So many guardians post comments on this blog, asking questions that have to do with age and cancer treatment.
Let’s look at this topic today.
I have an old dog. What is the right choice for cancer treatment?
This central question usually can boil down to whether the life quality negative of the treatment is outweighed by the increase in life quality afterwards, and the gained life expectancy .
You can see we have three main points here:
- Treatment causing negative life quality (side effects, stress, etc…., what we don’t want)
- Treatment yielding increase in life quality (what we want, part one)
- Gained life expectancy (increased cancer survival time from treatment, what we want, part two)
Of course there is more to it (your finances and treatment logistics typically) but let’s focus on these three, which have to do with your dog only, for now.
Okay, so how does one go about deciding whether a treatment is worth it, from the standpoint of your canine companion?
Well, TPA needs to happen. Treatment Plan Analysis. This is discussed in detail in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Let’s look at some big points to get you on the right track.
You should be weighing in on surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, diet, supplements like Apocaps, touch therapies, homeopathy, and acupuncture /other Chinese medicine approaches when using the Full Spectrum approach that I advise. The other ways to increase life quality that essentially lack side effects in the Guide should be automatically implemented.
Here are some data points you need to get about each of these treatments, at least for what is known. Get the best info you can, and some of it will be trusting your vet or oncologist’s estimation (and it is always only a guess) about your unique dog’s odds:
- Gained life expectancy if treatment works (find out from your vet or oncologist)
- Gained life quality if treatment works (use your vet or oncologist)
- The odds the treatment does not work (use your vet or oncologist)
- Treatment side effect odds (what are the chances? Use your oncologist or vet)
- Treatment side effect severity (how bad are they? Use your oncologist or vet, get a picture of what this looks like for you and your dog…understand this)
- Stress on dog during treatment? (Find out from vet or oncologist)
- How trips to and from treatment influence life quality (easy for some, hard on some..you will need to use your own judgment here)
- Other (non-cancer) health issues affecting your dog’s life expectancy (use your vet)
- Other health issues affecting your dog’s life quality (use your vet)
Okay, I hope that you will actually get answers to these and write them down.
Now you can answer the three questions, but you are not quite done. You will then be able to get an idea of what gains your dog will get. You will be able to look at your dog’s life normal life expectancy and find out if your dog has reached a full life already or not. You will be informed as to odds involved.
Finally, you will have to decide what kind of person you are…
A, B, or C ? These are groups of people described in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide in the treatment plan analysis section. You must know what kind of person you are to operate successfully in caring for a dog with cancer.
A’s want life extension and are willing to tolerate side effects from the treatments. B’s want some life extension and are willing to tolerate some milder side effects. C’s are only concerned with life quality and will accept very little life extension. They want as few side effects as possible and only want comfort care.
What kind of person are you?
That is the fourth part of treatment plan analysis that affects your dog. Define this, and use it as a platform to help guide your choices when you making gray zone decisions.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.