Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans

Dr Riggs talks about cancer and some of the interesting developments in the human world of cancer that might help our pets.

Cancer sucks. It sucks when someone we know gets it. It sucks when our pet gets it. It just sucks. So what exactly is cancer?

We hear the word, but do we understand what is going on? Cancer is the proliferation of cells from any normal tissue of the body that has undergone a transformation into abnormal cells, which grow at a faster rate then the surrounding normal cells. A benign cancer will stay in one area. A malignant cancer spreads to other parts of the body, through either the blood stream or the lymph system.

Cancer causes problem when it crowds out of normal cells and disrupts the organ’s natural functions. Whether it causes a problem just depends on where it is. A benign tumor on the skin often causes little problems if it is small enough to be removed. A small tumor in the brain may cause big problems if it puts pressure on specific parts of the brain.

Our pets get the same types of cancers people get. They get leukemia, lung cancer, liver, pancreas, brain and bone cancer. Any type of cancer you can think of, they get too. We treat them the same way, with surgery radiation and drugs.

Chemotherapy can be a scary word. I try to explain to my clients that chemo, is just another name for a drug and therapy, is just another name for treatment. So chemotherapy just means treatment with a drug. When we take antibiotics, it is a type of chemotherapy. So if we think in that way if seems less frightening.

There are differences in how we diagnose and treat our pets compared to how people are handled. First of all, for pets we do not have the blood markers that exist in people for many human cancers. For example, one such marker is CA 125, which increases in ovarian and peritoneal cancers. CA 125 levels are use to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Unfortunately it cost a lot of money to do the research to come up with these markers in each species. The money is just not there in veterinary medicine to sponsor these studies.

The major difference between human and veterinary treatment of cancers can be summed up with one statement. “We do not make animals sicker than they are with chemotherapy.” In humans, we can justify causing discomfort in patients to get a cure or prolonged remission. In animals we are looking often at a prolonged remission rather then a cure. This is because of the relatively short life span of our pets. If we can get an additional 2 years added to a 12 or 13-year-old dog, we are adding a substantial percentage of their lifespan. I am not saying we don’t cure many cancers in veterinary medicine; we just don’t make them miserable during their treatment.

I have ridden my bike 100 miles in one day in August for the last 4 years in an event called Pelotonia. This year nearly $20,000,000 was raised on this one day. 100% of the money goes to the Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital to fund research to find a cure, the only goal. 

Through being associated with this organization I have learned so much on just how close we are to that cure. Probably the most exciting development has been the introduction of genomic medicine. Many of our cancers have a genetic predisposition. Through genomic medicine, doctors are looking at what turns on those genes and how to prevent them from being expressed. There are tests now that will tell healthy people if they are carrying these "cancer genes", so preventative measures can be taken.

Most exciting to me is that it allows doctors to be able to tell which treatment will work for that specific patient. This alleviates the need for patients to go through unneeded treatments and their side effect. It allows a patient to get treatment tailored to them.

Genomic medicine is in early days, but it seems so promising. I really believe in the near future it will change the way we look at cancer, not only in human medicine, but veterinary medicine as well.

Related Posts
November is Cancer Awareness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

 



November is Cancer Awareness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

Several of the Embrace staff members (aka Embracers) are or recently have been going through cancer in their dogs and cats and all the physical and emotional toll that takes.

This month we are going to address this difficult health issue with a discussion by Dr Rex Riggs, and a podcast with Dr Patrick Mahaney, as well as some aspects of cancer treatment that pet insurance can definitely help you with.

In the meantime, check out the Morris Animal Foundation's "Golden Retriever Lifetime Study" that has just got going.

Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a groundbreaking effort to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases. It is the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken to improve the health of dogs. The study will enroll up to 3,000 Golden Retrievers and will last 10 to 14 years.

...

This study does not directly affect how owners care for their dogs, but it does gather information on their dog's genetics, nutrition, health and environment. The study is expected to provide valuable information on how to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases.

I'm so happy they are doing this study and can't wait to hear some of the findings. What do you think they will find are some of the causes of cancer in Goldens?

 

 



One Dog's Passing Highlights the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools

As part of our focus on working dogs and cats this month, I was reminded yesterday how far reaching the benefits of therapy dogs are when the new that Brutus, our kids' school principal's boxer, passed away over the weekend. Brutus was more than a pet, he was a therapy dog who helped with many of the children at that school.

In an excerpt from our principal's letter to parents:

It is with a very heavy heart that I write to inform you all that our dog, Brutus, passed away over the weekend.  This was unexpected and, as you can imagine, has been heartbreaking for my family.  I am so grateful that over the past 3 years, Brutus also became part of the Gurney family. However, we always knew that the challenge of adding Brutus to our Gurney family would be that at some point we’d have to inform students of his passing. My hope was to have his younger brother, Woody (currently 18 months old), completely trained and credentialed through Therapy Dog International by the end of this school year so that we could phase Brutus out as he aged.  Unfortunately, Brutus left us much earlier than ever expected.

Credentialed through Therapy Dog International, Brutus filled many roles at Gurney.  Most commonly, individuals and groups of students enjoyed reading to him.

Some students read to Brutus as practice – they may have been English Language Learners or at-risk readers but, Brutus never criticized. Some groups practiced their Readers’ Theater performances in front of him before they felt ready to perform to their class.  Other students had already practiced and wanted to do their best reading for their visit with Brutus.

Students with autism, Downs Syndrome, and other disabilities practiced communication skills such as good eye contact and clear articulation by making Brutus practice his obedience commands and some fun tricks. 

Students who needed additional, purposeful movement during the day had jobs related to taking care of Brutus such as refilling his water bowl or brushing him.  Some students working very hard on self-control would work even harder when visiting with Brutus was the reward. For students with diagnosed anxiety conditions, time petting Brutus worked better than medicine.

Of course, Brutus was always looking for opportunities to visit classrooms so that we could share one of his favorite stories, kids could share stories they had written about him, or he could simply give some high-fives for working hard.  Brutus even had his own bulletin board on which students posted pictures and poems they made about him. 

When I reflect on this long list of Brutus’ contributions to the special culture we have at [school], it is heartwarming to know how much we all valued him. 

 She goes on to describe how they are handling the news at school and closes out with:

Again, I sincerely thank you all for allowing Brutus to become such a beloved member of our [school] family.  He taught us more about the benefits of a therapy dog in a school than we had ever predicted.  He will be greatly missed.

I know I felt comfort seeing Brutus in the front office wanting to say hello to anyone that came in and shed a tear at the news he has moved over the Rainbow Bridge.

Perhaps more schools should have a Brutus of their own to benefit both parents and children. What do you think? 

Related Posts

October is Working Dogs and Cats Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: fake service dogs
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk about the wonder of working dogs and cats
Helping Working Dogs and Cats
One Dog's Passing Highlights the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools

 



Helping Working Dogs and Cats

The vast majority of working dogs and cats are assisted by charitable organizations and you can help as well by make a donation. Here are some of our favorites to get you started.

Military and Law Enforcement Dogs:

SaveAVet.org helps rescue and support military and law enforcement dogs after they have retired from the field

The Vest-a-Dog Network helps raise money to buy kevlar vests for active K9 constables. They don't take donations directly but here's the webpage with federal and state non-profits that do

Service Dogs:

National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, provides independence to people who are deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance

Canine Partners for Life is dedicated to training service dogs, home companion dogs, and residential companion dogs to assist individuals who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities. 

Canine Companions for Independence enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support. It's a favorite of our veterinary advisor, Dr Rex Riggs, who is active with the organization

Do you have any personal favorites or have benefited from one you would like to highlight? I would love to see them in the comments below.

Related Posts

October is Working Dogs and Cats Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: fake service dogs
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk about the wonder of working dogs and cats
Helping Working Dogs and Cats
One Dog's Passing Highlights the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools

 

 



Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk about the wonder of working dogs and cats

Today's podcast is on working dogs and cats. There are many different kinds of ways dogs work in society such as dogs that sniff out drugs, bombs, fruit and other banned substances, cadaver dogs, seizure or blood-sugar alert dogs, mold-sniffing dogs, and even cancer-sniffing dogs. In addition, there are therapy dogs and cats. And of course, actual dogs and cats that work on the farm or in the field hunting or dragging a sled in the Iditarod.

Our podcast discusses the following questions about working dogs and cats:

  1. What sort of socialization, training, temperament is needed for a working dog or cat? Given that, which breeds tend to trend toward making a good working dog/cat?
  2. What you should look for in choosing a pet that you want to be a working dog/cat - to give yourself the best chance of success in your chosen field. What organizations to look into for more information.
  3. What qualities should your dog possess if you are thinking about having his certified as a therapy dog? What training can you do in advance to get him ready for therapy dog training?
  4. What certifications are needed specifically for working dogs to be considered "one in the same" with their pet parent's? (for example, to go to the mall, on planes, in public places where pets are forbidden overall?)
  5. How should you behave around a working dog? I never know when it’s appropriate or not to pay attention to a working dog.

Click on the link below for the podcast.

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney working dogs  

Related Posts

October is Working Dogs and Cats Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: fake service dogs
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk about the wonder of working dogs and cats
Helping Working Dogs and Cats
One Dog's Passing Highlights the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools


Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney


Dr Patrick MahaneyDr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis atVeterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA. 

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) forwww.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2014 through Havenhurst Books