I recently got a comment from a reader who was quite upset with her veterinarian.
Turns out her dog underwent a splenectomy (spleen removal), presumably for treatment of a hemangiosarcoma (a malignant tumor of the blood vessel walls) of the spleen. This dog lover was incensed that the vet indicated this procedure, combined with removal of a lipoma (fatty tumor) at the same time, would extend her dog’s life for a “long time”.
Following the splenectomy, she was dismayed to find out, according to certain people, that this procedure would only extend her dogs life for an additional 3-6 months. Whereupon she became “furious” at her vet, reasoned that the vet was trying to get her money, and sent in the comment. My quotes indicate her wording.
I think there are various aspects to this scenario that deserve attention.
First and foremost, hindsight is 20-20. In cases of dog cancer, foresight is never 20-20. However, foresight can be sharpened considerably by education. I often will ramble on about “being your dog’s number one health advocate” and stress how information gathering is one of the initial steps that must be taken.
Most of us will research before buying a car. However, the health professional industry, over probably thousands of years, has created a mass-consciousness belief that information from a Doctor should not be questioned. I am sure that a whole book could be written about how and why this came about. Regardless of the genesis of this belief, it is now counter-intuitive for us to gather our own data about the care of our four legged family members.
Being your dogs primary health care advocate implies that the information is gathered before the action is executed. Although it is not always natural, I think it is so important for everyone to please try to gather as much data as you can before embarking on what can be a complicated journey. This was one of my main reasons for writing the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
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In the case of this blog reader, it could be argued that, from her vet’s perspective, the removal of the spleen would indeed extend her dog’s life for a long time. What does that phrase mean, anyway? A “long time”?
If one were to look at years of life in proportion to lifespan, a one year would be half the life of a creature expected to live two years. A year would indeed be a long time for this creature.
One year, in a dog with an average life expectancy of 12 years, is 8.3% of this dog’s life. (Here is a good link for average life expectancies.) Suppose a human were to live 80 years. 8.3% of that 80 years would be 6.67 years.
How about, say, 7 months for a dog? Well, for a dog expected to live for 12 years, this turns out to be 3.88 years of life for a human with a life span of 80 years.
Is 3.88 years a long time for a human? I don’t know. Could be. I guess it depends on your viewpoint.
A dog with a splenectomy following hemangiosarcoma and no further care of any kind could live 3 months (more than 1.5 “human” years) or longer. With chemo maybe 7, and with diet, supplements, and the rest of the full spectrum plan maybe much longer. Every dog is different. These details are included in the Guide.
Anyway, the bottom line is this: everything is relative. Gather the data before you set sail and do what makes sense to you while using “compass”-ion as your compass.
Best to all,
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.
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