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Possible Chemotherapy Side Effects & How To Help Your Dog Avoid Them

Whenever we treat cancer with chemotherapy our goal is that it prolongs our patient's life but doesn't compromise their quality of life.

Chemotherapy in dogs is much different than chemotherapy in people. We treat dogs much less aggressively and in doing so, we find that chemotherapy causes fewer side effects. 

Can we promise that there won't be any side effects? No. However, if you're well-educated on the the most important (and earliest) signs that your dog isn't feeling well and have medications on hand to offer treatment as soon as possible, we can typically ensure that your dog will have a good experience with chemotherapy. 

Please keep in mind that the information in this article applies to chemotherapy side effects. There are certain types of cancers that cause significant nausea, diarrhea, and inappetence if they are not in remission (not being treated effectively enough). In those cases it's the cancer (not the treatment) that's causing the patient to...

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Why Does Dog Cancer Return (& How To Know If It Will)

Depending on the type of cancer a dog is diagnosed with, we are either focused on controlling the tumor locally or preventing/delaying metastasis (spread of cancer cells to another organ) or both. 

Achieving local control means that we have successfully removed/killed all cancer cells at the primary tumor site. The primary tumor site is the location where cancer started (lung lobe, skin mass, bone, etc.). This is typically accomplished using surgery or a combination of surgery plus radiation or electrochemotherapy. 

In cases where a tumor is either malignant and has a high risk of metastasis or has already metastasized, chemotherapy is indicated to delay metastasis, which ultimately helps the patient live longer. Sometimes this helps the patient live for years, sometimes 6-12 months. This varies significantly based on the type of tumor we are treating and how aggressive that particular patient's tumor is. 

So, how do we know how successful our...

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Curious What Happens When You Drop Your Dog Off For Chemo?

Do you have a dog undergoing chemotherapy with an oncologist or are you considering chemotherapy for your dog?

Sometimes it can be a bit scary to drop your dog off for "treatment" and have him disappear "in the back". 

In order to help allay your fears I wanted to describe exactly what happens when you drop your dog off for chemotherapy with the oncologist. What is described in this article specifically applies to chemotherapy administered by an oncology service, because they typically adhere to more strict guidelines than other practices may. This is a general rule, but obviously every practice is different.

(1) Drop-off
In most cases, chemotherapy treatments require a morning drop-off with pick up later in the day when treatment is completed. If your dog is receiving oral chemotherapy, such as CCNU (lomustine) or cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), your oncologist may schedule a shorter visit, during which your dog receives treatment in an hour or so. 

Your oncologist may...

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What Is Chemo & When Do We Recommend It For Dog Cancer?

This is the first in a series of articles about chemotherapy. Over the next few weeks, we'll discuss what chemotherapy is, indications for chemotherapy, how we assess response to chemotherapy, how chemotherapy works, why chemotherapy stops working, what happens when you drop your dog off for chemotherapy, possible side effects and how to avoid them.

I hope these articles will increase your understanding of chemotherapy, how it works, and help ensure your dog has a good experience with treatment (if you decide to pursue chemotherapy treatment for your dog). 

Remember, chemotherapy is very different in dogs than in people, so keep an open mind and make your decisions (to treat or not) based on facts. Your best bet is always to consult with a veterinary oncologist so they can discuss your dog's specific situation and provide specific recommendations.

If you have questions about an article, feel free to reach out by sending me an email at the address listed at the bottom of...

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All About Canine Toe (Digit) Tumors

Digital tumors (tumors of the toe or canine digit) tend to be diagnosed only after months of mistreatment with antibiotics when an infection is wrongly suspected.

My hope is that after learning the most common signs of digital tumors it will allow you to receive a more timely diagnosis (and better prognosis) if your dog (or a friend's dog) is ever to experience a digital tumor.

The most common signs of digital (toe) tumors

The most common signs in dogs with digital tumors are the presence of a wound, mass +/- lameness (limping/favoring the affected limb). Affected dogs are typically older, with a median (half older and half younger) age of 10 years. 

If your dog has a digital mass or an ulcerated toe or nail bed wound that isn't healing, get a biopsy. Many cases of digital cancer go undiagnosed for months while round after round of antibiotics are tried to no avail. Seventy-three percent of digital tumors are malignant; we want to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as...

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Pledge From The Heart - A Promise To Prevent Suffering

I recently came across this pledge from Dr. Sandra Grossman, a local therapist who specializes in helping people through both pet loss as well as anticipatory grief (the stress/anxiety/overwhelm of having a sick or terminal pet). Her practice, PetLoss Partners, finds it helpful for their own clients.

I thought the pledge was wonderful and had never seen one before, so I wanted to share this with you.

Worrying about whether a pet will suffer is a very common (and reasonable) fear. What we have to remember is that in veterinary medicine, we have significant control over whether a pet will suffer because we get to choose when to let them go. 

We can prevent suffering by electing humane euthanasia at an appropriate time, before a pet has begun to suffer.

No it is not easy and yes it is one of the hardest decisions that we, as pet owners, will have to make. However, making this decision at the right time is a generosity and responsibility that we owe our four-legged...

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Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma - Everything A Dog Owner Should Know

This article covers all of the basics that a dog owner should know about apocrine gland anal sac adenocarcinoma (AGASACA or anal sac adenocarcinoma for short). 

Please keep in mind that every dog is different, every dog's cancer is different, and medicine is not black and white. 

If your dog has anal sac adenocarcinoma, consider a consultation with a veterinary oncologist for all of the latest information as well as treatment options that apply specifically to your dog and your dog's cancer.

What It Is

A malignant tumor (carcinoma) located in the anal sacs arising from apocrine cells. If you think of the dog's anus as a clock face (strange, I know) the anal sacs are located at 4 and 8 o'clock. 

Benign tumors of the anal sac are very rare, however, dogs may have perianal (around the anus but not involving the anal sac) tumors, which are frequently benign. Talk to your vet or an oncologist if your dog has a perianal or anal sac tumor.

Even though...

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When Is It Okay To Monitor A Skin Tumor?

 "Just monitor it."

Have you ever been told to "just monitor" a skin mass (tumor) on your dog by a veterinarian?  How do you know if this is the right recommendation? How do you know when monitoring makes sense versus obtaining a diagnosis?

Many readers have been asking this question lately (if you've been wondering about this you're not alone) so I've decided to address it with this article. 

The Big Picture

The answer to whether you should monitor your dog's skin tumor (versus obtaining a diagnosis) really comes down to whether you would treat your dog if the tumor were benign or malignant.

This is why a vet shouldn't decide this for you. Only you can know if you would treat, so you should make this decision.

A Few Things To Know First

The first thing I have to mention is that a vet cannot be certain that a tumor is benign just by "looking" at it. Many cancerous tumors look and feel EXACTLY the same as benign tumors, so the ONLY way to determine if a tumor is...

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Indolent Lymphoma - The Lymphoma That We Don't Treat

What is indolent lymphoma?

Indolent lymphoma is a group of low-grade lymphomas that are slowly progressive and don't seem to benefit from treatment with chemotherapy.  These lymphomas comprise up to 1/3 of all canine lymphoma.

Since the disease course is vastly different from the more common and more aggressive large cell lymphoma, an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Examples of indolent lymphoma include t zone lymphoma, marginal zone lymphoma, mantle cell and follicular lymphoma.

T zone lymphoma actually accounts for 12% of all lymphoma in dogs and is likely frequently misdiagnosed as many veterinarians do not have a good understanding of this type of lymphoma.

Forty percent of dogs that develop t zone lymphoma are golden retrievers - it is most common in this breed. The median age at diagnosis (half are older and half are younger) is 10 years; most dogs have enlarged lymph nodes and an elevated lymphocyte count on blood work.

Typically a patient will present with one or...

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Lymphoma, An Oncologic Emergency

There are many different types of lymphoma that affect dogs and people. What they have in common is their origin from lymphoid cells that become cancerous. Lymphomas typically start in lymph nodes, spleen or bone marrow, but can develop in almost any tissue in the body.

Lymphoma accounts for roughly 7% to 24% of all canine cancer. It typically affects middle-aged to older dogs. 

Breeds that have been associated with an increased incidence include Boxers, bullmastiffs, basset hounds, St. Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedales, and bulldogs. Dachshunds and Pomeranians have a lower risk.

Lymphoma is typically considered a fairly chemo-responsive disease. This means that for our "standard" lymphomas (a dog that presents with very large lymph nodes), remission is expected, and can often be achieved after one or two doses of chemotherapy.

Partial remission means that the lymphoma burden (size of lymph nodes) has decreased by half. Complete remission means that there is no...

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