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

How Do I know The Right Course of Treatment, part 2

Updated: October 19th, 2018

In the last post we looked at the information you need to gather about surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for your dog when deciding on a treatment plan.

But as you know, the choices do not stop there.

As a Guardian you also need to decide what to do. Since you are your dog’s primary advocate, choices about what steps to take need to be made.

Here is where things might get more tricky, especially if you have a old timer.

You have already spoken with your vet and oncologist about the statistics. You know the recommended treatments. You have some rough statistics about how many dogs respond to the proposed treatments. You have some idea of side effects, not only what they are, but how often they happen. You have estimated costs. You have an idea of what your time commitment will be, and any home care you will need to do.

And you have hopefully also read the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, which tells you everything you need to know about diet, apoptogens and other supplements, immune boosters, steps to help with side effects, “outside the box” therapies, and how to help take the best steps for your dog’s life quality.

Now you need to put your attention on your dog. What is the best way to decide on the best treatment for your dog?

Let’s look at your dog. We need to evaluate what we have to gain. The treatments have desired outcomes. These are usually talked about using a measure called median survival time.

Median survival time is a rough figure for how long a dog’s life will be following the cancer diagnosis, given the treatment performed. It is the point in time where half the dogs receiving the treatment are still alive.

We use this as a working figure for what your dog gains from a treatment. Although it should be taken with a rather large grain of salt for your particular dog, it is the best data we have.

But there is more that may not be looked at when discussing dog cancer treatments. What is the life expectancy of my dog both normally (without cancer), and what is the life expectancy of my dog without any treatment at all?

These are very important. The Dog Cancer Survival Guide includes life expectancies by body weight and breed. By looking at your dog’s normal life expectancy, you have a rough guide of where your dog stands now compared to what the averages are. This is useful because your dog still may have years of potential life left, especially if he responds well to the treatments. On the other side of the coin, your dog may already exceed what can be expected.

Now, we need to look at gained life expectancy from treatment. This is when we compare the untreated disease compared to the treated disease. How much do we gain from the treatments?

Some dogs have other issues, aside from cancer, that should be weighed in as well. Sometimes these impact life expectancies also.

And finally, we need to use you and your intuition. Nobody has a crystal ball. Your physician cannot tell you your last day, and your vet or oncologist cannot do the same for your dog.

Some dogs have a certain personality that makes them hang on longer. In my experience, these dogs tend to be very determined. They do not take no for an answer. They resist and they persist. The are the fighters.

Those of you who have a dog like this will know what I am talking about. You will easily be able to recall times when she absolutely would not give up. Maybe it was time for a medication. Maybe it was when she pushed you around. Maybe it was utterly resisting a nail trim. Maybe it was that he would never relinquish his position in the home, even when challenged.

These are the fighters. These determined dogs seem to have a will to live that, again in my experience, increases their ability to defy the odds.

Using this information will help you come to the right cancer treatment plan for your dog.

Best, Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Karen V on March 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I’ve submitted questions on 3 different occasions…..any chance I’ll ever get any of my questions answered?

    • DemianDressler on March 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Submitted on 2011/03/08 at 9:46 pm | In reply to Karen V.
      Dear Karen,
      Burdock has some nice properties, although the anticancer evidence is not as strong as the consituents in Apocaps and the other “big guns” you read about in the Guide. Digestive enzymes are included in the guide too, so I do use them, usually Wobenzyme N. Sheep sorrel is pretty wimpy in my view.
      Dr D

      Submitted on 2011/01/13 at 10:44 am | In reply to Karen V.
      Dear Karen,
      as long as the organic meat is good quality meat, it is great. Red clover and burdock have some evidence as being helpful, but they are lower on the list than the items discussed in the Guide. If this were my patient, I would be using Apocaps (click here), the dog cancer diet (free download on top of blog), beta glucan immune support, fatty acid supplementation…at a minimum. These are all discussed in the Guide you have.
      All steps should be done under veterinary supervision

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