Chemo for Dogs

Updated on April 04, 2009
D.R. asks from Milford, CT
26 answers

Hi moms
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.
D.

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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!

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L.S.

answers from New York on

Danielle, 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?

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E.B.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle,
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.

E.

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D.B.

answers from New York on

Danielle,

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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M.L.

answers from New York on

Hi, Danielle. 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.

http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/showarticle.cfm?id=6

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.

Good luck!
M.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

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.

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S.B.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle,

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.

~S.

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J.C.

answers from Albany on

Hello Danielle,

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.

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S.S.

answers from Rochester on

Sorry for your dog's illness.
Did the vet tell you that there would be side effects to the chemo (vomiting, etc), or are you basing it on human reactions? I just listened to a radio interview with a vet who'd recently written a book about being your pet's advocate and was so surprised. Anyway, she said that, as common as it is for humans to get negative side effects to chemo, that's how uncommon it is for dogs to have those same effects. They seem to tolerate the treatment better.

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M.M.

answers from New York on

Danielle--Your post doesn't tell how old your dog is, and that is a consideration with regard to his tolerance for such treatment. Are you sure he would be sick from the treatments? What are the chances of his going into remission if you do give him the chemo? It's all a lot to consider. I think I would likely get a second opinion before proceeding. There is a wide range of thinking on such matters and you need to arrive at what is best for the dog, your family, and you.

God bless...

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D.E.

answers from New York on

Danielle,
So sorry to hear about your dog! I have a vitamin and supplement business and have been working with and selling products for Earth Animal in Westport which was started by Dr. Bob Goldstein's wife Susan. Dr. Bob has over 30 year experience and works with terminally ill patients. I STRONGLY urge and suggest you talk to him and I am certain you can and will find alternatives to the chemo - he is truly amazing. I have been able to cancel a surgery for my own dog by following their advice (my dog who is not even two blew her cruciate ligament). Call me ###-###-#### if you would like the contact numbers.
Healthy Regards,
D. EL-Tayyeb

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D.S.

answers from New York on

Hey Danielle,

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I just wanted to say that chemo is not pleasant for anyone so if there is not a good prognosis then I would probably not put my dog through all of the horrible side effects of chemo. If the results show the cancer has spread then I would just enjoy the time he has left, keep him as comfortable as you can. As painful as it is to let him go it is better to not put him though all of that for nothing. For right now if he is happy, eating, and playful then I would let him be. I lost my golden retriever to cancer so I know how painful it is to loose a family member. When I knew he was terminal I fed him sirloin steak everyday and spoiled him with all the love we could give to him. Putting him though chemo without a positive diagnosis is only going to make it harder on him and you for the time he does have left. You sound like a wonderful women and your dog is lucky to have you in his life. Good luck!!!

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J.B.

answers from New York on

I am sosorry for you. I am a mom and huge animal lover (I feel like with the boys -BTW I have 19 month old twins too - and all the cats and dogs it is a zoo here). Our dog had cancer too. Diagnosed a year and a half ago. We did radiation therapy for 6 weeks on her. She is fine now, cancer free thus far. I do not know about chemo in dogs. How old is your dog - big consideration to think about. We went to a great cancer center for anilamls. It may be a drive, but it is the Advanced Vet Care Center in Newburgh, NY. Wonderful staff, my dog couldn't wait to go in and see everyone who treated her like a princess! They only treat cancer animals.

Sorry I couldn't be of much help. I wish you all the luck in the world. Email me with any questions at [email protected]____.com

J.

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S.H.

answers from Albany on

Danielle,

Message me your email address and I'll send you some alternative info about dogs and cancer. I wouldn't do chemo. It is not "comfortable". It is a poison.

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J.C.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle,
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.

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M.M.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle -I am a mom of b/g twins also! They turned four in December -it's amazing and I love every minute of it! I am also a major animal lover --we have two cats -but I had dogs growing up. I am going to fwd your message to my neighbor who is a veterinarian -she has been really great with one of my cats. we can get her input on this -will let you know what she says.
M. -actually -why don't you email me back with your direct email and I'll email you what she emails to me.

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P.C.

answers from New York on

We have had three dogs with three different types of cancerous tumors.In one case, we had a cancerous spleen removed but opted not to do the chemo for the reasons you mentioned. For the second we did not do the bladder/intestinal tract surgery and have instead been treating her with supplements. In the third case, we left the tumors and treated her with acupuncture. She lived a good life for another 15 months before she died at age 13. Our other two dogs are still with us.

I would get a second opinion if you do not think you can handle the effects of chemo and radiation, although I was told by my dogs' oncologists that the dogs wouldn't get sick like people do. Go online and see what info you can get on this.

I also highly recommend alternative therapies such as nutritional supplements and acupuncture. We go to a wonderful veterinarian in Parsippany -- Companion Animal Hospital -- who combines regular vrterinary care with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

I wish you many more good days with your babies and dogs.

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J.P.

answers from New York on

WE took our dog years ago to NYC Animal Medical Center and got two more years out of her after treating her with a brain tumor where the other opinion we got told us to put her down.
THey "zapped" her a couple times a week. NYC is the only place to go in my opinion. I don't know where you live and your finances, but it was worth it to us. They didn't do chemo.
I'm a mom of 2-1/2 year old b/g twins.
Good luck to you.

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S.B.

answers from New York on

Danielle:
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.
S.

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P.N.

answers from Syracuse on

Hi,
I read the other responses and a couple were about the same as what I will say to you. I had a cat with cancer, not a dog, but I didn't love her any less. She basically developed breast cancer (when she was 10), and I will never forget the analogy my vet gave to me about her treatment and whether or not to give her chemo. Let me also just say I trusted my vet implicitly, and I knew his advice was always in the best interest of my pets. Anyway, he said if someone told him that he had terminal cancer and his odds of surviving after chemo were minimal but perhaps would prolong his life a little while, and by the way he'd be very sick during that extra time, OR he could do nothing and live it up for the few months that he had and not be sick all the time - in a heartbeat he'd take the second option. I was very concerned my kitty would be in pain and how would I know when it was her time, etc. The cost was a bit of an issue as well, but if I could have saved her life I would have paid anything. This was not the case, it was fatal cancer, and the chance of survival after chemo was very minimal- it would only prolong her life. My vet told me I would know when her time came and he was right. I scheduled her euthanasia when I knew she was experiencing pain, and I was lucky to a have about another 9 months with her before that had to happen. My vet came to the house and she died in my arms - and he charged me nothing for that by the way. Actually, the pain of knowing I would lose her ahead of time was worse than the actuality, because when the time came I knew it was the best decision for her, and she would be at peace. So, weigh the odds of survival, quality of life and possible recovery after chemo for your precious dog before you make your decision.
Take care

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G.W.

answers from New York on

My dog was diagnosed with cancer and had tumors all over her body. My husband and I decided against the chemo since she was acting normally as well. She also didn't seem uncomfortable either. We didn't feel that the chemo would improve the quality of her life and it doesn't really extend the length of time that they live. We have seen what humans go through and didn't want to subject our dog to it.

They gave her 6 months or less to live and they were on target. It was very hard to handle at the time, but it did give us a chance to accept what happened and to mentally prepare for the future. I know this is very difficult and heartbreaking news to receive and my heart goes out to you. I say don't do the chemo and just enjoy the time you have with your dog right now. I wish you the best of luck w/everything and you'll be in my thoughts and prayers

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H.G.

answers from New York on

I'm so sorry Danielle. I've been in your shoes. We had chemo on a dog when I was in high school, and it was awful for her. It made her very, very sick and miserable and did not cure her. I've heard it's much better now (that was 15 years ago). But I'd ask the vet about the side effects, and what the odds are on recovering. Also, is your dog younger or older? If he's still young, it's probably worth it. But if he's older, I don't know if I'd do it.

I chose not to do chemo with my dog this past year, when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. I just couldn't put him through it, when the doc said it wouldn't really cure him, just possibly give him a few extra months.

Good luck, hon. :( I hope your pooch beats this!

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V.M.

answers from New York on

I am so sorry for the illness of your dog. Pets are part of the family and I know how much it must hurt you. Personally, I would want to know several things before making a decision. Will the chemo cure the cancer or is it just a prolonging of life type of thing? If it's a cure then go for it. If it will make the dog suffer just to prolong his life - I wouldn't do it. My personal "what to do now" with pets has always started with - are they suffering? If the answer is yes and there is no question that they will die anyway, I have them put down to end the suffering. It is a wrenching, horrible decision to make but I've always felt it was the right one for the animal.

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T.T.

answers from Glens Falls on

I have a question...
Do you use swifter wet mop and cleaner?

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K.B.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle,
When I logged on to your request, for a minute I thought I was reading one of my own! A month ago, I came on mamasource and asked the same question, because my 6 yr.old lab mix, Nelly, had been diagnosed with lymphoma. And, just like your dog, she was feeling fine and all it was (I thought) was some diarhea and dehydration, until the vet found the lumps. We started chemo immediately and she is doing wonderfully. She is already in remission, all lymph nodes back to normal and no new involved nodes. She feels fine, actually, she has more energy than she did before. She eats like a horse, but that is probably because of the prednisone she is also taking. They do not lose their hair nor do they turn gray. She has had diarhea, but no vomiting (and we are taking meds for the scoots) and she has started having accidents in the house, because of the prednisone and the chemo, but I have put down rubber sheets, like you use on the kids' beds, all over my dining room, which is her preferred area,and all I need to do is throw them in the wash. In case your vet hasn't told you, there is a prescription cancer diet made by science diet that you can purchase. Apparently, cancer feeds on carbs, so this wet food is high in protein. I have also found a high protein dry food...EVO reduced fat is 52% protein, to add to the wet food and high protein treats. It is expensive but it is worth it if it is going to help her. I know her cancer is incurable, but we can prolong her life if we do this, so I am willing to do it for her. A friend of mine has a dog who is also going through this... same vet, same diagnosis (yes, we agree it is an odd coincidence). Her dog was diagnosed a week before mine, so I always have an idea how Nelly is going to do by what Molly does. Molly has had some vomiting, but not much, and also the diarhea and peeing accidents. However, if you are home more than we are (we both work days) you won't have as much trouble with the messes that we do. Nelly does wake me up in the middle of the night to go out, but that is lessening as she is being weaned off the prednisone.
My heart goes out to you. I know exactly how you are feeling (I cried for 3 days) and I hope I have helped you. Please let me know how you are all doing.
Kathy

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D.

answers from New York on

My sisters dog had chemo.  Stella had a large tumor in a sack around her heart.  They drew off the excess blood and gave her chemo, with the possibility that she would live maybe 6 mos to a yr.  They took her home and she was gone within 4 hrs.  They lost her anyway.  I am one who believes in doing whatever I can for my pets (my dog had knee reconstruction surgery 3 yrs ago at $2500).  But you have to think...1st how old is this dog?  If he's older is it really worth it.  My dog was 3 1/2 when she had her knee done.  If she had been 12 we wouldn't have done it.  2nd, if you go through with this how is it going to improve his life?  Is it going to give him a few extra months or a few extra years.  3rd, how curable is this cancer.  If going through chemo is going to save his life, then it may be worth it.  If he has a 10% chance after the chemo, is it worth it.  I don't have a problem with spending the money or calling in specialists.  But you have to think about his quality of life.  And is it truly worth all the extrodinary measures.

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A.D.

answers from New York on

Hi Danielle, I am sorry to hear about your dog. I know that pets are family members. I have no experience as I have severe pet allergies but my heart and prayers are with you. Grandma Mary

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