* Also see Cut Costs for additional cautions
Please do not allow vaccinations to be given to your dog with cancer. Vaccines are described by vaccine manufacturers to be "Safe when administered to a healthy pet." Clearly, a pet with cancer is not a healthy pet!
The Rabies Vaccine is required for all dogs. With approval from your State Health Department, you can side step the vaccine and receive a legal waiver of the requirement. This is done by submitting a form, filled in by the dog's veterinarian. If your dog with cancer is not aggressive and you are "as sure as you can be" that he will not bite anyone, get a waiver. Please do not use this waiver form to avoid Rabies Vaccine for an aggressive dog.
CLICK To print a Vaccine Waiver form.
If your dog has a tumor that is accessible, your doctor will attempt a fine needle aspirate (FNA), to determine if the tumor is cancerous. If this method fails, or if the tumor is not accessible (in the brain or in an internal organ, unreachable by a needle), the doctor will recommend a surgical biopsy.
If you plan to have the tumor removed whether it's cancerous or not, then find out if the surgical biopsy and the surgery may be combined. If the presence of cancer will change the nature of the surgery significantly, you can opt to have the more extensive surgery done regardless, or you can agree to the surgical biopsy to be followed by . If there is any question about how to proceed, consult a board certified surgeon or oncologist for a second opinion before allowing surgery. Or ask your veterinarian to consult one. Make every effort to remove the tumor with wide, clean margins THE FIRST TIME to avoid the double trauma to your dog and the double expense to you of needing a second surgery.
* Bone Cancer
When a pet has bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in a leg, treatment options include amputation or limb-sparing surgery. Surgery may or may not be followed by chemotherapy with Carboplantin (alone or with another chemo agent, usually doxorubicin).
By the time this cancer is discovered, it has almost always started to metastasize and almost always metastasizes to the lungs. When the spread begins, the micro-metastases (micro-mets) are not yet visible on x-ray or ultrasound, but they cannot be stopped. Surgery serves to prevent the fracture of the leg bone due to the growth of the tumor and in hopes metastasis has not started. Chemotherapy adds little if anything to the survival time.
* Post surgery pain medication: please read this page.
For some cancer types, chemotherapy is the gold standard form of treatment. For many cancers, it's the only effective treatment available. If you have a dog in chemotherapy, you must be aware of a possible consequence of chemotherapy called extravasation. This is also called a "chemo leak" and it occurs when certain IV chemotherapy agents leak outside of the IV tube or catheter, and makes contact with your dog's tissue outside of the vein.
Extravasation is not common but it's not rare either. It happens often enough so that every veterinarian should be sure that clients are informed about it and prepared that it is a possible consequence. I have helped people whose dogs experienced extravasation and not one of them was informed about it by their doctor until after it occurred.
CLICK to read this important article about extravasation.
CHEMOTHERAPY SIDE EFFECTS
Dogs in chemotherapy may or may not have side effects. While some dogs sail through the protocol with no side effects at all, others do suffer from diahrrea or vomiting, or a plummeting white blood cell (WBC) count. These are the most common side effects from chemotherapy.
Low WBC may be the most worrisome. Dogs with low WBC are typically lethargic, may be what I call "flat out," stop eating... the pink mucuous membranes in the gums may take longer-than-normal to regain their pink color after you press on them (due to a low RBC which also indicates bone marrow suppression).
When the WBC (white blood cell) count is low, chemotherapy is postponed. How low? The cut-off varies according to the doctor but 3,000 is a count often considered the cut-off count. Your doctor may want to give your dog subcutaneous or IV fluids to speed up the recovery. Don't panic - the WBC generally recovers on its own within a week and chemo continues. Often chemotherapy is postponed for a week to give the marrow a chance to recover and start kicking out new white blood cells like it's supposed to.
If your dog has diahrrea, be sure to add L-Glutamine to the daily supplements. This will protect your dog's small intestines from damage from the chemotherapy drugs. If the diahrrea is bloody, let your doctor know and add Colostrum along with the L-Glutamine.
If your dog is vomitting after chemo (more than once or twice), let your doctor know and ask for anti-emetic (anti-nausea) medication such as Cerenia.
In April 2007 a beautiful 10-year-old Siberian Husky named Nakkai in Oswego, IL was diagnosed with a nerve sheath tumor on her right front leg. Nakkai's owner, Sharon, applied for help from the Magic Bullet Fund and Nakkai was accepted. Amputation was discussed but Sharon chose surgery to remove the tumor locally, followed by radiation therapy.
This 10-year old Siberian Husky sailed through surgery. The surgeon was able to remove all visible traces of the tumor and the biopsy report showed clean margins. Still, there was a possibility that microscopic disease remained in Nakkai's leg. Sharon was against the rigorous radiation protocol recommended by the oncologist (radiation treatment every day Monday through Friday with Nakkai remaining in hospital for the week and returning home only for weekends).
I intervened at Sharon's request. The doctor rejected the possibility of giving Nakkai a gentler protocol. After several discussions, she agreed to my request for a 3-day a week protocol with treatments Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This helped to minimize burns on the treated area (shown here) and gave Nakkai more time with her family while undergoing treatment.
Today Nakkai is nearly 13 years old and still bringing great joy to Sharon and her family. In Sharon's words, "If it wasn"t for the Magic Bullet Fund, she wouldn't be here now! She just had her recent check ups and blood tests and is cancer free."
Nakkai is a cancer survivor! She wears her Pink Diva bracelet to protect the radiation burn.
Not Today and Not Without a Fight!
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