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

Right and Wrong In Dog Cancer

Updated: May 15th, 2024

When coping with a diagnosis of canine cancer, many guardians worry about decisions they are making.  Often  there does not seem to be a “right” answer.

Similarly, when learning about topics in cancer treatment, we may have a tendency to categorize as “good” and “bad”.

An important fact of dog cancer, and many medical topics, is that there may not be a single “correct” way of dealing with a problem.  Perhaps an approach works well in a dog, but in another dog with the same diagnosis, the treatment fails. And to make matters worse, we don’t have the opportunity to compare two different approaches in a single loved dog.

In the realm of dog cancer, especially when the disease is aggressive, we rarely have a single “correct” approach.  This holds true for each type of treatment in Full Spectrum Care (the comprehensive approach used in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide).

For example, is a given chemotherapy protocol always the best choice?  Maybe we would normally use doxorubicin, but some dogs have heart problems, making doxorubicin a poorer choice due to its heart side effects.  We would need alternative chemo choices, but we could still use the dog cancer diet, combination apoptogens, immune support, and so on.

Or it could be that we have a 15 year old dog whose life expectancy normally is 12 years, and this dog is stiff and sore and does not do well traveling. Perhaps a given dog has separation anxiety, and hurts her mouth trying to escape the dog kennel in the practice. These factors might make hospital stays less appropriate.

And of course, there is the guardian.  Maybe a given guardian wants to be sure their four legged family member experiences no side effects.  This would preclude the use of some cancer treatments.

For these reasons, it is important to decide what the priority in your dogs cancer treatments are.  This is called Treatment Plan Analysis, and is discussed at length in the Guide.  When examined closely, it becomes clearer that there is no “right” or “wrong”, only choices and the effects of those choices.  This is an important distinction for a guardian coping with dog cancer.

Take some time to sit and do a treatment plan analysis that best serves your loved dog. Get the information you need about side effects, increases in survival time, costs, and logistics.  Decide what treatment priorities and  philosophy you want for your loved dog.  Then make your plan and share with your vet or oncologist.

And finally, remember you can always change course.


Dr D


Leave a Comment

  1. Liliana on June 6, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    There may not be right or wrong but it sure doesn’t feel that way……My German Shepherd was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, her spleen tumor raptured so she had a splenectomy. I don’t agree with chemo as it has too many side effects so I tried Neoplasene along with the cancer diet and Budwig protocol (cottage cheese and flax seed oil) hoping we can beat this ugly disease or at least postpone the inevitable. No such luck….5 weeks after the surgery she past away in my arms. Now, 6 months later, i’m still questioning myself……, What did I do wrong? My girl was only 8 yrs 8 months when I lost her…she ate homecooked meals since she was 1, she was a very picky eater and would not eat any dry food and I can say I tried all the kibble on the market at the time. Her diet was basically what you recommend in your free booklet – the guide is in the mail as I type. The only treatment she had for the last 6+ years was stem cells (dietary supplement) for a torn ACL she was diagnosed with when she was 2 yrs old. Other than that, she was healthy until hemangiosarcoma hit and took her away. I will forever love her and I still miss her every single day.
    I now adopted a 1year old German Shepherd mix and I’m wondering what can I do to help him stay healthy. Would everpup be good for him or is it too early to start him on the supplement?

    Thank you for your continuous research in this area, hopefully you find the cure for this dreadful Dx.


  2. Elisa on February 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Dr D,
    What other chemotherapy drug would you use to replace Doxorubicin? My 7 year old Boxer had a ECG and it revealed (1)single ventricular premature arrhythmia.


    • Dr. Demian Dressler on February 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Dear Elisa
      this is not a simple question. We need to know if the single VPC is enough to rule out the drugs usefulness or not. We need the cancer, and what the other available protocols we have are. Sorry, simple question but cannot answer without a deeper understanding. What does the oncologist say about your Boxer’s chemo (who knows the case better)?

  3. Amy Lambert on January 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Dr. Dressler-

    Thank you for this comment as we are struggling with this with our 11 year old Sheltie. She recently developed (literally overnight) a large lump over her right eye. X-rays, CT and biopsy showed that it is a squamous cell carcinoma of the frontal sinus but it has not metastisized yet (lung x-ray clear, blood tests and urinalysis normal and no clinical signs other than the bump). We have ruled out radiation (at least aggressive radiation) due to the fact that they can’t spare the brain and the eye and she doesn’t do well being away for extended periods of time. We are about to start Piroxicam and are considering adding Palladia as well. We are switching her to the grain free diet and added omega 3s and I just purchased your book. We are also meeting with a holstic vet in our area. What are your thoughts on Palladia and combining it with Piroxicam? Also, can your supplement be taken with that protocol? Again, she show no clinical signs (eating, playing with our other dog, enjoying walks, etc.) Our focus is on given her the max quality time not just the max quantity time and hauling her to vet visits that she hates all of the time. Anything else we should be considering that might be cutting edge?

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on January 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Dear Amy-
      sorry to hear this news.
      Palladia with Piroxicam might be rough on the tummy, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach. Your vet is the best person to discuss this with.
      If you want to combine Apocaps with these meds under veterinary supervision, please drop the dose of Apocaps to 1/4-1/2 the labeled dose and give with a full meal.
      As to waht else to give, this is in the Guide– there is a lot: immune stimulation, consideration of Neoplasene or high dose IV vit C, the full dog cancer diet, and so on.
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

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