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

On Blame

Updated: October 1st, 2018

For those coping with dog cancer, there is usually a very large amount of pain.

First is the shock of the diagnosis, which is common. After this comes a flood of emotions of various kinds. For some it is confusion, trying to make sense of what it actually means to have a dog with cancer. For many there is overwhelm, trying to decide the best approach in dealing with this disease. Some get angry. Others feel as the bottom has simply fallen out of their every day life.  And for all, an overbearing sadness.

At some point along the line, most guardians dealing with this will begin to feel a basic and profound sense of injustice. “What did my loved dog do to deserve this? How have these events lined up this way? This is not right.”

And at this point there is frequently an urge to find something to blame for the cancer.

There are many targets. Some look at the diet. Some point to vaccinations. Others pinpoint flea and tick medications. Occasionally guardians will start to research electrical fields or environmental carcinogens in water, soil and air. Sometimes the breeder gets the brunt of it, or perhaps the vet.

But the aim of this post is not to discuss these items, which have been addressed at length in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Rather, it is to clarify a very common situation that is rarely discussed, but often experienced.  Some guardians will blame themselves.

When self-blame is created, it is not usually spoken of, or even realized by the person doing it. Yes, sometimes the thoughts do form into clear concepts like, “I blame myself for this.” “I did not act quickly enough.” “I wish I had not made that choice.” But honestly this is not always the case.

The majority of the time, self-blame is subconscious or pre-conscious.  This means there is no actual clear thought in the mind. Rather, the thought is experienced as a feeling.  Some examples of this feeling are a dullness, a knot in the stomach, lack of energy, crying at unexpected times, a feeling of wanting to isolate the self, the sensation of being in a continued fog…and others.

Yes, often these are just the feelings of grief, stoppered up inside until they can be experienced away.  Yet we must be aware, be conscious of this added wrinkle of self-blame.  It can be buried deep within, locked away somewhere, radiating these emotions upwards and outwards like some kind of dark sun.

This dark sun can be dissolved, or at least made a little lighter,  in a variety of ways. The first is simply the realization that any choices made by you were the only choices you could have made…or you would have made a different choice.  The second is the understanding of cancer in that it is rarely the result of a single act, and often the result of generations of separate events piling up on the cancer scale until a tipping point is reached. The third is atonement, perhaps the most soothing balm there is for guilt.

Because we exist in a culture where there are deep seated beliefs about guilt that are now part and parcel of who we are, it can be difficult to shake buried guilt, or even guilt we are aware of. This is where atonement comes in.

Atonement is a magic spell to make guilt soften and slowly melt away.  It fixes the guilt by resetting some internal balance that we live with .

What is meant by atonement?  Well, it will differ between people. But atonement will always have action as a part of it, if it is to liberate guilt that comes from self-blame. Some will use the Joys of Life as framework for taking daily or weekly steps for their dog. Others will make their dog food. Some will do massage or other touch therapies.  Still others will bring their dog to beautiful places outside, or places that their dog loves that may not be so beautiful. Some will tell their dogs their life stories, play them music, or meditate with their dog. Some will gather the family around daily to clap and praise their loved family member for simple tasks accomplished. Others pray.

It does not matter what form you choose. Simply make a mental note that you are doing it for your dog each time, create a program, and do it on a regular basis. Even if you don’t feel self-blame, it is still a good idea to soften the injustice.


Dr D


Leave a Comment

  1. Anne Duffield on September 14, 2015 at 12:46 am

    Just so there is a recent entry on this blog regarding Tumexall….our pit bull had agressive inflammatory mammoth cancer..the spring of 2014. She made aan amazing recovery on this med. Dr Nye and his son both worked to customize the medication to make sure we could defeat this cancer. In the was our local veterinarian that caused her death by overdosing her with an opiate pain killer. They put her into shock and she was unable to overcome through fluid in her lungs. If I ever get another dog..or know of Anyone fighting this battle..I would tell them to tell buy Tumexall..asap. The same as for our families..we must be advocates for the health of our pets. I learned so much about cancer during this journey with Daisy….and have applied it to my Dad’s cancer battle. Keep Fighting for your pets.

  2. Cody on June 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    My dog Ladybug has been on Tumexal for a little over 2 weeks. She was diagnosed with Mast Cell Cancer that was literally destroying her body. Mast cell cancer starts in the skin and causes huge tumors to grow. They are big, ugly, painful and rupture. In December 2013 she was diagnosed and we proceeded to try 3 types of chemo and 1 major surgery, all of which were painful and all failed to help her. My dog oncologist told me there was no hope and eventually I would have to put her down. So in the meantime I was going to have to literally watch the cancer deform her and ultimately it or I would have to kill her. It was devastating. I found Tumexal on a dog cancer blog and decided to try it. After only 2 and a half weeks all the tumors are gone accept the largest one. She has her appetite back and finally has quit throwing up, which she was doing regularly before. It has been amazing to find a drug that can beat such an aggressive cancer with no side affects…or at least none so far. It makes me very sad to see the negative things that are being written about this drug by people who have no understanding of it or experience with it. Why would anyone want to stop people from using a drug that can stop cancer and relieve suffering. This is cancer…these animals are going to die without something and CHEMO DOES NOT WORK! I watched chemo make my dog so sick she could not even walk. I put her through this torture and it didn’t even help her. Chemo is literally poison, so why do these people feel like they should say horrible things about Tumexal, I mean, come on, what is worse then literal poison!!! This should really make all of us stop and think about what is really going on in the drug industry… Please at least try it. I just want people to know it really works.

  3. humanegal on March 25, 2014 at 9:10 am

    BATTLEBORN:what type of dog do you have? I have seen you on another webite re. Dog cancer touting Tumexal. Are you with the company?

  4. Traci Kotrba-Booe on March 6, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Hi, our 11 year old Bichon/poodle was diagnosed with Lymphoma almost 4 weeks ago.. After the shock, crying, etc wore off I went to work researching alternative methods to chemo. I did not want to put my girl through chemo nor could we really afford it. I went to a holistic vet who prescribed prednisone and some other herbs to boost her immune system. With the prednisone I knew that it would only prolong her life for a few months. After reading about Tumexal over and over I decided to go with my gut and call Dr. Nice. He explained in scientific terms how the drug worked. I really didn’t understand the whole “scientific” way it works but was willing to try anything at this point. I ordered our first round of Tumexal and received it the next day. My Lucy has been on Tumexal for just about 2 weeks now. Along with Prednisone and Milk Thistle I have also changed her diet to raw food. So far things are going very well. All of her swollen lymph nodes are down to regular size. The tumor she had on her belly is also down in size. Her energy level is up. She does have her down times where she gets quite tired but I am optimistic that this combination is helping her to fight this horrible disease and give her a lot more time with us..

  5. Susan Kazara Harper on March 3, 2014 at 6:36 am

    So good to hear that your dog is doing well. The information released on Tumexal is not yet sufficient to enable an opinion on it either way; important data is excluded. But if your dog is thriving, that’s cause to celebrate!

Scroll To Top