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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Newspaper Columnist Faces Dog Cancer Diagnosis

Updated: May 15th, 2024

Kerstin Shamberg received the devastating news that her beloved dog Peebucks has cancer.  Peebucks was recently diagnosed with a type of tumor of the nose called a carcinoma, likely an adenocarcinoma.

Kerstin writes for the Huffington Post, and describes what this experience was like.  Many reader will recognize what she is going through: shock, dismay, and a feeling of the world turning upside down.  This is followed by massive sorrow.

She describes how Peebucks seemed to be doing pretty well with the news of his cancer diagnosis. The point is useful to remember for guardians coping with a dog cancer diagnosis.  Dogs don’t experience mental grief about their own future or disease.  They live almost entirely in the moment.

People, on the other hand, are forced to endure many different kinds of grief.  One of the most common is  sadness about the future.  This is called preemptive grief, where we mourn an event that has not yet happened.  This is very different from the way a dog views his or her life.  There is no preemptive grief. And this can provide us humans with some comfort and solace during these very difficult times.

Kerstin was faced with the first step in dog cancer management….managing herself, Peebuck’s guardian and health care advocate.  This is “mission critical” for anyone coping with dog cancer.  The emotions that come up in this journey can be very, very difficult.  They can even interfere with our ability to make good decisions or think clearly about treatment options.  For this reason, the first section of the Guide is devoted to you- mission critical, and methods you can use to help deal with the pain and confusion that can be a part of the dog cancer journey.

Peebucks is scheduled for radiation treatment, one of the most common ways of dealing with nasal cancers.  This recommendation is one of the “Big Three” conventional medicine treatment steps discussed in the Guide.  The Big Three include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

These are the foundation of  conventional oncology, and can be very useful for gains in life span in dogs with cancer.

We also have mounting evidence that dogs with cancer benefit from dietary changes.  Cancer takes over the body’s metabolism and changes it is harmful ways.  Current thoughts on cancer management, similar to diabetes and kidney disease. focus on dietary changes that can help dogs fight cancer.  (For those interested, there is a free download at the top of this blog all about the Dog Cancer Diet.  One important piece of this change is limiting sugars and digestible carbohydrates,  cancer’s favorite foods.)

Cancers have a unique ability.  They are able to escape a process in the body called apoptosis.  This means “programmed cell suicide”.  When a cell becomes damaged, old, infected by certain viruses, or cancerous, the process of apoptosis should be activated in the cell.  Apoptosis causes the diseased cell to commit suicide.

It is now recognized that escaping apoptosis is a hallmark of cancers. A large number of research labs are investigating ways to turn on apoptosis genes in cancer cells.

Apoptosis can also be turned on using natural compounds.  This led to the development of a supplement for this purpose.

In human oncology, there are many publications supporting the role of the immune system in cancer.  For this reason, the use of immune supplements is an important piece of cancer management.  These include beta glucans in certain mushrooms, Active Hexose Correlated Compound, and others.

New research has focused on immune stimulating cancer “vaccines”, another way to boost immunity in dogs with cancer.  This led to the development of the canine melanoma vaccine.  There are also trials underway to develop brain cancer vaccines.

There are a wide variety of tools that can be used to fight canine cancer.  Like Peebucks, one in three dogs gets cancer in their lifetime, and half the dogs over the age of ten years.  We wish Kerstin, her family, and Peebucks our very best.

Dr D




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