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 so Many Golden Retrievers Dying from Cancer?

May 20th, 2015

We love golden retrievers. Affectionately known as goldens, they’re icons on our screens (anyone else love Comet from Full House and Buddy from Air Bud?). While the breed’s popularity fluctuates, goldens are very familiar in the top 10 lists of U.S. dog breeds. Newsweek reports that in 2014, goldens ranked third in the American Kennel Club’s top 10 most popular dog breeds. They were only beat by the Labrador retriever and German shepherd. Unfortunately, that’s not all that’s beating our beloved goldens.

Looking for Answers

For decades, countless goldens have lost their cancer battles. I know what it’s like to have a companion animal with cancer. Watching an innocent creature suffer so much is agonizing. Goldens are disproportionately affected by cancer and their lifespans are being cut short, according to San Jose Mercury News. And a team of researchers wants to know why.

The scientists plan on following the lives of 3,000 purebred goldens for answers. Solving this puzzle won’t only help the breed; it may help humans, too, since we share 95 percent of the same DNA.

In 1972, one veterinarian recalls that the goldens he saw could easily make it to age 16 or 17. Today, many goldens are lucky to make it to age nine or 10. That’s unfortunate. But how they’re going is more heartbreaking; they’re dying from “bone cancer, lymphoma and a cancer of the blood vessels more than any other breed in the country,” reports Mercury News.

Golden guardians have to track everything for researchers, including the mundane details to understand if the cancer is coming from the environment, breeding practices, diet or genetics. And I wasn’t kidding when I said everything. If there’s a move, a new addition to the family, a new food, a mishap with a bug, researchers want to know.

The veterinarians are key in this study. Every year, they’re collecting the usual samples (blood, hair, nails and waste) searching for any clues or changes. They’re also monitoring the goldens’ temperature, diet, activity and blood pressure.

3 Other Health Concerns Affecting Golden Retrievers

Hopefully, in the end, it’ll all be worth it. Goldens, and their guardians, deserve some answers. They’re awesome dogs. The goldens I’ve known are super friendly, funny and smart. They love to play and they go to great lengths to make their human happy.

But potential guardians should also know about more of the health risks that could come with loving a golden. Unfortunately, it’s not just cancer. Here are a few other health concerns from Rescue a Golden of Arizona that potential guardians should know to decide if they’re financially, physically and emotionally ready to care for a golden retriever:

Allergies: Allergies are a big problem for golden retrievers. While not usually fatal, allergies can cause discomfort; they could upset their stomach or make their skin itchy. It can take a lot of trial-and-error to find the right food for your golden.

Ear infections: Along the same lines of allergies, ear infections are caused by yeast and bacteria growth. While common, the infection shouldn’t be left untreated. It could result in a loss of hearing or a loss of balance down the line.

Hip dysplasia: Hip dysplasia can affect one or both sides of the hip. These dogs may have more stiffness or run with a “bunny hopping” gait. If left untreated, your golden might not be able to walk. Drugs and invasive surgical procedures are commonly used to treat hip dysplasia.

Article reposted from:
By Jessica Ramos

Common options to treat Cancer in Dogs

May 18th, 2015

A diagnosis of cancer is devastating to a dog owner, but it is not necessarily a death sentence for the dog. Cancer is usually detected when it either forms a distinct tumor that’s quite noticeable, or it leads to organ failure and its associated symptoms. For example, a kidney tumor in a dog may cause vomiting and increased thirst, and this would be obvious to his owner.

Age is the biggest risk factor for development of cancer in dogs, and because they are living longer these days, there is a greater chance that they may develop the condition.

Advances in human medicine are often carried over to veterinary medicine. This means that cancer can be diagnosed much earlier in the course of the disease, and new treatment options can result in a better outcome for your dog.

Let’s look at the common options available to treat cancer in dogs.


If a cancer is easily accessible, the first thing to do is reduce its size. This means that an affected dog will undergo surgery to either completely remove the tumor, or to de-bulk the tumor as much as possible. This is easy to do with tumors such as those on the skin or mammary gland, for example. It’s also possible to surgically remove a cancerous organ such as a kidney or spleen, however the surgery is more invasive and recovery time is longer.

When a tumor is excised, a pathologist will examine the lump to look for what vets call “clean margins”. A good example of this is a mast cell tumor in the skin. If cancerous cells extend right to the edges of the tumor, it means that some dangerous cells have been left behind, and more surgery is needed to make sure more mast cell tumors don’t develop in the same area.

Theoretically, a 10mm margin of normal tissue around a tumor indicates that it has been completely removed, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on that area as a dog gets older.

Sometimes surgery isn’t particularly effective at treating a cancer, but it can make life better for the patient. That’s definitely the case with osteosarcomas. These cancers usually occur in the bones of a dog’s legs, and they are very aggressive. By the time they are diagnosed they have often spread to the lungs, and the prognosis is very poor even with treatment. Osteosarcomas are also extremely painful. Although it sounds extreme, amputation of the affected leg is very effective in easing a dog’s pain.

Surgery on its own may not be sufficient to treat a cancer, and it is often followed up with chemotherapy or radiation. Many alternative therapies can be used alongside these conventional treatment options.


When it comes to choosing how to treat a particular cancer, one of the main criteria is where the tumor is located. Some tumors can’t easily be removed by surgery. Other tumors such as lymphosarcoma can occur in many parts of the body at once, so it would be difficult, if not impossible, for surgery to remove all tumor cells.

This is where chemotherapy is particularly useful. This treatment option relies on drugs being delivered to the tumor through the bloodstream. It allows veterinarians to kill cancer cells that can’t be reached with a scalpel.

Ideally, the drugs used in chemotherapy need to specifically kill tumor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. These drugs interfere with processes that occur in cancer cells but not in healthy cells. One feature of cancer cells is that they are rapidly dividing; many chemotherapy medications therefore specifically target rapidly dividing cells. This works well; there are several chemotherapy drugs that are proven to be effective in killing cancer cells in both humans and dogs.

The main problem with chemotherapy is that there are some healthy cells in the body which also have high rates of cell division. Examples are hair follicle cells, bone marrow cells and those cells lining the intestines. These are also affected by chemotherapy medications, and this explains the side effects of this type of treatment. Unlike people, dogs don’t seem to lose their hair with chemotherapy but if their fur is shaved, it may not grow back very well. Also, their whiskers may fall out. Damage to their bone marrow can result in reduced production of white blood cells, which means their body can’t fight off even the slightest infection. Diarrhea and vomiting can result from the effects of the drugs on their intestines.

Chemotherapeutic drugs are usually given by intravenous injection. They are extremely irritating so if there is any leakage outside the vein, there can be extensive tissue damage. The result is a large raw ulcer which may not heal.

Chemotherapy is often after surgery or in conjunction with radiation, but in some types of cancer it is very effective on its own.


Treatment of canine cancers with radiation often results in shrinkage of the tumor, and significant pain relief. It is useful for tumors that can’t easily be removed, and also as a follow up treatment after surgery.

Radiation works by damaging a tumor cell’s genetic material, so it is no longer able to divide. As you can imagine, it can also damage healthy cells, but the effects of radiation on healthy tissue appears to be less than that of chemotherapy. This may be because radiation equipment can tightly focus the radiation beam on a small area, and minimize the amount of radiation that reaches neighboring healthy cells.

This type of cancer treatment is particularly useful for tumors that haven’t spread throughout a dog’s body. It is necessary to give a dog a general anesthetic for this treatment. That way he won’t move, and the radiation beam can be better targeted to the tumor.

Alternative therapies

Many dog owners these days are interested in alternative treatments for their four legged family members. They feel they are safer than conventional treatments, and that they are just as effective. Although these treatments are natural, they still need to be treated with respect. Even if they are non-toxic, they may still interfere with other drugs that have been prescribed for your dog. It’s important that dog owners tell their veterinarian about any other supplements or natural treatments they are planning on giving their dog to help treat his cancer.

Good nutrition will give a dog the energy to heal. Organic produce is the best food for an animal undergoing treatment for cancer, because it is less likely to have been exposed to pesticides and toxins. Similarly, if the budget allows, and the option is available, choose organic meat products to add to their diet.

Chinese Herbal Medicine may also help a dog recover from cancer. These herbs help them recuperate from tumor removal surgery, and support their body as it is exposed to follow up radiation and chemotherapy.

Acupuncture can reduce pain associated with cancer treatment and improve post-operative recovery. Homeopathy will encourage a dog’s body to heal itself.

If you’d like to investigate the benefits of alternative medicine in treating cancer in dogs, ask your vet for a referral to a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association. Many “general practitioner” veterinarians aren’t familiar with alternative therapies, and would be happy to refer you to a colleague with more experience in this area.

Every dog’s cancer is different, and every dog will respond differently to treatment. For many cancers in dogs, treatment is available that can completely cure the disease. If a complete cure isn’t possible for your dog’s type of cancer, then treatment can prolong his life and make him a lot more comfortable.

Article reposted from:
By David

Preparing your pet for travel this summer

May 14th, 2015

For some pet owners, it may be easier to leave your cat or dog at a “hotel” when you head on your summer vacation.

However if you really consider your companion a member of the family, you may be inclined to bring him or her with you on the trip.

Don’t worry, traveling with a cat or dog doesn’t have to be a hassle. The North Shore Animal League has several tips on how to get your feline or canine friend ready for the road:

• Visit your veterinarian about a week before you leave, especially if they have a preexisting condition, and get a clean bill of health before going.

• Bring your pet on a few drives before the long trek. This will get them accustomed to travel in general.

• Make sure their cage is big enough to be comfortable and well ventilated. But not too big: you don’t want them flying around on bumpy roads.

• Don’t let your dog stick his or her head out the window, no matter how romantic the cliche is to you. This can cause serious facial and eye injuries.

• Provide plenty of water, keep their regular diet, and pack their favorite toys. Routine will help them adjust to the changing environments.

Check out the rest of the North Shore Animal League’s tips here. Or, just let your dog drive instead.

Article reposted from:
By Daniel Craig

Nutrition for Dogs With Cancer

May 12th, 2015

No other disease strikes as much fear deep within our hearts as cancer. We panic and start searching the Internet for something that can save our dog.

There is a lot of information out there, some websites even offering miracle supplements and cures for cancer. Please remember that promises that seem too good to be true very often are.

And don’t think that “natural” is safe and more is better. This is a time to stay positive and act on scientific truths rather than hearsay or guesswork.

Goals of nutritional therapy

Most dogs with cancer have a decreased food intake; therefore a major goal of nutritional therapy is to select a food that is highly palatable and energy dense.

The food’s nutrient profile should be individualized to maintain normal body condition, inhibit tumor growth and prevent or manage cachexia.

Avoid excess carbohydrates and increase protein and fat

A study done by Gregory Ogilvie, DVM, at Colorado State University, on dogs with stage 3 lymphoma, found that a diet moderate in high quality proteins, low in carbohydrates and moderate in fat, especially Omega-3 fatty acids, was successful in prolonging life.

Although much more research is needed and this study did not examine all forms of cancer, the results are encouraging.

This type of diet, however, is not appropriate for all dogs and should only be fed under veterinary guidance.

Foods of interest in dogs with cancer

High quality protein such as dairy products made from goat or sheep, egg, low-mercury fish, organ and muscle meat preferable natural raised.

Healthy, functional carbohydrates such as sweet potato, broccoli, quinoa and gluten free oats.

Antiangiogenic foods such as apples, berries, pumpkin and maitake mushrooms.

Cruciferous vegetables (unless your dog has hypothyroidism) such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and bok choy.

Green leafy and yellow-orange vegetables such as carrots, turnip greens and sweet potato.

Avoid gluten and get rid of high-GI foods such as corn, wheat or white rice (brown rice is fine).

Increase Omega-3 fatty acids

Increase Omega-3 intake and keep the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio as close to 1:1 as possible.

Wild salmon oil is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids but do not use cod liver oil as the amounts of vitamin A and D would be excessive when given at high doses.

Do not use flax seed oil instead of fish oil because the form of Omega-3 fatty acids found in plants must be converted to EPA and DHA in order to be utilized by the dog.

Vitamins C and E

There is some question as to whether vitamins C and E should be given in amounts above the daily nutritional guides set by NRC and AAFCO.

Although vitamins C and E have been shown to decrease cell damage, in particular DNA damage, their usefulness in neoplasia, once already diagnosed, is largely unknown, and some suggest they may even be harmful.

The debate starts when a patient is receiving radiation or chemotherapy. The presence of increased antioxidants in tissue may interfere with the anticancer effects of radiation and some chemotherapies and may counteract some of the cellular benefits of Omega-3.

I never add additional vitamin C or E and I urge you to ask your oncologist before adding any to your dog’s diet.

Digestive enzymes

The body’s ability to process and absorb nutrients in the food can be greatly affected by cancer.

Digestive enzymes help the body to break down food, making it easier to absorb nutrients. Thus they can be extremely valuable, in particular to dogs experiencing diarrhoea or weight loss.

Turmeric (Curcumine)

Turmeric is the spice found in curry which gives it the yellow colour. Although more research is needed, studies show turmeric has the ability to inhibit growth of tumours and metastasis.

Milk Thistle

This herb protects against or treats liver cells from damage from toxins such as chemotherapy drugs.


Probiotics is the ‘good guy’ bacteria that fights the ‘bad guys’ in the gastrointestinal tract, protecting the dog’s immune system, improving gut health and digestion.

Bottom Line

It can be difficult to address the needs for each neoplastic condition due to the complex nature of cancer.

However, dogs that have a higher nutritional status are not only more likely to fight off infections and tolerate therapy and its side effects, they also have better odds of actually winning the battle.

Article reposted from:
By Kristina Johansen

7 Superfoods to Add to Your Dog's Diet

May 10th, 2015

If your pet is a picky eater, then he may appreciate having a treat added to his food bowl. Think of it like your meal, when you add ketchup to French fries… or add bacon to almost anything.

Of course, unlike your addition of bacon, you’d probably prefer to give your dog something healthyas an add-in. While your dog may enjoy having bacon added to his dog food every day, your dog’s health may suffer, as he doesn’t understand that certain types of foods need to be eaten in moderation. To help you select the ideal add-ins for your dog, I’ve created the infographic below to explain both the benefits of Superfoods and which you may want your pup to try!

Adding Superfoods for Your Dog

Dogs will enjoy a variety of foods as add-ins, including those that will be good for them. The superfoods listed in the accompanying infographic can provide both a great add-in to the dog’s regular food as well as desirable vitamins and minerals that will contribute to your dog’s good health. Some superfoods are better as a standalone food, while others are great to add to the kibble. The following list includes the five best superfoods to add to a dog’s regular kibble!

  1. Broccoli. Cooked broccoli needs to be cut into very small pieces to be added to your dog’s food. Some dogs may like the stalk of the broccoli better than the flowery head, and others will want to eat the flowery head only. The vitamins in broccoli can help a dog’s digestion, while also healing any skin problems and preventing cancer.
  2. Carrots. If you’re going to add carrots to your dog’s food, you’ll be adding vitamins A and C to the animal’s diet, which will help its heart and eyes. Most dogs will like the carrots better as an add-in if they’re cooked, rather than raw. The soft carrots won’t help to clean your dog’s teeth as well as a raw, hard carrot, but they will provide plenty of health benefits.
  3. Fish oil. Pouring a bit of fish oil over the top of the dog’s food bowl can help the dog’s coat and skin look healthier, and salmon oil may even help alleviate a dog’s problems with allergies. The Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in the fish are especially beneficial for the dog’s overall health.
  4. Kale. As with the other foods on this list, kale is a superfood for both humans and dogs, providing the benefits found in vitamins A, C, and K, while also providing high levels of calcium and iron. If you search the Internet for baked dog treats with kale, you’ll find plenty of options that can help you introduce this superfood to your dog’s diet. You can spread steamed kale over the top of your dog’s regular food too.
  5. Spinach. Steamed spinach offers plenty of iron and vitamin K, which will help the health of your dog’s bones and heart. Spinach is also a great cancer-preventing vegetable, making it a great add-in to your dog’s regular meal time dog food. As with kale, baking spinach into dog treats is a good way to add this superfood to your dog’s diet.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try Many Options

You may have to experiment a little bit to find just the right combination of superfoods and dog food to appeal to your dog’s taste buds, just be careful of food allergies. Most dogs enjoy eating a few different superfoods, so the experiments shouldn’t take too long.

You also may want to read through the list of ingredients on your dog food bag. Once you know which nutrients the dog food provides to your pet, you can pick a superfood that will supplement the dog food’s nutrients, giving your dog the entire range of vitamins and minerals it needs!

Article reposted from:
By Amber Kingsley

One last promise for Tanner the dog

May 7th, 2015

As I lay in my bath, ethereal music surrounding me, I began to cry. While beautiful music will make me cry, these tears were the result of devastating news I had received from my veterinarian two days prior. My scholarly dog, Tanner, has cancer. I don’t know how long I will have him, but what I do know is: I will keep him comfortable until the dreaded day I have to make that final decision.

Cancer is a scary word. I have lost family members to the disease and watched friends beat the beast. The news about my dog is ominous. Cancer is cancer, but when it comes to treatment of a beloved dog, it becomes a different type of choice.

Tanner is going to be 15 years old on May 23. As any pet lover knows, our time with our pets is too brief. We know we are given 15 years on average, depending on the size and breed of the animal. My last dog, Achates, lived to be 18. I made the hardest choice of my life to put him down that day. I cried, but I knew I made the right choice for him.

We humans are selfish. We want to keep our pets around forever, but when we are faced with the quality of that life for the animal, we are allowed the choice to take their pain away. I made that choice with Achates, and one day I will have to make that choice for Tanner. But right now, I am not ready.

When I got the first call from Ken Fiedler, my vet, to tell me that nothing could be done for Tanner, I wept. I drove around for hours in my car before I could pick Tanner up from the vet at the end of the day. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. But when I spoke to Ken I had composed myself enough to listen. Tanner’s prognosis is a matter of time, but I can treat him long enough to keep him comfortable for now. I told my vet that I would take him home, love him, care for him, feed him whatever he wants and monitor things day by day.

I am not delusional that Tanner will not someday die, but I will care for him until the end. I will make that decision for him. He expects that from me. It is my duty to keep him free from pain and to do the right thing in the end.

Dogs do not live long enough. What they expect from us is love, care and help guiding them into eternity. I will do my best for Tanner for as long as I can. He has given me years of unconditional love. All I can do now is do what is best for him.

I hold on to these words: “Please see to it that my life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.”

Story reposted from:
By Jane Lethlean

The Journey Toward a Vaccine Against Melanoma in Dogs

May 6th, 2015

The drive to create a vaccine against melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, has been going on for years with many successes and failures along the road. As May is pet cancer awareness month, let’s take a look at the history of a major development that is helping veterinarians to fight this disease in dogs.

A new melanoma treatment could help affected dogs live better and longer lives. (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Vaccine Refresher

You probably already know this, but just to recap, vaccines are given to both humans and pets to provide protection against an infectious disease, such as influenza or parvovirus. Many vaccines typically contain a portion of a disease-causing virus or bacteria (or sometimes a “safe” form of the entire organism). When the vaccine is administered, the immune system is stimulated to fight a particular disease. The vaccine teaches the immune system to make antibodies that will ideally destroy the virus or bacteria should the person or pet become exposed.

This method of sparking the immune system to fight off infectious disease inspired doctors to consider a similar approach to fighting cancer.

Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer

Interest in using a cancer patient’s own immune system to fight cancer in the same way that vaccines help us to fight infectious disease is not new. Physicians in the late 1800’s occasionally noticed that tumors would regress when cancer patients developed a severe infection. That’s because the severe infection “ramped up” the patient’s immune system. Not only did the patient’s immune system control the infection in some cases, but as a side effect, the cancer briefly regressed as well. This led to unsuccessful attempts to cure cancer by inducing infections in cancer patients.

Modern efforts to harness a patient’s own immune system to treat melanoma, a serious cancer in dogs, began in the mid 1980’s. Veterinary researchers found that administering a bacterium, Corynebacterium parvum, to canine melanoma patients improved survival in some by activating the immune system against the bacteria and hitting the melanoma cells as collateral damage from the immune system activation. However, this method of immunotherapy has been largely abandoned in favor of treatments that more specifically target tumor cells themselves.

A different approach to melanoma immunotherapy that was developed about 10 years ago used a vaccine made from the patient’s own immune system. Immune system cells taken from a dog diagnosed with melanoma were mixed in a laboratory with melanoma cells and immune-stimulating compounds. This process helped “program” the immune system cells to attack the patient’s melanoma. However, this “personalized” vaccine was not very practical as the vaccine could only be produced one dog at a time. As a result, it remains a research tool rather than a clinical therapy.

Yet another experimental approach to treatment of melanoma in dogs requires genetic engineering. Genes essential for the production of white blood cells are inserted into melanoma cells grown in the laboratory. When these genetically engineered melanoma cells are injected into canine patients, the white blood cells mount an immune response against the dog’s melanoma and destroy it. Because the injected cells help to initiate an immune response, this is considered another form of vaccination, but it still has not reached the veterinary market.

As we can see, multiple approaches to developing a melanoma vaccine have been tried, but none of these personalized vaccines are in clinical use today. The fact that these vaccines have not reached the market says more about the difficulty of producing personalized vaccines on a large scale for veterinary patients than it does about the ability of personalized vaccines to control tumors, as some of them have been used as therapies in humans.

Wider Reaching Success: Treating Every Melanoma

The opposite of a personalized melanoma vaccine is a vaccine that is effective against every melanoma. In 2001, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Animal Medical Center joined forces to develop such a vaccine for dogs suffering from melanoma. Melanoma is a tumor derived from pigment-producing cells. This vaccine targets tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of pigment that is present in all melanoma cells. The vaccine causes an immune system attack on cells containing the tyrosinase enzyme. Since tyrosinase is limited to cells producing the pigment, the vaccine has limited impact on the patient but a big impact on melanoma cells. A clinical trial in dogs diagnosed with advanced melanoma and treated with the vaccine showed that they lived for more than 15 months compared to 5 months for dogs not treated with the vaccine. This vaccine is approved for use in dogs suffering from oral melanoma, although it may also work in other areas of the body where melanoma is occurring.

The long story of melanoma vaccine development shows the hard work and perseverance necessary to develop a new and successful cancer treatment. Fortunately, all this effort has resulted in a new treatment that, when added to traditional therapies of surgery and radiation, can help affected dogs live better and longer.

The immunotherapy approach to cancer treatment will likely be used to treat other cancers in the future. The challenge to cancer researchers is to identify the unique target on the cancer cells that will stimulate the immune system to eradicate the tumor without damaging any other cells. Or, in other words, to find ways to teach your “old” dog’s immune system new tricks!

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Ann Hohenhaus |

An Open Letter From Your Dog's Pancreas

May 4th, 2015

Hi, I’m your dog’s pancreas

You may not know exactly what I am or what I do, but trust me when I tell you that I play a vital role in maintaining your dog’s health and comfort.

Who knows, maybe you’ve already seen what happens when I’m not “on my game”: diabetes, pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatitis? As you can see, much like The Hulk… it’s best not to make me angry.

I’m reaching out today specifically because of all these bouts with pancreatitis… you know, the condition where I become inflamed and you and your dog pay the price. I’m tired of being the bad guy, but I’m also tired of having to work so hard because of all the extra “treats” you keep giving your dog. Now I’m not talking about the occasional dog biscuit or the carrots and green beans you give him. Those are fine. What really bothers me, what really hurts me, what really inflames me are all of the “extra special” treats — the bacon and sausage, the prime rib leftovers and steak bones, the scraps from your holiday feasts.

And that bacon grease you keep adding to your dog’s food in hopes of giving him a shinier coat. Really?!?! Who ever gave you that idea? what website or chat room did you read that one on?? Please stop, you’re killing me! Literally.

Look, I don’t want to hurt your dog. But you’re leaving me with little choice. I don’t like making your dog vomit and have diarrhea. I don’t like making him lethargic and putting him off his food. I don’t even like causing you the grief, inconvenience, and the financial strain of the costs associated with an inflamed pancreas. How spiteful do you think I am?

Pancreatitis is no fun for anyone!

Trust me, pancreatitis isn’t fun for me either. Not even close! When I’m inflamed, I start digesting myself. Have you ever literally eaten yourself? Does that sound like fun to you? I don’t recommend it!

So let’s call a truce. Let’s make a deal. You get your dog to an ideal body condition and stop “spoiling” him with the things that make me angry and I’ll keep being Bruce Banner, continuing to focus on my important work of helping your dog regulate his blood sugar and breakdown and absorb dietary proteins, carbohydrates, and the all-important fats. I don’t want to be The Hulk.

You see, at the end of the day, you and I have the same goal… to keep your dog happy, healthy, and pain-free. So let’s start working together. Let’s stop making each other angry. What do you say, do we have a deal?

Your Dog’s (currently) Angry Pancreas

Article reposted from:
Authored by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed

5 Signs Dogs Might Have Cancer

April 30th, 2015

Cancer is unfortunately a common illness in many dogs. So if you notice any of these signs in your dog, be sure to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible.

1. Limping: Sudden limping without injury is always something to be concerned about. If sudden limping is severe or lasts for longer than a day or two, you might want to schedule a vet exam.

2. Loss of Appetite. Most dogs will eat at every given opportunity, but illness is the top cause of a loss of appetite. Loss of appetite is a sure sign that something is wrong internally with our pups, and catching cancers early is the best chance for a full recovery.

3. Urgency to urinate. Dogs will often appear to be marking and straining with no urine coming out, and it could be that a tumor is putting pressure on the bladder causing the urgent feeling to go.

4. Weight gain & enlarged abdomen. A number of reasons can cause weight gain in dogs, but if you notice an enlarged abdomen along with rapid weight gain you might want to pay close attention to the possible causes.

5. Change in activity level. If you notice your dog has become less active, or even completely lethargic, be sure to have him checked out by a vet.

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