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All About Canine Lung Tumors

This article is all about lung cancer in dogs. We'll cover which dogs are more likely to develop lung cancer, the signs of lung cancer, types of cancer that affect the lungs, how we determine primary vs metastatic lung cancer, the recommended work-up, as well as treatment options.

Which Dogs Develop Lung Cancer (Pulmonary Neoplasia)?
The average age of dogs diagnosed with primary lung tumors (lung tumors that start in the lungs) is approximately 11 years. Breeds that might be at increased risk include: Boxer, Doberman, Australian shepherd, Irish setter, Bernese Mountain dog.

Second-hand smoke and urban living are thought to be potential causes of lung cancer in dogs. 

An increased risk of lung cancer was noted in dogs with increased amounts of anthracosis (increased carbon in the lungs due to increased exposure to polluted air or inhalation of smoke or coal dust particles), which suggests a link between the development of lung cancer and the inhalation of polluted air. An...

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Canine Bladder Cancer - Everything A Dog Owner Should Know

Urinary bladder cancer accounts for approximately 2% of all reported malignant cancers in the dog. The most common type of bladder cancer is TCC (transitional cell carcinoma), however, we can also see squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma, etc. 

TCC is most commonly located in the trigone region of the bladder (see image courtesy of Vet Surgery Central). It can also involve the urethra or the prostate (if the patient is male). Due to the location of the tumor, it can cause partial or complete urinary obstruction, making it difficult or impossible to urinate. 

Proper initial work up not only includes an accurate diagnosis and full blood work, but also 3-view chest x-rays and full abdominal ultrasound to determine if cancer has metastasized. Metastasis will affect which treatment options are reasonable for the patient. 

Which Dogs Develop Bladder Cancer?

Risk factors include female sex, obesity, lawn...

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Feeling Overwhelmed About Your Dog's Cancer Diagnosis?

Having a dog diagnosed with cancer is very scary and can be very overwhelming. After hearing your vet say the word "cancer" your mind may have gone blank and you might have forgotten everything else said during the visit. Your mind may have wandered to thoughts about your dog feeling painful, suffering, wondering if you were going to lose him, or to wondering how you would manage to live without him. 

Hearing the word 'cancer' may have also brought back all-too-recent memories of family members or close friends with cancer and the agony of watching them go through severe nausea and discomfort during treatment, or the pain that they experienced towards the end.

If you've experienced chemotherapy or radiation treatments, you may be thinking 'there's no way I'm going to put my dog through that'. 

All of these are very common thoughts and feelings that I see clients experience on a daily basis.

The good news is that veterinary oncology is VERY different...

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Why Do So Many Dogs Develop Cancer?

Cancer is common in dogs. Atleast 50% of dogs over 10 will die from cancer. If we can make an early diagnosis and treat cancer appropriately, we can change the course for many patients who would have otherwise passed due to cancer.

So why do they develop cancer in the first place?

In veterinary oncology, we typically study "risk factors" for each type of cancer. A risk factor is something that increases the likelihood that a dog will develop a certain type of cancer. 

It is very difficult to study risk factors in dogs and in people. There are so many different genetic and environmental factors that can influence the development of cancer; reliably teasing out which ones led to cancer in a single patient is incredibly difficult (and expensive).

In order to be successful, researchers typically have to study a certain patient population (ex. thousands of golden retrievers) over their entire lifetime (puppy to death) and have excellent owner compliance (participate in all of...

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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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