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Help! What Are They Talking About? (Part 1)

A cancer diagnosis in a pet, family member, or friend is typically overwhelming. We can become crippled by "worst case scenario" thinking as well as feelings of fear and anxiety. These feelings are normal, but they do nothing to help us to determine the best course of action or to ensure that our loved one receives the best treatment. 

In order to decrease overwhelm and allow you to make the most educated decisions, you need to know what the oncologist (medical or veterinary) is actually talking about. Does your mind go blank when they use terms such as "histopath", "margins", "metastasis", "radiation", or "neoplasia"? If the answer is 'yes', you're not alone; read the next few articles in this series and you'll have these answers. If the answer is 'no', keep reading; I see many clients that have an inaccurate understanding of these terms.  

Over the next few weeks, we're going to define some of the more common terms used in oncology, so you'll have a...

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Cannabinoids and Your Canine

In my oncology practice in California, clients ask me about using CBD products on an almost daily basis. In California, veterinarians are currently allowed to discuss the use of cannabinoids with clients but it is not yet legal for us to make recommendations regarding their use. In other states, it is not yet legal for veterinarians to discuss or recommend the use of cannabinoids. 

This places us in a difficult predicament. In my practice, I'd estimate that more than 70% of my patients are receiving cannabinoids. This is not due to my recommendation, but mainly due to my clients' research and the recommendations of their friends. 

I am thankful to have had the recent opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dr. Dawn Boothe, DVM, Ph.D. She is a board-certified veterinary internist and clinical pharmacologist currently studying cannabinoids in dogs (amongst other things). I wanted to share some of the information that she provided so that we could all be more...

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If You Need An Oncologist, Here's How To Find One

Does your dog have a skin tumor? Was he recently diagnosed with cancer or is he suspected to have cancer? 

Are you interested in obtaining a second opinion from a board-certified medical oncologist to learn more about a recent diagnosis? Do you want to make sure that the prognosis you've been given is accurate? Do you want to make sure that you're up to date on the latest treatment options and that nothing is being overlooked?

If you've answered yes to any of the previous questions, the next step is to find an oncologist and book a consultation. 

So what's that next step? If you're interested in a second opinion, where do you look and what do you ask?

Some oncologists will require that your dog has a diagnosis of cancer prior to scheduling your first oncology consultation. This would involve your primary care veterinarian taking samples of the tumor (either with an aspirate or biopsy) to obtain a diagnosis prior to the oncology consultation. This makes the oncology...

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Could Electrochemotherapy Help Your Dog?

As an oncologist, I'm always looking for new and effective treatments that will help my patients live longer and healthier lives.

Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is not a new treatment, but it is effective. It's been a bit slow to catch on in veterinary oncology over the past decade. Only recently has the practice begun to pick up, with over 30 veterinary oncologists offering the treatment in the U.S. and one practitioner in Canada. 

What are the indications for electrochemotherapy?

The most common indication for ECT is when a tumor is narrowly or incompletely removed, leaving microscopic tumor cells at the surgery site. In this case, a second surgery is always ideal, but sometimes there isn't enough skin available for a successful second surgery. If nothing is done, the tumor could grow back, sometimes as a more aggressive cancer (which we want to avoid). If a second surgery is not possible, our options are usually radiation therapy or electrochemotherapy. 

Radiation is an...

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How To Treat Nausea In Dogs

I recently wrote an article discussing how to recognize the many different signs of nausea in dogs. Now I'd like to share what I typically feel is most successful for treating nausea and inappetence in dogs.

If you remember from the previous article, a nauseous dog may demonstrate lip-smacking, excessive drooling, decreased appetite, lethargy, or may walk over to the food bowl then walk away without eating. Vomiting is the last sign of nausea, which we always want to avoid if possible.

The following recommendations are most appropriate if your dog is nauseous due to a medication or an underlying disease condition such as cancer. If you're not sure why your dog is nauseous, call your veterinarian and seek guidance, there are some situations where nausea (especially with vomiting) is an emergency.

A general recommendation is to withhold food and water if your dog is actively vomiting. Ideally, you would wait at least 6 hours to offer food or water after vomiting has...

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Struggling with Feelings of Sadness After Your Dog's Cancer Diagnosis? You're Not Alone.

When a dog is diagnosed with cancer there are many emotions that the family may experience. Most people report feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sadness, guilt, confusion, and frustration (amongst others). If you've experienced any of these feelings (or feel them now), then you're in good company and what you're feeling is common, according to a recent study.

A recent study reported in the British Medical Journal (Nakano et al. 2019) evaluated data from 99 owners of a pet with cancer and 94 owners of a healthy pet. The study was conducted in Japan, where pets are considered as family members, just as in the U.S. and Canada. 

Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Japanese version of the CES-D (a self-report survey used for depression screening in the U.S.). Anxiety was assessed using the Japanese version of the State-Trait Anxiety-Inventory Form JYZ. The questionnaire measures anxiety as an emotional state (state anxiety) versus an individual characteristic (trait...

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How to Tell if Your Dog is Nauseous

Nausea is an important sign to be able to recognize in dogs. We want to diagnose nausea as soon as possible to help our friend feel better quickly, but also because nausea can be a sign of something serious. By recognizing early signs of nausea, we have the opportunity to get our friend the help he needs as soon as possible.

It's important to know that vomiting is actually the last sign of nausea. The goal is to recognize and treat the earliest signs of nausea so that vomiting can be prevented. Of course, there are some cases where we actually do want a dog to vomit (like if he ingests chocolate or certain other toxins).  With the exception of toxin ingestion, vomiting is typically something that we're trying to prevent.

So what are some of the earliest signs of nausea?
The earliest signs of nausea include decreased appetite, walking to the food bowl (not eating) then walking away, drooling more than normal, lip-smacking, lethargy (obviously lethargy can occur due to a number of...

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How an Oncologist Can Save You Money

Can an oncologist really save you money when your dog is diagnosed with cancer? It seems counterintuitive, right? How can specialty care actually save money?

The most common ways that oncologists save clients money are by (1) making sure that cancer is treated appropriately from the beginning, and by (2) avoiding unnecessary procedures, tests, and treatments.

Get It Right The First Time
I recently saw an Irish Setter that had a very large tumor in the armpit. Two months prior to our consult, she had a low-grade soft tissue sarcoma removed from that area by the family veterinarian; it had grown back in a very short amount of time. After surgery, the family was supposedly told that everything was "good"; they were not offered additional treatment. 

Unfortunately, the original biopsy report showed that the cancer was not completely removed and that it was likely to return. If that dog had received a local treatment such as electrochemotherapy or radiation to kill the remaining...

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How Pet Insurance Can Help A Dog With Cancer

We're all familiar with health insurance. Health insurance is usually considered somewhat of a necessity, especially for those of us that have a chronic health condition. Many of us couldn't imagine not being able to rely on health insurance to help us out. Personally, I wouldn't be able to afford my migraine treatment and medication without health insurance - I am incredibly thankful for it!

Health insurance for our pets is a relatively new concept that has been slow to catch on. Only 1-2% of dogs and cats in the U.S. are insured. This could be because, for a long time, pet insurance wasn't very good. Thankfully, this is changing. 

There are now some very good pet insurance companies out there. On a daily basis, I see how this makes a huge difference in my patients' lives. Families that have pet insurance are able to say "yes" to treatment, which can extend their dog's lives, while other families are not able to.  

Gone are the days when the only option for treatment...

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The Value of a Second Opinion

I started the Canine Cancer Academy because I wanted more people to have the information needed to make educated decisions for their dogs with cancer. 

Cancer in dogs is a very common problem. More than 50% of dogs over 10 years old will develop cancer. These dogs will do best if they are diagnosed quickly and correctly. 

Unfortunately (as you may have heard me say before), veterinarians do not receive much training in cancer in vet school. Most vet schools actually only include about 8 hours of cancer training in the entire curriculum - you can't learn very much in 8 hours. Some vet students will elect to spend two weeks on the oncology (cancer) service during the final year of their studies, but again, you can't learn how to treat cancer in 8 hours plus two weeks of seeing cases.

Because of this, many dog owners will receive inaccurate or outdated advice when their dog is diagnosed with cancer by a family veterinarian. Clients often tell me that their vet has said there...

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