The Big C

001Evil, scourge, blight, corruption, neoplasia, growth, tumor, the Big C — whichever word you use it all means cancer. Cancer is a word that strikes fear into all of us. We have all had a family member whether 2 or 4 legged who has been diagnosed with this horrible disease.

A friend of mine was only 35 when her dog began acting “funny” around her; then one day he jumped on her chest while she was in bed and it hurt enough that she went to the doctor thinking he had cracked her ribs. She found out that she had breast cancer and was in surgery for double mastectomy within days. Her dog saved her life.

My friend went through some terrible times with the chemotherapy and the repeated surgeries but she has been well for a couple of years. Today she goes in for ovarian cancer — she has a much better attitude about it than I do. It sucks!

When my own pet got cancer I didn’t even know it — she was fine and then she suddenly seemed “not quite right”. I am a veterinarian and I have my hands on my pets all the time but I never saw it until it was there. I took her to the oncologist, even though I said I would never do chemotherapy, and when they diagnosed her I just shoved her across the table and told them to do what they could.

Polly supposedly had a “good” cancer — one that we can do something about but she never made it through the chemotherapy.

There have been so many articles, reports and studies about how cancer develops, spreads and how it is caused but we have yet to get a good handle on it. Don’t get me wrong, we have made progress and that is a good thing.

Here are my recommendations for you and your pet:

  • Get annual examinations — personally, after the age of 5 in our pets I think they need twice a year examinations.
  • Get annual blood work — this includes urinalysis, heartworm testing, and a complete blood panel. If your pet begins any type of medication, twice a year blood work is my recommendation.
  • Get annual radiographs (x-rays) — this may be chest one year and hips the next but you can’t find something if you are not looking for it. Radiographs allow your veterinarian to see changes as they are happening and to get a jump on any treatment that may be needed.
  • Feed a good quality diet — there are a ton of diets out there on the market so talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s dietary needs.
  • Keep your pet trim — lose the extra weight since they are looking at a correlation between weight and cancer.
  • Exercise — it may not keep the cancer away but if your pet is strong prior to the problem then their body will be better equipped to fight the disease.
  • Follow your veterinarian’s advice about your pet.
  • If you notice any difference in your pet’s attitude, a swelling, pain, not eating — anything — take your pet in for an examination. The best way to fight cancer is to get the first punches in early.

The above list was recommendations for you and your pet so just insert your name instead of your pet’s and add human doctor instead of veterinarian! Isn’t it fun that we can treat ourselves and our pets the same way!

If your pet should get diagnosed with cancer — talk to an oncologist, talk to a friend, talk to your veterinarian, talk to your family, talk to a spiritual guide but talk. Talk to someone because it is very hard to deal with disease let alone the one that strikes fear into all of our hearts. The hard part is deciding what and how to do what needs to be done — do you go all out or do you make your pet comfortable? I always tell people that you have to do what is right for you and your family.

The best thing you can do is to get a second opinion. If you decide to have the nodule removed then send it off for a pathologist to look at and determine the grading of the disease. Oncology has come a long way with our pets but it is never perfect.

There are a lot of different therapies out there including ketogenic diets, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and others that are making history towards cancer therapy. Let us all hope and pray for the day that we can treat cancer by preventing it.

Kerry — you are in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck today.

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