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

Why We Need To Think Outside the Box

Updated: January 7th, 2019

The world’s tallest dog is a now a cancer patient.

I recently came across this story, from a local news website in California.  Gibson is a Great Dane, weighing in at a whopping 170 lbs.

Gibson is presently 7 years old, which is definitely a senior citizen for a dog of this breed. Recall that larger dogs have much shorter lifespans, on average, compared to the little guys.

So even the most powerful among them are afflicted by this disease.

Gibson underwent an amputation, the typical treatment of choice for his cancer. Osteosarcomas are most commonly removed by amputation.

The good news is that  most dogs will recover very quickly.  Learning to walk on three legs for a dog is much easier than learning to walk on one leg for a human.  They are usually getting around well within just a week or two.

As long as their pain is well controlled and they are helped along with a towel under the belly or any of a variety of harnesses to help develop the strength, they do quite well.

One tip from the trenches is to make sure you remind your vet to check the other legs to screen for problems that would make it hard to bear more weight on the remaining three limbs. X-rays and an orthopedic exam are usually enough.

This story reminds me of the importance in thinking outside the box.  Here we have a dog who is literally a giant among his peers, and even he is afflicted with this epidemic sweeping the nation.

Want to know a fact that is hard to believe?

Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful tools and information

If you ask many vets what the number one cause of death in dogs is, most will not be able to give you a direct answer. More commonly a list will be given.

Meanwhile, one in three dogs gets cancer.  Some estimates put it at one in two.

Half of the dogs that get cancer end up succumbing to the disease, and the only cure, when possible, is surgery.

So we have a sleeping, invisible giant, this cancer.  It is all around us yet medical professionals (of which I count myself one) have been unable to see it for what it is.

On top of that, cancer survival time has only increased 5% since the 1950’s!    After decades and millions spent, this is the payoff.

This invisible giant has been outdoing the best that conventional care has to offer. In the face of this adversary, we have been almost totally powerless.

The story of Gibson reminds us of the importance of thinking outside the box. It is time for sideways steps in evolution now, not continuing down the same path as before.

We now need to leap.

We need to create new pathways of investigation, and be bold. And you, the guardians of these loved ones, need to lead the charge.

Have courage, and my thoughts are with you.

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Sarah Bertsch on May 19, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for your book – what an excellent resource! My goldendoodle Ellie has splenic hemangiosarcoma. We have switched her to a grain-free diet and are giving her: K9Immunity & Transfer Factor, luteolin, apigenin, modified citrus pectin, melatonin (at night)and I had her on a multi-vitamin until I saw it contained synthetic K-3 (menadione).

    Since internal bleeding is a potential problem, should I be concerned that some of these supplements might have a blood thinning effect?

    And, are parsley capsules a source of apigenin? How many mg of naturally derived apigenin (from parsley or grapefruit or ?) in capsule form should be given? Or is fresh parsley the only way?

  2. Jerry G. Dawg on May 18, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    As devastating as it is for Gibson’s pawrents to learn that he has osteosarcoma, the blessings that can be found in this are that because of his previous fame as the World’s Tallest Dog, he is helping to bring this disease into the conversation for the average pet guardian. When our dog Jerry was diagnosed in 2006, we had no idea that dogs even got cancer.

    We are glad to hear that Gibson is recovering from amputation surgery, and will go on to show the world that even giant breed Tripawds can lead a great life on three legs. As we like to say at ,, “It’s better to Hop on Three Legs than Limp on Four.”

  3. Billie Sue on May 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Dear Dr. Dressler,

    I am writing to you about a matter that is of great concern to me, as it probably is to many others. What is the standard practice or consensus among veterinary oncologists when they examine a dog with an external tumor? Do they just aspirate it and “watch” it for however long it remains benign? Or, do most of them surgically remove it and do a biopsy to be on the “safe” side?

    In human medicine we focus on PREVENTION rather than “watching” and “waiting” for the dreaded disease to appear before we take action. Through education of the public we advocate the cessation of smoking and/or never starting to prevent cancer. We emphasize a healthy lifestyle (exercise, weight management, low fat/high fiber diet, etc.) to prevent heart disease. If a mole or keratosis suddenly appears on our body, or if one changes in appearance, we head for the dermatologist, who usually takes it off for biopsy.

    We do not wait until a person has cancer to tell him/her to stop smoking, nor do we wait until someone’s cholesterol is very high to advise healthful eating habits. The dermatologist does not tell us to “watch” the mole or keratosis until we have melanoma.

    In human medicine we want to PREVENT before there is the need to CURE, which often is too late to achieve. Why don’t veterinary oncologists do the same? Why do they tell us that there is no need to remove a tumor as long as the aspiration indicates that it is benign? Why do they advise us to just “watch” it when they know that it could be a mast cell tumor(the Great Imitator), and once it is malignant, it may be too late for any treatment to be effective? Why aren’t veterinary oncologists dedicated to PREVENTING cancer instead of TREATING it?

    I would greatly appreciate your response and thoughts on this issue. Your blog of 5-17-09 entitled “Why We Need to Think Outside the Box” seemed to open the door for a discussion of this nature.

    Thank you.

    Billie Sue

  4. Allyzabethe on May 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Dr. Dressler, I have your book and am implementing many of your ideas for my foster pug, Quincy, who has mast cell cancer. Because he is a rescue, the rescue organization pays his medical bills. Unfortunately, after 2 of 8 chemo treatments, the organization may not be able to pay for it any longer. I can’t afford to pay for all of it either. I’m doing everything I can to help, begging for support, etc., but I have to at least recognize that I may not be able to finish his treatments.

    So my question is, is there anything else I can do? He is on the recommended diet in your book, along with the supplements. He’s elderly (10), but still moves around. So he can’t exercise a great deal, but he does wander around the yard and house. He is blind, also. How does blindness affect melatonin production? Any recommendations are truly appreciated.

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