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. 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.