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

How to help your dog avoid canine influenza

July 1st, 2015

The American Veterinary Medical Association says canine influenza is spreading through the United States and Columbus veterinarian Hank Hall says owners should consider having their dogs vaccinated.


“More cases have been reported the last three years,” said Hall of Northside Animal Hospital in Columbus.

The flu is a highly contagious infection caused by an influenza A subtype H3N8 virus first discovered in 2004.

Hall said a form of the virus originated in horses many years earlier and that the virus can cause “severe distress.”

In the mild form, the most common sign is a cough that persists for two to three weeks. However, some dogs can develop signs of severe pneumonia, such as a high grade fever and faster breathing. Other signs in infected dogs include nasal or ocular discharge, sneezing, fatigue and refusing food.

All dogs are susceptible to infection and the AVMA says virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected.

The virus can be fatal, but those instances are rare. Most dogs recover in two-three weeks.

Hall said dogs already a little weak are at greater risk.

It was in 2009 that the United States Department of Agriculture approved the first vaccine for H3N8 and trials have shown while it may not prevent the infection it can significantly reduce the duration of the illness including the incidence and severity of damage to the lungs. There is no vaccine yet for another strain of the virus H3N2.

The flu can be spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs, and by contact with contaminated inanimate objects such as water bowls, collars and leashes. On surfaces, the virus is alive and can infect dogs for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours.

Hall said there is no evidence the virus can be transmitted from dogs to humans, but people who have been around dogs may transfer the virus from what they are wearing to their pet.

According to the AVMA, there is no evidence of the virus being passed from dogs to cats, horses, etc.

Hall said the flu spreads in kennels, grooming salons and day care centers but is not suggesting people keep their dogs away from such places.

The AVMA suggests people who board their dogs at kennels should ask whether respiratory disease has been a problem there and whether the facility has a plan for isolating dogs that develop respiratory disease and for notifying owners if their dog has been exposed to dogs with respiratory disease.

The AVMA says dog owners whose dogs are coughing or exhibiting other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to them.

Treatment for the flu can involve an antibiotic or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. In some cases, intravenous fluids are needed to maintain hydration.

Hall said if a dog shows any signs of a respiratory illness, the owner should not hesitate to take their pet to a veterinarian. “Don’t wait. Sick dogs need to be seen,” he said.

Article reposted from:
By Larry Gierer

Ohio State University Faculty member awarded grant through National Canine Cancer Foundation

June 30th, 2015

Dr. Gwendolen Lorch, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, was featured in a Columbus CEO article about pets with allergy symptoms.

The story, “Pet allergies are big business,” explains how there are very few vaccines or treatment options for pets with allergies. One problem is that the diagnostics take time and money, just like human medicine. There seems to be more pets that experience allergy symptoms in the Midwest, Lorch said.

According to the article, the most common canine breeds with a predisposition for allergies are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Golden Doodles, Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers. Flea Allergic Dermatitis is the most prevelant allergy among both cats and dogs, affecting the skin.

Not only is Lorch working with dogs that have allergies, she’s also in the process of helping those with lung cancer. She is the first veterinarian from Ohio to be awarded a grant from the National Canine Cancer Foundation.

She is utilizing the $97,000 grant in her research, which focuses on targeting heat shock proteins in canine lung cancer. She’s collaborating with Dr. David Carbone, thoracic oncology specialist at The James Cancer Hospital.

Article source:

10 Ways to Support Your Pet's Natural Immune System

June 29th, 2015

The immune system is an intricate biological protection system responsible for determining what belongs to and in the body versus what does not belong and requires elimination. It defends the body against infection, disease and foreign substances. Keeping your pet’s immune system in good shape will go a long way in preventing ill health and chronic disease. A high quality, natural diet is the most important component in building and supporting a healthy immune system.  Along with a top quality diet, exercise, minimal exposure to toxins and a low-stress living environment are of utmost importance to the health of your companion.

Here are ten specific ways to support your animal companion’s immune system and optimal health.

1. Feed raw, minimally processed food. Fresh, raw food contains enzymes that aid in digestion.  Fresh vegetables contain antioxidants and vitamins in their natural, more absorbable form.  On the other hand, highly-processed food, such as dry kibble, loses some amino acids, most of its vitamins, and all enzymes and probiotics during the manufacturing process.  Manufacturers try to replace some of these vitamins and minerals with artificial additives but they are typically artificial forms of these nutrients which can be harder to absorb.

2. Go organic as much as possible. Pesticide and herbicide residues are found on over 50% of produce and even higher percentages of grains.  These are chemicals designed to kill living organisms – we want to minimize our pets’ exposure to such compounds.  In multiple studies, organic foods have been shown to have higher nutrient values than their conventional counterparts as well.

3. Clean, fresh water. Depending on where you live, the tap water can be anywhere from almost acceptable to fairly toxic.  The fluoride and chlorine add stress your companion’s elimination system.  Filtered water is best, followed by bottled water and spring water.  Dogs, and especially cats, that eat a raw food diet receive a good deal of the moisture they need from their food.

4. Avoid Chemical Insecticides & Flea Treatments. Chemical insecticides should be avoided in your home and yard for your companion’s sake.  Animals are much closer to the ground and breathe in whatever chemical residues are on the floor and furniture.  They also come into contact with chemicals used on the yard or local park, then groom these residues from their coat and paws.  There are natural alternatives to the chemical products used by exterminators and used in lawn and yard care (a simple internet search on natural pest control or weed control is a good place to start). Chemical flea treatments such as spot-on insecticides are absorbed into your animal’s system adding stress to the liver and kidneys as well as the digestive system.  Natural flea control options are widely available and are effective without negatively affecting your companion’s immune system.

5. Keep a Healthy House, Free of Toxins. Household cleaning products are another source of toxins to your companion.  Many cleaners, air fresheners and laundry detergents contain bleach, ammonia and other chemicals that our companions breathe in, walk on and lick from their paws.  Keeping the floors clean is important since the dirt tracked in from outside likely contains heavy metals and other toxins, but using more natural cleaning products will keep the household healthier.  Plug-in air fresheners are another source of indoor pollution – they may smell nice, but the petrochemicals that carry that scent offer a constant dose of toxins to your companion.

6. Limit Vaccinations. Many holistic veterinarians agree that over-vaccination is a significant contributor to the rising rates of chronic disease and cancer in cats and dogs.  A limited vaccine program is highly recommended– and is especially important if your pet belongs to any of the breeds known to be more susceptible to cancer and chronic disease.

7. Medicate Wisely, and Minimally. Antibiotics and steroids are necessary tools in any veterinarian’s trade, but they are quite often overused.  Repeated rounds of antibiotics to address chronic urinary tract issues, or steroids to treat itchy skin and allergies, tax the immune system – sometimes leaving the animal susceptible to greater health problems than it started with.  A natural approach to chronic health issues begins with a natural, raw diet and involves supporting the animal’s system in its healing process from within, avoiding suppression of symptoms with medications as much as possible.

8. Exercise. Moderate exercise has been shown to improve immune factors in humans and animals.  Natural light is also important, so walks in the great outdoors are the best option for dogs and outdoor cats.  Indoor cats should be provided with plenty of toys and climbing structures.

9. Control Weight. Keeping your pet’s weight under control is also key – overweight animals are much more susceptible to chronic and acute diseases and infections. A healthy diet of raw, minimally processed food (point 1 in my previous post) often helps animals maintain a healthy weight.

10. Minimize Stress. Stress affects animals the same way it affects us – weakening the immune system.  Dogs and cats with anxiety issues of any kind need assistance in moderating their fears.  Flower Essences, Homeopathic Remedies and Herbal Remedies can be highly beneficial for animals with anxiety problems or that are under stress.  Behavioral modification training is essential for dogs with anxiety; and environmental alterations such as separate territories for cats that do not get along well, or additional litter boxes and cat trees or safe resting areas can make a big difference for anxious cats.

Article reposted from:
By Melissa Grosjean

What is a Biopsy and When Might Your Dog Need it?

June 27th, 2015

When your dog has a mass (something unexpected in or on his body), one of the decisions you will need to make with your veterinarian is whether you should remove and test it, or test a piece of it first, and then remove it. Regardless of which option you choose, testing a piece of a mass is called a “biopsy.”

How is a biopsy performed?

A biopsy is performed by removing a small portion of the mass and sending it to a pathologist. A veterinary pathologist is a veterinary specialist who reads microscopic preparations (cells or tissue on a slide). A few specialty practices, and all veterinary schools, have a pathologist on staff. Most other practices will send the samples to an outside lab. Depending on the sample and the lab, you will typically receive results an average of 7-10 days after the procedure. A biopsy is performed under sedation or general anesthesia in most cases. Small samples can sometimes be collected after local anesthesia is used, e.g., a skin biopsy.

Click here to learn about anesthesia safety and myths.

Why might your veterinarian suggest that a mass be removed after a biopsy?

Depending on the location of the mass, it may be challenging to safely remove (excise) it in its entirety.

If a microscopic examination reveals that the mass is cancerous (malignant), your veterinarian will want to remove as much of it as possible — even if it means removing healthy tissues beyond the mass (in every direction). This can be difficult, if not impossible, in some areas where there is little extra skin (such as the foot or the leg) but it will be very important to keep the cancer from spreading.

However, if the biopsy reveals that the mass is benign, then less healthy tissue needs to be removed. In this situation, the biopsy will change the invasiveness of the surgery.

Why might your veterinarian suggest that a mass be removed before a biopsy?

When a mass is small, it may not be much more invasive to remove it completely than to take a biopsy first. The smaller the mass, the easier it is to remove, meaning a less invasive surgery for your dog and a smaller bill for you.

Delaying treatment by performing a biopsy first is not always ideal either. Even if a mass is benign, if it’s causing a blockage or mobility issues, it should be removed right away. In these cases, since a biopsy would not change the immediate treatment plan, it is reasonable, if not advisable, to go straight to surgery.

For very aggressive masses, actively bleeding masses or rapidly declining patients, delaying treatment is again not recommended. Waiting 7-10 days for biopsy results could make the difference between life and death, or could cause additional suffering. Performing a biopsy and then removing it also means that your dog will be undergoing anesthesia twice in a short period of time. If your dog is healthy, the risk is minimal. But if your dog is sick, your veterinarian may decide it’s safer to opt for removal without a preliminary biopsy to minimize the potential of anesthetic complications.

Performing a biopsy first and surgery later is also more costly. Click here to learn about pet insurance so that you are never put in a position where finances keep your pet from the best possible care.

Pet biopsy decision tips

  • As with all medical decisions, discuss the pros and cons of each option with your veterinarian or surgeon to choose the best treatment plan for your particular dog. Ask questions, weigh your options and make sure you feel comfortable with your decision.
  • If you want to have a mass removed completely, regardless of what it is (benign or malignant) there is no sense in performing a biopsy before the mass is removed
  • If biopsy results will change your decision or will change the surgeon’s procedure, then a biopsy should be taken first
  • Whether the biopsy is performed before or after surgery, it should always be performed so we know what the growth is. If it is cancerous, there may be other things we can do to help beyond surgery. If it is benign, then we can rejoice!

If your dog has a mass, ask your veterinarian the following questions:

  • Should we perform a biopsy first?
  • Is the biopsy going to change what we do?
  • Can we afford to wait for the results of the biopsy?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

Dog Tumors of the Eye - Understanding Your Pet's Melanoma

June 25th, 2015

If your veterinarian has told you that your dog has cancer of the eye, you’re probably feeling scared, overwhelmed, worried and confused. What are dog tumors of the eye, what causes them and what sort of treatment can help? This information will help you understand this condition and what your veterinarian can do.

What are Melanocytic Eye Tumors?

Melanocytes are simply cells that make melanin, a pigment, and melanocytic tumors are formed by abnormal melanocytes. Melanoma (also called malignant melanoma or melanosarcoma) is a tumor that spreads, while melanocytoma refers to benign, non-spreading tumors.

The most common types of dog tumors of the eye are those that start in the iris, and they usually start out as benign. Eyelid, limbal, choroid and conjunctival tumors are rare, and only conjunctival tumors are malignant.

What Causes Dog Cancer?

The causes for dog cancer of any kind are not very straightforward, just as with people. While humans often develop melanoma through environmental and host factors, dogs with a lot of pigmentation are most affected by tumors. Your dog’s genetic makeup and heavy pigmentation is probably the biggest predisposing factor.

Symptoms of an Eye Tumor in Your Dog

Not all tumors of the eye will be apparent, or display symptoms. When symptoms are present, you may notice the following:

• Blood in the eye

• Increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma)

• Inflammation of the eye

• Irregular pupil

• A visible pigmented (colored) mass

• Pigmented mass on the scheral (white part of the eye) or corneal (transparent part of the eye) area of the eye

• Bulging or sunken eye

Diagnosis of Canine Eye Tumors

Tumors of the eye are usually visible using an ophthalmoscope. Accurate diagnosis, however, depends upon a microscopic examination of the tissue, and your veterinarian may use a couple methods to get a tissue sample, such as a biopsy, cellular aspirate or full excision.

How are Dog Eye Tumors Treated?

Melanocytic tumors in dogs that show in different parts of the eye require different treatment. With conjunctival tumors, which are typically malignant, dog eye surgery is the treatment of choice to remove the entire eye. Limbal tumors are also treated with dog eye surgery, but this option allows for surgical excision without removing the entire eye. Some tumors in dogs require more extensive surgery.

Surgery is still the best option for tumors, and there hasn’t been much progress with other types of treatments. Sometimes chemotherapy is recommended for certain types of cancer in dogs, such as intraocular lymphosarcoma.


Unfortunately, pain is common with dogs with cancer, and some types of tumors cause more pain than others. Untreated, tumors will decrease your pet’s quality of life and prolong recovery and treatment.

The prognosis for your dog will depend on the type of eye tumor they have, and how soon it’s discovered and treated. Eyelid tumors, for example, are usually benign and have an excellent prognosis, while the prognosis for malignant tumors is more guarded.

Article reposted from:

The Ethics of Cancer Treatment For Dogs

June 23rd, 2015

There are varying opinions concerning the ethics of canine cancer treatment. One of the reasons many people give for this line of thinking is the opinion the money on research and cancer treatment should be directed toward humans rather than animals. While this may appear to be a realistic line of thinking, the reality is that veterinary hospitals work completely separate from hospitals that treat people. In addition, the work oncologists do treating animals provides more knowledge and a better understanding of cancer, a step that can only help provide more effective cancer treatment for humans.

Another reason people give for feeling cancer treatment for dogs is unethical is because they have the misconception that animals endure the same side effects of chemotherapy that humans do. In humans the treatment is more invasive because oncologists are attempting to kill the cancer where canine oncologists are working toward slowing the spread of the cancer rather than killing the cancer cells completely. In some types of cancer the only solution is amputation, and only those who are directly involved can decide if the loss of a dog’s limb is too unpleasant for either dog or owner to accept. Strangely, people do not have as much reluctance about treating dogs for other severe conditions including kidney failure or heart disease even though the treatments seldom provide the quality of life a dog acquires following cancer treatment. In fact, the side effects from the treatment of many of these potentially debilitating conditions are often worse than the side effects of canine cancer treatment.

Another reason some people believe treating animals for cancer is unethical is because they believe there is very little extra time added to the dogs lives. Any treatment is a gamble, even for humans—there are many cases of people who undergo invasive chemotherapy and radiation and still do sometimes only live a few months because the cancer is so aggressive and quick moving. There is never a way to determine with any degree of certainty how much longer your dog will live if you agree to treat him for his cancer. However, if you don’t provide some kind of treatment for malignant dog carcinoma, it is unlikely they will survive more than a few months. In addition, you may be lucky enough to discover the tumor is benign and will not cause any additional harm to your dog.

Article reposted from:

How high-tech treatments add hope, and cost, to keeping a sick pet alive

June 22nd, 2015

If your golden retriever was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, you were likely given two options: chemotherapy or compassionate euthanasia. Today, you may have access to a variety of advanced treatments, such as stents that deliver high doses of chemotherapy straight to the cancerous growth, the injection of tiny beads that block the tumor’s blood supply or precise radiation guided by high-definition imagery. You may even be able to take advantage of what many veterinary oncologists consider the holy grail: new immunotherapies that harness your pet’s immune system to launch an attack on cancerous cells.

Veterinary assistants Cory Wakamatsu, left, and Talon McKee prep Coach, a year-old Bernese mountain dog, for surgery with Brynn Schmidt, lead anesthesia technician, right, at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. (Christina House, For the Los Angeles Times)

“That’s what is so cool about this,” says Dr. John Chretin, head of oncology at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Not only are there more treatment options available, but “nowadays, we’re getting better at predicting which cancers will do better with minimal therapy or if we need to break out the big guns.”

Cancer treatment is one area that has seen a huge transformation — in part because of new imaging techniques that allow veterinarians to know exactly what they’re dealing with. But high-definition imaging has also allowed for the development of minimally invasive procedures used to treat such conditions as kidney stones, collapsed airways, blood clots and broken bones.

High-tech tools that are standard equipment in human medicine, such as MRI machines, CT scanners and specialized scopes, have only recently become more widely used in veterinary medicine.

“We have the same technology available as human medicine; the only limiting factor is the cost,” says Dr. David Proulx, head of radiation oncology at California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad. Medical equipment costs the same whether you use it on a person or a poodle, so most veterinary practices can’t afford to invest in the latest machines. However, as human facilities upgrade to newer, better machines, veterinary hospitals can buy secondhand equipment.

There are far fewer research studies in veterinary medicine than there are in human medicine, Proulx says. Because drug companies don’t make high profits from investing in veterinary treatments and government agencies are focused on human medicine, very little funding goes toward veterinary research. The exception is when animal model studies can be applied to human medicine — but even then, once trials have shown a medication to be effective in pets, drug companies don’t often make the product available for veterinarians to use. They simply move on to developing the drug to market for humans.

And when new treatments are available, they often come at a high cost — raising difficult questions for pet owners. Few have pet insurance, and those who do have policies may find that they have high deductibles or are reimbursed for only a small percentage of expensive procedures. In the face of lifesaving treatments that may cost upward of $10,000, even those who can afford to foot the bill may struggle with the question of how much their canine companion’s life is worth.

The proliferation of options is what is so exciting about the recent developments in veterinary medicine, Chretin says. “Now we can say, ‘Your dog has lymphoma.’ We can give standard treatment with medicine. Or we can do antibody therapy in addition to chemotherapy. Or we can go crazy with a [bone marrow] transplant. If it’s an older dog, or the owner doesn’t have enough money, we can go more conservative.”

Here is a glimpse into some treatments that have the potential to add high-quality years to your animal companions’ lives:

Bone marrow transplant

As far as cutting-edge treatments go, this is one of the most sophisticated available. Because it’s so specialized and expensive (about $20,000), it’s not very accessible to most pet owners. But it offers a potential cure for lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Chretin is one of the few veterinarians in the country who does bone marrow transplants. The procedure is exactly the same as that done in humans, he says. First, a dog is treated with a high dose of chemotherapy and a hormone that causes stem cells to release from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. A couple of weeks later, the dog is hooked up to a blood-separating machine that collects stem cells from the blood. The next day, the dog is treated with total-body radiation to wipe out all the white blood cells and, afterward, the harvested cells are infused back into the dog, where they will regenerate white blood cells in a, hopefully, cancer-free environment. The cure rate is about 40%.

CyberKnife radiation

Because radiation doesn’t distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells, there is typically a limit to how much can be used without damaging healthy body tissues. CyberKnife is a system of robotic radiosurgery that delivers radiation so precisely that patients can tolerate a much higher dose with few side effects. While the machine takes continuous X-rays of a patient, a robotic arm delivers beamlets of radiation from 140 angles, all of which converge on the tumor with an accuracy of less than 1 millimeter. Because it is so precise, the veterinarian must know exactly where the tumor is located, says Proulx, who is one of only a handful of veterinarians in the world who are using CyberKnife in pets. “Not all pets and tumors are candidates, but we’ve certainly seen that in dogs with brain tumors we’ve been able to double the survival time.” The procedure costs approximately $12,000.

Stem cell therapy

Stem cell therapy is one facet of veterinary medicine that has been pioneered ahead of human medicine. Dr. Nicole Buote, chief of surgery at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, uses stem cells harvested from fat to help pets that suffer from arthritis, torn tendons and degenerative spinal problems. She harvests patients’ belly fat laparoscopically from a 2 centimeter incision, then sends the tissue off to VetStem, a company in San Diego, where it is processed with enzymes that separate fat cells from stem cells. VetStem banks some of the stem cells and sends the rest back to Buote. She can either inject the stem cells into a patient’s joint or administer them through an IV, where they travel through the bloodstream and home in on areas of inflammation. They work both mechanically and chemically, by rebuilding new tissue in damaged areas as well as shutting down chemical processes that cause damage. Though stem cell therapy in humans has recently come under the scrutiny of the FDA, several studies have shown that stem cells extracted from fat tissue are effective in relieving arthritis and torn tendons in dogs and horses.

“This is not magic — it’s not going to make a 10-year-old dog like a 1-year-old dog. But stem cells can stop inflammation in joints and can start to heal some of the tissues,” Buote says. The initial harvesting and treatment cost is $2,500, with subsequent injections every three to six months, at about $200 per treatment. (The stem cell banking fee is free the first year, then $150 annually.)

Melanoma vaccine

The melanoma vaccine is another area where veterinary medicine is ahead of human medicine — and one that may have future human applications. Melanoma, a cancer of the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), is one of the most common cancers found in dogs. Unlike in people, in dogs it has nothing to do with sun exposure and is usually found in the mouth. Since the melanoma vaccine is not preventive, the name is a bit of a misnomer, Proulx says. Sold under the trade name Oncept, it’s used to lengthen survival time after a patient has undergone surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The treatment is a form of immunotherapy, in which a strand of DNA that’s encoded for a protein normally found only on melanocytes is injected into a dog. The protein stimulates an increased immune response in the dog, tricking its immune system into attacking the cancerous melanocytes. Oncept costs about $2,800 for a series of four shots.

Hormonal implants

If regular veterinary medicine is behind human medicine in terms of technological advances, exotic animal medicine is medicine’s forgotten stepchild. There are very few research studies on exotic species, and those that are available are often limited to a single species. “A tortoise is not a snake, is not a lizard, is not a frog — and, even among one of those groups, they’re all different species, from different countries,” says Dr. Amy Wells, an exotic vet at the Avian and Exotic Clinic of Monterey. Plus, she adds, most pet owners are not willing to pay as much money to save the life of their iguana or parakeet as they would for their dog. So groundbreaking treatments in exotic animal medicine are a little less dramatic.

But one recent innovation has been able to span many species. Deslorelin is a contraceptive hormone that has been formulated into a sustained-release implant and is widely used as birth control in zoos. Only within the last couple of years has it become commercially available in the exotic pet market. The size of a rice grain, the implant is inserted beneath the skin with a wide-gauge needle. Over time the implant releases deslorelin, which acts on the pituitary gland to shut down the cascade of circulating reproductive hormones. Wells uses it to treat adrenal gland disease in ferrets, as well as to relieve parrots suffering from sexual frustration — often self-mutilating and becoming aggressive to their owners — when they are kept in captivity without a mate. She also frequently implants deslorelin in backyard chickens to prevent oviduct impaction — a life-threatening condition that occurs when eggs get backed up in the reproductive system and which costs about $1,000 to surgically repair. The implant costs $200 and lasts four to six months in a chicken; parrots should have a replacement implant yearly, ideally before the breeding season begins.

Article reposted from:
By Lily Dayton

Committing to a Dog After Cancer

June 18th, 2015

Leap Year Day, 1986: I drove up to a ramshackle house in Berkeley to pick out my first dog. It was a month before my two-year cancer anniversary, at which point I would be considered “cured,” and I was ready to make a commitment – to life, longevity and a puppy.

Steven and Billie, 1998

In a local paper I had seen an ad for a litter of cocker spaniels; among the nine pups I watched the runt get trampled over and pushed aside from the kibble. Too small for the forces stacked against her, but determined to stay in the game, the little female struck a chord in me. “That’s my dog,” I said as I paid two Benjamins for her. I know it sounds treacly, but it truly was “puppy love” at first sight.

It didn’t matter a bit to me that she was fully accredited by the American Kennel Club (which I figure is akin to being a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution). I was much more enthralled by her political lineage. Her “mother” and “father” had joined many Vietnam-era protests. Soon enough, this little dog would make her debut in San Francisco’s Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade.

For 13 years, “Billie” was the four-legged love of my life. She was fearless: On hot days, she would leap into our backyard pool and then paddle to the steps, climb out, and do it all over again. She was peripatetic: Over her lifetime she obtained elite status on United, having flown miles and miles in the airline’s friendly skies. And she was smart: able to open doors with a single paw.

Billie was also ahead of her time, with two dads long before that became downright cool. Still trend-setting in her middle years, she became a poster pup for joint custody when I moved to the East Coast for a new job. When the New York gig fizzled, Billie and I moved back to the Bay Area.

Then, one night I noticed that she was rubbing her right eye with her paw, as though she had a bad headache. A quick look showed something was terribly amiss; the eye had clouded over. An emergency call to the vet only heightened my anxiety. “Bring her in first thing,” he told me. After a cursory exam the next morning, he delivered the bleak news: “Glaucoma.” The pressure in her eye had already destroyed her optic nerve.

Within the year, the retina in her good eye detached and she went completely blind just as I was moving into a new apartment. It pained me to see her crash into unfamiliar walls and furniture. But Billie remained fearless — and proved resilient — and she soon figured out how to maneuver her way around these new obstacle courses.

Just before holidays that year I happened to kick an old tennis ball across the living room. Billie took off after it and wandered back to me with it in her mouth. I repeated the experiment and then called the vet, who told me I was suffering from “wishful thinking.” I brought her in for an exam and he put her through her paces in his office – including the ball toss. When he had finished, he came to me, tears in his eyes, saying, “This really is a Christmas miracle.” The retina had spontaneously reattached.

A year later, I took Billie back to the dog hospital one last time. Days earlier they had found a mass in her belly, and I knew it was time to bid farewell.

Thirteen years together. During that time, our thrice-daily walking routine helped me come out of my cancer fog. Day-by-day, walk-by-walk, I came to realize I would likely achieve a normal life expectancy. My commitment to this four-legged HAD led to a happy marriage with a two-legged.

After Billie was gone I never thought I would have another dog, much less one I could love so completely. Then, suddenly, it turned out I was single again; I thought I would remain that way for years to come.

Steven and Max, 2009

But five months later, I found myself making the trek to a small house surrounded by a white picket fence with a heart-shaped wreath on the front gate. There, a 5-year-old cocker named Max who needed a new home, overjoyed by my attention but seemingly terrified of his own clipped tail, jumped all over me. Unlike Billie, this big lug of a cocker had no particular lineage and struck me as kind of low-I.Q. It was not love at first sight.

I told the owner I would think about it and drove away, expecting to forget about Max.

Within hours came an insistent call from Max’s owner: “If you don’t take him by the morning we’re going to put him down.” Well, when he puts it like that, what can I do? I said out loud to myself. Despite my misgivings I went back to pick him up.

Max soon confirmed that he wasn’t “gifted.” On a hike, he watched a horse trot by from right to left. Once off the leash, he tore off in pursuit – in the completely wrong direction. City life didn’t prove much easier. Barely a month later I came home to find Max breathing rapidly as though his heart was ready to explode. The one-pound box of dark chocolates, now empty, gave him away. At the E.R., I sat vigil through a touch-and-go night. A mere $2,000 later we came home, and what did Max do? He went directly to the trash bin and to pull out the chocolate box. My little genius.

However, I was finding that Max needed me in a way Billie never had. And through our various trials I came to love Max, too – not like Billie; in some ways it felt like a betrayal of Billie. But about this time I remembered an old folk song, with old folk wisdom, called “Magic Penny”:

Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away. Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.

Indeed, in giving my love to Billie, it had opened me up to having more.

Toward the end of Max’s days, I took him to an alternative medicine vet in search of help for a bulging disk, since he was now too old for back surgery. Silently, I watched her place each of the two dozen needles into his head, back and legs. Within moments, my frightened old fella had calmed down and lay quietly on the soft bed in the exam room. I did, too, ostensibly to make sure he didn’t jump up and shake out all the needles. But really, I wanted to hold him, to protect him – indeed, to love him – every moment that I could. I thought to myself with amazement as we lay there in the dark: “I love him completely, and completely differently.”

And when he died not long after, I thought how lucky I was to have loved twice like that. Different loves, yes. Each one complete in its own way. Time may have its limits, but love apparently doesn’t. Oh, and along the way I found another spouse. Years later we are still together, with photos of Billie and Max in the house – along with a crazy but brilliant Jack Russell terrier. But that’s another story.

Article reposted from:
By Steven Petrow | New York Times

Understanding Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs and Cats

June 16th, 2015

Hemangiosarcoma strikes like a lightning bolt. One minute your pet is fine and the next, he has collapsed from internal bleeding. As an oncologist, I rarely see this tumor until after the emergency room has corrected the internal hemorrhage via surgery and the biopsy report comes back. Because hemangiosarcoma is not an uncommon tumor, especially for some popular breeds of dog, here are some facts you ought to know.

Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers and German Shepherds are at higher risk for developing hemangiosarcoma. Photo Credit: Thinkstock

What Is Hemangiosarcoma?

Cancer is an uncontrolled proliferation of cells that have the potential to spread throughout the body. We often think of cancer as arising from various organs in the body: breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer. Hemangiosarcoma is a malignancy originating in an organ system we don’t think much about: the circulatory system, and specifically, blood vessels. The name of this tumor comes from the Greek word for blood vessel, hemangio, and sarcoma, the word for a malignancy derived from connective tissues like blood vessels.

Where Does It Occur?

Hemangiosarcoma arises from the highly specialized delivery system for blood. Since blood vessels are located all over the body, this cancer can – and does – develop everywhere. Despite the widespread nature of blood vessels, there are specific sites in the body where this cancer is most likely to occur: spleen, liver, heart and skin. Because hemangiosarcoma is a malignancy, meaning that it can invade and destroy nearby tissue and metastasize to other sites, this cancer can rapidly spread diffusely throughout the body – often before we can detect the presence of the tumor. For this reason, it is not one of my favorite tumors.

Who Is at Risk?

Both dogs and cats can suffer from hemangiosarcoma but the disease is far more common in dogs than in cats. Estimates suggest greater than 50,000 cases occur in dogs annually in the United States. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers and German Shepherds are at higher risk for developing this malignancy.

What Are the Signs?

Pets with hemangiosarcoma may look deceptively normal until one of the cancerous blood vessels in the tumor ruptures. Then, in a heartbeat, your pet can go from looking normal to being in a state of collapse and shock. Blood can build up in the abdomen if the tumor arises from the spleen or liver and around the heart if the tumor arises from that organ. In either case, massive hemorrhage from the tumor’s abnormal blood vessels makes life-saving emergency surgery to remove the bleeding tumor a necessity in many cases.

How Can Hemangiosarcoma Be Detected?

Recognizing hemangiosarcoma before it spreads is a tall order. Hemangiosarcoma of the skin may look and feel like a fatty tumor (which is not malignant). Fine needle aspiration, a procedure in which a thin needle is used to draw fluid or cells from a lump or mass under the skin, may just reveal blood, but to me, this situation would put me on alert for a diagnosis of cutaneous hemangiosarcoma. Early detection of this tumor is nearly impossible when it occurs in an internal organ like the heart or spleen, because its signs are very subtle. Your pet’s annual physical examination, where your veterinarian does a nose-to-tail evaluation, may allow a splenic mass to be detected during abdominal palpation, but only if it is large enough to be detected in this way. Blood tests obtained at the annual check-up may reveal an unexplained anemia, but they also may be completely normal. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays and ultrasound, may also lead to the discovery of hemangiosarcoma.

How Is It Treated?

The first steps in treating hemangiosarcoma involve surgery to remove the bleeding tumor and a biopsy of the excised tissue to confirm the diagnosis. Once your pet has recovered from surgery, a consultation with a veterinary oncologist (cancer specialist) will help define the role of chemotherapy in your pet’s treatment. Chemotherapy is often recommended to slow the spread of cancer throughout the body. Surgery as the sole treatment results in about a 3-month average survival; the addition of chemotherapy can double that expected survival time for many dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma, the most common location for the tumor. Unfortunately, due to its subtle nature, hemangiosarcoma is sometimes detected so late that treatment options can be very limited.

Why Isn’t the Prognosis Better?

Current investigation into the DNA abnormalities underlying hemangiosarcoma indicates that this tumor has cells that are more resistant to cancer treatments than the average cancer cell. Another line of research suggests that the immune system of certain breeds, like the Golden Retriever, has a decreased ability to recognize and clear cancer cells from the body, leading to the breed’s increased risk for hemangiosarcoma. These facts now give veterinary researchers targets for potential therapies and pet owners hope for new treatments in the future.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus