National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

Skin Tags: Are They Dangerous?

August 22nd, 2014

With the all knowledge of skin cancer and the dangers of malignant lumps, it’s not surprising that any new or unusual growth on your pet’s skin causes concern. However, skin tags are quite common, particularly in older pets, and are generally nothing to worry about.

What are skin tags ?

Skin tags are the result of excessive growth of skin cells and will be the same color as your pet’s skin. Tags can grow anywhere on your pet’s body including eyelids and ears and are usually found in areas where the skin folds.

Skin tags are soft, fleshy and malleable (unlike warts that are hard) but can be flat, rounded, teardrop or stalk-like in shape. Tags are generally only a few millimeters in length but can grow to the size of a grape. These large tags are more likely to get bumped, pinched or crushed and cause discomfort. Usually once a skin tag is seen, it indicates that others will be present on your pet’s body or will develop.

As mentioned, skin tags are very common, and can form in any breed. The exact causes of skin tags are yet to be determined, it is believed that hereditary, environment, infections, immune system weakness and allergies influence their growth.

Whilst skin tags are harmless and non-cancerous (benign), they are commonly mistaken as skin cancer growths and should always be examined by a vet who my need to perform a biopsy to identify if the growth is malignant.

Most skin tags won’t need removing unless they are causing your pet discomfort, become irritated or infected. Vet’s can easily perform a removal procedure which is non-invasive and quick involving cauterization or freezing. The skin tags will simply fall off after treatment.

It’s important to regularly check your pet’s skin. The sooner you notice any growths or changes, the better the chances of early diagnosis and recovery.

When to see a vet

It’s advisable to consult your vet with any growth to determine whether the growth is a harmless skin tag or more serious. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to the successful prevention of tumors and cancers spreading.

Schedule a consultation with you vet immediately for any of the following:

  • Skin tags that bleed or become infected
  • If there is pain and irritation in the affected area
  • Growths that bleed or resemble wounds and do not heal
  • Dark or black growths, pale or pink growths that are not the color of your pet’s skin
  • Any growths around your pet’s mouth or lips as these can interfere with swallowing or even develop into cancer
  • Any growths or tags that change shape, size, color or appearance

Article reposted from:

Written by: Simone
Image credit

Can Cancer in Dogs be Prevented?

August 21st, 2014

Physicians have known for years that good nutrition and adequate exercise are very important in maintaining our health. Veterinarians are finding that the same advice holds true for our dogs and cats as well.

Early detection is also extremely important. Researchers have proven that finding cancerous lesions before they become malignant or while they are still small and removable can prevent many cancers from becoming life-threatening.

Evidence is mounting that at least for certain types of cancers, the answer is yes.

The newest bit of research comes out of the venerable MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. Researchers there concluded that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, is linked to a significant decrease in the incidence of gastric cancer. Previous research published in one of the leading medical journals, The Lancet, demonstrated that taking low doses of aspirin — once daily for at least five years — decreases the chance of a person getting lung, gastrointestinal, or colon cancer.

Although the research was evaluated in people, dogs and cats respond the same way to NSAIDs. Basically, NSAIDs inhibit a group of enzymes in the body, some of which cause inflammation. Inflammation, especially acute inflammation, is essential for wound healing and other important immune functions. When inflammation becomes chronic in nature, cancer risk increases. Cancer seems to be able to co-opt the cells involved in this process and utilize them to allow malignant cells to proliferate.

Therefore, NSAIDs and other compounds that decrease or stop chronic inflammation may be able to prevent cancer in our pets. Compounds within cruciferous — e.g., kale and broccoli — yellow, orange, and red vegetables decrease inflammation, specifically by blocking the lipid compound Prostaglandin E2.Evidence suggests that feeding dogs these type of vegetables at least three times per week can decrease the risk of bladder cancer in certain breeds.

Vegetables You Can Feed Your Dog>>

There are risks to the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and liver from the chronic administration of NSAIDs to dogs. Consult your veterinarian to assess the benefits of cancer prevention against the possible side effects of these medicines. Giving your dogs vegetables, however, comes with little to no risk — unless of course, your dog feels the way I do about Brussels sprouts.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Gerald Post, D.V.M

10 Things: I Tell People Who Just Learned Their Dog Has Cancer

August 20th, 2014

I love my Dolly girl. More soul sister than pet, she keeps me grounded and makes me laugh. When I learned in April ’2012 that the cancer removed from her leg two years ago had recurred and could not be successfully treated with surgery alone, I lost it. The next few months were some of the most challenging — emotionally and physically — of her life and mine. I have learned so much that I wish I had known at the beginning of this journey, which has involved multiple surgeries and weeks of radiation therapy.

With that in mind, I put together this list of 10 things I tell people who just found out their dog has cancer, with the hope of making life just a little bit easier for others in the same situation.

1. Wipe your tears and take a deep breath

No matter what your next step, the near future will be difficult for you and your pup. You need to be calm and collected to fully understand the treatment options.

Ask as many questions of medical professionals as you need to, and don’t feel bad if you ask the same question more than once. You will be given an overwhelming amount of information in order to make what will be one of the most important health decisions of your dog’s life.

2. Make an appointment with an oncologist.

Canine cancer comes in a variety of types and grades. While your pup’s veterinarian may be able to surgically remove certain cancers in certain locations, not all general practitioners have the advanced education and experience needed to fully discuss treatment options and recurrence rates, or the facilities at which to provide radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other treatments. Animal oncologists do, and they work with board-certified surgeons to deliver the best possible outcomes for pets.

Had I known two years ago what I do now, I would have put Dolly in the care of specialists instead of the veterinarian she had at the time. It was my understanding after her first surgery that the low-grade soft-tissue sarcoma on her leg was successfully removed. Turns out, at least one cell remained to ensure a recurrence. Radiation therapy would have prevented or delayed that regrowth. I knew nothing of recurrence rates and the need for further treatment to lower them, because I did not consult an oncologist.

Even if the location of your dog’s cancer allows for surgery by a general practitioner, still consult with an oncologist if necessary to fully understand your pup’s type of cancer and its grade, as well as additional treatment options and the recurrence rates they offer. I am so grateful to Dolly’s current veterinarian, Dr. Jenny Johnson, for pointing me toward an oncologist and giving me the push I needed to get past the initial sticker shock of radiation therapy and make an informed decision.

3. Get all bumps checked.

Dolly has bumps all over her body. The first one arrived in 2006 and proved to be a benign fatty tumor, as did every other one tested until two years ago and then again until April. Shortly after surgery and the start of radiation therapy for her regrown soft-tissue sarcoma, I noticed that a bump on the inside of her thigh previously dismissed as fat had gotten bigger. Turns out it was a mast cell tumor and would require another surgery and five additional radiation therapy treatments on top of the initial 19.

Had I asked for a thorough check of all bumps, Dolly would have had one surgery to remove both and only 19 treatments, as the oncologist would have expanded the radiation field from day one.

4. Figure out your finances.

Once you understand the scope of your dog’s disease and the treatment options, do the math. Dolly’s care cost around $10,000 for all tests, surgeries, radiation therapy treatments, and medication. Cancer treatment does not come cheap, and you must determine what you can afford or what you can afford to owe.

5. Don’t rush deciding on a treatment plan.

If you do all of the above, you have everything you need to make an informed decision. Don’t feel bad if you struggle. I anguished over what to do: The surgeon ranked amputation as the best option, while Dolly’s oncologist said she felt confident with removal of as much of the cancer as possible followed by radiation therapy. Of course, I feared putting my 10-year-old pup with arthritis in both shoulders through amputation and wanted to believe in the less-drastic course of action. That said, I feel I made the best decision for Dolly in the long run. Take as long as you need to do the same for your pup, within the time frame allowed for optimal treatment results.

6. Clear your schedule.

Animal oncology practices tend to number in the few rather than the many in any given area, which means they stay busy and require hours of your time per appointment if you wait, instead of drop off and pick up later. Because Dolly’s oncologist was 30 minutes away, I waited each day and worked in the lobby on my laptop. I brought my other dog, Spot, to almost every appointment, and he napped next to me when not charming the office staff and other pet parents into giving him treats. I did this for 25 almost-consecutive weekdays.

Even if you drop off your pet on the way to work and swing by after, the practice most likely will be out of your way and make for much longer days. Add to that sticking close to your pup during the healing process and you won’t have time for much else.

7. Prep yourself and your home for healing.

With radiation therapy, reactions show at the radiation site only. Pets lose their hair there, and toward the end of treatment a condition called moist dermatitis sets in and sticks around for about two weeks. For Dolly, this particular reaction was the worst part of her treatment and recovery. The radiation site would scab over, thick and crusty, and then the scabs would crack and fall off. The newly exposed skin was bloody at times, and she was uncomfortable even on pain meds, making for many a sleepless night for everyone.

If your pup undergoes radiation therapy, you will want to use old blankets or towels to cover your couches and wherever he or she sleeps to avoid staining. Also, the radiation therapy tech will mark the perimeter of the treatment field with something semi-permanent so it does not have to be redrawn daily. With Dolly, it was a red Sharpie that she rubbed all over the carpet in an effort to scratch her itchy leg. Chemotherapy does not have external side effects like radiation therapy, but it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and/or decreased appetite. Just plan on getting your carpet cleaned after treatment ends.

Bonus to-dos: Stock up on pill pockets and vitamin E gel caps. Rubbing vitamin E onto the newly exposed skin eases some of the discomfort.

8. Use the cone.

Ah, the dreaded cone of shame. Get one — or one of the less shameful alternatives I wrote about a few months ago — and use it faithfully. Even a few minutes of licking on the radiation site can set your dog’s recovery back weeks, and constant licking will keep moist dermatitis around for months. Look at the photo above again if your pup’s pathetic pleas to remove the cone ever start to sway you.

9. Celebrate milestones.

At the end of each week, Dolly’s oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Arthur, would include notes on her discharge papers. One said, “Dolly looks great today! Her radiation side effects are healing nicely, and the dry scabs are beginning to flake off on their own (with a little help from us). Dolly is a sweetie, and I am very pleased with her progress thus far.”

Like A’s on a report card, we would celebrate each note by stopping by Bone Appetit Bakery, the mom-and-pop pet-supply store in our neighborhood. The owners, Helen and Joe Goldblatt, would make pupcakes for Dolly and Spot, and we would celebrate getting through another week. Do something similar to keep everyone’s spirits from dragging.

10. Know it all will be worth it.

The miles. The time. The money. The stress. It all will be worth it. Trust me. No matter how many more months or years you get with your dog, you will treasure every one. Had I not gone through with radiation therapy, I would be days away from saying goodbye to my Dolly girl, instead of writing this article with her snoring sweetly by my side. I just can’t imagine life without her.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Pamela Mitchell

A Little Scare and Some Big Plans

August 19th, 2014

My friend Porter is fighting stage 3 Mast Cell Cancer. He is really a champ, this is his 8th week on Palladia, and the lymph nodes have all shrunk to normal size and he is his normal peppy self.

Porter and I at work

Quite a big change from thinking we had 2-4 weeks left with him. We hike a lot, and at least according to some people, we hike too much (don’t get me started).  It is something that we have done together since he was a pup…

Baby Porter taking a break on top of Moxie Bald Mountain

…and someday (in like 100 years) when he is gone I will walk those same trails and think of him and maybe smile through the tears.

He woke up having trouble walking one morning 2 weeks ago, and together we made it down the stairs. I noticed it was his right front leg that he was having issues with.

It was so hard seeing him so confused and in pain, and being able to do nothing to help him.

When you are dealing with a complex medical condition such as cancer, you think everything that happens is because of the cancer. This isn’t necessarily so, but still, when the problem your buddy is having is on the same side of the cancer – the place you know it is likely to spread – you can’t help but worry.

What bothered me was that we hadn’t hiked or done anything to speak of for almost 2 weeks. If he hurt himself hiking, it would have shown up before then – which is exactly what freaked me out.

So we went to the vet, did x-rays, and determined that it was thankfully not cancer causing the problem, it was something else, likely a soft tissue injury or some sort.

I felt like we dodged a bullet. Since our vet wasn’t sure what exactly was causing his pain, she prescribed rest, pain medicine, and an anti inflammatory.

Within 2 days, he was back to himself. I kept him rested for another week or so, going on a few easy walks along the river/Wyman Lake.

Kennebec River near Wyman Lake

Kennebec River near Wyman Lake

Yesterday we went back up to Moxie Bald Mountain (and forgot our camera, but trust me, it is a freaking cool place).

Porter and I had big plans to do this epic back packing trip this fall to help increase awareness about canine cancer and to raise money for the National Canine Cancer Foundation, who funds grants to cancer researchers to help find better cures, treatments, and to find more accurate, cost effective ways to diagnose canine cancer.

Well, in light of Porter’s mystery injury, we amended our plans.

We now have a trip planned that is a little less epic, but still very cool! We are going to hike from Rt. 27 in Stratton/Eustis, across the Bigelow Range, and then home to Caratunk – 37 miles.

We are still going to work to raise money to help fund canine cancer research, in hopes it will help others facing the same issues as we are (click HERE to donate).

We are saving the epic trip for next year – we are going to celebrate him beating the odds. I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading!

Mandy & Porter

Story reposted from:

Written by: caratunkgirl

Why is Understanding Cell Health so Important for your Dogs Wellbeing?

August 18th, 2014

Cells are the fundamental units of life; these small living organisms in your dog’s body are responsible for constant communication, responding to environmental changes, and reacting to signals from your dog. If your dog’s cells are compromised, the function of tissues and organs, which are created and made up of cells, can fail. The physical health of dogs, as well as humans, depends on the health of these trillions of cells that create the organs, tissues, and bones that support the body. Keeping your dog’s cells healthy is keeping your dog’s whole being healthy.

Your dog’s body, as well as your own, is constantly replacing old cells with new ones. Providing material and energy, by what your dog is consuming, is how your dog’s body to able to create these new cells. There are some vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that make up proteins and other cell components, yet cannot be made in the body.

Cell Function

Cells are responsible for a variety of complex functions but there are two very basic processes that are necessary in maintaining health. These two functions are how nutrients enter the cells and how waste materials leave. Cell membranes are largely responsible for this action.

The cell membrane/cell wall encapsulates the cell as a structural boundary that keeps the internal parts secure. It has a semi-permeable filter which allows nutrients to enter and wastes to be disposed of. The membranes are composed of non-water soluble fats. The main function of the fats in the cell membrane is to create shape and maintain stability.

Proteins are also essential to your dog’s cells, helping with communication between cells. Proteins also help cells connect and attach to areas of the body — for example, liver cells stay in the liver by attaching to liver tissue through proteins in the cell membranes. With cancer cells, these proteins are often lacking or not working correctly, which allows the offending cells to move and spread around the body.


Nutrition is extremely important to cellular health. The fats your dog consumes have an effect on his/her cells as the cell membranes are composed of fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, as found in fish and in Elimay Supplements, are necessary for cell structure. Feeding your dog appropriate levels of unsaturated fats, such as Omega-3s, is an easy way to support healthy cell membranes.

Dogs that are fed a commercial diet are less likely to get the appropriate amounts of ‘good fats’ like omega-3s. If your dog is eating a commercial diet, supplementing with omegas is a good idea. Omega supplements should also be added to a nutrient-rich, homemade diet.

Other essential fatty acids, are a group of fatty-acids that are required for maintenance and growth of tissues, as well as overall cell health. These essential nutrients are required, yet cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, they must be obtained from natural food sources. Essential fatty-acids include linoleic acid (omega 6) and linolenic acid (omega-3). Without the right quantity of linoleic acid, your dog may experience health problems such as skin issues, liver and kidney degeneration, heart problems, weakness, and arthritis. Essential fatty acids also reduce inflammation.(1)

Natural sources of linoleic acid (Omega 6) include safflower, sunflower, chicken fat, hempseed, walnuts, evening primrose, almond oil, and borage oil. Linolenic acids (omega 3) are found most commonly in fish oil, as well as in sea buckthorn oil, flax oil, flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and wheat germ.

Oxidative damage happens to all cells, every day. But what is oxidative damage and what can be done about it? Free-radicals cause oxidative damage to cells and are normal by-products of metabolism. They can also be produced by cells in response to stress, toxicity and pollution. Free-radicals become a major problem in the body; damaging cells and their function if too many accumulate. Antioxidants from the diet, such as Vitamin C, green tea extract, and trace elements are important in ‘neutralizing’ these free-radicals, keeping cells in tip-top shape. Important sources of antioxidants include fresh fruits and vegetables and Longevity supplements for dogs.

Specific vitamins, such as vitamin E are also critical in cell membrane health. Vitamin E contains antioxidants that can protect both the fats and proteins in your dog’s membranes from damage. Natural sources of vitamin E include walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ oil. There are also vitamin E supplements available.

In short, healthy cells equal a healthy animal. By paying attention to what goes into your dog’s diet, you are directly benefiting your dog’s cells and overall health.


Roudebush, Philip. Fatty Acid Supplementation: Does It Really Work? ACVIM Proceedings. 2006.

About Dr. Deborah Shores

Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working in animal hospitals and clinics from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Dr. Deborah Shores, DVM

Learn about common Canine Cancer Lymphoma

August 15th, 2014

Lymphoma is a common form of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that are part of the circulatory system.

“The lymphatic system produces B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, disease-fighting white blood cells that travel through the blood in a fluid called lymph,” says Mona Rosenberg, D.V.M., a board-certified veterinary oncologist and founder of Veterinary Cancer Group, which has four locations in Southern California. “Lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes grow uncontrollably, forming tumors in the lymph nodes that can spread to the organs, tissues, and bone marrow.”

Symptoms of Dog Lymphoma:

The most common sign of early-stage lymphoma is enlargement of one or more lymph nodes, located near the front of the jaw, in the armpits and groin, at the front of the shoulders, and behind the knees. “Many owners discover the enlarged nodes when petting their dogs,” Rosenberg says.

More advanced signs include:

  • Anorexia, or lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Risk Factors for Dogs with Lymphoma:

Although any dog can get lymphoma, certain breeds are genetically predisposed, including:

  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Retrievers, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers
  • St. Bernards

Lymphoma occurs equally in males and females, with middle-aged to older dogs most often affected.

Diagnosis of Lymphoma in Dogs:

The first step of diagnosis is typically a fine needle aspiration, during which the veterinarian inserts a tiny needle into an enlarged lymph node to extract a cell sample. The cells are viewed under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal.

Other tests include:

  • Core needle biopsy to check for tissue abnormalities
  • Blood work to look for cancer in the organs
  • X-rays to check for cancer in the lungs
  • Ultrasound to look for cancer in the gastrointestinal tract and surrounding organs

Lymphoma is classified by stage — ranging from 1 to 5 — and the type of lymphocytes affected. “Dogs at all stages can respond to treatment and go into remission,” Rosenberg says. “However, dogs with B-cell lymphoma statistically live longer than those with T-cell lymphoma.” About 75 percent of canine lymphomas are B-cell.

Treatment for Dogs with Lymphoma:

Since lymphoma travels in the bloodstream, veterinarians use chemotherapy drugs to target the entire body. Rosenberg says that a typical protocol involves a combination of pills and injections administered over a six-month period.

“Ninety percent of dogs treated with chemotherapy go into remission, and most don’t suffer any adverse side effects,” she says. Untreated dogs typically live only four to eight weeks from the time of diagnosis, while the median survival time for treated dogs is about one year.

Rosenberg advises that owners discuss treatment options with their veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist to determine the appropriate protocol.

Cancer Prevention:

Although no known prevention for cancer exists, Rosenberg recommends a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate exercise, a nutritious diet, and avoidance of unnecessary environmental toxins.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Diana Lavedure

Dog Study Suggests Bacteria as Cancer Fighter

August 14th, 2014

Pet dogs have helped researchers show that a special bacteria can seemingly fight cancer, causing tumors to shrink. A modified version of Clostridium novyi bacteria, when injected into solid soft tissue tumors, will eat away at the cancerous cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue, researchers report Aug. 13 in the latest Science Translational Medicine.

Six of 16 canines showed tumor-shrinking response

Researchers injected C. novyi spores into 16 pet dogs being treated for naturally occurring tumors. The bacteria caused an anti-tumor response in six of the dogs within three weeks, researchers report.

The bacteria caused complete eradication of the tumor in three of the six dogs, while the other three showed tumor shrinkage of at least 30 percent.

The C. novyi bacteria also worked well in rats implanted with brain tumor cells.

“When we treated those tumors, we found that C. novyi was able to germinate inside the tumor while sparing the normal brain tissue,” said co-author Dr. Verena Staedtke, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

The treatment killed tumor cells but spared healthy cells just a few micrometers away. It also prolonged the rats’ survival, with treated rodents surviving an average of 33 days after the tumor was implanted, compared with an average of 18 days in rats that did not receive the bacteria.

Based on these findings, researchers have begun phase I human trials using the bacteria at multiple sites across the United States.

In one example, a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston received a spore injection directly into an advanced-stage tumor in her shoulder, and experienced significant shrinkage of the tumor in and around the bone, the researchers reported.

“Dog tumors resemble human tumors in many ways,” said study lead author Nicholas Roberts, also a fellow at the Kimmel Cancer Center. “They’re treated with many of the same drugs as humans, and they experience the same toxicities. That was the rationale for treating pet dogs in this study.”

The idea of using bacteria to fight cancer has been around for more than a century, when early cancer researchers found that the presence of certain bacteria appeared to limit tumor development, said senior author Dr. Shibin Zhou, director of experimental therapeutics at the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics.

Bacteria that are anaerobic — thriving in oxygen-depleted environments — can serve as an effective means of destroying oxygen-starved cells deep inside solid tumors. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are less effective against these oxygen-starved cancer cells, Zhou said.

Up until now, the problem has been that most bacteria effective against cancer also can do great harm to patients. “Bacteria is very toxic, and those toxins are left behind and can cause problems for the patient,” said Greg Adams, director of biological research and therapeutics for Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

The researchers created a safer version of the C. novyi bacteria by removing a toxin-producing gene.

The dogs and rats treated with C. novyi experienced side effects typical of a bacterial infection — fever, inflammation and discharge from the bacteria-created abscess inside the tumor.

“Those side effects are typically very well-tolerated and managed in this study,” Roberts said.

And because C. novyi is anaerobic, it didn’t appear able to spread into the oxygen-rich healthy tissues outside the tumor, researchers found.

If these results pan out in humans — and scientists note that animal research often fails to provide similar results in humans — bacterial treatment of tumors could be a promising new cancer therapy, Adams said. But researchers will probably need to show that the bacterial infection also triggers the immune system to attack the cancer, he said.

“For this to reach the big-time, you need to be able to trigger the immune response with this treatment,” he said. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective partly because they draw the immune system into the fight, he noted.

However, Adams said he doesn’t think the therapy would be as useful if a person has multiple tumors, or has tumors in locations where an infection could do more harm than good.

“The thought of building an abscess in the brain is scary for me,” he said. “I’m not sure how you would manage that.”

Article reposted from:

Written by: Dennis Thompson

SOURCES: Verena Staedtke, M.D., Ph.D., fellow, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Balitmore, Md.; Nicholas Roberts, Vet.M.B., Ph.D., fellow, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center; Shibin Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., director, experimental therapeutics, Kimmel Cancer Center’s Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics; Greg Adams, Ph.D., director, Biological Research and Therapeutics, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pa.; Aug. 13, 2014, Science Translational Medicine

How to help a pet who has food allergies be healthy and happy

August 13th, 2014

Just as with people, our four legged friends can suffer from allergies too. There are many types of allergens that can affect your dog. Allergy symptoms that result from repeated consumption of potential allergens are usually referred to as food allergies. Food allergies are most commonly seen in response to the protein source in the food (i.e beef, chicken or lamb). Common clinical sign seen in dogs with food allergies include such things as dermatologic (skin/ear), digestive, or respiratory problems. By understanding and properly managing our pets’ food allergies, we can keep them healthy and happy.


Do know the symptoms of food allergies

Common symptoms of food allergies include such things itching, especially around the face, neck, ears, feet and limbs. Chronic ear and skin infections can also result from food allergies. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, please consult your veterinarian.

Do know what your pet is allergic to

In most cases, allergies come from the protein source in the food. By doing a food trial, or only feeding a single protein source for a period of time of 1-2 months, you can see how your dog reacts to that single protein source, you can narrow down what your dog is allergic too. This is a trial-and-error process that could take several months and several types of food in order to identify the ingredient(s) to which your dog is allergic.

Do read labels and ingredients for everything your pet consumes

Many types of food will advertise a specific type of meat or protein, but you still need to read all of the ingredients to make sure the allergenic protein(s) aren’t just lower down on the ingredient list. This is especially true of dog treats. Some pet’s medications may also be flavored too.

Do make sure everyone at home is onboard with a special diet and feeding instructions

Many breaks in food allergy control happen when a member of the family gives in to temptation and feeds an allergenic (allergy-causing) food to your dog. Simple things like feeding the wrong table scraps or adding broth or other foods/flavor mix-ins to the pet food can negate any benefit your pet was receiving from being on a special, hypoallergenic diet.

Do work with your veterinarian

Your veterinarian can help you identify the signs of a food allergy to determine if that is what your pet might be suffering from. He or she will work to identify the source of the allergy and to help manage the food allergy symptoms. Your veterinarian will also assist with finding a suitable diet or recommend working with a veterinary nutritionist or dermatologist for more difficult cases. Remember that your veterinarian is there to help.


Do not be in denial

Many people feel that if they are feeding a premium food that their pet cannot be allergic to it. That is not the case, though, since even the best foods on the market may contain proteins to which pets can be allergic. If your dog or cat is allergic to chicken, then even the highest quality, most expensive, organic chicken will induce an allergic reaction in your pet. This is true of home-cooked, raw, and store-bought pet foods.

Do not assume anything

Even though the food label says “hypoallergenic” or advertises the food as being made of a specific protein source, that doesn’t mean the food doesn’t contain a different ingredient that your pet might be allergic to. This is especially true of many over the counter (non-prescription) limited protein source diets that advertise being made of one protein source, even though other protein sources can also be found when reading carefully through food’s ingredient list.

Do not forget about treats, and table scraps and medications

Many problems or break food allergy treatment is by feeding treats and table scraps. Many people are aware that their dog has a food allergy and spend the time, effort and money on an appropriate food, but then forgets about the allergy when it comes times for treats. Certain medications can also be flavored using things like beef or chicken that your dog may be allergic to.

Do not give up

Diet or food trials can take time. In some patients it may take several months to be sure if the diet is appropriate or not. Unfortunately, there are increasing numbers of pet foods on the market that now include ingredients that were once reserved only for allergic dogs. As a result, dogs who do suffer from food allergies are being left with fewer diet options that may benefit them.


Although food allergy represents only a small percentage of allergies that we see in our four legged friends, there are still many pets afflicted with this type of allergy every year. We have come a long way in understanding food allergies in dogs and cats, so if you think your pet is exhibiting the clinical signs of a food allergy, please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Written by: Shelley Skopit, DVM

Photo Credits: Robert Neumann/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas –

Cancer in dogs

August 11th, 2014

The dreaded “C” word is something no canine owner ever wants to hear, but a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean a death sentence for your pooch. Tim Falk investigates what cancer can mean for you and your dog.

When Bianca Russell’s 11-year-old Labrador Ruthie was diagnosed with leukemia, Russell immediately assumed the worst. “I thought that was it,” she says. “I thought cancer meant she’d have to be put down straight away, that her life was over. I didn’t know there were treatment options available for dogs.”

But Ruthie’s diagnosis was far from a death sentence, and chemotherapy has since seen Ruthie’s condition improve drastically. “It’s almost like she has a new lease on life again,” Russell says. “She’s full of energy again and always has a smile on her face, is always getting into mischief. I never would have expected that to happen when she was first diagnosed.”

Just like Russell, many pet owners mistakenly believe that a cancer diagnosis spells the end for their pet. But Dr Chris Lisowski, the vet director from Greencross Vets at Indooroopilly, points out that this isn’t necessarily the case. “The term ‘cancer’ needs clarification, as it only refers to a malignant neoplasm (more commonly known as a tumor),” he explains. “‘Malignant’ means that there is the potential to spread through the body to other locations. ‘Neoplasm’ means new formation, and is used to classify a disorder of growth in which there is abnormal growth or division of cells. There are also benign neoplasms, which are classified by the fact that they do not spread through the body.”

Unfortunately, tumors are quite common in dogs, but the frequency of diagnosis is dependent on where in the body they originate; the age, sex and breed of the animal; and environmental factors.

“Certain types of neoplasm are genetically driven and breed associated, such as bone tumors in large breed dogs like Rottweilers and Great Danes, mast cell tumors in Pugs and Shar Peis, and urinary bladder tumors in Scottish and West Highland White Terriers. Unfortunately, most breeds have a claim on a particular type of neoplasm that is more prevalent to them,” Dr Lisowski says.

What to look for

Any lumps or bumps that develop on your pooch should be checked by a veterinarian under a microscope or sent to a pathologist to identify the growth. Some growths are less significant than others, but unless the cells are visualized a diagnosis cannot be given.

“Unfortunately there are no specific symptoms to look for in a dog that has an internal tumor,” Dr Lisowski says. “There can be increased or decreased appetite, gastrointestinal issues, loss of body condition, lethargy, labored breathing, coughing, enlarged abdomen, and many more symptoms. The symptom that a pet develops depends on the type of cancer, its size and its location. It is important to have a general health examination once every six months and yearly blood and urine analysis to screen for the subtle signs that a lesion might be developing.

“Don’t wait to have a lump checked; early diagnosis and intervention is directly correlated to a favorable outcome. Also, nutrition provides the building blocks of life, and it is well known that our pets live longer on scientifically formulated premium diets,” he continues.

Treatment options

The first priority for a pet receiving treatment for cancer is that they should feel better with the treatment than with the disease.

There are also many treatment options in oncology, with the most common forms of therapy in veterinary medicine being surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Often these are used in combination to get the best results.

“Diagnosis of neoplasm, whether it is benign or malignant, can make it seem like it is a death sentence — but this isn’t necessarily true. Some neoplasms can be treated and managed very effectively,” Dr Lisowski says.

And while the dreaded “C word” can sound like a very scary thing to us, it doesn’t have the same effect on our furry friends. “It is also important to know that dogs live in the moment,” Dr Lisowski explains. “They don’t worry about yesterday, and they don’t worry about tomorrow. Even with a terminal disease, they live every day to the fullest, and it is important that we are there for them when they need us, because they have always been there for us.”

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