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

Better and Longer: End of Life Care

Updated: October 5th, 2018

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine was just published that showed that human cancer patients lived both longer and better with hospice care.

Patients with a type of lung cancer lived almost 2 months longer with hospice care than those who did not.  Similar trends have been seen with other terminal diseases and cancer types (breast, prostate, colon, pancreas and others) where the longevity was increased by 20-69 days with hospice care.

So how does this relate to our four legged loved ones?

Well, we need to look at the cause for the life extension in hospice centers.  Is the reason for gain in longevity due to better care at these facilities, more attention to detail and intervention?  It is possible.

But the focus of hospice is palliation and pain reduction…life quality increases. The main goal of this type of care is the physical, emotional and psychological well being of the patient.

I believe that this study may actually point to the link between attention to these aspects of care and longevity, as opposed to  life quality.  In other words, by addressing comfort care in a real way, we can perhaps gain time for our dogs.

How could this be?

In The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, several different ways this can happen are explained.  A clear connection is that chronic pain itself does a lot of unhealthy things to a body, whether human or dog.  One of the biggest is it creates stress, which suppresses cancer-fighting white blood cells like NK cells and cytotoxic T cells.

The end of life stage in the path of dog cancer can be brutal.  However, there are some who actually are able, by hook or by crook, to create something beautiful out of it.  Usually this is done by paying attention to closure, by scheduling time for appropriate and healthy connection with your loved dog.

Pain management, touch therapies, fluids, appetite stimulants and medications for nausea, caloric intake, overcoming social isolation, sunlight, sleep, bedsore prevention, and proper home nursing care to help with body functions are some of the pillars of end of life stage care.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. DemianDressler on September 5, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Dear Barbara,
    a little yogurt is okay, especially if they love it! Keep fighting the good fight
    Dr D

  2. Barbara Masi on August 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    My 9 year old Greyhound has just been diagnosed with Extraskeletel soft tissue osteosarcoma. We are proceeding with treatment although he looks and acts fine right now. My question is – after reading your book on the cancer diet – should he (and his brothers) have yogurt? They love a little plain vanilla yogurt for dessert – or even in the meal at times. You mention cottage cheese in the diet book but not yogurt. I have your Dog Cancer Survival Book – we just printed it and I will be reading it over the weekend. WE ARE GOING TO BEAT THIS MONSTER – I’ve lost three of my own greys to various forms of cancer – and many of those I’ve adopted out have been victims of this dreaded disease. WE WILL WIN!!!!!

  3. Anu Shyam on August 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

    This is a great post! Curiously, Iam just reading a book by the English vet James Herriot, where he talks about the same thing. He said that in several cases, by anesthetizing the animal while it was in pain, it gave the body time to heal without the accompanying pain related stress.

    In his words, “In times of extreme pain, the body will retreat even into death, unless the pain is removed”

    Very nice post. I also totally support your idea of looking for alternatives to existing conventional medicine.

Scroll To Top