly what you're going through.
While I haven't had any firsthand experience with chemotherapy for dogs, I would advise against it. After researching the issue, and several lengthy discussions with my vet, I came to the conclusion that putting them through that, simply to keep them with us for a while longer when there is no chance of removing the cancer surgically, or for recovery, would just be selfish on my part.
My vet feels so strongly about it, that she won't even offer chemotherapy as an option for companion animals when the cancer is all-invasive, such as in the lymph nodes or the bloodstream. In her opinion, chemo for the types of cancer that are very invasive, and spread very rapidly, is just a way that veterinarians can make more money, and it doesn't benefit the animal at all, and just prolongs the pain.
From what she told me, in most cases giving them chemotherapy may keep them alive for a bit longer, but at what cost? Most all of them become very sick from the chemo itself, and it actually will make them feel even worse during the time that they have left. Many of them stop eating, and those that don't are usually very sick to their stomach throughout the entire course of treatment. The treatments also make the majority of them extremely weak and tired all the time. Personally, I wouldn't want to live like that myself, so I wasn't about to even consider it for one of my pets.
I think you need to consider which is most important, the quantity of life that he has left, or the quality of it. I would much rather have a dog that is living the remainder of his life normally, with as little change as possible, as opposed to one who feels miserable all the time, as I'm sure you would too....especially if there is no chance of an actual recovery from it.
Let him live his life normally, for as long as he can be kept reasonably comfortable, and let him enjoy the time with your family that he has left. When the time comes that life is just too painful for him, you'll know, and at that point, then love him enough to let him go.
I had six wonderful weeks with Casey, during which we packed in all the things that he loved to do, and I wouldn't have traded them for anything, and I don't think that he would have either. He was sick, but he knew that he was loved, and still felt well enough to enjoy the time he had left. Then one morning I awoke to his having difficulty breathing, and I knew thatit was time. Keeping him alive any longer would have simply been selfishness on my part, so I held him in my arms. while our vet put him to sleep. He's with the angels now, but there's no more pain and suffering, and he went knowing how much that he was loved.....please give your dog the same chance, and say no to the chemotherapy...it will just prolong the inevitable...let him enjoy the time he has left!
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P.K. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
Having just been thru the same thing, I can tell you what we did. We let our sweet Callie, a beautiful
English Springer Spaniel, live out her life. When her
lungs got so bad that her breathing was fast and she
stopped eating, we knew the time had come. To look at
her you would have never known she was as sick as she
was. So the day after Thanksgiving we took our girl,
with all our children (grown) and were with her when
she crossed over Rainbow Bridge with her favorite blanket. If we let her go on more than we did, the
chances are her end would have been traumatic for her
and for us. Making the decision to have her go peacefully was the right one. We still cry for her.
She was our love, our life. Our child after the
children grew up. Hope this helps. God Bless you
and your family and sweet dog.
1 mom found this helpful
J.C. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
I can say that I feel your pain. Last year I had a lump removed on my dog Macie the biopsy came back cancer so they removed more of the mass. turns out they did not have clear margins so there was a chance the cancer could come back. Her cancer was a mast cell tumor. I took her to an oncologist and they said Radiation, chemo,or just progesterone. I was told they do not give chemo like w/ humans and they do not have the horrible side effects. I opted for chemo, ( Price and time) I have 3 small kids. I took her every week and she went from sept to Nov. then her liver levels came back high so they stopped the chemo. 2 weeks later Macie got VERY sick I rushed her to emergency and she had pnemonia (Almost died) I tell you she was perfectly healthy and fun crazy dog before this point. The oncologist said after they treated her and she was sick for 2 weeks, tha we would stop the chemo. she should be fine and it was a fluke.. one month later I rushed back to emergency because her belly filled w/ fluid, they said it could be liver disease. After all the tests they said "yes" its her liver. I opted not to have a biopsy bevause Of $$$ we had already spent thousands. we treated her and they said they would know how bad it was by the way she reacted. I will say that my sweet Macie was put to sleep shortly after. the last 2 days of her life she did suffer and I felt Horrible. I could never understand how such a healthy dog could change so rapidly. I feel in my heart if I had not done the chemo macie would still be here. this is all fresh for me only 1 month ago. I could be wrong but I say ask more ???'s your dog has a different cancer. Just know that the chemo can effect the liver.
I wish you all the best. be informed! My oncologist was great, but I guess I just never thought this would happen. they said she would be fine and it went bad for me. I dont want to scare you, I just want you to research and ask ?'s. I wish you all the best. My dogs were my first babies so they are family.
The place I went was Red Bank Vet Hopsital "Dr. Clifford" they were very good there and Macie actually loved it there. they treated her soo good.
S.B. answers from New York on March 29, 2009
I'm sorry to say I didn't have the opportunity to provide my beloved Storm with chemo. It hit so fast! You seem to be lucky so far, as your dog is eating and acting the same. Mine didn't.
Check out www.modianolab.org and do a search there. You can also email them. They were very supportive in my quest for answers, although I lost my dog within 3 days of diagnosis.
I wish you nothing but the best! Good luck.