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Canine Splenic Tumors - What You Need To Know

Canine splenic tumors (tumors of the spleen) can be challenging. We either find them incidentally while performing imaging of the abdomen (x-rays or ultrasound) or we discover them after they have ruptured. 

In the second scenario, a large splenic mass ruptures, causing the patient to feel weak, lethargic or even collapse. Sometimes there is a history of the patient having a few weeks of waxing and waning lethargy and decreased appetite; this is a result of the mass having small bleeds (instead of one large rupture) over a period of time. 

The rupture of a splenic mass can be life-threatening. This is because a large volume pools into the abdomen and there isn't enough left for the heart to pump throughout the body to sustain the organs; often the patient comes to the ER in some degree of shock and is in need of blood transfusion, IV fluids, monitoring for heart arrhythmias, and removal of the bleeding spleen. 

Deciding whether to pursue surgery in this...

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Dog Breeds And Their Associated Cancers

In veterinary oncology, we see the same types of cancer in the same dog breeds over and over again. Certain dogs are predisposed to developing certain types of cancer, based on the genetics that the dog inherits as a puppy. Similarly, certain dog breeds are predisposed to developing heart conditions, orthopedic diseases, liver diseases, etc. 

This article outlines some (not all) of the associations between cancer and various dog breeds. Some of the breed-associated predispositions are stronger than others. For example, in some cases there might be a slight increased risk for a certain breed developing a specific type of cancer, while in others the risk is dramatic (25% of Bernese mountain dogs developing histiocytic sarcoma, for example). For many types of tumors we don't know which breeds may be predisposed.

The information below is specific to the United States. Dogs in Europe will have different genetics (to some extent), so I did not include information from studies...

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All About Clinical Trials & How To Find Out If Your Dog Is A Candidate

Clinical trials are essential to improving both length and quality of life for canine oncology patients. 

In the United States and Canada, most clinical trials are conducted at veterinary teaching hospitals (hospitals associated with a veterinary school, such as UC Davis and Cornell). In some cases, a large specialty veterinary clinic will participate in a trial. We are now seeing more collaboration between institutions, whereby, many institutions will participate in the same trial allowing many dogs to be enrolled, which allows for stronger conclusions to be drawn from the data collected.

The goal of an oncology trial is to find a better way to diagnose, treat, or prevent cancer. If a trial is set up to study a new drug, there are typically four different phases that the drug must pass through before it is allowed to be sold. In the most simplistic sense, a Phase I trial attempts to find a safe dose and determine side effects. Phase II attempts to determine if the safe dose...

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Could Your Dog's Food Cause A Fatal Heart Disease?

In recent years, there has been a spike in a type of heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). There is mounting evidence that this spike may be the result of diet-related trends in dogs. 

On June 26, 2019, The FDA released it's most recent research on the link between certain diets and DCM.

Since DCM is a potentially fatal disease, the goals of this article are to (1) help you understand what DCM is, (2) risk factors for DCM, (3) and how to potentially avoid nutritionally-mediated DCM.

What is Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

DCM is a disease of the heart muscle, often with genetic or nutritional causes. It causes the chambers of the heart to become dilated and thinned. The heart's ability to pump blood effiently throughout the body is reduced, leading to signs associated with decreased oxygenated blood flow (lethargy, collapse, weakness, weight loss) or congestion of blood in the lungs (coughing, increased effort breathing, panting at rest).  Heart...

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A Great Resource for Herbs and Supplements

Many dogs are receiving at least one herb or supplement these days. Some supplements are meant to promote joint health (glucosamine), while others are given with the hope that they will help prevent or slow a patient's cancer (turmeric). 

Supplements can be a great compliment to a standard medication regimen, but others might have a negative interaction with current medications, so it's important to do a bit of homework if your dog is receiving herbs or supplements.

Unfortunately, there is a paucity of published veterinary literature regarding the correct dosing for most herbs and supplements given to dogs, just as there is a paucity of evidence for their efficacy.

If you choose to give your dog an herb or supplement, I recommend taking the following steps prior to initiating a new treatment to ensure that they are given as safely as possible.

(1) Perform a Pubmed Search

Pubmed is a database that includes publications from most of the major peer-reviewed journals in veterinary...

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Helpful Tips for Giving Your Dog Pills

Giving your dog medication can be a stressful experience. Some dogs are much more willing to accept tablets and capsules than others. Since most dogs will have to take some sort of oral pill at some point in their lives, it's important to have a few ideas of how to medicate your dog so that the process goes as smoothly as possible and avoids stress for you and your dog. I've listed a few suggestions for giving medications below. If you use a different technique that I haven't mentioned, feel free to reply and share your idea.

Tip 1: Hide the taste of the pill by placing the pill inside food or a treat

I would say that this is the most commonly used technique and one of the easiest (some people can get away with placing pills in their dog's food bowl, but most are not that lucky). 

There are a few tricks to ensure that this goes smoothly.
(1) The treat needs to be very flavorful. Consider the following options: Greenies Pill Pockets, canned dog food, meat flavored baby food,...

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How To Assess Pain and Quality of Life in a Dog with Cancer

Making sure that our patients are comfortable and have a good quality of life is a top priority for an oncologist. 

As a dog owner, you play a large role in helping your dog achieve an excellent quality of life, whether he has cancer or not. You know your dog best and spend the most time with him, so you're in the best position to notice subtle changes that might suggest he's not feeling well. Your job is to learn common signs related to a decrease in quality of life (pain, nausea, etc.) and report any changes to your oncologist (or veterinarian) so they can help decide if intervention is warranted.

Most cancers do not cause pain, however, plenty of cancers (and other conditions) can cause a dog to feel terrible and have a poor quality of life. Clients always ask if their dog is in pain, but they rarely ask how I think their dog feels overall or about their dog's quality of life. We need to reframe the question a bit and instead of just inquiring about a dog's pain level (as...

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Early Detection - The Key to a Better Prognosis for a Dog with Cancer

One of the best ways to help ensure a better prognosis for a dog that develops cancer is to make the diagnosis early, while the tumor is small and before cancer has had a chance to spread. This, of course, is easier said than done but is certainly not impossible.

The key is to first recognize a change, either in how your dog appears externally or how he is acting/feeling, then choosing to act on it (call your vet) if it doesn't resolve in a day or two.

If you find that your vet is not able to determine an exact cause for your dog's problem (ie. cannot make a diagnosis), seek out the care of a specialist. If cancer is suspected, see an oncologist. If your vet is not sure why your dog isn't feeling well, start with an internist. 

If a dog has cancer, he will have the best prognosis if a diagnosis is made quickly. If you find yourself repeatedly seeking help for the same thing and it isn't improving, get a second opinion. 

Many types of cancer cause obvious external changes...

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Vaccine Against Canine Cancer Clinical Trial - Learn How To Enroll

This week I had planned on shedding some light on when it might be appropriate to consider euthanasia for a dog with cancer. I've decided to postpone that article in order to share some exciting news with you.

Recently, a vaccine was created by Arizona State University researcher Stephen Johnston that is aimed at preventing canine cancer. If effective in dogs, Johnston hopes that it may one day help prevent cancer in people.

Three veterinary schools are participating in the trial (University of Wisconsin, Colorado State, UC Davis), which intends to enroll 800 dogs. Colorado State and UC Davis are still accepting patients; the University of Wisconsin is fully enrolled as of June 3, 2019.

The dogs must fit the following criteria:
-Age: between 6 and 10 years of age
-Weight: at least 12 pounds (5 kg)
-No history of previous cancer
-No significant other illness that could result in a life span of fewer than 5 years
-No history of previous autoimmune disease
-No current treatment...

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Is Humane Euthanasia Humane?

We dread the day when we have to say 'goodbye' to our four-legged best friends. If your dog is getting older or has cancer or another illness, this might be on your mind more frequently.

We always hope that they will pass peacefully in their sleep. This way, there's no pain for them and we don't have to make the gut-wrenching decision about when to elect euthanasia.

When a dog is diagnosed with cancer, one of the most significant fears that family members have is whether or not their beloved pet will suffer in "the end". It's important to remember that in veterinary medicine we have control over when a pet is euthanized. If you monitor your dog very closely, you can elect euthanasia before they suffer at all. Your veterinarian or oncologist can help you make this decision and decide when the time is right. 

It's also important to remember that the process of euthanasia is quick and painless if done correctly. Most families feel that it's a much more peaceful process...

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