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Dog Cancer: What to do when your dog has cancer

Canine Cancer AwarenessHi fellow pet lovers,

Today I am writing about a subject that I hope none of you will ever have to experience:  Canine cancer. If you’ve been following my recent posts (here and here), you’ll remember that my 4 year old mixed breed dog, Barret, had a tumor removed and a biopsy was performed. Unfortunately, last week those results came back positive for the “C” word. His cancer specifically is called Hemangiopericytoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma.

I never dreamed that I would have to cope with something this emotionally draining so early in my dog’s lives. It happens, and unfortunately either because people are more in-tune with their pets or due to environmental factors it is becoming an all too common epidemic.

I’ll be using That Pet Blog to chronicle my journey, provide insights, and hopefully to help someone else who may be struggling to fight canine cancer.

I thought I had been preparing myself for this diagnosis from the time we found his underarm lump, but I was still devastated to learn my Heart dog had cancer. Now that I have had a week to process, I think that there are a few distinct steps you have to go through in order to make great pet parent decisions. So if you’re reading this because you just received some bad news of your own, start with these simple steps:

  1. Let Yourself Grieve
  2. Be a Strong Pack Leader
  3. Arm Yourself with Information
  4. From Here Out, Make Every Day Count
  5. Make Responsible, Informed Decisions

sad eyesLet Yourself Grieve

It’s OK to be sad. It is important to let yourself feel the emotions coursing through your body. For me, blogging about Barret has been extremely therapeutic. Start a journal or a blog. It gives you a chance to look at the situation with a little bit of distance and I am hopeful my blogs will help someone else recover from such a devastating diagnosis.

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Try to avoid people who are pessimistic or who don’t feel as passionately about pets. Sometimes you just need to be alone, and that is OK too. Cry if you need to, scream if you need to… BUT you need to continue to be a strong pack leader for your dog.

Be a Strong Pack Leader

To accomplish this, take some time away from your dog to grieve. Dogs can pick up on emotions, sometimes very strongly. If you (t

my pack of dogs

My current pack of 3 (Barret, Sara and Gatsby)

he pack leader) are depressed, anxious, or sad it throws your dog (and any other members of your pack) into disarray. Be strong around your dog. Take time in another room or leave the house completely to let yourself run through the gambit of emotions that you may be feeling. When you’re ready, it’s time to take action.

Arm Yourself with Information

Your best weapon against dog cancer is knowledge, and lots of it. It’s time to do your homework. You may think you already know what Radiation and Chemotherapy is, but don’t assume you know everything. Most of us are familiar with the treatments available for humans, but there are differences in the way that dog cancer is treated. For instance, did you know that chemotherapy for dogs isn’t usually considered as a cure for cancer, but is instead used to slow tumor growth or reduce tumor size? Before you make any decisions at all make sure you have every bit of knowledge possible to make balanced decisions based on facts instead of decisions tainted by emotions, previous experiences, and gut reactions.

I’m reading a book called “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide” by Dr. Demian Dressler, DMV and it has complete, well rounded information about everything from the science of how cancer develops and spreads to holistic and natural treatment options generally not prescribed by your family vet. PetMD is another great free resource for basic knowledge.

celebrating dog


From Here Out, Make Every Day Count

Whether your dogs has days to live or years ahead of him, a cancer diagnosis for your dog swiftly brings life into perspective. No longer take his enthusiastic greetings, daily walks, or puppy kisses for granted. Treasure every moment you have together like nothing is wrong. This is how your dog lives every day. We can learn to live in the moment from our dogs. It is a precious gift.

Try out this mantra for size:

Think positive : You’ll be a happier person if you try to find the bright side in the darkness.

Find balance: You need to take some time for yourself too!

Live in the present: Don’t second guess the past. What matters is the here and now.

Massage your pets: Massage can bring you and your pet closer, and can help sooth pain.

Mediate daily: Reflect on each day. You may want to start a journal

Give treats and tummy rubs often J : No explanations needed!

dog relaxing in sun

Live in the moment, even if it’s just relaxing in the sun!

Make Responsible, Informed Decisions

After you’ve learned all of the information you need to make decisions, gather your team. Your team may be made of up your significant other, your family practice vet, a veterinary oncologist, a holistic veterinarian, or another specialist. Have an honest and open discussion about all the options available to help your pet fight cancer and make an informed decision on your pet’s path.

No treatment is guaranteed, and dealing with cancer in dogs is draining both emotionally and financially. Nothing in life is 100%. All we can do is try to do the best we can with the information available to us and live each day to its fullest.

I wish you all luck with your journey as I begin my own. Please stay tuned as I continue to write about my experiences with Barret and his recovery.

One comment

  1. avatar

    I have a 10yo Miniature Schnauzer, who we found out
    yesterday, has bone cancer. It started 2yrs ago with a lump on her breast we removed. Flash forward to 2017 and a lump had to be removed from her chest. Now we are faced w amputation of her hind leg and a diagnosis of 2-4 mos left w our baby girl. I am devastated…. she
    Is my rock, my confidant, my follow-me-everywhere-do-what-i-do buddy. Everything I am reading says
    i have to be a strong pack leader but am finding that bery hard right now. Thank you for your blog; it is very helpful knowing i’m not a solo grieving pawrent.

About hcrotsley

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Currently an owner of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience over the years. I strive to provide the best home I can for my little terrors, and you’ll read all about our trials and tribulations as I continue down the rewarding yet rocky road of pet parenthood.
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