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

Treatment Plan Analysis in Real Life

Updated: May 15th, 2024

Yesterday, a 13 year old Rottweiler came in to the hospital.

She had been limping, and there was a swelling in her front leg, down on the forearm.  It was firm and slightly warm to the touch.  The area was about 4 inches long.

We took X-rays of the sore leg.  The films showed a large area of bone in what is called a sunburst pattern.  This means that the bone expands and looks mottled and proliferative.

A sunburst pattern is usually caused by canine osteosarcoma, the most common cancer of the bones in dogs.

To absolutely confirm that this is the case, a specimen needs to be sent to a pathologist. In this case, I was worried that a surgical biopsy would weaken the leg to the point where it might fracture.

Bone tumors weaken bone.  One of the very horrible possible outcomes of osteosarcoma in the very late stages is what is called a pathological fracture.  This is a type of bone break which is not caused by trauma, like falls or auto accidents.

Pathological fractures are simply caused by normal movements on bone that is so weakened by invading tumor cells that it breaks during these normal activities.

This is one of the reasons removal of the affected leg in many cases of canine osteosarcoma is a life quality choice.  We remove the limb and the pain goes away.  There will be no possibility of a pathological fracture either.

So, back to yesterday.  We talked about it for a long time.  What to do?  This was a 13 year old large breed dog, with a normal life expectancy of about 12 years or so.  So we were beating the odds already.

I asked her human what kind of person he was…A, B, or C ?  These are groups of people described in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide in the treatment plan analysis section.  You must know what kind of person you are to operate successfully in caring for a dog with cancer.

A’s want life extension and are willing to tolerate side effects from the treatments.  B’s want some life extension and are willing to tolerate some milder side effects. C’s are only concerned with life quality and will accept very little life extension.  They want as few side effects as possible and only want comfort care.

And of course, people are allowed to change over time.

So he told me he was a C.  We discussed how there is no “right way” to do this. A veterinary textbook may not apply under these circumstances.

I went over amputation, chemotherapy, radiation and so on. We also discussed diet, supplements, and the many other aspects of cancer treatment discussed in The Guide.

The plan we opted for was The Dog Cancer Diet, Apocaps, Tramadol and Deramaxx to start with .  We had a budget to work with and we knew what our priorities were.  And we will reassess in 3 or 4 days.

Was it the right plan?  Yes.  It took the needs of everyone into account.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Tracy and Max on February 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Max had an exray and it showed the spot on his bone and it has not spread yet. How long do I have with him if I don’t amputate and can’t afford chemo or radiation? About how long will I have him?

    • DemianDressler on March 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      Dear Tracy,
      are we sure this is cancer? There are different spots on bones, and they are not all cancer. A bone biopsy might help, or at least a follow up X-ray to see if it is worsening. There are some infections that can sometimes do it (fungal or bacterial), so this would be good to rule out too.
      I would really consider these steps, or at least getting some more clarification or confirmation that this is indeed cancer, before thinking about life expectancy, to be honest.
      I hope this helps,
      Dr D

  2. Tracy and Max on February 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    My 11 year old Rot/Lab mix @111 puonds was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. I would love the book but I have no money at all I can’t even afford the meds. Please help my baby

  3. annmarie hall on August 17, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Dear sirs,
    I have just been told my dog has a tumor on his spleen he is 13 years old king charles cavalier spanial called gilbert they done blood tests which came back inconclusive? I don’t think i want him operated on because of his age . Some of your plant remedies sound interesting but i’m not sure which would be good for my boy. I’m told at the moment he has high calcium levels. could you please give me even a little advice.He does not appear to be in any pain , i did not take him to the vet for the tumor ,i took him to have a grass seed removed from his ear and was told the devastating news of the tumor when i went back to collect him. Up till that point i just thought of him as a healthy good old boy . Many thanks. I have bought your book on a download . x

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