Tag: cancer (page 1 of 3)

Pet Cancer – What You Need to Know

pet cancer spaying could have prevented this ovarian tumorEven though November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, there’s never a bad time to talk about it.  It’s a sad part of any type of medicine and more so when we’re talking about animals.  They can’t tell us how they feel, they don’t have socialized health care, and they can’t take themselves to the veterinarian.

I’ve seen enough cancer cases that it breaks my heart each time, even more so when it could have been addressed early on and prevented more of a challenge to the pet and veterinary team along with costing less.  In many cases, these pets are often euthanized because it’s just gone too far.  In general practice, on average I’d say I see about 1 malignant cancer case every 3-4 weeks.  Malignant equals bad; but sometimes even those benign masses can be problematic.  And yes, sometimes those benign masses can morph into a malignant mass.

Why is this happening?

Pets are living longer, plain and simple.  And while some people are aware of what to look for, we can do better.

What can we do?

pet cancer mammary mass

Your pet needs to be seen by your veterinarian at least once a year, maybe every 6 months even, depending on their health status.  You may be able to find a lump on your dog but there is more that could possibly be seen or detected by your veterinarian as well as determining normal versus abnormal.  An exam is a start and some tests can be done whether simple or more complex.

My friend Dr. Sue Ettinger, DACVIM (yes, animal cancer specialist!) has created a program with a simple mantra – See Something, Do Something.  This is an easy way to remember that if you see a lump, larger than a pea and there for more than a month, it’s time to get it checked out!  A simple needle aspiration can save a life.

Cancer is not a death sentence.  There are so many options out there and animals don’t experience the same side effects of chemo that people do.  Surgery might be curative. Even if you’re not apt to go these routes, we can still help you palliate and keep your pet comfortable.  One of the most important aspects of this is not waiting too long. Lumps start small and then they may grow.  When these lumps grow, they become harder to treat, less chance for a successful outcome, and more expensive.  Act sooner rather than later to give your pet the best chance.

Even though we might only focus on this for a month, there is always time to be aware of potential cancer problems with your pets.  You are your pet’s biggest advocate and your veterinarian is there to help.  We can’t do it alone though so heed this advice and make sure if you have concerns to bring them up to your vet as soon as you think there’s a problem.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers. 

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Live Life Like Your Dog Would

Lessons From a Dog

And in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep.” — Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

It’s been a week since we said goodbye to Charlie.  Most dogs have many things to tell us as long as we are willing to listen.  No, this is not meant to be a eulogy.  It’s the last lesson he taught us before saying goodbye.  Something we all should strive to do with our lives is to live with the attitude that our dogs do.  Just imagine how much life better could be if we adopted this philosophy.

Charlie was raised in not so good circumstances.  Prior to our meeting at vet school, Charlie had lived at a Charlie 2007kennel facility in Arkansas.  Many unsavory things happened there that are chronicled in the documentary “Dealing Dogs.”  Charlie and a few other dogs were lucky to get out when they were acquired by the vet school but for Charlie he did not get a new home unscathed.  A few years after I graduated, I found out that Charlie had been shot and he carried those pellets until the day he died.  Despite that incident, he was a happy soul, never minded being the student “practice dog” as we learned physical exam skills, and was happy to be around people even if they were always palpating his abdomen.  No matter where you came from, you can always strive for a better life and rise above.  Sometimes it takes a little luck.  It also takes courage, trust, and forgiveness.  Be brave.  Be forgiving.  Be open to love.

Many people don’t realize that animals can also donate blood to fellow members of their species.  Charlie was blessed with being a universal blood donor and he gave regularly during his time at the University of Illinois; in fact it was his main job.  He even gave once more in an emergency 5 years after he retired and helped save another life.  Give of yourself to help others without expecting anything in return.

Adoption day 2005

Adoption day 2005

When Charlie was adopted 10 years ago, he got to live with my mom while I finished vet school for the last 6 months.  She promptly spoiled him rotten with cheese and dog treats so much that he gained 10 pounds which we later worked off.  He also picked up the new chore of helping to clean out the cat litterbox which he did even until his last year.  No, I still don’t know why dogs eat poop.  Treat your grandparents well and they’ll make it extra worthwhile.  Also, try new foods to eat – life is an adventure.  Don’t regret the goodies in life even if you have to make a few sacrifices later.

The pic that started a relationship

Charlie was always the friendly type of dog.  He was very fond of trying to meet the local squirrels.  But deep down, he was a tender hearted ladies’ man.  When people came over to visit, if the guest was a woman, Charlie was right there, trying to be a lap dog.  With guys, he would offer a tail wagging hello then wander off to take a nap.  I’ll never forget the day I got an email from my then future wife.  She had seen a picture of Charlie & I, got in touch and, after many conversations, we decided to meet.  Charlie could now add “matchmaker” to his resume.  The rest is history.  Get out and mingle.  Make new friends even if they might be different from you.  When you meet that person who might be “the one,” trust your instincts.

Almost 10 years later, our last day together lessons from a dog

Almost 10 years later, our last day together

We moved to Canada in 2009 and settled on a small farm.  Charlie & I had experienced snow before but I was not a fan being a native Floridian.  I had always kept Charlie on the leash in school and while we lived in Florida but now I decided to try him off leash.  I’ve never seen such a happy dog prancing through the snow.  Jennifer was often worried that he would run off but I trusted Charlie and we had built a bond that the thought of him taking off never crossed my mind.  He never wandered far and he always came back when I called, though with his black fur he did become harder to find at night.  He also picked up the habit of backing into the bushes on the edge of the property to do his business…so much that sometimes only his face would show.  Take some time to act like a kid again, play in that snow or on that beach.  Set aside a little private time for yourself daily.  It can help clear the mind and let you relax.  Modesty and humbleness are good qualities to have.

Charlie snow

Last year, we faced the most difficult time with Charlie’s splenectomy and the uncertainty that he would survive.  We were fortunate, both in that it was caught before it was too late and we had luck on our side.  Each day after that was a gift that we would never take for granted.  It was always our wish for Charlie to enjoy another summer and it came true.  A little over a year later, we received the cancer & kidney failure diagnosis that would ultimately signal the end.  The last few months have been filled with ups and downs.  But through it all, we were grateful for every day and Charlie wagged his tail and always rallied when we thought the end was coming.  Live each day in the moment.  Never give up.  You have a purpose and you are loved.

Of course I miss my buddy and someday, I’ll adopt another dog to give them a life they’ve been dreaming of, fullFarley-Foundation of love and a family.  Until then, I will continue to help other people and their pets as best as I am able; it’s what Charlie would have wanted.  October is Farley Month for the Farley Foundation.  Their mission is to help elderly or disabled pet owners who have difficulty affording treatment for their companion animals.  In October 2015, for every read & share of this post, I will donate 50 cents to the Farley Foundation in memory of Charlie (up to $500 and in addition to my own separate donation – update 2016: We surpassed over 2000 reads/shares last year in just a few short days).  Thank you for all the condolences this past week and all the good wishes during Charlie’s journey with us over the past 18 months.  Now take a dog’s advice and go live your life like they would.

Charlie last portrait lessons from a dog

3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad (or 3-Legged Pets)

3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad (or 3-Legged Pets)
Image from Cassie's Three Legged Dog Club

Image from Cassie’s Three Legged Dog Club

Animals are amazing, most of us know that I think.  Whether it be the unconditional love they give, the ability to brighten up any day, or making awesome videos to entertain us on the internet, the world is a better place with animals but especially our pets.  You know what else is incredible about them?  Their ability to adapt to life’s changes (unfortunately not 100% of the time); specifically I want to talk about amputees – or more affectionately known as tripods.

Severe distal humerus fracture

Severe distal humerus fracture

Pets may only have 3 legs (or even 2!) for just a few reasons; some are even born that way.  Whether it be cancer, irreparable injury, or congenital (from birth) as the cause, they have a remarkable capacity to adapt to their new lives.  Sadly, many animals are euthanized rather than undergo a limb-sparing surgery.  For many people, the thought of a pet losing a leg or being “disabled” is more than they can bear.  Certainly, not every patient is a candidate to undergo such a procedure but for those that are, the emotional aspect should not dismiss the idea.  Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

To finish on a good note, we’ll look at the cons first.  The immediate post-op period does take some adjustment and there is a difference between front legs and back legs in terms of recovery and ultimate mobility.  In my opinion, losing a front leg may be easier especially in terms of using the bathroom (much harder to balance without a second back leg!) but in time, most animals will learn how to move around wonderfully.  Additionally, missing a leg will put added stress on the opposite side which can potentially lead to some joint problems or make arthritis seem worse – hence, it is important to keep these patients at a healthy weight.  Your pet may also experience a phenomenon known as phantom pain, which will make them feel as though the limb is still part of the body.  Lastly, things may seem cosmetically unattractive to you….let me assure you, Rover won’t care what his surgery site looks like.  He’ll just be happy for treats, belly rubs, your assistance in learning to walk again, and being alive.broken leg puppy

So why should you adopt a tripod or consider having an amputation surgery done on your pet if one is recommended?  One main reason: the procedure is done as a way to eliminate pain (after the recovery period) from conditions such as nerve damage, non-reparable fractures, or bone tumors.  A pain free life is a good life!  That’s really THE reason to elect for that surgery.  Sometimes cost for a fracture repair may be too much or the prognosis for recovery will be poor and amputation will be brought up.  Aside from relieving pain, this may be done to preserve the bond you have with your pet; rather than euthanizing them, you can still let them live out their natural lives by your side.  There’s so many intangible benefits as well!!  They won’t hold a grudge against you for making this decision because you’re removing the pain.  If they are 3-legged and awaiting adoption in a shelter, they will love you just as much as any pet with four legs.  And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can help them set up their own social media accounts to share their story & to help advocate for other tripods!

my own tripod Louie

my own tripod Louie

Three legged pets often have an interesting story and are natural survivors.  Losing a leg is not a death sentence; it’s a second chance at a renewed life.  I’ve seen this with my own cat.  Louie is a laid back, happy, fluffy speed demon who outruns our other cats and adores my wife who actually performed the amputation.  He’s also an excellent mouser.  So if your veterinarian brings up amputation as an option in treating your pet, don’t rush to a decision without considering all angles.  For more information, including a broad support network, visit tripawds.com

Disclaimer:  Blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.  I was not compensated by Tripawds.com for this post but I do enjoy their community!

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