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

To Chemo or Not To Chemo?

Updated: December 7th, 2018

One of the little known facts about veterinary medicine is that chemotherapy does not cure cancer in dogs, with few exceptions (except transmissible venereal tumor or the very rare lympho or something).

I believe that many people are unaware of this fact.

So we are left with a treatment  modality that has a goal of improving two things:

In order to make the choice about chemo, a life quality analysis has to be done (the technique to do this is in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide).   Step one is for you to answer the question, “What kind of person am I?”

To learn more about your role as your dog’s guardian, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

This boils down to risk aversion.  How important are avoiding any side effects for you?

Most people also don’t know that in conventional chemotherapy, often the more longevity one gets, the higher the risks of side effects.  Usually these go hand in hand.

Speaking of side effects, there are some natural compounds (also discussed in the Guide) that can be used to help with these, like indole 3 carbinol.

At any rate, are you willing to accept some side effects for added life expectancy or is your number one goal life quality, for the remainder of the time your canine companion is with you?

Usually there is some risk of less life quality during treatment in exchange for added life expectancy.

By defining what kind of person you are, you create a platform that informs your decision making and gives you a clear idea of where you are headed.

Of course, you need to be aware of data, as step two.  Get an oncologist on board if you want chemo, if at all possible.  These folks live and breathe chemo and they are the ones you want.  If you are able to get an oncologist who is integrative (familiar with diet, supplements, acupuncture etc) that is a bonus.

In getting data, simply ask questions like these:

“How many dogs respond to this treatment?” (This tells Doc that you are aware that not all dogs respond to chemo.)

Get a copy of this informative seminar to learn more on Chemotherapy Side Effects in Dogs

“What is your guess (and I won’t hold you to this), on the added life expectancy for my dog with this treatment, assuming we get a response to chemo?” (note this is different from median survival time…this question says, okay Doc, since you know my dog, give me a little info on what added time I am getting here.)

“In your experience, what are the side effects of this treatment? What are the severe side effects of this treatment that are less common?  How often do they each occur?  What would they look like if I were seeing my dog having them? What does my dog go through? How long will my dog be in the hospital during treatment?  What happens during this time?  How often will my dog be at the hospital??”

Questions like these allow you to get the data.  Then you can take this info and see how it fits with the type of person you hare, and the priorities of this person given your dog’s age and circumstances.

Using a template like this, you can answer the question, “To Chemo or Not To Chemo.”


Dr D


Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment

  1. Miss Mo on March 18, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Our 12 year old golden retreiver started limping – right rear leg – vet indicates bone cancer and had radiologist confirm. Only SURE way to know is painful biopsy, and if positive they would push for amputation. I lean towards wanting to give her the best quality of life (including all the people food she wantS!) over extending her life a few months. At this point, I am hesitant to even put her through the biopsy – is that short sighted? Her hips are not strong anymore and I think balancing on 1 rear leg is going to be impossible for her…but I don’t want to give up on her! Spend the $1500 to learn the only path is amuptation? I will not amputate, I cannot take her leg at this age UNLESS they guarantee 2 more years of quality life!

    • Susan Kazara Harper on March 24, 2014 at 5:35 am

      Hello, I know this is a difficult time and hard decisions must be made. Unfortunately, no one can make them for you, and no one can guarantee any results, or guarantee any length of time. Amputation can seem like a really extreme action to take, and there is a lot to consider. If your dog is already favoring that rear leg and not weight bearing with it, she is already giving herself the physical therapy she’d go through after such a surgery. And remember, they have 4 legs to our 2. But the condition of her other legs and hips is a big factor as well. A couple things to keep in mind: Until you have a biopsy, you don’t have a definite diagnosis, so it’s harder to make a decision. If it is osteosarcoma, and if it hasn’t spread to other parts of her body, amputation is the best way to arrest it’s spread. You might want to check out Tripawds http://www.tripawds.com to get a fuller view of amputation. No one wants to amputate, but it is a valid, effective treatment. You know your girl better than anyone. Please get her on really great, natural nutrition, you can download most of The Dog Cancer Diet at http://www.dogcancerblog.com. Do talk to her through all of this and share your thoughts. She knows how much you love her and that you’ll do everything you can to help. Good luck.

  2. Lorain lim on May 26, 2013 at 3:10 am


    sorry to hijack this track, am looking for Shelly who uses Frankincense. My friend needs to contact you urgently for advice. Could you pls contact me at lrn_lim@yahoo.com.sg and I can linked up both of you?

    thanks much!

  3. Bijin Davis on May 10, 2013 at 5:12 am

    thank you so much , i really needed some kind of help and suggestion.
    thank you so so much!!
    -bijin davis

  4. Bijin Davis on May 3, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Hi Dr dressler,
    I’ve been waiting for your response and it’s sort of getting a little urgent , so i dug through all sorts of sites and finally found a number to contact you , they said you were busy and wouldn’t be able to take calls. sorry to bother you but i hope they left you a message and requested if you could please read and reply to my post or if a conversation is better i can call you again at a preferable time. thanks alot

  5. Bijin Davis on April 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Dr Dressler, i’ve been trying everything to find more information regarding cancer, i’ve been reading all i can, studies, blogs and even tried calling veterinary centers in us and uk but most of them were unhelpful and said that they have confidentialities so they can’t speak to me and advise me unless i am personally meeting them. I urgently need someone to trust and guide me through me decisions.
    I live in india and here the care for pets isn’t as developed as most places around the world.
    My 10 years old dog becky was diagnosed with a benign tumor/cancer on december 24th. doctor said it was a mammary tumor (fibroadenoma). He said to wait and see how rapid the growth was, but suddenly there was a water like discharge and the area just started to seem swelled up all of a sudden and so the doctors had decided that the best thing to do would be getting her tumor removed and giving it for biopsy testing. the result from the test went well, the doctors said its definitely benign so i would have nothing to worry.
    Eventually, exactly one month later, the same area starting growing the same kind of bumpy ,hard and uneven lump. and it just started growing rapidly. few weeks later there were discharges coming from her tumor but this time it was sort of like diluted blood and a yellow kind of discharge together.
    Doctor started saying this seems to look like a malignant tumor that is growing back. suddenly in a week or two after that i started feeling lots of small lumps
    (about 7 of them), which were small as 1cmX1cm in size . they just kept growing too rapidly. the doctor was leaving the decision to me whether i should do chemo or not, currently she still has a good apetite, she’s gotten a little slower and more lazier but she still excitedly goes for a walk with me.
    I just don’t want her to go through pain, i want her to live her life happily to the end, if letting her be the way she is now and not making her undergo treatment would atleast let her live her short life thats left happily, thats all i want for her even though it’s a hard to let her go.
    but if chemo is going to be a short term pain where eventually theres about 70 % chance for her to get better i rather have that.
    My aim isnt really to keep her with me as long as i can, i want her to have the best life she can ever have with no suffering.
    please please do help me make my decision. chemo or not ? i would really like some sort of advise or opinion from a doctor and a animal lover with experience and understanding of what they go through.
    Thank you so much

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on May 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Hi Bijin
      I’m sorry your dog and you are experiencing this.
      My recommendation?
      Spay with mastectomy on both sides (remove all the glands) and wide excision of any growths. Follow the Guide as best you can with your vet beyond that, except shift the diet to no red meat and add flax lignans along with the other supplements advised in the Guide.
      The vast majority of mammary tumors are pretty resistant to long term benefits of chemo.
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

  6. Michelle Meyer on April 23, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Dr. Dressler

    My almost 2 year old lab/ retriever mix was recently diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He is 2 weeks post amputation and has had 1 round of chemo with carboplatin. I started him on k-9 immunity plus after the amputation but my vet wanted me to stop during chemo what are you thoughts regarding supplements and chemo. I would really like to build his immune system. Thanks, Michelle meyer

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Hi Michelle
      oh, your dog is so young! 🙁 sorry!
      If a vet is counting on maximizing the effects of the chemo, and is worried about antioxidant effects, I might avoid K-9 immunity as there is some antioxidant effect..but that vet would not be me, personally. I believe (subjectively) that the immune and other effects of the beta glucans and related compounds in that supplement are beneficial and outweigh any chemo interference. It comes down to personal preference since there are arguments for both sides in the literature.
      Here’s a good read: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/blog/new-antioxidant-info-for-managing-dog-cancer/
      Not sure if I helped or not, but at least that’s some info.
      Best Dr D

  7. Linda on April 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Dr. Dressler,
    My 12 y.o. cat was diagnosed this week with a lung carcinoma. They weren’t sure if it was primary, but thought perhaps mets because he has nodules in his spleen and liver. He was great Monday morning, and when I came home at noon was lethargic and didn’t want to ear. X-ray showed two lung masses (relatively small) and thus we were sent for ultrasound and needle biopsy with above redults
    The veterinary oncologist said that he would have a better chance of him lasting more than two months
    if we started him right on Palladia versus chemo. He is slightly lethargic today (started yesterday) but eating and drinking well, no V/D. My friend gave me her copy of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, but noted there was not one for cats. Can you give me any advice based on your experience with results of Palladia in cats, and any other helpful advice on nutrition or ways to add to his health and quality of life? I understand that some info in your book will apply to cats as well as dogs. Dr. D, I am heartbroken. There simply doesn’t seem to be much out there for cats.
    With much gratitude.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Linda
      sorry to hear about your kitty.
      i might consider mirtazapine if nausea or less appetite occur.
      Cats can take CAS options for immunity, a low dose of metacam along with doxycycline to help slow spread, high doses of fish or krill oil, and perhaps a food like feline j/d which has a nice fatty acid profile that I’ve used with cats and i think can help. I would also consider flax lignans as an additional supplement.
      Finally, oral neoplasene at modest doses (your vet would have to order it) along with ongoing mirtazipine so it does not make your kitty sick is another useful and often potent tool in cats.
      Discuss all options with your vet…
      Dr D

  8. Luke Moseley on March 8, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Dr Dressler. My 11 yr old mini schnauzer Chloe began losing weight over the past 2 months from 20 to 16 pounds. She was having loose stools and bad gas. Took her to the vet for a checkup 3/5/13. Vet felt a abdominal mass and also bacteria in the stool. Metronidazole 250mg appears to have fixed the bacteria problem. An X-ray revealed a mass on the spleen and nodules on the lung. I believe he called this tumor a hemangiosarcoma. No biopsy taken. The vet sent us home and told us to enjoy what time we had left with her. She thought surgery to remove the spleen would hurt more than help. I have asked our vet to set us up with a oncology vet for another opinion and will persue this. In the meantime I’ve ordered the Guide and have downloaded the Dog Cancer Diet which we are now using. I’m kind of overwhelmed at this point as to what supplements to use but plan on ordering the Apocaps today. Chloe looks and acts normal and has a great appetite. We want to do more than just spend time waiting for Chloe to get worse. Your recommendations on treatment options and dietary supplements would be appreciated.

  9. Shelly on March 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Hi Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger –
    I’m one of those rare people who opted NOT for chemotherapy. My dog is 11 years old and she is a stunning white wolf/white shepherd who worked for many years in Children’s Cancer hospitals. She was losing weight, lost all appetite, hair was falling out in chunks. With ultrasound she was diagnosed with Lymphoma (alimentary) and also multiple lymphnodes (only one very large) and an abnormal spleen. They gave her 4-6 weeks or less especially if I opted not for prednisone. I believe that instituting steroids gives your dog a few weeks but then it comes back with a vengence and they’re gone. The oncologists wanted a biopsy/surgery in order to determine the grade of Lymphoma. Two separate aspirates were unreadable (which is rare because cancer cells happily go onto slides). Then a brand new test out of CA – TK/CRP said that my dog was fighting a major infection, but NOT cancer. After 3 ultrasounds, 2 aspirates and then finally a PCR at CSU confirmed B cell lymphoma. Yet another TK/CRP test said she didn’t have cancer. I elected NOT for biopsy/surgery as the cancer in the intestine was diffuse and not possible to remove with surgery and the chance of survival let alone remission with chemo for this type of lymphoma is very low. Also there is a very small chance that she had aggressive IBD which spread and it might look like lymphoma but isn’t?
    So here is the good part: I started my dog on massive doses of Essential Oils to fight the cancer and as an anti-inflammatory: Copaiba and Frankincense. Because her digestive system was compromised, my incredible alternative vet (also w 4 diplomas from CSU and a PhD who studies acupuncture and osteopath manipulation, etc) gave her many Standard Process products as well as Omega 3 and Bosweliia complex to rebuild intestine. My dog started eating, and gaining weight immediately. She runs around and plays like she is a puppy sometimes. Sometimes she has slower days, but she doesn’t have full diarrhea, mostly good stools. It was a complete reverse. I now have gone to a very famous Chinese Medicine practicing certified vet who has put her on a probiotic, maitake mushroom d faction and the two formulas Wei Qi and Max’s. She’s on so many things it’s a bit exhausting, especially for her. She eats however, and she’s maintaining. Every night she has cooked ground beef, lamb, chicken, turkey or she even gets piece of salmon 3x a week! I’ve spent almost as much money as Chemo now with PCR, ultrasounds and supplements and Dr. visits, but we are currently proof that alternative has some validity. And if we choose chemo later she wouldn’t have been compromised from use of steroids, etc.

    My questions: What do you think of this protocol? Have you ever heard of a dog surviving lymphoma for a long period of time without traditional western medicine? I’ve worked so hard, but am very nervous. I could have just tried the chemo but once I saw the incredible reaction to the oils I became determined to fight for “quality of life”. Today marks 6 weeks from diagnosis.
    The latest ultrasound showed that nothing had changed in size of lymphnode or the look of the spleen. And she thinks the intestinal lymphoma is larger, but that could be because of many other things such as necrosis of cells vs. apoptosis.
    Could you give me your honest opinion on all the things she is on as well as your prognosis or what you would include or not include?

    thank you very much

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      Dear Shelly,
      glad to hear your dog is doing well! As to the protocol, I am familiar with the items you mentioned by name. It is tough for me to answer the question of a long time because I am not sure what your definition of this is. I managed one of my lympho patients without chemo for about a year as I recall, but all lymphos are not the same nor are all dogs. I would get a definitive diagnosis with biopsy as this will guide your decisions in the event she declines at some point…you will want to know what you are dealing with to assess your choices. I would also read the Guide as there a a bunch of other things that you may want to take advantage of for your dog. I’d start here: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/blog/an-overview-of-what-else-can-i-do/
      Dr D

  10. Bob on February 23, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    6 year old rottie….ostiogenic..coming up on his 4th chemo…thoughts??? Amputation was 2weeks prior to Xmas LR leg…he is so up and wants to please….still has great attitude …bob

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      Bob, I am sorry, I am confused as to what the question is. Can you be more specific please?
      Dr D

  11. Jane on February 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    My 8 year old terrier mutt was diagnosed with Lymphoma on March 12, 2012. I took her in because she has a golfball sized lump under her arm which I thought was a cyst. We were told she had 2-4 weeks to live u less we got her chemotherapy. It was so expensive and we are trying to save money for our kids’ college o we decided to just love her and let God.
    Driven by sadness and despair, I went to a local pet store where the owner took me under her wing and told me what I needed to do to keep her healthy for as long as possible (and happy).
    ~Raw dog food called Bravo.
    ~ Cornucopia green veggie powder

    I also added:
    ` a handful each of raw oatmeal and non-grain dry dogfood (for bulk)
    `milk thistle capsule twice a day (for liver)
    ~ codfish gel cap twice a day (for immunity)
    ~ pre/probiotics for dogs (for intestines)

    The only chemical she takes is prednisone..which we use incrementally depending on how her nodes feel. We wean her off the higher dose.. weekly..until she is down to the lowest, to give her a break from her prednisone hunger. When her nodes enlarge, we put her back on te higher dose.

    We love her, walk her twice a day for miles, and I bake her chicken/egg/oatmeal meatballs for treats.
    She has now reached almost one year since her death sentence of one month.
    My story of our journey. She is still Stage Two, Asymptomatic as of today.

    If you need to reach me for advice : Lily.may30@yahoo.com

  12. Sue Forkenbrock on February 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    My dog Scully is a 13-year old Aussie who loves life. She always used to bark at the grandkids and wrestle my other dog Fox to the ground. You wouldn’t know she was 13! She has been diagnosed with cancer and has had two surgeries to remove several tumors. My question to you is: Are there any treatments available (Chemo or Holistic) that will help bring back the dog I once knew.


    Sue F.

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on February 8, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      It depends on the type of cancer and whether it has spread. One cannot mkae treatment recommendations without that important info.
      All my best, Dr Sue

  13. Debbie on February 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks, Jane. I’ll check into that.

  14. Jane Macmillan on February 1, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Debbie … why don’t you try CV 247 – look it up on the internet … my 12 year old cocker spaniel had mammary tumours and I didn’t want to put her through chemo … she is currently on that and I am very hopeful and very happy … it’s worth a try, as well as the Budwig Protocol for dogs – you just mix up cottage cheese and flaxseed every day – look these things up and look at the success stories .. give your little dog every chance. Much hope xxxx

  15. Debbie on January 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Our thirteen year old long-hair Chihuahua has bladder cancer. The tumor is not operable and is very large. Mia is tiny. She weighs 3 1/2 pounds. She is currently taking Piroxicam and is doing well on it. We have seen an oncologist and have the option of chemotherapy. However, there is only a 30% chance that it will do any good. We don’t know if she’ll have side effects, but the doctor said that when there are side effects, they usually happen with small dogs. We are trying to decide what to do. My husband doesn’t want to put her through any it. I’m leaning that way, but I’m not sure. She has a good chance to live about six months with the Piroxicam only. The chemo (if it does work) could possibly extend her life another six months. There is NO chance for a cure. I’d hate to make her sick and lessen the quality of life she has now, but I feel a little guilty if I don’t give her a chance at more life. It’s truly a difficult decision to make.

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on February 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      It is a hard decision, but I think it is important to put the survival times in perspective with the overall life span, meaning dogs sadly live much shorter than people. For bladder TCC, the addition of chemo doubles the survival times and that is significant and most dogs tolerate chemo well. Still you are making an educated decision and that is all your dogs could ask from you. Some of my clients try a dose or 2 of chemo and see how the dogs handles it (the majority are happy and continue). Good luck!
      All my best, Dr Sue

  16. Dayna on May 31, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Dr. Dressler,
    My 4 yr old female lab was diagnosed with MCT in Nov of 2011. It was high grade II with MI of 82 #10hpf; Ki-67 High; c-Kit IHC II 20%; kit mutation exon 11.. We had tumor originally on her left [thigh. ] removed and did 7 sessions of vinblastine with prednisone. She has been great until a few days ago, we found a golf ball size hard lump on her abdomen aprox 2 inches before her genetalia and central between her legs. My vet is on 2 week vacation. We are assuming at this point that the cancer is back and we have decided to not go through the chemo with her again..it was rough for her. We want to keep her comfortable by giving her Benadryl and Tagamet. I have done everything in your book except getting the appocaps. What should we do now? Do you think the lump could be something else? At this point, she is doing fine, although she has lost weight since her chemo treatment, about 8 lbs, she is not over weight at all. We just want her to be as happy and comfortable as possible.
    Thanks too for this great sight and the very helpful book.

  17. Alejandro on April 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Hello, My Boby has limphoma that was diagnos in June 2010 …. we made a tratment and two months after i came back. Now he is going once every 3 to 4 weeks for an injection with Doxorubicin and Dexrazoxane …. it is helping him very good ….. and if you see him he runs burks and play …. some dadys he is a little down ……
    My question doc. is I know this drug also in the long run probably cause adverse effect …. and indeed is very costly at the point that Iam about to go bankrupt ….
    before the vet gave him vincristine ….Is there oher treatment or some way to get financial aid .

    My Boby is a Beagle 12 years old ….. his sister died one year ago
    I lived in Los Angeles California in the San Fernabdo Valley Northridge

    Thank you

  18. Katherine on April 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Dear Dr. Dressler,

    My letter is relevant to the subject of this post — to chemo or not to chemo — but also seeks your take on my dog Silas’s cancer paradox.

    Silas’s cancer presents a puzzle to every vet who has looked at him and/or his relevant records. I’ve searched and searched online and cannot find any reference anywhere to a similar situation, or how to approach it. I don’t know where to turn.

    Here’s the deal: Eight months ago, in July 2010, a small hard growth was noticed on his gums. It was biopsied in early September and identified by the lab as osteosarcoma. Then (it’s a long, upsetting story) the vet dropped the ball in a huge way; I never learned of this identification until two weeks ago (end of March 2011). Since then, a CT scan has revealed the following: (1) the growth in his mouth, a somewhat uncomfortable but so-far manageable-sized pink blob on his lower rear gums, seems mostly confined to the soft tissues with minimal invasion of the underlying jaw bone. (2) There are two small nodules in his lungs (one ~.5cm, one ~1.5 cm). (3) He has a prominent lymph node near his airway.

    Because of (1), above, the oncologist’s dx is soft-tissue osteosarcoma, though she acknowledges being “surprised” at its behavior; if that’s what it is, nobody can understand why it has, so far anyway, been so slow-growing — with the bump first discovered nine months ago, I get the impression that with soft-tissue osteosarcoma (especially untreated) he should have been dead long since. Instead, except for some discomfort in his mouth, he seems to feel fine — quite his normal, frisky, leapy/springy (he’s a standard poodle) self. Normal appetite, etc.

    Nonetheless, they’re going ahead on the assumption that it is indeed soft-tissue osteosarcoma and that the nodules in his lungs are metastases. The option of performing an ultrasound-plus-needle biopsy on the larger lung nodule to confirm diagnosis was briefly raised but quickly passed over with no comment, and I was too overwhelmed with the news and ignorant to pursue the idea (I’m not much less so now). Given what they found with the CT scan, they’re offering a poor prognosis, and nothing more than low-dose Palladia with the hope of buying him a little more time. I purchased two weeks’ worth of it but then had second thoughts; I’ve yet to start him on it because I wanted to understand Silas’s situation better and learn more about Palladia.

    While he clearly has cancer — the growth in his mouth is in exactly the same spot that the small bump was removed from last summer — I can’t get the thought out of my mind that there’s something wrong with this picture, and nobody is paying attention to it. Again, in all my obsessive researching, I can find absolutely nothing online that relates at all to Silas’s osteosarcoma paradox, no similar experiences, nothing. (It almost makes me wonder whether, rather than shrugging it off, somebody might be interested in studying him! But that’s not why I’m writing.)

    The docs scratch their heads, and then they shrug and dismiss it. (I’ve received a second opinion from an oncologist who examined him in person; two other vets who’ve seen only his first oncologists’ report and other records, while agreeing with both oncologists that his cancer manifestation is odd, have made nothing of it, either). What if the nodules in his lungs are just granulomas or something? My dog is a very fit standard poodle, but he did just turn 11, and he has always had small benign bumps and cysts and growths here and there on his body. With the exception of slightly elevated lymphocytes, all of his blood work is normal. His kidney & liver function are also just fine.

    When I bring up the idiosyncratic nature of his cancer with yet another vet, I keep hearing something along the lines of, “Yes, this is surprising. Whatever is happening with this osteosarcoma, it’s not typical. But we know how osteosarcomas procede. There’s no point in going further to establish for certain that the nodules are malignant. Just assume they are.” One told me, “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, you can safely assume it’s a horse and not a zebra.”

    And perhaps they’re right, and I should stop focusing on the puzzle and use the probabilities as a starting point from which to move ahead.

    As I mentioned, I have some Palladia but have hesitated for several days to start him on it. Still, my anxiety is growing that my hesitation is doing nothing for him and even as I dither, the cells are multiplying. (For what it’s worth, I do have him on K9 Immunity, and a cancer-inhibiting diet with lots of fish oil, and am researching more supplements, including from your book.) At the same time, my oncologist assumes Silas to be a dead-dog-walking, so the Palladia isn’t intended to accomplish much (and little else has been suggested in the way of options). But something is better than nothing, and I’m making myself crazy with doubts and unknowns, and the fervent desire to do the best I can for my boy without making him sick, or sicker.

    My first question: Have you ever in your career heard of a case resembling Silas’s?

    Also, I know that you cannot examine him personally, nor have you seen his records, but can you offer any insight or inferences or ideas at all? Might I be making more out of his cancer’s inconsistency than I should be?

    Finally: When I’ve expressed concerns about Palladia’s side effects, I’ve been told that I can always try the Palladia and see how he tolerates it and then simply discontinue it if he has a poor reaction. Is it true that trying and then stopping Palladia (or other chemo drugs) can result in a more aggressive, faster growing cancer?

    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to find a veterinarian who falls between the very intelligent but blinkered (and rushed/impatient) conventional oncologist who neither knows nor cares about complementary approaches, and the kind but non-confidence-inspiring (and nearly as expensive) homeopath-types, whose proposed remedies, when I research them, seem to have nothing but flower power supporting them; in some cases it seems they might even be dangerous.

    And I fear I’m running out of time.

    Sincerest thanks for all you do,

    Katherine & Silas

    p.s. I have purchased your e-book, and it’s very helpful. Will you be coming out with updates that include Palladia and its more recent, non-mast-cell uses?

    I’m sorry this is long. If I’m asking too many questions, please just focus on those relating to Silas’s cancer and ignore the rest! 🙂

    • DemianDressler on April 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Katherine,
      I have indeed had a weird oral cancer like this once. This dog presented for a second opinion on a bx of an oral mass. Undifferentiated sarcoma as I recall, on the gumline like your dog’s. So I discussed the usual things I talk about, and that was the last I saw of the guardians and the dog for about a year. Then I run into the guy at a hardware store where he is working, and he has the dog behind the counter. Runs over to me to show me his doggie. I recall the dog and take a look at his gums. You would not believe it. The thing was gone. This dog previously had teeth falling out of his mouth and blood on my exam room floor. So these folks had decided to put a purple metal board under this dog for sleeping called a soma board. Supposedly this board keeps veggies fresh and fruit and whatnot. Anyway, I could not believe it. (For all of you out there, no, I am not saying this board cures cancer or anything. I am saying that it was very weird though).
      So, at any rate, there you go. I would get the thing re biopsied perhaps to make sure you are on the right track with the chemo selection as one option to consider. Might get a soma board, certainly can’t hurt, and let the dog sleep on it. No, I have no proof it does anything. As to the question of chemo resistance, yes, there is truth there. You might consider masitinib. In my experience it seems to have a bit of higher safety margin, although we don’t have studies to support this impression. Make sure you are considering your medicinal mushrooms and your artemisinin and apocaps and diet if this comes back osteosarc again.
      Hope this helps

  19. Janice on April 8, 2011 at 5:36 am

    My 5 year old lab Sophie was diagnosed with mast cell cancer in 2008. We did not do chemo, but chose Benadryl and Prednisone as her treatment, as well as grain free, high protein home cooked foods and supliments. She has been cancer free now for over 2 years. My other lab, Star, now 12 and a half, was just diagnosed with stage 3 Lymphoma. We will not do chemo and are making her comfortable. I will do the same treatment, high omega 3, low omega 6, pro biotics, grain free and high protein. We never give our dogs sugar and wheat, I don’t use chemiclas in my home or yard. Our dogs are well cared for and so loved, they have daily outings with us and are like our children. They were both raised and trained by me to be seeing eye dogs and did not make the program. They were working dogs turned pets. This is a complete devistation and we know we will lose our girl Star to this cancer. We will just keep loving her as much as humanly possible until we have to say goodbye.

  20. Allyson on April 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    My husband and I found out our 4-year-old boxer had gastrointestinal lymphoma (small, t cell) back in October. We knew chemo could result in remission, but we were clear in the fact that her cancer would probably come back. We made the decision to try and give her some more time. After even just her first treatment, we saw some great results. Her weight gain was particularly remarkable. We worked with some fantastic vets to monitor her quality of life throughout the process and ended up ending chemo early because her liver was being adversely affected.
    Now, we’re doing our best to keep her keep her cancer symptoms under control. By the end of March, it seemed clear the cancer was coming back. (We can mostly tell because of her diarrhea.) However, she remains happy and wiggly. We cherish the moments we have with her.

    • DemianDressler on April 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Dear Allyson,
      thinking of you in this hard time.
      dr D

  21. Donna Wilkens on March 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Dr. Dressler:

    My Boone was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer about 9 weeks ago. He has been on prednisone since and has had 2 chemo treatments of vincristine about 2 weeks apart and and just received a doxorubicin injection, which has left him throwing up a dark brown smelly liquid and drooling nonstop for almost 24 hours – despite an injection of cerenia. How can I make him comfortable? Do I continue with this chemo treatment, or let the cancer run its course? I would appreciate any advice you might have.

    Thank you–
    Donna Wilkens

    • DemianDressler on April 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Dear Donna
      you really should have your oncologist involved in chemo choices. Doses and drugs can be changed, anti-emetics can be rotated, and so on. For these particular questions, it is important to have a history and a relationship with the patient and I believe your oncologist is the best person for this.
      Hang in there
      Dr D

  22. Larissa on December 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Dr. D., My 11 years old boxer made a x-ray and in it slightly appeared a structuralized image, of homogeneous aspect and radiodensidade water. As disgnostic: sub-pleural formation? pulmonary formation? pulmonary densification ? . This structure is promoting a displacement of the trachea and the primary bronchis. The doctor spoke on the possibility of a biopse. My doubt is in making or it chemotherapy, not thinking about the benefits that would also bring but in its quality of life. And if has something more than it can make. Thank you so much.

    • DemianDressler on December 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      Dear Larissa,
      So sorry to hear this news. I need a little clarification here as there seem to be some typos. I believe you are writing that there is a mass in your dog’s chest displacing the trachea? And that they cannot tell if it is coming from lung tissue, airway, or chest wall?
      I believe getting the information (aspirate) is the first step in being an active guardian. Without this, it is very hard to make a call on the most logical step. Not all masses are cancer, and not all cancers are the same…
      I hope this helps,

  23. cathy on November 18, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Our 7 year old lab Duke just had to have surgery for mast cell tumor in the prepuce area. He basically now looks like a female dog underneath. He is Grade II and the surgery got the wide margins. Unfortunately some cancer cells were found in the inguinal lymph nodes. Now looks like chemo will be offered. I have no idea how much that will add on to his life expectancy or detract from the quality. We will be meeting with the oncologist next week. Can anyone share with me what a dog goes through with chemo…….side effects, etc? Thanks so much and I’m so glad I found this blog!

  24. Geoff on November 18, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Dr. D,
    I have a 6 year old Collie who was diagnosed with Lymphoma. She had no symptoms other than enlarged nodes. We decided to follow your advice and have instituted a comprehensive program of both traditional and alternative treatments. We started the Wisconsin Protocol 2 weeks ago and she is doing fantastic and is in remission at this point. We will have our 3rd treatment on Saturday. In addition, she is on a totally natural raw diet as well as supplementing roughly 12 grams of combined EPA/DHA from Fish Oil, 15 Grams of Glutamine and about 15 Grams of Arginine. We have had NO side effects from chemo. Her supplements are Cell Advance 880, Digestive Enzymes, Onco Support, Immuno Complex(Gland Extracts), Max’s Formula(Chinese Herbs) and Stem Enhance. In addition she gets Carnivora Injections. Her energy level is beyond even that before she was diagnosed. I am working both with a traditional Veterinarian as well as a Holistic Veterinarian. I have now thought about the Apocaps and actually purchased them. My Holistic Doctor is all for anything that we can do to prolong remission. Her attitude is go for a cure and settle for a long remission. Should I wait to use them until we are off the Prednisone in the protocol? Wait until we are done with chemo? Everything is going so well I don’t want to upset the proverbial “apple cart”. Thanks for your help and the great work you do.

  25. Chanty on November 8, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Diane, one of our concerns was the side affects of chemo, and we were hesitant to do it, but we’re really glad we did.
    Mambo, my 4 year old Lab was diagnosed with orbital chondroblastic osteosarcoma. He had a tumor growing behind his eye. An ophthalmologist removed the tumor along with his eye. We were referred to the Guelph University Animal Hospital 3 weeks later to start radiation. They said due to his cancer being as rare as it is, there was a study that wanted to fund his MRIs, 5 of them. We had already done one, and had no intention of doing more, but we thought, free MRIs, why not? It had only been three weeks since it had been removed, and it had grown back. The oncologist at Guelph, Dr. Boston (who’s amazing fyi) took a more aggressive approach to his surgery and removed surrounding skin and bone. She replaced the skin with that from his neck. We asked how she would know if she got all the cancer out if she’d have to do another MRI. She said they look for what they call clean margins, which is when the edges of the skin and bone they removed have no cancerous cells on them. Sure enough, they did, and he didn’t have to do radiation at all, just the chemo, it was originally thought we’d need to do both. The first round of chemo is always tricky they said. They base the dosage on the dog’s weight among other things I’m sure. But they never truly know how an individual dog will react to chemo until they’ve done it the first time. The first round for my dog was heartbreaking to say the least. It was the worst out of all of them. He had no appetite, he felt nauseous and kept vomiting, had diarrhea. I took him to the vet 3 times within 5 days following chemo. On the final day, he was so weak, he couldn’t get out of the car. They brought him in on a stretcher. They originally had him scheduled to do one round every week. This proved to be way too much, so they reduced his dosage of chemo by 25%, gave him the anti-nausea med, cerrenia, which is way stronger than the stuff they originally gave him. Then they scheduled his chemo 3 weeks apart. By the time the second round came, you would have never known he had chemo, he was exponentially better. It’s been almost 2 months since his last chemo, we still can’t say for sure if he’s cured, but as this article says, we shouldn’t expect that. He is back to his normal self, he’s got so much energy, he chases the stick, he chases the ‘gator’ (john deer and golf cart love child thingy), he grabs his leash and runs, with you attached, so you’re running too. He chases me up and down the hallway just for fun. He’s definitely got his energy back. It was just that first round of chemo that was so horrific. But after that, he was slowly but surely getting back to normal. If you are in the position to do chemo, I would really consider it. The first round is hard and scary, it always is, but after they can adjust the dosage, frequency and medication to suit your dog.

  26. Gwen on November 4, 2010 at 5:21 am

    I just thought you’d like to know that, faced with this dilemma 2.5 years ago, we chose chemotherapy. The tumor (it was high-grade malignant lymphoma) began to shrink within the first week of treatment. The drugs certainly took away from Molly’s quality of life, at one point nearly killing her, but she has now been tumor free for two years. We were told she had a 10% chance of survival. I opted for optimism!!

  27. Isabel Infantes on November 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I’m very interesting in your book, but is it possible to get it a version in spanish? ( I write you from Spain)

  28. Joanne Jobson on November 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Dear Dr. Dressler:
    I have left many comments on your page when my Border Collie Cassie had a mast cell tumor on the bend on her leg. The only alternative to chemo was cutting off her leg. We thought a lot about it and opted to give her chemotherapy. She had NO adverse side affects at all. She has been cancer free for almost two years now and is very active and in great spirits. She goes for her six month blood test in December and we are hoping that she still remains cancer free. Having said all of this we give her Dog Immune, Curcumin, flax seed oil, fat free yogurt and only the best dog food with no grains. It all seems to be working for her.
    All the Best to You
    Joanne – Ottawa, Ontario CANADA

    • DemianDressler on November 7, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Great news Joanne!!
      Good work and so pleased to hear!
      Dr D

  29. Barbara O'Quinn on November 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Dr. D, I can hardly even believe this question! My Jack Russell terrier Rambo was literally on the brink of death from lymphosarcoma 13 months ago when I was lucky enough to find an area vet who could administer chemo. Yes, there were side effects: He lost control of his kidneys for several months, and he still has a weakness in his hind legs. But he’s alive, happy, plays ball and barks at the cat, and totally enjoys life……just as I more than enjoy having him with me in remission! I wish the treatments were for a cure rather than just remission, but something beats nothing.

    • DemianDressler on November 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

      Dear Barbara,
      as ironic as it is, in the world of cancer of the canine, you are lucky your Rambo had the most chemo-responsive cancer there is. Yes, something does beat nothing and it is super he is well. Good to hear.

  30. Lilith on November 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for all the info u have shared. Since my beloved girl Dea was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I did all the search I could. That concerned serious college books, net and vetenerians. I knew how to ask questions, because I was armed with knowledge. But there are so many people that know nothing about the meanest sickness in the world, and have the greatest confidence in the vets. The truth is sad, but when something like this happens, one can only be dissapointed with quantity and quality of the real knowledge that vets have and can give you.

  31. Diane on November 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    We just found out that Duke’s mast cell cancer has spread into his lymph nodes. We decided not to do chemo as he seems healthy at the moment. We would rather have quality time with him and not subject him to the side effects of chemo that may not even work. Keeping our fingers crossed and praying that the prednisone and benadryl will keep the mast cells at bay for a while.

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