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Search the internet, or consult your friends about cancer treatments for dogs that “work” and you’ll hear many opinions and few facts. The reality is this: cancer is the number one killer of dogs, and as of today, we just don’t have a “magic bullet” that will stop it in every dog. Just like in humans — we’re facing a big, bad, sneaky, terrible monster.

But that’s OK! We have been working with readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. Demian Dressler’s BEST-selling book on cancer treatments for dogs, since 2007, and we can say with absolute confidence that even though there is no one right thing to do that works every time…

… there ARE a lot of things you CAN do, and most of them are free.

You really can optimize your dog’s life quality and longevity, starting today. If you calm down, take a breath, and do your research, we promise that you will find that there are things that can really help your dog.

We’ve excerpted chapter 10 of Dr. Dressler’s book below. It covers his soup-to-nuts approach to cancer treatments for dogs. You’ll get the mindset you need, and an overview of the five categories of treatments he recommends when it comes time to choose treatments.

And don’t worry — you have time to do research. Unless you are dealing with lymphoma, which is particularly aggressive AND can quickly be helped with chemotherapy, you have time to do some research before you plunge into treatments.

You really DO have time to adopt a Full Spectrum Mindset and thoroughly research your options before you make treatment decisions.

You can find The Dog Cancer Survival Guide everywhere books are sold and, of course, in our online shop.

Chapter 10: An Overview of Full Spectrum Cancer Treatment for Dogs

Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

Full Spectrum cancer care is based on the assumption that, no matter how much time you may have left with your dog, you can make the best of it … or, as medical professionals say, optimize it. There are many steps you can take, right now, to help your dog, no matter what stage or type of cancer she has – and a lot of these steps are free.

If you are like most guardians, your relationship with your dog is precious. Cancer doesn’t change that. Your love for your dog can be a tremendous asset for you, motivating you to make high-quality decisions. Full Spectrum cancer care is based on your loving relationship with your dog.

Your love for your dog can be a tremendous asset for you, motivating you to make high quality decisions.

Every cancer case is unique, every dog is unique, and every guardian is unique. No two dogs need the exact same care; you may not choose to use all of the tools available. Even so, it’s important that you consider each one.

That’s why I’ve broken my approach into five steps, each of which is outlined in detail in the next five chapters.

After reading those chapters and considering your own dog’s case, you will have a very good framework from which to design your own Full Spectrum plan. The next part of the book, Making Confident Choices, will help you to fine-tune your thoughts and make a real plan based on your values, your budget, your time and, of course, your dog’s cancer case. Executing this plan with your team’s expert help can give you an edge on your dog’s cancer.

Let’s go over the basics of the Full Spectrum mindset.

Full Spectrum Mindset and Cancer

I have great respect for cancer’s ability to wage war on the body. As you’ve seen, cancer is a sneaky foe and a formidable enemy. Like any smart warrior, cancer attacks on more than one front. Here are the five ways cancer attacks your dog’s body:

  1. Cancer tumors grow larger and spread wider, crowding and even injuring neighboring body tissues. They metastasize, creating new tumors in new places, sometimes far from the original tumor.
  2. Cancer suppresses your dog’s immune system, which lessens her natural ability to fight cancer, leaves her vulnerable to outside infections, and slows wound healing.
  3. Cancer robs your dog of nutrition, causing weight loss (cachexia) and muscle weakness; even when your dog is eating adequate calories.
  4. Cancer steals resources meant for normal body functions causing otherwise healthy body systems to falter or even fail.
  5. As cancer wreaks this havoc, life quality and happiness can take a nosedive. This leaves the body even more defenseless and increases the chances that the brain chemistry will change to “fight or flight.” This, in turn, creates more stress and the cycle continues.

Typical conventional vet care defends the first front by removing tumors and/or reducing their size. This makes sense, of course, and is also the first step in Full Spectrum cancer care. But we don’t stop there. We defend on all five fronts.

Conventional vets tend to focus on the first front. We are going to defend your dog’s body on all five fronts.

Full Spectrum Mindset and Cancer Treatments

Imagine that your house is under attack by a gang of five men. There’s one who’s climbing in the garage window, another is sneaking in the back, another one is taking a crowbar to your cellar door, another is shimmying up a drainpipe, and a fifth is throwing a rock through a plate glass window. You wake up, aware that someone is entering your home, but not sure who it is or what he wants with you.

To defend yourself, you have an alarm system, a cell phone that speed dials the police, a knife in your kitchen, and a gun under the bed. If you had to pick just one of these defenses to use, which one of them would you pick?

That’s kind of a silly question, isn’t it? If you were really in this situation, you would at least consider using all of your defenses. And no one in her right mind would tell you not to be ready to use any and all means – the Full Spectrum – to stop the intruders from harming you or your family.

No one in their right mind would tell you to use only one type of defense if a burglar broke in to your home. So why take only one approach to cancer treatments for dogs?

The same could be said of cancer treatments. When we face cancer we are often insufficiently armed. That’s why if a treatment has been shown to help dogs get an edge on cancer, the Full Spectrum mindset demands it be considered for use. In Full Spectrum cancer care, therapies with a solid rationale for being safe and effective are always considered, regardless of their origin.

In Full Spectrum cancer care, we consider all therapies with a solid rationale for being safe and effective. No matter what their origin.

Not every Full Spectrum treatment we discuss in this book is supported by multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. These are not all “gold-standard” treatments.

So, why am I recommending them? Because I have carefully researched them, evaluated them, and concluded that they are safe and may help. There is no doubt that today we have an increased need for managing dog cancer and an increased urgency in treating it effectively.

Just as human cancer patients are more likely than ever to be open to outside-the-box therapies, guardians are both more willing to treat their dog’s cancer and more inclined to explore all of the options. I’m not willing, and neither are many guardians, to wait, when it comes to cancer.

I’m not willing to wait to treat dog cancer. Full Spectrum cancer care includes every treatment that I feel is SAFE and MAY HELP most dogs.

If the treatment is safe and may help, it should be adopted, without waiting many years for the gold standard studies to be completed. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, even some of the conventional therapies used by oncologists today don’t have this “gold standard” support.

Dogs do not have much time; we should move with a sense of urgency and be assertive. When fighting to stay alive, we cannot always do things perfectly or follow all of the conventional rules. We vets and oncologists should allow increased leeway for treatments which may help – and if it feels right to the guardian, we should go for it.

Dogs do not have much time, and we cannot always do things perfectly or follow all conventional rules. If it feels right to the dog lover, we should go for it!

For example, few people used omega-3 supplements for their dogs when I was in school. Now, vets regularly prescribe them for dry skin, kidney disease, arthritis, allergies, and cancer. The same is true for glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which are now used for arthritis, and for SAM-e, which is now used for liver and joint disease.

Why do vets use these supplements? Because pet lovers asked them if they could try. They saw that they seemed to be safe, and also seemed to help, and now they are comfortable using them on a routine basis.

Veterinarians will often follow your lead — if you ask them to.

Even the Food and Drug Administration recognizes the need for speed, when it comes to new cancer therapies. It has instituted a “ fast track” drug approval process, which allows therapeutics that may help advanced cancer
cases to enter clinical trials much earlier than usual. Oncologists also recognize this need for speed when they use chemotherapy drugs off-label. As long as it is safe and may help, let’s apply this same method of thinking to every available tool.

Treatments from conventional medicine, alternative medicine, holistic medicine, and any other medical system – no matter how esoteric – can be used in a Full Spectrum cancer care plan, as long as the treatment has:

  • scientific studies supporting its effectiveness, and/or
  • a strong history of common clinical use supporting its effectiveness, and
  • minimal and/or tolerable side effects given the potential benefits.

The treatments outlined in this part of the book meet these criteria and, therefore, should be considered for your dog’s cancer care. In the next chapters, you will find out how each treatment works and why I think it might help your dog. Many of them are universal treatments, which can help any cancer case.

Full Spectrum cancer treatments for dogs have scientific studies supporting their effectiveness, and/or a strong history of common clinical use, and minimal and/or tolerable side effects given the potential benefits. In other words, they are often universal treatments with more upside than downside.

But Wait: This Doesn’t Mean You’re Home Free

It may be tempting to read this and think “This is great! If I do everything in this book, my dog will beat cancer!”

While I have certainly seen dogs go into remission, or experience extended longevity and life quality, I cannot in any way guarantee that these recommendations will definitely help your dog with his particular cancer.

I’m sure you can understand why I must point out that it is impossible for me, or Dr. Ettinger, to diagnose or treat your dog through the pages of this book or on our website. Our recommendations are for your information only, and do not constitute veterinary advice for your dog.

As always, you are the one in charge of your dog’s cancer. If any Full Spectrum cancer care treatment resonates with you, I hope that you will check it out with your vet. Her expertise and ability to evaluate it, in the context of your dog’s cancer diagnosis, other health conditions, age, and other factors, is invaluable. All decisions about your dog’s care should be made with veterinary supervision and guidance.

With this advice and your vet’s input, you can make an informed decision about what your next steps are … and be confident that you will have no regrets later.

Full Spectrum Mindset and Your Vet

Many of the treatments Dr. Ettinger and I recommend – whether they are chemotherapy agents, other pharmaceuticals, dietary changes, botanical nutraceuticals, or brain chemistry modifications – have potent effects on the body. For this reason, I strongly urge you to check out treatments with your vet and/or oncologist.

Be aware that some vets may not be open to hearing about Full Spectrum treatments. They may not believe that anything unconventional could work for cancer, and some may worry that even discussing these treatments is offering you “false hope.”

Be aware that some vets think that discussing unconventional approaches like diet, nutraceuticals, and supplements offer you “false hope.”

If you encounter this resistance, my best advice is to remain calm and kind. None of us really knows what will work for your dog – including Dr. Ettinger and myself – so getting upset or deciding that your plan is “the right one” is counter-productive and not in the spirit of Full Spectrum care.

If your vet can’t support the treatments you want to use, because he doesn’t believe they will work, you can refer him to Appendix E for references. Every recommendation made in the pages of this book is backed up by thorough and extensive research. Sometimes, seeing real-world research helps to loosen up a resistant mind.

Every recommendation made in the pages of this book is backed up by thorough and extensive research. Sometimes, seeing realworld research helps to loosen up a resistant mind.

If your vet gives you a concrete reason not to use a treatment – for example, because it will interfere with another drug your dog is on, or because it will harm him due to some other factor – then, by all means, take your vet’s advice. Dr. Ettinger and I cannot offer you advice which replaces that of your vet or oncologist, and we did not write this book with that intention. Your vet or oncologist is going to have the fullest picture of your dog’s health from a medical perspective.

If a Full Spectrum cancer care treatment feels right for your dog, check it out with your veterinarian and accept their guidance. Get a second opinion if you need to! Dr. Ettinger and I can’t diagnose or treat your dog via this book. Even those these treatments are USUALLY applicable for all cases, individual factors might determine whether something should be tried. Check with your own vet.

There is value in a second opinion, too. If you and your vet are in disagreement, bringing in another opinion can help you to decide what to do. I include lot of advice about how to work with your vet in chapter 22, including a long list of questions to ask your practitioners.

Full Spectrum Mindset and You

You have probably heard of Lance Armstrong, the champion bicyclist, who not only fought cancer and won but also, went on to win the Tour de France. Lance is an icon of persistence, courage, and belief in self. That’s why I find it so interesting that Lance looks up to children for their ability to face the odds. He once said about cancer, “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: Give up or Fight like Hell.”

“If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: Give up or Fight like Hell.” – Lance Armstrong

Whether Lance faced cancer or the Tour de France, he encountered several obstacles at once, just as you are, with your own dog’s cancer. It may help you to remember that dogs – much like children – have no interest in or knowledge of their odds.

Dr. Ettinger put it perfectly when she said that helping dogs is easier than helping the guardians, because dogs – bless their hearts – don’t know they have cancer. They don’t know they’re supposed to be scared.

They don’t have to obsess over whether a treatment will cause side effects, or whether they will outlive statistical survival times.

You may have heard words as devastating as “two weeks” or as relatively hopeful as “one year” – but your dog has no worry or fear about his prognosis. He simply exists.

Part of him is gloriously, gorgeously alive.

Dogs don’t know they have cancer. They are just gloriously, joyfully alive. Revel in that. Use it as inspiration!

To the degree that you can adopt Lance’s child-like, hopeful, flexible, open-minded attitude, your Full Spectrum mindset will benefit immeasurably. It’s what got Lance through cancer and kept his feet spinning and his heart pumping in those long, grueling bike races.

Five Steps to Full Spectrum Cancer Care

To fully address your dog’s cancer, I advise systematically working through five separate steps. It may seem a little involved, but it’s worth your time and effort. Here are the five steps, each of which is covered in detail in the following chapters:

Step One: Conventional Treatments (and how to manage their side effects)

Step Two: Nutraceuticals

Step Three: Immune System Boosters and Anti-Metastatics

Step Four: Dog Cancer Diet

Step Five: Brain Chemistry Modification

Depending upon many factors, you may ultimately choose to use tools from each step, or only from certain steps. For now, I recommend you become familiar with each step, so that you can make informed decisions later.

Make Confident Choices … Later

As you read through the next five chapters, your Full Spectrum plan will start to take shape. No matter how urgent it seems for you to take action immediately, I recommend holding off until after you have read the final part, called Making Confident Choices. In that section, you’ll find more information about life expectancy and life quality, and I will help you walk through the decision making process in a step-by-step fashion. There are many medical and personal factors to weigh, and approaching this in a systematic fashion usually results in a plan you fully understand and can follow with confidence.

You have time to research and read before you make decisions. Use my systematic process in the Making Confident Choices section of the book to choose your treatments. That section helps you to balance everything and make choices you will not regret.

Found that FREE chapter helpful? Get the full 500-page book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide for only $9.99. There are 40 more Super Helpful Chapters, 5 Incredible Appendices, and 1 Fantastic Index in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The post Full Spectrum Cancer Treatment for Dogs to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity appeared first on Dog Cancer Blog.

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Veterinary oncologists really only focus on three ways to treat dog cancer: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But cancer researchers — the ones who are at the cutting edge of future treatments — are focusing on apoptosis for cancer cells.

Below, you’ll find an excerpted chapter on apoptosis from Dr. Demian Dressler’s best-selling book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. (The book is available everywhere books are sold and on our online shop.)

This chapter is really helpful to read if you want to understand more about why Dr. D focuses so much in getting cancer cells to “commit suicide” naturally with apoptosis. This normal, natural body process is incredible, and understanding it is really helpful when thinking about how to choose your dog’s cancer treatments.

Chapter 7: Apoptosis for Cancer Cells

Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

Apoptosis, nature’s way of clearing the body of old or damaged cells, is often diminished when cancer is present. Restoring normal apoptosis levels is an important goal in Full Spectrum cancer care.

In the normal course of events, cells are born, grow, live, and finally die to make way for new cells.

Then, when the body no longer needs the cell or when the cell has reached the end of its usefulness, apoptosis genes encoded in the DNA turn on and kill the cell in a natural, safe manner. This happens in 50 to 70 billion cells a day in the average adult human — and we don’t notice a thing.

Apoptosis is also called “programmed cell death” and occasionally “cell suicide.”

Apoptosis is also called “programmed cell death” and occasionally “cell suicide.”

Apoptosis Happens When It’s Time, When There Is Damage, Or When There Is Derangement

Apoptosis is not only a completely normal cellular process, but it’s also vital for a normal life.

One of my favorite examples of how apoptosis helps us on a grand scale is the human finger. When you look at images of babies developing in the womb, you can see that they have flipper-like hands early on. Later, they have fingers – and that is because their apoptosis genes activated to carve out the excess tissue and separate the flipper into five digits.

Apoptosis can happen when a cell reaches the end of its natural lifespan or when a cell sustains irreparable damage. If the cell cannot repair the harm caused by, for example, radiation, oxygen depletion, infection or DNA damage, the apoptosis genes direct the cell to die. In other words, the cell kills itself if it can’t repair itself.

Cells kill themselves if they can’t repair themself. Cell Suicide = Apoptosis.

Apoptosis Is 100% Natural and Normal and Painless

Apoptosis is a very controlled cellular process. A detailed description of the complicated series of steps apoptosis genes take to shrink and finally disintegrate the cell is beyond the scope of this book; the important thing for our purposes is for you to understand that once a cell’s life is over, the body disposes of the waste debris quietly, naturally and safely.

There are other ways for cells to die. For example, another kind of cell death is called necrosis, which is uncontrolled death, as when the body is injured accidentally. This traumatic cell death can lead to inflammation, especially when many cells die at the same time. Apoptosis, on the other hand, does not usually create inflammation in the body.

Cancer Cells Shut Down Apoptosis So They Can Live Forever

A consistent hallmark of cancer cells is that they evade apoptosis: instead of dying a natural death, they divide, divide again, and divide some more, and keep on proliferating. No matter what type of cancer we are looking at, apoptosis is not normal. If we could get apoptosis levels back up, we might be able to manage cancer — all types of cancer.

Dr. Robert Gerl and Dr. David L. Vaux said in their paper Apoptosis in the Development and Treatment of Cancer, “One of the few areas in the cell death field that everyone does agree upon is that having cancer cells undergo apoptosis would be a good thing.”

“One of the few areas in the cell death field that everyone does agree upon is that having cancer cells undergo apoptosis would be a good thing.”

You may have never heard of apoptosis before you read this book, because it usually gets about two paragraphs in high school biology texts. I like to think about it because I choose to take a wide-angle view for problems like cancer. Apoptosis is a clear pattern we can examine for clues, as most normal body cells undergo apoptosis, most cancer cells evade apoptosis, and most experts agree that getting cancer cells to undergo apoptosis would be a good thing. For these reasons, boosting apoptosis levels in the body is an important theme in Full Spectrum cancer care, no matter what the diagnosis or tumor location.

Using Apoptosis for Cancer Cells

The idea of using apoptosis to fight cancer has been around since the late nineteen-nineties and it is beginning to gain real traction. Pharmaceutical companies are starting to research synthetic apoptogens (compounds which cause apoptosis), and according to a pharmaceutical market research report from the United Kingdom, the apoptosis market is already worth billions of dollars. In a few years, most people will know about apoptosis, as they now know about DNA.

In a few years, most people will know about apoptosis, as they now know about DNA.

While programmed cell death was first described nearly two hundred years ago, it wasn’t called apoptosis until 1972, when a landmark paper was published in the British Journal of Cancer. The paper’s authors wanted to make a clear distinction between natural programmed cell death and cell death that results from trauma, so they consulted a Greek language professor to help them find a new name for cell suicide. He suggested the word apoptosis.

The first part, apo means from, off, or without, and the second part, ptosis means falling. In the original Greek, the word is used to mean the “dropping off ” or “falling off ” of leaves or petals from plants or trees (the dropping of leaves from trees in the autumn is apoptosis). The researchers used it in their seminal paper, and the name has stuck. The image of petals falling from flowers or leaves drifting from trees is certainly lyrical, and a good metaphor for this normal, natural body process.

How to Pronounce Apoptosis

The traditional and most correct pronunciation is the Greek, which features a silent second p: “ay-po-TOE-sis,” although many people pronounce the word in English as “ay-POP-toe-sis.” I prefer and use the original pronunciation.

Found that FREE chapter helpful? Get the full 500-page book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide for only $9.99. There are 40 more Super Helpful Chapters, 5 Incredible Appendices, and 1 Fantastic Index in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The post Apoptosis for Cancer Cells: Read Chapter 7 To Find Out Why This Tiny, Normal, Natural Body Process Is the Heart of My Approach to Full Spectrum Dog Cancer Care appeared first on Dog Cancer Blog.

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Is my dog dying right now?

Why didn’t my vet catch this earlier?

How could my dog get cancer almost overnight?

These three questions keep dog lovers up at night after they get the awful news that their beloved dog has cancer. That’s why Dr. Demian Dressler answers them right up front in his excellent best-selling book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life and Longevity. Co-authored with veterinary oncologist Dr. Susan Ettinger, it’s a must-read if you’re facing dog cancer.

We’ve excerpted Chapter 3: Three Common Questions below, so you can read it and get the answer to these common questions right now.

And if you want to get the full book — which covers everything from surgery to supplements, diet to diagnosis, you can get it everywhere books are sold or in our online shop.

Chapter 3: Three Common Questions About Dog Cancer

Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

There are three questions guardians tend to ask first when they get a cancer diagnosis. Because these three questions seem to weigh on the mind and could distract you from learning anything new, I am going to answer them as best I can.

How could my dog get cancer almost overnight?

Why didn’t my vet catch this earlier?

Is my dog dying right now?

How Could Cancer Happen Overnight?

One of the hardest things for most guardians to grasp is how they didn’t see this coming. Many times the dog seems healthy right before she’s brought in for an evaluation. Sometimes dogs don’t seem sick at all.

How did this grave illness escape your attention? The answer may surprise you: your dog may have hidden it from you.

Dogs have an old, genetic program that encourages them to conceal any sign of illness, a legacy from when they ran in packs. The pack mentality oriented them toward maintaining their position in the hierarchy and defending the pack from predators. Weak dogs slow down the pack and become predators’ targets. As a result, they risk losing their rank in the hierarchy or being left behind, which is a terrible fate for a dog. A dog will do just about anything to avoid this – including behaving as if nothing is wrong for as long as she can.

Despite generations of domestication, dogs still think like wild animals when they feel ill. If your dog felt sick before his diagnosis, you can bet he did everything he could to make you think he was just fine.

When a dog can no longer hide his symptoms, he gives up trying and seems to get sick overnight.

When a dog can no longer hide his symptoms, he gives up trying and seems to get sick overnight.

This is called decompensation, and it often occurs just before the guardian takes the dog to the vet. This leads me to the second reason that cancer seems to sneak up on us: our reliance upon sight.

Humans use sight as their primary information-gathering sense. We see our dog eating, walking, playing, sleeping, going to the bathroom, and wagging her tail when we come home. Over time, we use this visual information to create a picture in our mind of what is normal for our dog. As long as we see all of these things happening, we assume that nothing is off-kilter.

Dogs, on the other hand, use their sense of smell as their primary means of gathering information.  When they sniff each other (a habit we often find funny or gross) they are actually gathering information. Is she in heat? Is he healthy? What did she eat for breakfast? All these questions and many more can be answered by decoding a dog’s scent.

Our puny human noses cannot smell our dog’s illness.

Because of our dog’s ability to compensate for their symptoms, our eyes are blind, too. Given all of this, we cannot possibly blame ourselves for not discovering cancer before decompensation occurred.

We cannot possibly blame ourselves for not discovering cancer before decompensation occurred.

“Wait a minute!” some guardians are thinking, “I suppose I can understand why I didn’t catch this earlier, but what about my vet? Shouldn’t he have seen this coming?”

Why Didn’t My Vet Catch This Earlier?

This is a complicated question, and there is no one “right” answer. Let’s start with the most obvious and least controversial answer I have.

Cancer Can Be Invisible

Some cancers simply are not visible to the naked eye, cannot be felt with the fingers and don’t produce a noise that can be heard with a stethoscope. These cancers are often advanced by the time the dog decompensates and the guardian realizes something is wrong. This can be true for human cancers, too. In deep body cancers, we don’t usually realize something is wrong until after symptoms start to show up.

Cancer can take a long time to develop; we’ll talk more about this later. For now, it’s important to realize that cancer does not appear overnight. It just seems to.

Cancer does not appear overnight. It just seems to.

Cancer Can Start Before Birth

Some dogs are born with genetic mutations passed on from their parents’ DNA, which can develop into cancer later.

This is a very complex subject, so I’m going to vastly over-simplify it.

Cancer goes through many steps – for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend it is ten steps – before it is fully developed and diagnosed. If a dog is born with a genetic mutation that predisposes her to develop cancer, she may already be on, say, step three of ten, at birth. If the cancer does develop, it may take years for recognizable signs to appear.

To the guardian, that cancer may seem to pop up overnight when, in fact, it developed over the genetic history of the dog. If it were possible to trace the molecular history of that genetic mutation all the way back to where it began in her ancestors, you could even say that in some cases cancer develops over millennia.

In some cases cancer develops over millennia.

Cancer Screening Can Be Difficult

It would be ideal if vets had screening tests that could catch cancer early, but, we don’t. While some human cancers can be found by measuring certain markers in the blood, we can’t do this for most dog cancers.

Routine physical exams can uncover suspicious lumps and bumps. Unfortunately, many dog lovers seem to think of the vet like they do a car mechanic: they take the dog in only when something is obviously wrong. Regular physicals are critical for finding cancer as early as possible, but, even they can’t always catch cancers that start on a microscopic level, or are located deep in the body.

Regular physicals are critical for finding cancer as early as possible, but, even they can’t always catch cancer.

The Wait and See Approach

When some vets find a lump during an exam, they recommend taking a “wait and see” approach. They advise the guardian to look for changes or growth before testing the lump for cancer. However, waiting can be problematic. If a lump is cancerous and left untreated, it can spread, becoming much harder to treat later.

No one, not even my oncologist co-author Dr. Ettinger, can tell what a lump is without testing it for cancer cells. When I see or feel a lump on a dog, I can often make an accurate, educated guess about whether it is a malignancy. However, I can also make an inaccurate, educated guess.

No one, not even an oncologist, can tell what a lump is without testing it.

If I believe a lump is benign, I tell my clients something like this:

“Nine out of ten times when I feel a lump like this, it turns out to be benign … but if your dog is the one dog about which I’m wrong it won’t matter to you that I was right about the other nine dogs. If you choose not to get this tested, keep in mind that your odds are good, but that you are still gambling.”

Many vets are hesitant to recommend extensive or expensive testing procedures, because we are sensitive to guardians, who might be thinking that we’re just “running up the bill.” This is especially true if tests come back negative. If you weren’t going to find anything, why did you order that test in the first place?

While it’s true that there may be a few vets who run unnecessary tests, it’s impossible to know for certain that cancer is present without at least a fine needle aspirate and/or a biopsy. Metastasis, or cancer spread, can only be confirmed with X-rays or some other imaging test, blood tests, urine tests, and other screening tools, depending upon the cancer’s type. There is simply no way around it – in order to get a diagnosis, we must run tests.

So why don’t vets push their clients harder to get lumps and bumps tested as soon as they are discovered? If this were another disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, most vets wouldn’t even consider the cost of the tests. They would say, “We need to get this tested, so that if there is a problem, we can start treatment right away.”

So what’s different about cancer? Three things.

Why Vets Don’t Push for Early Cancer Diagnosis, When They Would for Heart Disease or Diabetes

Reason 1: Some Vets Don’t Realize Cancer Is Epidemic

Cancer is the number one killer of dogs (following euthanasia), according to organizations like the National Canine Cancer Foundation. This is not yet common knowledge among vets.

According to estimates, one in three dogs will get cancer, and this increases to one in two in dogs over the age of ten. Those are scary numbers, and not every vet believes they are accurate, because the data is coming from a foundation, rather than a systematic examination of every clinic’s cases. This leads me to the second reason some vets don’t push for early cancer screening.

One in three dogs get cancer, and one in two dogs over the age of ten. Most vets don’t yet realize we are in the middle of a dog cancer epidemic.

Reason 2: Unexamined Bias and Good Marketing Can Sway Opinion

Veterinary school teaches many wonderful things, but (usually) not how to assess a published paper for bias on the part of the authors. As a veterinary student, I was never taught to ask questions like:

  • What are the strengths of their study?
  • Are there any weaknesses?
  • Were enough animals included in the study to make the results statistically significant?
  • What are they overlooking in their conclusions?
  • Could they be manipulating the data to serve a particular agenda?
  • How was their research funded? By drug companies? By the government? By themselves?
  • Do they have any financial interest in the outcome of their work?
  • Do they have personal bias that might influence their interpretation of the data?

It’s easy for vets to read their trade journals and assume that the authors are unbiased. But too often, they aren’t.

Like so many of us, veterinarians sometimes blindly trust published literature, rather than looking for bias.

It’s also just as easy for some vets to be swayed by marketing from pharmaceutical companies.

If you’ve brought a new puppy into your life in the last few years, you may have received a “puppy kit” from your vet. Pharmaceutical companies, dog food companies, and pet product manufacturers regularly provide free “gifts” to veterinarians to hand out to new puppy guardians. Perhaps the folder that held your puppy’s papers was also an ad for a heartworm medication. Perhaps the new doggy toy has the name of a popular dog food printed on the tag. I freely admit to using some of these gifts in my own practice.

While it’s wonderful when vets save money and give their clients a gift at the same time, it’s also an implied endorsement of the company’s products. Does it create a potential bias toward using that company’s products? Certainly. Is that bad? Not necessarily. The promoted products have a beneficial purpose that could be lifesaving. However, we should ensure that each vet is aware of her bias, does her own research, and asks those tough questions of the information presented by the companies involved.

Veterinarians are swayed by their relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

Reason 3: Conventional Medicine Does Not Offer Complete Cancer Care

If your dog has heart disease, conventional vets have effective medications that can often control it for a long time. If your dog is diabetic, we can usually help manage the disease so that it doesn’t affect her quality of life too

Unfortunately, when it comes to cancer, we have just a handful of conventional tools: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. In many cases, guardians consider those tools too expensive and not good enough at extending life, enhancing the quality of life, or providing comfort to the dog. Some vets agree, even if only on a subconscious level. The cure for systemic dog cancer has not been found, at least not yet, by conventional oncology.

In general, vets are animal lovers who entered the profession so they could be around animals all day long. Limited tools and dispiriting, confusing statistics make dealing with cancer a frustrating experience for most vets. It is profoundly unsatisfying not to be able to cure a dog with cancer.

This helplessness can cause vets a great deal of stress. The vet might try to avoid that feeling, without realizing it. He might go numb and make an insensitive comment. He might be unaware of the latest options for cancer treatments, and give up too soon. He might tell you “There’s no point in doing anything now, it’s too late. Take your dog home and prepare for the end.”

Vets can be sabotaged by stress, just like any other person. This is another reason why you must step up and advocate for your dog by becoming a fierce dog guardian.

Vets can be sabotaged by the stress of not being able to treat dog cancer with traditional tools.

The Bottom Line on Why Vets Don’t Catch Cancer Earlier:

You will probably never really know why the cancer wasn’t caught earlier. Perhaps we didn’t look hard enough or often enough, we didn’t use our existing diagnostic tools early enough, or we simply need better tools. Or, perhaps we could have done more, and we still would not have found the cancer.

You may never get a good answer to why your vet didn’t catch the cancer earlier. Some questions are just never answered.

Let’s turn ourselves to the last question dog guardians usually ask when they face a cancer diagnosis.

Is My Dog Dying Right Now?

No, he’s not. He’s alive right now, and the healthy cells in his body are operating as they always have. They are living right now. Many of them are even fighting the cancer.

If he’s breathing, he’s alive.

There is another way to look at it, of course. Here’s another, equally valid answer: this may be a tough pill to swallow, but yes, in a way, your dog is dying right now. Death is inevitable and always has been. It’s an unavoidable part of life on our planet. From this point of view, nothing has really changed, but you may now be more aware of your dog’s eventual death than you were before you received the cancer diagnosis. Or, you may understand that death is inevitable, but are feeling that death is coming too soon. I think most dog lovers feel this way about the possibility of their dog’s death.

Whichever perspective feels most comfortable for you, the chances that your dog is going to expire as you are reading this are low. You have time.

You may know a woman who had breast cancer, one of the most common human cancers. Perhaps she had no idea that she was sick until a doctor found a spot on her mammogram. Her body appeared healthy, and indeed most of her cells were normal. She didn’t actually feel sick; she had time to get treatment and live a good life. Maybe she even beat the cancer into remission.

This could be the case for your dog, as well. It is possible that your dog could beat cancer. I cannot guarantee it. I cannot assess your dog’s condition through the pages of this book, and I cannot directly treat your dog, however …

… I have seen some recoveries that can only be described as miraculous, and I take nothing for granted when it comes to a dog’s ability to heal.

There is no way for you to know, right now, that your dog will definitely die of cancer, any time soon. Each dog, each case, is different. That’s why I am so glad that you are taking the time to educate yourself, so you can make decisions that will lead to the best outcome.

There is no way for you to know, right now, that your dog will definitely die of cancer, any time soon. So let’s not focus on the when, right?

As you’ll learn, your dog’s body is already hard at work, fighting the cancer cells. Remember, cancer is not an immediate death sentence. Cancer is a living process that happens in a living body.

And your dog’s body might be better equipped than most to handle the challenges of cancer, just because she is a dog.

Dogs live in the moment, and they don’t worry about trying to change things they cannot change. So while your dog may have cancer, the good news is that she isn’t upset about it the way she would be if she were human. We can all be grateful for that!

…the good news is that she isn’t upset about it the way she would be if she were human.

Found that FREE chapter helpful? Get the full 500-page book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide for only $9.99. There are 40 more Super Helpful Chapters, 5 Incredible Appendices, and 1 Fantastic Index in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The post Is My Dog Dying Right Now? Read Chapter 3: Three Common Questions About Dog Cancer appeared first on Dog Cancer Blog.

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So many of us find finances really tight when we’re looking at treating dog cancer. Getting financial assistance for dogs with cancer is possible by checking with the following resources.

What follows is an excerpt of chapter 24 from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. You can find the full book — only $9.99 in digital platforms! — everywhere books are sold, and also in our online shop.

Chapter 24: Financial Assistance for Dogs with Cancer

Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

Conventional cancer care costs an average of $5,000 to $8,000, and if all three treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) are used, the bill can easily exceed $10,000. For many guardians, this is a real financial burden, and for many others, the price tag makes any treatment prohibitive. Whether that number makes you gulp or yawn, spending your dollars wisely is important. Every dog deserves the best care her guardian can provide and, luckily for all of us, every kiss, hug and caress you give your dog makes a difference.

Unfortunately, kisses and hugs don’t pay the vet bills; if you need help, there are several organizations that may be worth contacting.

Organizations That May Help With Medical Bills:

I cannot guarantee any of these sites will help you, but they give you a place to start your search. There may be other resources available, too; common search terms include your breed’s name, “cancer bills,” “vet bills,” and “help.”

  • Magic Bullet Fund: For dogs with cancer, whose treatment may extend life a year or more www.themagicbulletfund.org
  • Canine Cancer Awareness: Help for dogs in need of cancer treatment www.caninecancerawareness.org
  • Cody’s Club: Financial help for dogs in need of radiation treatment codysclub.bravehost.com
  • Riedel & Cody Fund: Provides an online community site where you can raise funds, apply for a grant and network with others www.riedelcody.org
  • In Memory of Magic: General financial help.  www.imom.org
  • Pet Fund: Non-emergency financial help www.thepetfund.com
  • AAHA Helping Pets Fund: General help for sick pets, if your veterinarian is a member of AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) www.aahahelpingpets.org
  • Helping Harley Working Dog Cancer Treatment Grants: For working dogs with cancer (service dogs, assistance dogs, etc.) www.grants.landofpuregold.com
  • Labrador Lifeline: Financial help for labs www.labradorlifeline.org
  • Save Us Pets: Financial help for pets in New Jersey www.saveuspets.org
  • Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society: For pets with cancer in Alberta, Canada www.actssalberta.ca
Clinical Trials

Veterinary schools and research facilities are often actively conducting clinical trials for new techniques or medications. Participating in these can be a good way to get new treatments, at a reduced cost.

Calling veterinary schools in your area directly is the best way to find out about local trials.

You can also check the Veterinary Cancer Society’s website for an index: www.VetCancerSociety.org


An old-fashioned practice has regained popularity: barter. Although not everyone is a fan, I have heard from some readers that this solution worked for their vet and other caregivers. Perhaps you can work off your bill by trading your professional services, such as accounting, building contracting or consulting. The owner of a corporate chair massage business traded a day’s worth of chair massage, for the veterinarian and his employees, in exchange for an equivalent reduction in her medical bill. Another reader bartered a reduction in the bill for cleaning and repainting the vet’s parking lot, shampooing the carpets and waxing the office floors. An owner of a popular restaurant gladly fed her vet and his family, without charge, until her bill was paid down.

If you suggest barter to your vet, I strongly recommend a dollar-for-dollar trade to avoid quibbles over how much is owed or paid. You should also consult with your accountant, because bartered services may be taxable.


Some veterinarians and oncologists accept CareCredit, which is a healthcare credit card that can be used to pay off your veterinary bills in monthly payments, over time. As long as you pay your bill according to the terms of your agreement with CareCredit, there are no additional costs, upfront fees or pre-payment penalties.

CareCredit can do this because practices pay fees to participate, plus, the bank’s penalties for late or missed payments on your part are hefty. Depending upon your needs and which promotional packages your veterinarian offers, this could be a good option for some guardians. Although there is an application process, and your credit history will be reviewed before you get approval, even guardians with less-than-great credit may still be qualified. You can have a co-applicant with better credit scores apply with you or for you, also. If you have ever purchased furniture or electronics on a line of credit, this is a very similar process.

You can find out more online www.CareCredit.com.

Found that FREE chapter helpful? Get the full 500-page book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide for only $9.99. There are 40 more Super Helpful Chapters, 5 Incredible Appendices, and 1 Fantastic Index in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The post Financial Assistance for Dogs with Cancer: Resources from The Dog Cancer Vet Team appeared first on Dog Cancer Blog.

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Do dogs know when they are dying?

That simple question posed to Dr. Dressler by a reader of the first edition of his best-selling book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide prompted the chapter we’ve excerpted below.

In it, he takes everything he knows as a dog lover and a sensitive veterinarian and gives you a message from the heart of Dog.

Have your tissues handy as you read. Even after all these years of working with this book and its readers, it still makes us tear up.

It really doesn’t need more introduction than that — so we’ll just remind you that The Dog Cancer Survival Guide is available everywhere books are sold, and also in our online shop.

Chapter 26: Do Dogs Know When They Are Dying? If Your Dog Could Speak English

Excerpted from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity, by Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM, with Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

If your dog could speak, this is what I think you would hear:

“Thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“Thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” – Your Dog

As a lifelong dog-lover and a veterinarian, I have heard this message and felt waves of gratitude from many dogs.

Their natural enthusiasm can be a gentle reminder to us to treasure our time together, no matter how short or long it may be.

Throughout their lives, dogs pack their To Do Lists with the very best experiences life has to offer:

Cuddling with loved ones…

Plenty of time outside in the fresh air…

Long and peaceful naps…

Running at top speed…

Playing with the most entertaining toys…

Exploring new places…

Eating delicious food…

Standing next to your side.

We can learn a lot about living the good life if we pay attention to our dogs. They keep offering us teachings right up until their deaths, and even beyond.

My childhood dog, Bogart, runs through my memories when a certain breeze blows through the fields near my house. The same breeze used to lift his red hair as he caught a delicious scent and took off, tail wagging. This memory reminds me to stop, right now, and enjoy myself. I can hear Bogart, telling me:

“It is good to be alive. It is good to be here. It is good to be with you.

“It is good to be alive. It is good to be here. It is good to be with you.” – Your Dog

I think every dog on this planet feels this way. We humans tend to forget what dogs are eager to remind us:

We live.

We breathe.

We smell the breeze and it feels good.

We hold each other and we like each other.

We play and walk and run.

This life is good.

I am good.

You are good.

Becoming your dog’s guardian is a great gift. His trust in you is justified by your loving him as deeply as he loves you.

He thanks you for that.

She thanks you for that.

If your dog is with you right now, take a moment to look at him. Gaze at her with soft eyes and a melting heart.

This is why she was born – for this moment, right now.

This is why he is with you – for this moment, right now.

If your dog could speak, she would tell you that her love for you is bigger than you can imagine.

He would remind you to always remember:

“You are loved. You are loved by me, your dog, and you always will be. Our love lasts forever.”

“You are loved. You are loved by me, your dog, and you always will be. Our love lasts forever.” – Your Dog

Found that FREE chapter helpful? Get the full 500-page book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide for only $9.99. There are 40 more Super Helpful Chapters, 5 Incredible Appendices, and 1 Fantastic Index in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The post Do Dogs Know When They Are Dying? What Your Dog Would Say If Your Dog Spoke English appeared first on Dog Cancer Blog.

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