Canine cancer has no early warning system. So many times when you hear canine cancer stories, you hear the words, “My dog never showed any signs of sickness” or “It took him from me so fast.” As performance dog owners, we are very alert to who our dog is and his “normal” way of acting as well as what’s going on with his body. It is because we are so aware, many times we can spot trouble brewing and do something about it. This month we are going to talk about a few things you can look for on a monthly basis. I also want to share Nia’s survivor story with you, as she found the cancer in the most unusual way.
Have you ever looked at your dog when he is acting just a little funny or different and thought if he’s still doing that next week, I’m taking him to the vet? Or have you ever been annoyed by a needy behavior or annoying behavior and tried to correct it? Nia’s mom, Joella Collier-Flory, spent several days watching a behavior before she finally listened to her English Cocker. “Our English Cocker Spaniel Joss started bothering Nia, our German Shorthaired Pointer, by smelling and poking her with his nose, always in the same spot. Following each poke, he would stare at me, and then go back to poking her. Scolding him didn’t work, so off to the tub Nia went. Figuring I had finally solved the problem, Joss would no longer be in the doghouse and Nia and I could relax.
After the bath, he was just as insistent and growing more so at this specific spot on her body. Since he was so insistent, I finally took a minute to look at where he was poking. I found that there was a slightly raised small round dark freckle on her abdomen at the base of her vulva. It was so small, I never would have felt or seen it. When your dog keeps doing something over and over while stopping in between to look at you like you’re not listening, it’s time to take him seriously. Within 36 hours we were at the veterinarian’s office and the spot was now a long, dark, thin cylindrical growth, about 300% larger than before. Nia was diagnosed with cutaneous malignant melanoma, the rarest of the three types of melanoma. She went through two surgeries, blood tests, ultrasounds, various medications, and needle biopsies. Today, Nia is clear and I have to thank our vet and oncologist for all their help, information, and support. And I have promised Joss to never doubt him again.”
Cancer pops up when you least expect it. Take time to examine your dog each month for any new lumps or bumps. Other things you can do to create your own “early warning system” for cancer are to watch for a change of attitude, loss of appetite or weight loss, bleeding from any body opening, persistent lameness or stiffness, or a loss of interest in working with you. Heeding these early warnings might make the difference in a treatment working or finding out there is nothing you can do. Enjoy your dogs but don’t forget to check them thoroughly and educate others about how to look for signs that something might be wrong.
Gary D. Nice
President and co-founder