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
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.