Having your dog undergo surgery is scary. Worrying that something will go wrong is a very natural and common fear. My recommendation is to help ensure the best outcome for your dog by (1) Preparing appropriately surgery ahead-of-time (find an excellent and experienced vet to perform the procedure, determine if a specialist should get involved, perform appropriate staging tests, make sure your vet/surgeon knows which medications you're giving and when they were last given)
(2) Learn how to care for your dog appropriately after surgery.
This article will walk you through what to expect after surgery and serve as a guide for how to best care for your dog post-operatively to avoid complications.
After the procedure
Most specialty clinics have a policy of hospitalizing all patients overnight after surgery. This is often ideal and allows the sedatives (given at surgery) to wear off, so your dog is looking "normal" when you pick him up. It also allows for appropriate pain management. Often,...
Soft tissue sarcomas (STS) account for approximately 15% of all tumors arising from the skin and underlying tissues in dogs. These tumors are most common in middle-aged to older dogs and arise from connective tissues. Since there are many types of connective tissues, there are subsequently many types of soft tissues sarcomas.
These tumors can arise from muscle, fat, fibrous, neurovascular tissue, etc. Examples of soft tissue sarcomas include peripheral nerve sheath tumor (PNST), liposarcoma, myxosarcoma, undifferentiated sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, etc. If your dog has a "spindle cell tumor" or "mesenchymal tumor" involving the skin, these are different ways of saying 'soft tissue sarcoma'.
How to make a diagnosis
Just as with any other skin mass, we start with a needle aspirate to obtain a diagnosis. Soft tissue sarcomas do not release their cells as readily as other tumor types, so during the aspiration, we typically need to apply suction (negative pressure) to the...
Osteosarcoma is undoubtedly the most common primary bone cancer in dogs ('primary' refers to cancer originating in the bone), accounting for up to 85% of all primary bone tumors in dogs. Since osteosarcoma is so common, I wanted to share which dogs are most commonly affected, how it is diagnosed, as well as the prognosis we can expect with various treatment options.
What is osteosarcoma?
As mentioned above, osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that originates in the bone. It both destroys normal bone and produces new bone, which is very unstable.
Due to the instability caused by the tumor (and often microfractures that develop within the bone) it is an exceedingly painful disease to have.
Commonly, a dog with osteosarcoma will limp due to the destruction that the tumor causes within the bone. Since everything else is normal with the dog, the owner will usually attribute the limp to recent 'rough play' or 'jumping out of the truck'.
Then, when rest and pain meds don't...
How common are mast cell tumors?
It is important for a dog owner to have a good understanding of mast cell tumors (MCT) because they are the most common cutaneous (skin) tumor in dogs (up to 20% of all cutaneous tumors). The average age at diagnosis is approximately 8-9 years, but we see plenty of younger dogs affected as well.
Which dogs get mast cell tumors?
Although most MCT occur in mixed breed dogs, certain breeds are at increased risk for developing MCT such as dogs of bulldog descent (pugs, Boston terriers, Boxers, English bulldogs, Frenchies), Labradors, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, beagles, Staffordshire terriers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, schnauzers, Weimaraners, and Shar-Peis.
In general, it is felt that MCT in dogs of bulldog descent tend to behave less aggressively (note I said 'tend to' - this is not a hard and fast rule) and MCT in Shar-peis have a tendency to behave more aggressively.
What are mast cells anyway?
Mast cells are part of the normal immune system....
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...
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...
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...
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.
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...
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...
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,...