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

Beat the heat with pet safety tips

July 31st, 2015

Sunny, warm days bring the opportunity to change up your routine and spend more time outdoors with your pets. However, soaring temperatures bring risks from heat and sun exposure, making your furry friends rely on you to help keep them healthy and safe.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Make these warm-weather adjustments to keep your pets in top condition and ready to enjoy all the season has to offer with these safety tips from PetSmart experts:

  • Keep them hydrated. Dehydration and heatstroke can be fatal to pets, so access to a clean water bowl both inside and outside is critical in the summertime. While you’re on the go, be sure to bring water for your pet in a suitable drinking container.
  • Serve up healthy meals. Warmer weather invites opportunities, such as enticing picnic spreads, for pets to nab tasty treats. Protect your pet’s health by preventing them from ingesting food intended for humans, and opt instead for food and treats that fit their special needs and preferences.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car. Studies show that on a hot day, the temperature inside a car can reach more than 160 degrees in five minutes. Leaving the windows cracked for fresh air or parking in the shade don’t keep temperatures from soaring in record time, either. Leaving pets in the car “just for a minute” is never a good idea.
  • Groom regularly. One of the best ways to keep a dog’s coat healthy and help prevent matting and summertime skin irritation is regular grooming. The right grooming tool can dramatically reduce shedding by removing the undercoat and loose hair without sacrificing the healthy top coat.
  • Provide skin protection. Just like humans, dogs can experience sunburn and even skin cancer. To prevent sunburn, apply a sunscreen where hair is thin and skin lacks pigment (nose, ears and sensitive areas) every day your dog is outside.
  • Avoid hot surfaces. Dogs’ pads may seem tough, but sidewalks, pavement and sand can get so hot in the summer that dogs’ feet can burn and blister. To prevent this, schedule walks for the morning or evening, when sidewalks are cooler, or purchase protective boots designed just for dogs.
  • Practice smart snacking. After exercising and in between meals, a sensible snack can provide a boost of energy. Treats such as Dental Chews do double duty by giving a little help with oral care between brushing.
  • Provide outdoor relief. The best spot for your pet to cool off in the yard is a shaded grassy area because grass releases moisture and keeps your pet cooler than concrete, dirt or gravel. For added comfort, provide a raised bed that increases the flow of cooler air underneath the bed mat to help your pet beat the heat.
  • Keep water safety top of mind. Even if you consider your dog a good swimmer, a life jacket is very important if you take him with you on the boat or trips to the beach.

Article reposted from:
Source: PetSmart

How long do dogs live and common dog health problems

July 29th, 2015

Almost a quarter of British households own a dog – man’s best friend indeed. With such variation of types, breeds and sizes, we feel owners should be able to find out how long their dog may live, and what health problems they could encounter in their lifetime.

That’s one of the reasons why we’ve funded an important VetCompass PhD project to collect information on inherited diseases and dog life expectancy.

The following infographics reveal how long our dogs may live, and identify the most common conditions that dogs in England experience today.

How long will your dog live?

The fact is, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will live way beyond the average life expectancy for their breed, whereas sadly, some can fall short. This can be for many reasons, often beyond an owner’s control.

The study hasn’t only uncovered the average life expectancy of breeds such as labrador retrievers, collies, jack russells and chihuahuas, but it reveals the main causes of death in elderly dogs, and also reasons for death in young dogs under three years old.

We’ve also revealed the answer to the age-old question: do crossbreeds tend to live longer than purebred dogs? Take a look at the infographic for the answer and tips to help your dog live longer:

(Click image for larger view)

Common dog illnesses

Understanding common dog health problems is important for pet owners. Essentially, knowing what dog illnesses could lie ahead will help you take preventative action, or spot the symptoms sooner, so that your dog can live a longer, happier and healthier life with you.

Of a sample of almost 4,000 dogs, over 75 per cent had at least one disorder diagnosed. What’s more, although it varied between individual breeds, three of the top 20 disorders were more common in purebred dogs .

The huge variation of health concerns for our beloved family pets makes it even more apparent how vital it is to protect our dogs with pet insurance – because frankly, we never know what might happen to them.

To see the most common diagnoses for our dogs and some health care tips, check out the infographic:

(Click image for larger view)

These new infographics were created as a result of working alongside the Royal Veterinary College, and the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Medivet Veterinary Partnership.

Article reposted from:
Posted by RSPCA Official

Hannah is still battling cancer, but so far she is winning the battle

July 27th, 2015

There are some stories that absolutely break your heart, and yet as sad as they are, something good comes out of them.

Hannah and her six puppies were found in the middle of a rainstorm, shoved into a tiny cat carrier and left out in the cold. After the puppies were all adopted, the woman who found Hannah adopted her, but Hannah’s journey was far from over. After Hannah’s mom became homeless, the sweet dog was was sent to a shelter — and then it was discovered that she had cancer.

While she was rescued from the high-kill shelter and sent to a clinic that could treat her cancer, she never made it there due to travel issues and ended up in New York City in the hands of Second Chance Rescue.

Volunteers from the group who came to get her ended up taking her in, much to Hannah’s delight. Unfortunately, her cancer has progressed and regressed since she made it to her new home, and she has also lost her eye because of the disease. Poor Hannah is quite the fighter!

Despite her struggles, Hannah’s sweet demeanor has never changed — and she’s even been able to change a few lives along the way.

Hannah now has a foster sister, Mama, and the two are basically inseparable. “Wherever Mama is, Hannah is right behind her,” Kelcy Kimmerer of Second Chance Rescue told The Dodo. “They sleep together and are starting to be in tandem in the ‘up to no good’ department. The holistic vet thinks that Mama is a huge factor in Hannah’s healing. Hannah is happiest when she is with Mama.”

Hannah has since gone into schools to teach kids about humane education and rescue. After one visit, a parent contacted Second Chance Rescue to tell them about the way Hannah had affected one student, the rescue group told The Dodo. A 9-year-old boy heard his parents talking about buying a dog and, after having met Hannah, completely pitched a fit.

“They were going for a poodle but he wanted a shelter dog like the very soft and friendly Hannah,” Kelcy told The Dodo. “They agreed and visited a few shelters out around the Hamptons and have now added a rescue pup to the family.”

Now, whenever the little boy hears people talking about dogs, he won’t stop ranting about how amazing adoption is and how wonderful his rescue pup, named Linda, is for him and his family. Hannah, a rescue dog who has hit struggle after struggle, brought this little boy and his own rescue pup together. Hannah helped rescue another dog just like herself.

Hannah’s story is heartbreaking, but through it all, she is still changing lives every day. Hannah is still battling cancer, but so far she is winning the battle. Her struggle is far from over, but at least now she has people who love her and can help her through. “We will continue to fight the cancer battle with Hannah for as long as it takes,” Kelcy said. “She has taught us so much.”

Thank you for changing lives, Hannah. Our thoughts are with you!

Story reposted from:
By Caitlin Jill Anders
Image credit: Kelcy Kimmerer

July 22, 2015

Four common types of pet cancer

July 23rd, 2015
  1. Mammary gland cancer. Mammary gland or breast cancer is common in both dogs and cats. It is the most common tumor found in female dogs and the third most common in cats. One of the presumed and much-touted benefits of early spaying of female pets is a decreased risk of mammary gland cancer. However, a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Small Animal Practice found that insufficient evidence exists that spaying at any age reduces the risk of mammary cancer.
  2. Lymphoma. Lymphoma is an incurable cancer of the lymph system, which is part of the immune system. In cats, one in three cancer diagnoses is lymphoma, most often of the GI tract. Dogs also develop lymphoma. To avoid contributing to your dog’s or cat’s lymphoma risk, make sure your pet isn’t exposed to cigarette smoke or lawn pesticides, especially those applied by professional lawn care companies.
  3. Mast cell tumors. The most common type of skin cancer in pets is mast cell tumor (MCT). MCT is much more prevalent in dogs than in cats. In cats, mast cell tumors are most often seen in the skin of the head or neck, but they can occur anywhere in the body. Cats with these tumors are usually middle-age or older. Unfortunately, kitties with mast cell tumors on the inside of their bodies — typically in the GI tract or the spleen — carry a much poorer prognosis than tumors occurring on the skin. In dogs, mast cell tumors are most often found on the trunk, limbs, and in between the toes. Prognosis depends on the tumor location, the extent of the tumor, the grade, and the type of treatment given. Mast cell tumors of the skin are very different in dogs than cats. Surgery to remove the tumor is less invasive in cats, and the prognosis for a full recovery is much better in cats than in dogs. Mast cell tumors with generally poor prognosis are those on the muscle, around the mouth or in internal organs, in the bloodstream or bone marrow, and ulcerated tumors. Mast cell tumors that cause GI ulceration or are large, fast-growing, or recurring also carry a much poorer prognosis.
  4. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma).Osteosarcoma is a common and aggressive bone cancer that invades the long bones of large and giant breed dogs. Even with amputation of the affected limb and chemotherapy, which is the current standard of treatment, the average survival rate is only about a year.

10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Pets

According to the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, the top 10 warning signs of cancer in pets are:

  1. Unusual swellings that don’t go away or that grow. The best way to discover lumps, bumps, or swelling on your dog or cat is to pet him.
  2. Sores that won’t heal. Non-healing sores can be a sign of infection or cancer and should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
  3. Weight loss. Illness could be the reason your pet is losing weight but isn’t on a diet.
  4. Loss of appetite. Reluctance or refusal to eat is another sign of possible illness.
  5. Bleeding or discharge. Bleeding can occur for a number of reasons, most of which signal a problem. Unexplained vomiting and diarrhea are considered abnormal discharges, as well.
  6. Offensive smell. An unpleasant odor is a common sign of tumors of the anus, mouth, or nose.
  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing. This is a common sign of cancers of the mouth or neck.
  8. Reluctance to exercise or low energy level. This is often one of the first signs that a pet is not feeling well.
  9. Persistent lameness. There can be many causes of lameness, including nerve, muscle, or bone cancer.
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating. These symptoms should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Tips for Reducing Your Pet’s Cancer Risk

  • Don’t allow your pet to become overweight. Studies show that restricting the amount of calories an animal eats prevents and/or delays the progression of tumor development across species.Fewer calories cause the cells of the body to block tumor growth, whereas too many calories can lead to obesity, and obesity is closely linked to increased cancer risk in humans. There is a connection between too much glucose, increased insulin sensitivity, inflammation, and oxidative stress – all factors in obesity – and cancer.It’s important to remember that fat doesn’t just sit on your pet’s body harmlessly. It produces inflammation that can promote tumor development.
  • Feed an anti-inflammatory diet. Anything that creates or promotes inflammation in the body increases the risk for cancer. Current research suggests cancer is actually a chronic inflammatory disease. The inflammatory process creates an environment in which abnormal cells proliferate. Cancer cells require the glucose in carbohydrates to grow and multiply, so you want to limit or eliminate that cancer energy source. Carbs to remove from your pet’s diet include processed grains, fruits with fructose, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Keep in mind that all dry pet food contains some form of starch. It may be grain-free, but it can’t be starch-free because it’s not possible to manufacture kibble without using some type of starch. Cancer cells generally can’t use dietary fats for energy, so appropriate amounts of good-quality fats are nutritionally healthy. Another major contributor to inflammatory conditions is a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3s. Omega-6s increase inflammation while the omega-3s do the reverse. Processed pet food is typically loaded with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s. A healthy diet for your pet – one that is anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer – consists of real, whole foods, preferably raw. It should be high in high-quality protein, including muscle meat, organs, and bone. It should include moderate amounts of animal fat and high levels of EPA and DHA (omega-3 fatty acids, such as krill oil), a few fresh cut veggies and a bit of fruit. This species-appropriate diet is high in moisture content and contains no grains or starches. I also recommend adding a vitamin/mineral supplement and a few beneficial supplements like pro-biotic, digestive enzymes, and super green foods.
  • Reduce or eliminate your pet’s exposure to toxins. These include chemical pesticides like flea and tick preventives, lawn chemicals (weed killers, herbicides, etc.), tobacco smoke, flame retardants, and household cleaners (detergents, soaps, cleansers, dryer sheets, and room deodorizers). Because we live in a toxic world and avoiding all chemical exposure is nearly impossible, offer a periodic detoxification protocol to your pets.
  • Allow your dog to remain intact (not neutered or spayed), at least until the age of 18 months to two years. Studies have linked spaying and neutering to increasing cancer rates in dogs. A 2002 study established an increased risk of osteosarcoma in both male and female Rottweiler’s neutered or spayed before the age of one year. Another study showed the risk of bone cancer in neutered or spayed large purebred dogs was twice that of intact dogs.
  • Refuse unnecessary vaccinations. Vaccine protocols should be tailored to minimize risk and maximize protection, taking into account the species, breed, background, nutritional status, and overall vitality of your pet.

Article reposted from:
by Lawrence

Cancer in Dogs Offers Insights for Humans

July 21st, 2015

Cancer in Dogs Offers Insights for Humans

Days after agreeing to address a two-day workshop on how clinical studies for pets with naturally occurring tumors can be integrated into developing drugs for human cancers, the topic hit home in the worst way for J. Leonard (Len) Lichtenfeld, M.D.

Dogs develop cancer as they age, just like people. (iStock/© moxumbic)

Dr. Lichtenfeld, deputy CMO for the national office of the American Cancer Society, learned that his 11-year-old golden retriever, Lily, developed swelling in her face. The next day, Dr. Lichtenfeld’s family veterinarian delivered the sad news: Lily had lymphoma. A week later, a mass found on her back leg turned out to be a sarcoma. Early last month, Lily died peacefully.

“This became, quite frankly, very personal,” Dr. Lichtenfeld told attendees June 9 at the workshop’s wrap-up session, the grief audible in his voice.

The next day, he shared the story on his blog. “Our family is still mourning the loss of our lovely Lily. She was so much a part of our lives with a docile demeanor that made her very special and very much loved,” Dr. Lichtenfeld wrote. “The question becomes for us and for so many who have had similar experiences: What can we do to honor those precious lives which gave us so much unconditional love? Is there an opportunity to make life better for our companions and at the same time inform the human condition?”

Answers to those questions will emerge, researchers hope, through comparative oncology, the branch of cancer research focused on studying naturally occurring cancer models in pets, then applying what is learned from them to human cancer R&D.

Acknowledging the progress and addressing the challenges of comparative oncology was the goal of the workshop, hosted by the Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum. Twenty-one researchers and other stakeholders led attendees in identifying two priorities for veterinary oncology research: more fully characterizing the genetic makeup of tumors in both dogs and people, and further investigating the role of cancer immunology in dogs.

Cancer Commonalities

Dogs appear to be ideal pets for such research, since strong similarities in the genetic aberrations and gene-expression patterns of dog and human cancers have been confirmed in the decade since the sequencing of the dog genome. Dogs develop cancer as they age, just like people. Because tumors develop spontaneously, the tumor population is heterogeneous, as it is in humans. The size of tumors is similar in both dogs and humans, as is the speed of tumor growth, notes Timothy M. Fan, D.V.M., Ph.D., associate professor of veterinary clinical medicine at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In 2007, Dr. Fan and colleagues began studying the anticancer drug procaspase-activating compound-1 (PAC-1) in pet dogs with naturally occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas. PAC-1 is a small molecule designed to activate procaspase-3 to caspase-3, resulting in apoptosis of cancer cells in patients with advanced malignancies.

PAC-1 was developed by another U-of-I professor, Paul J. Hergenrother, Ph.D., who collaborated with Dr. Fan on testing the drug in canine cancer patients. By itself, PAC-1 exhibits only a modest activity. It appears to be more effective in combination therapy. For example, it enhances the activities of cancer-fighting therapies such as radiation, monoclonal antibodies, and chemotherapy.

One canine patient, an eight-year-old Labrador retriever whose MRI was consistent with meningioma, showed positive results after being treated with a combination of oral PAC-1 and the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.

“We had an over 50% reduction in tumor volume with that combination, which is very unusual,” Dr. Fan told GEN. “We don’t typically see responses in that tumor with a conventional chemotherapeutic agent. When we combined it with PAC-1, we really had a pretty good response. But again, it’s very, very early data.”

It is also too soon, Dr. Fan added, to say whether PAC-1 will prove better at fighting brain cancers than cancers outside the brain, where the compound has also generated promising findings in preliminary studies. In pets with brain cancer, he said, the early positive responses with PAC-1 likely reflect both its ability to get into the brain—it penetrates the blood-brain barrier—and its ability to combine with other anti-brain cancer agents.

Given its favorable characteristic of penetrating into the brain, PAC-1 is now envisioned primarily as a way to treat cancers that affect the brain or central nervous system, Dr. Fan added.

PAC-1 is now the subject of a Phase I trial in humans being sponsored by U of I and a university-launched startup, Vanquish Oncology, which was formed to commercialize targeted cancer therapies. Dr. Hergenrother is a co-founder of Vanquish, for which Dr. Fan is a paid consultant and shareholder.

The trial’s initial study will evaluate PAC-1 in cancer patients without brain involvement. After the completion of that study, the second part of the trial will assess PAC-1 activity in combination with temozolomide for people with glioblastoma multiforme.

Dr. Fan and colleagues hope PAC-1 will prove effective against cancer in people and dogs. Only a handful of cancer drugs are available for canine patients:

  • Palladia (toceranib phosphate), the first canine cancer treatment, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor indicated for mast cell tumors. The drug won FDA approval in 2009 before its current manufacturer, Zoetis, was spun off from Pfizer.
  • Kinavet CA-1 (masitinib mesylate), from AB Science, has conditional FDA approval for use against mast cell tumors.
  • Paccal Vet-CA1 (paclitaxel for injection) has conditional FDA approval for use against mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It was developed by Oasmia Pharmaceutical, which recently regained exclusive global distribution rights from Zoetis. On July 7, Oasmia said that it had established a U.S. sales company to market the drug.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has fully licensed the canine melanoma vaccine Oncept, a xenogeneic DNA expressing the human tyrosinase gene and marketed by Sanofi’s Merial. The USDA has also conditionally licensed a pair of monoclonal antibody therapies marketed by Aratana Therapeutics—AT-005 for T-cell lymphoma, which targets CD-52, and AT-004 for B-cell lymphoma, which targets CD-20.

Developing Best Practices

As trials for new treatment candidates take shape, oncologists will need to agree on best scientific and ethical practices for conducting clinical trials for animal patients, Rodney Page, D.V.M., director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, stated at the workshop.

As with human trials, he said, clinical trials for animals should include peer review; accountability and oversight measures (such as open access to all primary data, including negative data); a trials registry; an informed consent process; a continuous education and improvement process; and best supportive care, including relief of pain and other distressing symptoms.

“[We have an opportunity to] take advantage of…the human regulations for clinical trial conduct that are already in existence,” Dr. Page told GEN. “We don’t have to reinvent many of the wheels.”

According to Dr. Page, the workshop identified two key research priorities:

  1. Better characterize the genetics of cancers in companion animals. Doing so would be similar to creating The Cancer Genome Atlas,” Dr. Page said, referring to the effort aimed at applying genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing, to better understand the molecular basis of human cancer. The Atlas is a joint effort of two NIH divisions, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute.
  2. Further investigate the immune system in the dog. This line of inquiry requires the development of new tools that can reveal how the canine immune system responds to cancer and to certain products.

While investigational drugs have successfully fought cancer in mouse models, only about 1 of every 10 agents that show significant activity in mice will show similar activity in humans. Lab-induced cancers in mice differ greatly from the cancers of people and dogs. And some human cancers seldom occur in dogs, such as the diet-driven colon cancer. Yet researchers are often limited to comparisons with mice and humans, Dr. Page said, given the much bigger “toolbox” of available research.

Mice will continue to be used in cancer research: They are cheaper to raise, they have shorter lifespans, and they can produce specific and uniform genetic traits. PAC-1 is being studied in mice, Dr. Fan said, as well as in vitro in cell cultures combining low levels of the compound with small-molecule inhibitors.

Ultimately, fighting canine cancers and translating those insights to humans will require integrating clinical trials for pets into translational cancer research and development. Coordinating such trials is the work of the Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC), a network of 20 academic comparative oncology centers managed by the Comparative Oncology Program, a resource launched by the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research.

Another consortium valuable to studying canine cancer focuses on tissue and other samples from patients. The not-for-profit Canine Comparative Oncology & Genomics Consortium (CCOGC) operates the Pfizer-CCOGC Biospecimen Repository, which houses more than 60,000 samples across seven spontaneously arising cancers: osteosarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, pulmonary tumors, mast cell tumor, soft tissue sarcomas, and hemangiosarcoma.

Article reposted from:
By Alex Philippidis

When Treating Pet's Cancer, How Much is Too Much?

July 19th, 2015

I regularly face owners who decide not to pursue therapy for pets that have what are considered treatable cancers. The reasons for this choice can stem from concerns for too many vet visits, too much strain for the pet to go through, projection of their own feelings about cancer treatments on their pets, or financial limitations.

Over the course of my career, it hasn’t become any easier to be on the receiving end of those appointments. I want to help all pets with cancer and I want all animals to be afforded the opportunity to undergo the ideal plan to afford them the best chance of survival. Logically, I know this isn’t a realistic expectation. But it’s an accepted part of my job, and it forces me to remain open-minded about my professional goals.

Consider the opposite scenario. Those owners who want to do everything for pets that have been diagnosed with a form of cancer that has no known beneficial therapeutic option, or where we’ve run out of choices with any realistic expectation of helping them fight their disease. Those cases create a different sense of anxiety for my soul.

Practically, this translates into a scenario where the “frontline” therapy fails to keep a patient cancer-free, yet they remain relatively asymptomatic for their condition. I need to be prepared with a back up plan. In those cases, most owners want to know what else can be done to help maintain their pets’ quality of life.

My goal as a veterinarian is to make all decisions about my patient’s care using evidence-based information. I want to be sure the recommendations I present are medically sound and proven to be of a benefit.

Unfortunately, evidence based information is severely lacking in veterinary oncology and a startling amount of choices are made using simple inferences, experience, and logic.

The good news is that the more common cancers (e.g., lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mast cell tumors) do actually have fairly specific preliminary treatment algorithms. Different oncologists will offer subtle variations on the same theme, but for the most part we agree on the same initial plan of attack.

What many owners find confusing is that once we’ve moved past the primary recommendation, there are usually no universally agreed upon “next best” options amongst our oncology community. Just because I possess solid research-based information about how to treat one disease at the onset does not mean there’s enough evidence to support what the next best plan of action could be. The same is true for those cancers with no accepted initial standard of care. For those cases, we just face the confusion a bit earlier on in the plan.

Using an example of a dog with lymphoma, oncologists typically endorse a multi-drug injectable chemotherapy protocol that lasts about 6 months in duration. This plan offers the average patient about 1 – 2 years of survival. Many owners are willing to pursue this plan because of the low chance of side effects and the ability to maintain an excellent quality of life well beyond the treatment period.

However, despite being considered our most valuable and effective protocol, 95% percent of dogs with lymphoma are not cured with this plan. Therefore, more often than not, I need to be prepared to offer owners “something else” to help their pet when the cancer resurfaces.

There are numerous “rescue” protocols for such cases. In actuality, few owners are willing to try such second and third line protocols for their dogs with cancer. Many times they perceive the disease relapse as the real indicator that their pet truly has a fatal disease. Other times, a myriad of emotional, physical, financial, and ethical considerations factor in to the decision making process.

The most difficult scenario occurs when pets are asymptomatic for their disease and I have no suitable options to help them battle their disease. It may seem counterintuitive to feel frustrated at not being able to make an animal that already feels good any different, but it’s a core part of my work.

I want to be able to keep trying to help pets with cancer, not only for their owner’s sake, but also for their own happiness and well being. Even when a diagnosis of a cancer known to be 100% fatal is on the table, if the animal feels good, and the owners are happy with it’s quality of life, then I am always willing to try to come up with an alternative plan.

Sometimes it’s because I want to be able to give owners some form of hope. Other times it’s because I want to try a new therapy or idea and see if it can help. Mostly it’s because I want to be able to kick a patient’s cancer down as much as possible.

I can appreciate how owners might read my honesty as lack of experience, or “hedging” on telling them how we should proceed. Most people I meet prefer the simpler approach to treating their pets’ cancer. They want me to make a recommendation they can agree, or not agree, to follow.

The most important point I can make in any of these scenarios is that “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” This is the phrase I tell all owners when making such difficult choices about their pet’s cancer care.

It’s how I remind everyone involved in the decision making process to keep the right perspective and to make sure we truly first do no harm.

Article reposted from:
Dr. Joanne Intile
Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock

Cody's Rules for Living

July 16th, 2015

My dog just died. She was my daughter, my best friend, my soul sister and my loyal protector. She wanted nothing more than to be near me. Well, actually that’s not true. Chicken, salmon and/or peanut butter would have won out over being near me temporarily, just to be accurate. But being near, and with me, was what she lived for.

RIP Gorgeous Girl “Cody” 6/13/04 - 7/2/15

Cody made it just past her 11th birthday. She had hemangiosarcoma. It’s a particularly aggressive and deadly cancer in dogs and quite common. Apparently 1 in 5 dogs will end up with it. She didn’t know she was sick until just a few hours before she died, so that was merciful. It was harder for us knowing what was ahead.

Sometimes life is just plain hard, like when you lose a loved one. Cody had some rules for living and she wants me to remember them and live by them and she wants me to share them with you. Here they are:

1. Don’t forget to play.

2. Don’t forget to touch each other.

3. Don’t forget to welcome your loved ones when they come home.

4. Don’t forget to exercise.

5. Don’t forget to ask for, OK beg for, what you want.

6. Don’t forget to be present right now. Live the day you’re actually on.

7. Don’t forget to appreciate what your body can do.

8. Don’t forget to cuddle.

9. Don’t forget to rest.

10. Don’t forget to be curious.

11. Don’t forget to be suspicious of strangers.

12. Don’t forget to have fun.

13. Don’t forget to express love and to accept love.

To those of you who have lost a beloved pet, I’m so sorry. I hope to live the lessons Cody taught me and one day, I hope to see her again. She was pure love.

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By Irene Rubaum-Keller

Tips about Cancer Surgery Recovery for Dogs

July 15th, 2015

Deciding what to about Fenway’s cancer was really stressful. We ended up deciding to go ahead and have his tumors removed. They couldn’t be staged until they were out, according to the vet, and so there was a chance that we would go through all the stress of surgery just to find out that he was too far gone.

Luckily for him and all of us, the tumors came out and they were in early stages. The vet also said he got great margins and all of the tumors. I don’t know if the cancer will come back one day, but Fenway is doing great now that he is three weeks out. I wanted to share my learning with you so that you can avoid pitfalls of cancer surgery:

  1. Take the cone off when going home from surgery — I tried to have Fenway jump into our minivan with his cone on when we left the vet. He had never had trouble with jumping into the car before. I mean, car riding is one of his favorite things. Poor thing was sore after surgery and tried to jump into the car and the cone hit the side and he flipped all over the place and out of the car. It was painful and disorienting. If we had just taken the cone off before he got into the car, all would be avoided.
  2. Give pain medication before leaving the vet — Fenway was due to take a dose of pain meds right as we left the vet. I should have insisted they give them to him, because when I got him home he was too disoriented to eat.
  3. Expect a change in personality after anesthesia — Fenway is a nice dog that loves us, but because he was in such pain and unsure about his place in space with the cone on and the pain in his body, he actually tried to bite me for the first time in his life. Fenway took a step when trying to walk and when he hurt, he turned around and snapped at me. I was shocked and upset because he is not a biter.
  4. Consider having your dog spend an extra night at the vet’s — After I realized how much pain Fenway was in and after he tried to bite me, I turned my car around and went right back to the vet’s. He spent an additional night there because he was not ready to be home. When I picked him up the next day, he was in better spirits.
  5. Anti-anxiety meds are your friend — In addition to antibiotics and pain meds, Fenway ended up on anti-anxiety meds because he was upset about the cone and the fact that he had trouble taking stairs. We’ve actually continued having him take them because they have really helped him adjust and be okay if someone leaves the room. Fenway wants to be with us at all times and with his decreased mobility after surgery, he was mightily upset about not being able to follow us everywhere.
  6. Recovery is worse than surgery: Expect it to last two weeks — People think long and hard about surgery, but the real consideration should be recovery. It took Fenway two weeks to completely heal even though staples came out before then.
  7. Your emotions will fluctuate — Expect that you will have trouble seeing metal staples in your dog as well as the blasted plastic cone. It’s very tough to see your dog in pain and to be confused.
  8. You will be up at night — Dogs will need medication at night and you will need to get up and give it to him. Depending on how your dog is, you may need to change their sleeping arrangements due to mobility issues and bleeding concerns, etc. Just an FYI.
  9. Accidents increase — Before the surgery Fenway took five days worth of prednisone. It made him so thirsty that he couldn’t stop drinking. Of course that mean that he needed to pee constantly. He had several accidents before surgery. Then, after surgery, he had a couple poop accidents. Having accidents is something Fenway never did so this was new. Luckily now that he has healed, we’ve had no accidents.
  10. Personalities and routines change, potentially forever — Fenway is super mellow now (yes, some of it is the medication) and he is a much better walker. I think he’s more cautious now because walking hurt before and so he takes it slower — it’s become a habit. We’ve changed him to a grain-free diet, which seems to agree with him. Also, I’m taking him on walks more instead of letting him just run around in the backyard. The backward was boring to him, I guess. He is loving going on walks and, so am I.

We’re lucky that Fenway is back to a new normal now. I think I am happy we had the surgery, but my husband and I agree that we will not make him go through that again, even if the cancer returns. It’s too traumatic for all of us.

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Cancer-Stricken Pit Bull Mix Is A Favorite In Pacific Beach!

July 13th, 2015

A cancer-stricken Pit Bull mix has become a firm favorite in Pacific Beach! This cool pup wears necessary sunglasses and everyone loves him.

Imagine every time you take your dog for a walk, it turns into a photoshoot.

Tommy Currie and Guerro can’t go anywhere without nonstop attention.

“It was extremely strange to begin with,” says Currie. ”and definitely, people like my parents don’t understand it yet.”

But the fact that his pup’s sunglasses are not a novelty is something Currie keeps explaining all day long.

“He has cancer, and it’s something we have to do,” Currie says about Guero’s sunglasses.

Gueros’s cancer grew near his eyes –he needed surgery and it nearly killed him.

“The cancer was extremely aggressive and it was supposed to take him down within three weeks to six months,” Currie said.

That was 2 and a half years ago but exposure to sunlight can bring it back.

“They’re human glasses I custom made to fit his face,” Currie says.

The glasses cost $250 and were a present from Arnette eyewear after someone stumbled upon Guero’s Instagram account.

It was a gift that means the world to Tommy and Guero — although the pooch looks too chill to admit it.

“I just love the joy he brings to people’s faces,” he says. “People show him so much attention, they give him the smiles. They come up wanting to pet him. I think it definitely gives him something. I think he enjoys it.”

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