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

Why are golden retrievers so susceptible to cancer: particularly lymphoma?

September 17th, 2014

We don’t yet know exactly why 60% of golden retrievers will get cancer. We know this is about twice the rate for other dogs and we know it is definitely genetic. What we don’t know yet is which specific genes are involved.

We also don’t know why golden retrievers from the U.S. are more likely to end up with a form of cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Or why golden retrievers from the U.K. are more likely to get lymphoma. (Genetics almost certainly explains most of this difference too.)

Undoubtedly we will one day know all of these things. Dogs within a single breed are so alike genetically that it should be possible to find the responsible gene(s). Unfortunately, this inbreeding is also why golden retrievers get cancer so often in the first place.

Of course inbreeding doesn’t always mean an increased risk for cancer. If that were the case, then all purebred dogs would have around the same cancer risk. They don’t. But most of them do have other breed-specific health problems related to their inbreeding.

For example, golden retrievers get cancer. German shepherds suffer hip problems. Bulldogs have skin problems. Dalmatians get kidney stones. And so on.

Poor thing has a 60% chance of getting cancer.

The particular health problems a purebred dog has depends on its selected traits and what disease genes its founding ancestors were unlucky enough to have. The last part is called the “founder effect” and it happens in people too.

Basically the founding dogs of the golden retriever breed happened to have genes that increased their risk for cancer. Since all golden retrievers come from these founders and no new genes are being added to the gene pool, the cancer causing genes are recycled over and over in the population. For now, cancer is trapped in the golden retriever gene pool.

Everyone has Disease Genes

It isn’t surprising that the ancestors of all golden retrievers had genes that increased their risk for getting cancer. Every animal (including dogs and people) have a few deadly genetic diseases lurking in their DNA. Two things keep us all from being riddled with those diseases though.

First, we tend to all have different sets of disease causing gene versions. And second, these diseases usually require that you get the bum gene from both mom and dad.

We are all carriers for 5-10 genetic diseases.

So to end up with a disease, both parents have to have a copy of the disease-causing gene version AND they both have to pass it down to you. This tends not to be very common unless the parents are related.

Related animals share more genes in common. This means that if they have kids, they are more likely to pass on many of the same gene versions including those that cause disease. The end result is increased risk for the diseases that run in that family.

This risk increases even more if the parents are very closely related. For example, if they are inbred for tens or hundreds of generations.

Golden retrievers, like every other pure breed of dogs, undoubtedly started from a small group of ancestors. Some of these dogs had a version of a gene that increased their risk for cancer. They passed this risk down to their pups. And down to every generation to the present day.

Since dog breeds started from so few ancestors such a short time ago, all dogs within a breed are essentially related. In nature this problem is usually solved by breeding outside of the family. But this isn’t possible if a dog is to remain a purebred.

Goldens with Less Cancer

As I hinted at in the previous section, an obvious answer to solving golden retrievers’ cancer problems is to stop the inbreeding. Simply breed golden retrievers with other dogs and in a few generations, the risk should drop down to normal levels. Of course then you’d lose some of the traits that people want in a golden retriever.

Another possibility is to find the gene involved, find golden retrievers that lack the gene version that increases their cancer risk, and breed only those dogs lacking the problem gene. The new golden retriever breed would then only have the usual 33% chance of getting cancer.

This sounds great in theory but may not be possible in practice. First off, it may be that golden retrievers all have two copies of the gene version that increases their risk for cancer. If this is the case, then it may not be easy to find any golden retrievers that don’t have the trouble gene.

A second reason is that the disease version of the gene might be involved in some trait that makes a golden retriever a golden retriever (think golden coat). If this is the case, then if you breed out the disease, you end up with a dog that isn’t a golden retriever anymore.

These issues sound theoretical, but they aren’t. Something very similar happened with Dalmatians.

Dalmatians are especially prone to kidney stones instead of cancer. Researchers found that all Dalmatians had two copies of the version of the gene that led to kidney stones meaning there was no easy way to breed it away.

It isn't possible to separate spots from kidney stones.

Breeders tried to engineer a Dalmatian without the kidney stone version of the gene by breeding them with the closely related Pointer. Eventually, through lots of breeding back with Dalmations, they got a dog that looked very much like a Dalmatian that didn’t suffer from kidney stones. Except that its spots were never quite right.

Further study showed that Dalmatian spotting depended on the version of the gene that led to kidney stones. Get rid of kidney stones and you don’t have a true Dalmatian anymore. If something similar is happening in golden retrievers, it may not be possible to make a golden retriever less cancer prone.

What this all means is that even if breeders find the responsible gene, they may not be able to do anything about golden retrievers’ increased cancer risk if they want to keep the golden retriever breed as is. Luckily for the dogs, having a gene version that increases your risk for cancer does not mean you will for sure get cancer.

Cancer Genes

For the most part, people and dogs do not inherit genes that cause cancer. Instead they get genes that make them more likely to develop the disease.

What this means is that even if a dog inherits a gene like this, it won’t get cancer for sure. And a pet owner may be able to make getting the cancer less likely by controlling the animal’s environment.

Cancer starts when a gene goes haywire and causes a cell to grow when it shouldn’t (or to not die when it should). The gene goes bad because it gets damaged or mutated.

We can't avoid some damage to our DNA.

This mutation can come from the environment. That’s why sunlight and certain chemicals can cause cancer. So if an owner keeps a dog away from harmful chemicals and other mutagens, it can decrease the dog’s chances for cancer. But it won’t eliminate them.

Mutations can also happen by accident when our cells are dividing. Each time a cell divides, it has to copy its DNA. Cells are very good at copying their DNA, but they aren’t perfect. The occasional mistake slips through.

If that mistake is in a gene that controls growth, then the cell will grow uncontrollably. But this is usually only a problem if the mistake happens in both copies of a dog’s (or person’s) genes.

Animals that are at an increased risk for cancer often have one of their growth genes pre-mutated. This means they need just one mutation to end up with cancer. This is why they tend to get cancer both more often and at a younger age.

So even if golden retrievers end up with the “bad” version of the gene, they won’t get cancer for sure. They’ll just be at an increased risk.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Dr. D. Barry Starr, Stanford University

Ear inflammation: a common problem in dogs

September 16th, 2014

Ear inflammation, or otitis, is one of the most common medical problems that dogs experience; because there are many causes, it is important to seek veterinary care to prevent severe pain and damage to deeper structures of the ear, which may lead to dizziness and long- term hearing loss.

Inflammation may occur in the outer ear, middle ear or inner ear, known by the medical terms otitis externa, otitis media and otitis interna.

The outer ear comprises the ear canal, which ends at the ear drum. A dog’s ear canal has an “L” shape and can be quite sensitive. For this reason, a professional evaluation with an otoscope is required to safely examine the entire ear canal and ear drum. The structures of the middle and inner ear are behind the ear drum and contain nerves for hearing, balance, and appropriate facial movement.

Allergies are the most common cause of ear inflammation and infection in dogs. These patients may show skin problems, but some dogs manifest allergy as otitis alone.

Other causes of otitis are parasites, plant material, trauma, tumors and hormone problems.

What symptoms will a dog with otitis show?

  • Persistent or aggressive rubbing and scratching at the ears
  • Changes in ear position
  • Shaking of the head, head tilt or head-shy behavior
  • Redness, discharge, swelling or malodor
  • Dogs with allergies may also lick, bite, chew or rub the skin.

The diagnostic and treatment plan recommended by your veterinarian typically involves examination of the ear canals with a scope and sampling of ear exudate. The exudate is examined microscopically for bacteria and yeast.

For severe, long-standing cases, X-rays or CT scan may be recommended, as well as deep-ear cleaning under anesthesia to assess and treat the deeper structures of the ear.

Treatment for infection and inflammation often involves application of medications in the ear. Cleaning may also be recommended.

For dogs with no history of otitis, routine ear cleaning is not required.

When administering ear medication, remember:

  • Apply only medications or treatments recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Do not place cotton-tipped applicators or any other instruments in your dog’s ears. These can irritate the ear canal, push material closer to the ear drum, and can even cause painful rupture of the ear drum.

Tips for successfully administering ear cleansers and medicated drops:

  • Two people may make the job easier, with one to hold the dog and the other to apply medication.
  • Many dogs tolerate ear medication well. Help them by offering a treat, praise, or a positive activity afterwards.
  • Consider application outdoors or in a non-carpeted area as the job might be messy.
  • When cleaning the ears, place applicator nozzle just inside the ear opening. Gently fill the ear canal with the cleansing liquid. Gently massage the base of the ears. Allow dog to shake out contents. Use a soft cloth to wipe the ear flap. Use a cotton ball moistened with alcohol to cleanse the tip of the applicator after use.
  • With ear drops, locate the ear canal opening and provide the volume recommended by your veterinarian; gently massage the base of the ear. If you find it hard to count drops, err on the side of more medication.
  • It is normal for dogs to shake their heads or scratch their ears right after application.
  • Medicate for the full recommended time, as your dog’s ear is likely to look and feel better before the infection is entirely resolved.

Always contact your veterinarian if the problem worsens, or if your dog is too painful, fearful or aggressive to safely apply medication. Follow up with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is responding appropriately.

While otitis is a common problem, you can safely help your dog with veterinary exam and careful treatment.

Article reposted from:
Written by: Dr. Jennifer Schissler Pendergraft • A veterinary dermatologist who works in the Dermatology & Otology unit of Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Compound Derived From a Mushroom Lengthens Survival Time in Dogs with Cancer

September 12th, 2014

Dogs with hemangiosarcoma that were treated with a compound derived from the Coriolus versicolor mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease. These promising findings offer hope that the compound may one day offer cancer patients – human and canine alike – a viable alternative or complementary treatment to traditional chemotherapies.

The study was conducted by two University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine faculty. Dorothy Cimino Brown is professor and chair of the Department of Clinical Studies and director of the Veterinary Clinical Investigation Center. Jennifer Reetz is an attending radiologist in the Department of Clinical Studies. They published their findings in an open-access article in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The Coriolus versicolor mushroom, known commonly as the Yunzhi mushroom, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. The compound in the mushroom that is believed to have immune-boosting properties is polysaccharopeptide, or PSP. In the last two decades, some studies have suggested that PSP also has a tumor-fighting effect.

“There have been a series of studies looking at groups of people with cancer,” Cimino Brown said. “The issue with those studies is that they weren’t necessarily measuring what most people would think is the most clinically important result, which is, do people taking PSP live longer?”

To address this critical question, Cimino Brown and Reetz pursued a study in dogs with naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive, invasive cancer that arises from the blood cells and typically affects the spleen. It commonly strikes golden retrievers and German shepherds.

Fifteen dogs that had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma participated in the trial. Divided into three groups of five, each group received a different dose – 25, 50 or 100 mg/kg/day — of I’m-Yunity, a formulation of PSP that has been tested for consistency and good manufacturing processes.

The owners were instructed to give their dog capsules of I’m-Yunity, compounded by Penn pharmacists, daily. Each month, the owners brought their dogs to Penn’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital for follow-up visits. There, the researchers took blood samples and conducted ultrasounds to determine the extent that tumors developed or grew and spread in the dogs’ bodies.

Based on the ultimate endpoints – how quickly the tumors progressed and how long the dogs actually lived — the results of the researchers’ trial suggest that the I’m-Yunity was effectively fighting the tumors.

“We were shocked,” Cimino Brown said. “Prior to this, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that underwent no further treatment was 86 days. We had dogs that lived beyond a year with nothing other than this mushroom as treatment.”

There were not statistically significant differences in survival between the three dosage groups, though the median survival time was highest in the 100 mg group, at 199 days, eclipsing the previously reported median survival time.

The results were so surprising, in fact, that the researchers asked Penn Vet pathologists to recheck the dogs’ tissue biopsies to make sure that the dogs really had the disease.

“They reread the samples and said, yes, it’s really hemangiosarcoma,” Cimino Brown said.

Chemotherapy is available for treating hemangiosarcoma, but many owners opt not to pursue that treatment once their dog is diagnosed.

“It doesn’t hugely increase survival, it’s expensive and it means a lot of back and forth to the vet for the dog,” Cimino Brown said. “So you have to figure in quality of life.”

While I’m-Yunity is not inexpensive, if proven effective, it would offer owners a way of extending their pet’s life without regular trips to the vet. As an added benefit, Cimino Brown and Reetz have found no evidence of adverse effects from the PSP treatment.

The researchers are now getting ready to pursue further trials of I’m-Yunity in dogs with hemangiosarcoma to confirm and refine their results. One trial will compare I’m-Yunity to a placebo for those owners who opt not to pursue chemotherapy in their pet and another will compare the compound to standard-of-care chemotherapy.

Depending on those results, veterinarians could eventually prescribe the compound for treating hemangiosarcoma, and perhaps other cancers, in dogs. The company that manufacturers I’m-Yunity may also pursue large-scale clinical trials in humans.

“Although hemangiosarcoma is a very sad and devastating disease,” Cimino Brown said, “in the long term, if we prove that this works, this treatment can be a really nice alternative for owners to have increased quality time with their pet at the end of its life.”

News reposted from:

Hair Loss in Dogs

September 10th, 2014

What is Alopecia?

Alopecia is the medical term for partial or complete hair loss. Alopecia is almost always a symptom of an underlying disease or condition. Thus, if your dog is suffering from alopecia, it is important to seek veterinary attention for your dog.

Alopecia is categorized in different ways depending on how and where the hair loss occurs. Localized alopecia means that the hair loss is only in one area on your dog. Symmetrical alopecia is when alopecia occurs in the same area on both sides of your dog’s body. Multifocal alopecia means that the hair loss occurs in multiple distinct regions on your dog. Generalized alopecia, also known as diffuse alopecia, is when the hair loss occurs all over your dog’s body. There is also a type of alopecia called coat funk or alopecia x that appears to have a genetic link. Alopecia x is a rare condition, but when it occurs it tends to impact certain breeds more frequently such as Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, Samoyeds and Siberian Huskies. Finally There is an inherited condition called color-dilution alopecia which causes bilateral hair loss generally on your dog’s trunk. Color-dilution alopecia tends to impact dogs with fawn or blue coats, and is actually a type of follicular dysplasia.

What will alopecia look like in my dog?

Your dog will be missing hair.

How does my dog get alopecia?

Alopecia can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions including allergies, parasites such as sarcoptic mange, pyoderma, hair follicle disorders, autoimmune diseases, endocrine diseases such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism, or nutritional deficiencies. Alopecia can also be caused by reactions to certain medications or by your dog’s excessive licking, biting or scratching of a particular body part.

How is alopecia diagnosed?

Your vet will want to know all about your dog’s diet, behavioral tendencies (if your dog bites or scratches his body a lot, for example), and what medications or supplements you give your dog. Your vet will also want to know when you first noticed the alopecia, and, if it is spreading, how quickly it has spread thus far. The breed of dog you have will also help your vet to figure out which underlying disease your dog has because many hair loss disorders are specific to certain breeds. Your vet will then likely take a sample of the impacted area of your dog via a skin scraping or biopsy.

Dog Alopecia Treatment

Treatment is determined based on the cause of the alopecia. In some instances of alopecia, the hair will not grow back.

Preventing Alopecia in Canines

Preventing alopecia is dependent upon whether the root cause of the alopecia is preventable.

Article reposted from:

Dog Eye Infection: 3 Primary Health Risks for Your Dog

September 9th, 2014

A nasty dog eye infection may begin as a simple allergic reaction to ragweed and before you know it you may find your sweet dog in your home with blood all over her paws and face. Then you would need to drive 30 miles on a Sunday to an emergency animal hospital and be told by the doctor your dog has a more serious problem underneath her eye that will cost you $3,000.

This news brief gives you 3 primary health risks related to your dog’s eye infection and one dog parent’s painful experience with a dog eye infection in their dog’s eye.

3 Primary Health Risks Related to Your Dog’s Eye Infection:

  1. Abscess – The most common result of your dog’s body’s defensive reaction to an infection is an abscess.  White blood cells rush to your dog’s eye infection to fight bacteria and produce enzymes that attack the germ by digesting it.  Sometimes, your dog’s blood cells will collect in a pocket of pus in your dog’s tissues, organs or in confined spaces under your dog’s eye.
  2. Immune system – A weak immune system can make your dog prone to abscesses.  This means that your dog can develop an abscess around her teeth roots and anal sacs as well as her eyes.  Common causes of a weak immune system are Diabetes, Cushing Disease, chemotherapy and steroids.
  3. Blindness – Your dog can permanently harm her vision when she scratches the delicate surface of her eyes.

5 Symptoms of an Abscess in Your Dog’s Body:-

  1. Subcutaneous abscess – Your dog will have a warm, soft lump under her skin that may be painful to the touch as a result of a dog eye infection.
  2. Rupture – Your dog’s abscess may open up and form a draining hole in your dog’s skin.
  3. Lethargy – Your dog will be extremely weak with no desire to move around or play.
  4. Fever – Your dog will develop a high fever and pant more than usual.
  5. Excessive pawing and licking – Your dog may scratch or lick the abscess near her eye and cause more damage to the affected area.

3 Treatments for Your Dog’s Abscess in her Eye:

  1. Drainage – Your veterinarian’s first goal is to clean out the pus from your dog’s infection.  This includes lancing and draining your dog’s abscess and may require temporary drain tubes.
  2. Surgery – Your dog may require surgery to clean out an abscess under your dog’s eye.
  3. Antibiotics – Your dog will require antibiotics and pain medication after surgery to prevent any recurring infection

One Dog Parent’s Painful Experience with Their Dog’s Eye Infection:

Sandy and Nat recently adopted Laurie, a 7 year old collie from her owner who could no longer take care of her.  Laurie developed an eye infection from an allergic reaction to ragweed and about a week later, Nat and Sandy came home from church and found Laurie with blood all over her face and paws.  The skin around Laurie’s eye was raw and there was thick yellow liquid around the edges of her eye.

Here’s what they did to help Laurie’s dog eye infection:

  • Laurie was driven to the Emergency Animal Hospital.
  • Laurie was treated for an abscess under her eye and kept overnight on an IV, antibiotics and pain medication.
  • Laurie had a CT scan before her surgery to make sure she didn’t have a tumor.
  • Laurie’s estimate for treatment and surgery to remove her abscess was $3,000.
  • Laurie had to wear a collar for a week while the drain inserted by the surgeon allows the infection to leave her body.
  • Laurie was put on 4 different dog medications for pain, sedation, inflammation and antibiotics.

This news brief gives you 3 primary health risks which can be caused by your dog’s eye infection and how you can help your dog heal from an abscess under her eye.  I also shared with you one dog parent’s painful experience with their dog, Laurie.

Share this news brief with your friends and family so they will know what to do if their dog has an eye infection or an abscess under their dog’s eye.  You can always depend on the best dog health strategies from Dog Health News.

Article reposted from:
Author: Roberta Chadis

My Dog Has Cancer: What Do I Need to Know?

September 8th, 2014

Any pet owner who has been told their animal has cancer knows the two emotions: anxiety for the beloved pet’s life, and hope for an effective treatment.

“Many people consider their dogs and cats members of the family,” says Food and Drug Administration veterinarian Lisa Troutman. “Just as FDA reviews drugs for humans for safety and effectiveness before they can go on the market, the agency does the same for treatments for animals.”

Take, for instance, cancer, which accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Although pets of any age can have cancer, the longer they live, the greater the likelihood of developing it. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans.

“Pets are living longer because of preventative health care. And we’re able to diagnose cancers earlier. As a result there is an increased need for better cancer treatments,” Troutman notes.

Until very recently, the only drugs available to treat cancer in animals were those approved for use in humans. But in the last few years, veterinary drug sponsors (the pharmaceutical companies developing the drugs) have brought to market treatments meant specifically for animals.

Troutman explains that “FDA works closely with these companies to discuss how they can demonstrate that their innovative veterinary drugs are safe and effective, and to address questions that arise during the development process.”

FDA Evaluates Safety and Effectiveness of Medicines

To evaluate the safety of any new veterinary drug, companies typically conduct a study in a small number of healthy animals in the same species that the drug is intended for (for example, if the drug is for dogs, it will be tried first in healthy dogs). The findings help the veterinarian anticipate potential side effects when the drug is used to treat a patient and help minimize adverse events that might affect the pet’s quality of life.

Companies also must show in controlled studies that the drug works—that it is effective when used according to the label. For example, for a drug intended for a particular kind of cancer, companies typically run a clinical trial at multiple animal hospitals where pets are being treated for that cancer. In these studies, the patients may receive either the drug being studied or a control. Although the owners and veterinarians are aware that their pets and patients could receive either the experimental drug or the control — a placebo — they don’t know which treatment they actually get. In either case, owners have the option to drop out of a study at any time.

When the goal is to treat a form of cancer that affects smaller numbers of animals, drug companies can use a pathway called conditional approval to bring drug treatments to market more quickly. Conditional approval allows a company to make its drug available to patients after proving the drug fully meets the FDA standard for safety, and showing that there is a reasonable expectation that the treatment is effective.

“Often small exploratory studies are conducted to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness,” Troutman says.

Conditional approvals have both pros and cons. On the plus side, they allow sponsors to provide patients quicker access to innovative treatments without waiting for the development of evidence of effectiveness that would satisfy the requirement for a full approval.

“On the other hand, because the studies used to support a reasonable expectation of effectiveness are small, the drugs may not turn out to be effective when they are used in greater numbers of animals,” Troutman says.

FDA may allow, through annual renewals, the conditionally-approved products to stay on the market for up to five years while the company collects the required effectiveness data to support a new animal drug application for full approval. Conditional approval automatically expires at the end of five years and the drug is removed from the market if the company has not fully demonstrated that the drug is effective.

FDA-Approved Drugs for Cancer in Dogs

Troutman says that sponsors are continuing to develop innovative treatments for different types of cancer in dogs.

“We’re looking at therapies that are more targeted now,” she says. Scientists are identifying proteins or other substances unique to cancer cells and developing treatments that target those substances without harming healthy cells.

FDA has approved three drugs, two of them conditionally, to treat cancer in dogs:

  • Palladia (toceranib phosphate), for the treatment of mast cell tumors, was approved in 2009;
  • Kinavet-CA1 (masitinib mesylate), for the treatment of mast cell tumors, was conditionally approved in 2010; and
  • Paccal Vet-CA1 (paclitaxel for injection), for the treatment of mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, was conditionally approved in 2014.

To date, there are no FDA-approved treatments for cancer in cats. Most cancer treatments for dogs and cats use drugs that FDA has approved for use in humans.

What are the Warning Signs?

The warning signs of cancer in dogs are similar to those in people, Troutman says: a lump or bump, a wound that doesn’t heal, any kind of swelling, abnormal bleeding. But generally, a pet owner should keep an eye out for what Troutman calls “the basics —changes in the normal functions of eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and sleeping —and contact their veterinarian if they have concerns.

“Emotional state, such as being withdrawn and irritable, can be another sign,” she says.

Both general veterinary practitioners and veterinary oncologists, as well as other specialists, treat cancer in cats and dogs. In general, veterinary practitioners work with veterinary oncologists to provide the diagnosis and the follow-up care for the pet during treatment, which may include blood work and imaging (such as x-rays or ultrasound examinations) to monitor the animal’s progress.

There’s a fundamental difference between treating cancer in pets versus people. “Side effects from cancer treatment are usually fewer than those seen in people, and veterinarians work very hard to manage those side effects and maintain quality of life,” Troutman says. “There are even drugs that have been brought to market with the intent of managing common side effects, like vomiting.”

Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian

Questions that pet owners may want to ask their veterinarian and veterinary oncologist when their pet has been diagnosed with cancer include:

  • What treatments are available?
  • What is the prognosis with each treatment?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment and how will they affect my pet’s quality of life?
  • How long will I need to treat my pet?
  • What is the cost of each treatment?
  • How many visits back to the veterinarian are needed?

Pet owners who want to investigate clinical trials for their animal can use the Veterinary Cancer Society’s searchable database at

Article reposted from:

Ask the Vet: Health benefits of spaying your dog

September 7th, 2014

I recently got Chloe, a purebred Golden Retriever puppy. I might want to have puppies someday. What are the pros and cons of spaying her?

Puppies are a big responsibility. It takes time and effort to be sure that they are healthy and find appropriate homes. In addition, the birth process can have unforeseen complications that would require emergency veterinary care for either Chloe or the puppies.

Photo courtesy: The Desert Sun

There are some significant ‘pros’ for spaying Chloe.

Spaying a female dog before her first heat can greatly reduce the risk of getting mammary cancer. A normal dog will go into heat between 6 and 8 months old, and we usually recommend a spay at that time. The benefit of spaying to prevent cancer decreases with each consecutive heat cycle.

An unspayed female dog can develop an infected pus-filled uterus (called a pyometra). This condition is life threatening and requires an emergency spay. We recently had a 48-pound dog with a pyometra, and the uterus weighed 8 pounds! A normal uterus weighs less than a pound. This surgery also costs much more than a regular spay.

Lastly, spaying your dog can prevent an unwanted pregnancy. A female in heat is a strong attraction to male dogs and you might end up with an unknown mix of puppies. There are millions of dogs in shelters, many from accidental pregnancies.

The ‘cons’ to spaying are less drastic.

Research has indicated that spaying a large breed dog before one year old may affect bone or cartilage development. This needs to be weighed against the ‘pros’ for spaying, and you should discuss this further with your veterinarian.

A spayed female may gain weight after her operation. Like any dog, it is important to monitor her food intake and be sure that she gets plenty of exercise. Weight gain is not unavoidable in that many spayed dogs are in great shape.

As you can see, there are good medical reasons to spay Chloe. Plus, unless you are an experienced breeder with a good network of potential homes, having a litter of puppies can be overwhelming for most people.


The article is written by veterinarians at VCA Desert Animal Hospital, 4229 E. Ramon Road in Palm Springs. If you have a question, email abigail.cutler@vcahospitals

Article reposted from:

Original post by: Dr. Gail Cutler

Love your dog? Learn the 10Ls

September 5th, 2014

At the beginning of each month, remember to Feel Your Dog for the 10 L’s and report anything unusual to your vet. We want you to have many happy years with your best friend!

Early Warning Signs in Dog Cancer

1. Lumps

Not all lumps and bumps are cancerous in dogs. There are sebaceous cysts, lipomas, and warts all of which are benign but if you detect a growth on your dog it’s important to have it checked out by a veterinarian and if warranted, aspirated and biopsied.

2. Lesions

Scratches and abscesses are not uncommon for the normal, active dog but the sores that don’t heal can be of concern.

3. Lameness

Bone cancer is typically found in larger breed dogs like Great Danes, Bernese Mountain dogs, Rottweilers, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, and Great Pyrenees and the primary early indication is prolonged limping or favoring a limb or side. Other types of cancers can also cause persistent lameness.

4. Appetite Loss

If your dog shows no interest in eating or their daily consumption has declined for several days, take them to a vet.

5. Lethargy

Tiring out easily, unwillingness to exercise and loss of interest in normal daily activities can be an early sign of cancer.

6. Weight Loss

Not to be confused with loss of appetite. Cachexia, or emaciation, is often associated with cancer and can occur even if your dog is still eating normally. So if your dog is inexplicably losing weight, consult a veterinarian.

7. Loud Odor

A very strong and offensive smell can sometimes be a byproduct of tumors in the mouth and nasal cavity.

8. Loss of Normal Body Functions

Dogs having difficulty voiding or defecation or unusual urine or feces should be looked at.

9. Bleeding or Bloody Discharge

Blood present in vomit, stool, and nasal discharge are cause for serious concern and although not always telltale signs of cancer, your dog should be examined as soon as possible.

10. Labored Breathing

Abnormal respiration or respiratory distress can be a symptom of cancers in dogs.

Article reposted from:

Global snapshot of infectious canine cancer shows how to control the disease

September 4th, 2014

Research published in BMC Veterinary Research could assist veterinarians and policy-makers in the future. In this guest post, Andrea Strakova describes the history and distribution of canine cancer, an infectious disease that not only infects ‘man’s best friend’ but threatens the existence of the Tasmanian devil. In Fighting a contagious cancer, Fellow researcher, Elizabeth Murchison, speaks about the fight to save the Taz.

Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor (CTVT) is a canine infectious disease that results in the appearance of tumors, usually associated with the external genitalia, in both male and female dogs. It is one of only two known naturally occurring clonally transmissible cancers, which are spread by the transfer of living cancer cells between individuals. CTVT is usually spread during mating, possibly facilitated by injuries incurred during coitus.

CTVT originally arose as a cancer in one dog that lived approximately 11,000 years ago and has since survived as a clonal lineage by transmitting through the dog population as an infectious disease. It is striking that since the emergence of this cancer in a single dog, its cells have efficiently colonized dog populations throughout the world. Although previous studies had indicated the broad distribution of CTVT, our current study has provided the most comprehensive information so far regarding the distribution of the disease.

To investigate the current global distribution of the disease, we performed a crowdsourcing study by soliciting CTVT information from veterinarians around the world. The responses to this survey, received from 645 individuals in 109 countries, indicated that CTVT is endemic in at least 90 countries worldwide. The extraordinary efficiency of CTVT’s global spread was highlighted by its presence in some of the world’s most isolated communities and islands, including the Solomon Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Reunion, Mauritius, several islands in Micronesia, remote parts of Siberia, Indian reservations in Arizona and North Dakota and Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia.

Furthermore, our study also revealed that although CTVT has spread worldwide, its prevalence rarely appears to rise above 10% in affected dog populations, suggesting that only a proportion of dogs may be susceptible to CTVT infection at any one time. This contrasts with the epidemiological patterns observed in the only other known naturally occurring contagious cancer, the transmissible facial tumor affecting Tasmanian devils, in which the disease prevalence usually rises above 50% and causes population collapse.

The information on worldwide distribution and prevalence of CTVT provided as a result of our survey is of importance to veterinarians and dog owners in many countries worldwide, as although CTVT can usually be effectively treated, lack of awareness of the disease and poor access to veterinary care can cause CTVT to become a welfare concern.

Additionally, our study has implicated free-roaming dogs as a reservoir for the disease and has shown that the disease was eradicated in the UK during the twentieth century as an unintentional result of the introduction of dog control policies. We also found that dog spaying and neutering are associated with lower CTVT prevalence, further highlighting the possible health benefits of dog sterilization.

Our results add to the existing body of evidence which suggests that careful management of free-roaming dog populations, as well as the inclusion of CTVT in dog import/export quarantine policies, may help to control CTVT spread.

In the future, further studies into the pathogenesis and spread of CTVT may lead to improved methods for disease prevention, detection, monitoring and treatment. In addition, greater understanding of the adaptations that have allowed this unique long-lived cancer to efficiently colonize the world’s dog population, may shed light on the evolutionary processes underpinning cancer more generally.

Article reposted from:

Written by: Alanna Orpen
More research information: The changing global distribution and prevalence of canine transmissible venereal tumor. Andrea Strakova and Elizabeth Murchison, BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10: 168, DOI: 10.1186/s12917-014-0168-9