I was recently helping an English Lab named Amber. Amber was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor by fine needle aspirate. Amber’s humans, Beau and Heather, were devastated upon hearing this news.
Like many dog lovers, they had heard that dogs could get cancer. Sure. Dogs can get the same diseases as people, right? However, for the last 7 years of life with Amber, nobody had mentioned the single most important risk to health and well-being a dog can experience: cancer.
Did Amber’s vet ever mention it? Nope. And Amber’s humans travel a lot, which forces them to have multiple vets in different locations. Not once over 7 years.
I recently heard the head of one of the premier veterinary cancer centers in the world say that cancer is the leading cause of death “by disease” in dogs.
Well, sort of, but not really. Cancer tops death due to disease as well as death caused by trauma, toxin, malformation, drug reactions, malnutrition, and more.
By some strange twist of the psyche, neither dog lovers nor vets seem to know the facts surrounding this sleeping giant.
Based on data from the Morris Animal Foundation, it is estimated that one in four dogs succumb to cancer. At this rate, I calculated the total number of dog cancer deaths in this country on a daily basis to be more than 4,200. Every day.
I overheard a veterinary professional say that cancer is not an epidemic. Really? Say we are conservative, and we estimate 50-60 dog cancer deaths per state daily. If there were any other disease doing this, we would say it is an epidemic.
This makes bird or swine flu look like a silly distraction.
So it is no wonder that dog lovers are bowled over when they receive a dog cancer diagnosis. It is no wonder that people feel like their world just turned inside out and upside down.
What is the solution? Step one: education, education, education. Dog lovers need to be brought up to speed on what the reality is, and it sure seems like vets do as well.
Truly, a number of years back, I didn’t know either. But then it clicked: it was odd that so many dogs (of all ages) with tumors were walking through my hospital doors.
I recall that I was reminded of a movie where there is some bizarre alien invasion inhabiting bodies or something. Very creepy. The really scary thing is that it is not a movie, it is reality.
So I spent countless months poring over data, getting a handle on what was going on. This ended up being the first third of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. This was also the genesis of this blog, which is here to to help spread the word about this epidemic.
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.