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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Cancer treatment questions

A reader has a six year old GSD who had been diagnosed with Lymphoma and the cancer has damaged her upper and lower intestines and thickened the bowel wall and colon. 
She will have to have 19 weeks of weekly chemo and weekly plasma. The vet says she can be 100% cured with the chemo treatment. The dog already has hip and elbow dysplasia, chronic arthritis and a vitamin deficiency. 
1) Has anyone else had a dog who has gone through chemo? 
2) How can the vet be 100% positive that the treatment will work?"
 3) Will the dog suffer much during and after the treatment? 
 4) Would it be as kind to allow the dog to pass away naturally?"

Please help them reach a decision. Have you been through something similar?


  1. I lost my Cin to mast cell cancer in Nov 2012, she took a huge part of my heart with her. We put her through chemo, and initially, the results looked promising, but then it just stopped working for her.
    No, the vets cannot be 100% positive it will work, and the truth is in dogs, cancer treatment is not to 'cure' - the dosage required to cure them would be much stronger and make them ill, which is deemed unethical, but they hope only to put the cancer into remission to give you a little more time. The lower dose means that the dog should not suffer the side effects common to human patients, although some might be a bit sickly after the first day. Cin had no trouble with side effects at all, but It did not work for her and the cancer just kept throwing more and more lesions into her skin, however, it did work for my friend Karen and her lovely weimaraner Zola who like your girl, had lymphoma, and he managed to hold out for a good 18 months before the cancer overcame him. Karen would most definitely agree that it was worth it.
    Ultimately, its a gamble, and yes, I would opt for treatment again in the future, just to give that fighting chance, but remember all you are doing is stealling time <3
    One thing I would ask though, is that you contact the animal Health Trust in Newmarket, who are researching a number of cancers in dogs, and samples taken through routine procedures with your vets could be shared so that they have more tissue/ fluid /; dna to work with. We donated Cindy's body to them when it was time to call it a day for her, if I could not save her, it was huge comfort to know that at least we could do something to save dogs in the future.
    On 12th November 2013, exactly a year after letting Cindy go, a good friend of mine had a litter - a litter I had been waiting for but it was a total fluke that they happened to arrive on that day. Escher is under the desk by my feet as we type now, and I am sure my beautiful girl had some say in who would be coming to me next.

  2. having been through Chemo myself,I felt awful and it left me weak and exhausted. A year later I am still recovering. At least I knew what was happening and could tell people when I needed extra meds and help. To be honest, with her other problems and the damage that the cancer will leave, I would only give palliative care. It is such a same that this poor lass has had so much to put up with and my heart goes out to her family. But in my opinion, let her pass naturally.

  3. I would not let my dog suffer. Damage has been done to the intestines & I don't think that fixable. They can cure that kind of cancer in dogs but not in humans? 19 wks of chemo? I would not let her suffer. How much pain is she already in that we don't know about? Couldn't do it. I would let her go & be free!

  4. Had a similar problem with our Black Lab--did not want to put him through any more pain--he was almost 13 years old , with hip dysplasia which was getting worse, we could see he had enough.. it was very difficult to make that decision but my husband said it was not fair to our Baby Casey dog nor was it fair to us to keep him going on like this.. it is very hard to let go but the humane way we decided was to euthanise, the vet agreed.. we all try to hang on to them as long as we can as it is hard to bear the thought of losing them, but why put them through all that-- they do not understand and you can see in their eyes they have had enough..wish you the best..

  5. I would not put your dog through chemo, it is not a reliable treatment in humans or animals. It weakens the while body rather than just targeting the cancer. I would recommend getting a 2nd opinion from a holistic vet.

  6. I've come to this forum too late to have an impact on the situation above, but I wanted to make a few comments. Chemotherapy given to animals does not equate to chemotherapy given to humans - they are given lower doses so do not feel ill as people on chemotherapy do. The dog would not suffer during the treatment - the vets do assess whether they think the dog will cope, not only with the chemotherapy but with the psychological impact of the regular vet visits, blood sampling and placing catheters into their veins. The owner's ability to cope is also considered. Chemotherapy is not an intervention offered lightly.

    The chemo would not be allowed to have a significant detriment effect upon the rest of the immune system - the vets will check the number of white cells (those that fight infection) before each treatment and would not continue that weeks treatment if it implied the immune system was suffering.

    All in all we do not have the information the vet has, about the stage of lymphoma or health of the dog. I admit, I am not convinced the vet could promise '100% cure' as lymphoma generally does not have good median survival times, but I don't think we can advise to euthanise a dog when we don't know how she is coping. It would be better for an owner in this situation to seek a second opinion from a vet they trust or a friend recommends.