Category: Cancer (page 1 of 2)

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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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

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 for this post but I do enjoy their community!

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“Wag the Tail”

“Wag the Tail”

Hey, it’s Charlie.   I’ve taken over dad’s blog again to tell you something important.   Actually, grand-dad told Ryan Charlie st patrick daysomething about “wagging the tail” and between the two of us, we think we’ve figured it out.   But since I’m so personable and a great story teller, dad is letting me share it with you.   Oh wait, dad says he’s going to help me tell it to make sure we all understand if I get confused or distracted.


The 4th and last chemo treatment

The 4th and last chemo treatment

It all started a few weeks ago.   After my second chemo treatment, strange things began happening including seizures and I was having some collapse type episodes.   One night, I remember dad telling me it was okay to “go” so I knew my illness was wearing on him.   I also didn’t want to eat which is so unlike me.   It was some pretty scary stuff.   A few weeks later after the fourth chemo treatment, I couldn’t walk.   I never had my next scheduled chemo treatment but I heard mom and dad talking about the big sleep.   It was just before a weekend so they wanted to spend some time with me and spoil me rotten.   I wagged my tail and in return got lots of hugs and lots of food I shouldn’t normally eat.


"Chemo was exhausting!"

“Chemo was exhausting!”

As that weekend went on, I started getting stronger and getting back to being able to walk.   I felt like that guy in the movie “Rocky” as he’s running on the steps and everyone is cheering for him.   Dad was so happy he told me there was no more chemo!   This was good because I hated the weekly needle pokes and feeling sick.   On the other hand, I got some to take some steroids – I didn’t get the rage and I sure didn’t pack on a lot of muscle but they did make me feel better.   I wagged my tail.


Resting with my buddy Taylor

Resting with my buddy Taylor

I had an accident in the house…I blame it on the drugs!   And so did dad.   He didn’t get mad.   He actually hugged me and took me outside.   If only I had known this trick earlier in life…I could have gotten away with a lot more!   The gentleness I’ve experienced only makes me want to do better and to keep on trucking.   I’m not quite ready to stop watching over my family.   Yep, my tail is still wagging.


It’s been a few weeks now.   Steroids made me happy and with every thing I did, dad seemed happier too, so much that if he had a tail, he’d probably be wagging it.   Instead, I figured smiles, hugs, and belly rubs are the same expression.   We pets are very perceptive and emotional; can’t you see it in our eyes and feel it in our slobbery kisses?   When our families are happy, we feel good.   When our families are stressed, we also feel anxious.   We feed off of emotions (and cookies!)…

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie….hey bud, we’re not done yet.   Oh there he goes…Charlie has lost himself in the bag of Charlee Bear treats again.   It’s Dr. Llera now so I’ll wrap this up for the both of us.   What Charlie & I have learned through this is that when times are tough, you should try to see the silver lining that is there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.   In any alarming situation with your pets, there is always hope.   It may be the hope that everything will turn out alright.   Or it may be the hope that you try your best and that they don’t suffer.   The important thing to remember is to stay strong, give your pet all the love you can, and know that in the end everything will work out.   So what are you waiting for?   Go “wag that tail.”

best friends


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

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