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

Escaping Dog Cancer Days

Updated: October 10th, 2018

Most, if not all of the readers of the Dog Cancer Blog have an interest in being happy.

Why not?  Dealing with a dog cancer diagnosis can be the most challenging and daunting task faced in some one’s life.  During this time it can be quite a struggle to be happy.  The sadness, frustration and sinking feelings can overwhelm anyone.

On a basic level, you are reading this post because you would like to be more happy.  Whether looking for data to help your dog or for any other reason, the bottom line is goal is happiness accrual.  I could write about hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, or mast cell tumors.

But on a much deeper level, really the currency we are most interested in is happiness.

So let’s look at this subject in more detail, since it is, for all of us, centrally important.  And for someone in the trenches of dog cancer, it is a topic that can be overshadowed by medication, prognosis, and quality of life considerations.

Many of us feel that happiness during the time we are helping a canine family member during cancer is not appropriate.  It can feel like a betrayal to our loved dog.  Be happy when our four legged companion is in a fight for life? Are you kidding?

No, it really seems like it is in poor taste to be laughing and smiling when your most loyal, trusted companion is struggling with a killing disease.  How dare I suggest this?  What is wrong with me?  Am I totally insensitive and devoid of respect for the bond between beings?

Well, hang on a minute.  Let’s back up and contemplate this.  It is really wrong?  How much does your ongoing sadness actually help your dog?  How much does chronic sadness help you?

Dale Carnegie pointed out that some people will cling to emotions for prolonged periods, in some cases incapacitating themselves and those around them for years.

When is an acceptance and release of the sadness allowed?

Nobody is saying that one should not experience the trauma and sadness that is a natural reaction to one of life’s most overwhelming experiences.  But, once the anguish has been experienced, how long are we to carry it around?  That is the key point.

How long are we to hang on to the sadness?

Can we let it go even while our dear one is still in the fight for life?

I would like to reiterate a question:  how much does your ongoing sadness help your dog?

Does it make you more competent? Does it make you more resourceful? Does it create an effect in your dog that is healing, restoring, calming, and reassuring?

I think after considering this question deliberately, the answer will surface. The answer is, of course, no.

Again, experience what is there in whatever way is natural for you.  But will you allow chronic sadness to be a second disease that you and your dog must face together?

Perhaps allowing ourselves to more quickly experience happiness again, even while on the path of canine cancer, could help everyone involved, especially our dogs.

For more on techniques to increase feelings of happiness even while enduring canine cancer, you may be interested in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

Best to all,

Dr D

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment





  1. Jane gonzalez on March 22, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    How much pine bark should i give in milligrams for a 17 lb dog

  2. Becky on February 16, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Dear Dr. D:

    I wish I had been on the internet and found your book sooner, but so glad I have it now. I have spent the last year helping my beloved 13 year old Champion Weimaraner therapy dog (who helped hundreds of people in his life) with brain cancer for which he was radiated, but had residual neuro problems, AND his 12 year old mate with her mast cell tumors, through treatment with chemo, then Palladia and Masitinib. We reached the end of the journey recently as quality of life for both got bad, and we had to put both down in the last 2 months. We did our very best for both of them, the vets at WSU said our care of them was “inspirational”. Instinctively we did what you recommend in your book to keep things upbeat for all of us, it was wonderful to get validation for our actions in your book. I have read the first half of it in 3 days and anxiously await the hard copy.

    I have the Champion son and daughter of my dear old friends and the book has helped me keep things happy for my little orphans, who are also missing their mom and dad, and worry about my sadness. Unfortunately the daughter has had a life long struggle with MCT too, I’m eagerly learning about everything I can do now with diet and supplements to keep them healthy as long as possible.

    I am so very grateful you take the time and energy to write these blogs and the book. I figure the price of the book is so minimal compared to the tens of thousands I have spent in the last year trying to manage the advanced cancer care of my beloved canine children, less than even one vet visit. So thank you from the deepest part of my heart.

    I find comfort in thinking their souls were released from their pain, and as I keep their ashes with me to be spread with mine some day, they are with me in spirit now and for eternity some day.

  3. Lisa & Bear on February 9, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Dear Dr. D, I’ve been meaning to write, but Im still very heartbroken and emotional. But when I read the previous negative comment, and it really made me angry! SO here goes, My beloved soul mate, BEAR, passed on the 11th of june 09. we battled with lymphoma for 6 months, of his nearly 14 years of Wonderful Life !! and I just wanted you to know that your cancer survival guide was invaluable to me, during the most painful thing I have ever experienced !! I am very grateful for the knowledge you share, and the emotional support I gleaned from your book !! He lived 4 precious months longer than expected, I credit you for that. Im sorry that some people are so negative and write ugly things. I passed the book on to my Vet, for them to read and pass on to anyone going through that terrible experience. And God forbid I ever have to go through that again, I would pay just about any price for another copy of your book !!! I’M FOREVER GRATEFUL !!!

    • Dr. Dressler on February 15, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      Dear Lisa,
      I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Depending on what your beliefs are, it could be that perhaps you two will meet again some day. What do you think?
      Thank you for the kind words.
      Thinking of you,
      Dr D
      p.s. what did your vet think about the book anyway? I never get feedback on the blog from vets…sometimes from MD’s though…

  4. T. Dawn on January 31, 2010 at 3:30 am

    For those of us seeking help on the internet for their dog’s cancer it is hard to find answers we can financially afford. When I can across your site I realized you are no different than other greedy doctors. You may hold the answers but you dangle your “carrots” and don’t really care to help our animals, you just care to fill your pockets selling your books and cd’s.

    • Dr. Dressler on January 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

      Dear Reader,
      I answer questions from reader on this blog, free of charge, about once a week. You are welcome to ask a question and I will do my best to give you something that may help. Simply post a comment, like you did, but instead, ask a question and I will do my best.
      Dr D

  5. franklin mattingly on January 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    your book helped me deal with my wgs dog snowwhite her cancer I was able to extend her life by several weeks and i was able to learn how to cope with the splinimic toumor my german shepard had as she was over 14 years old when this happened.
    I still miss her and now I have a new white shepard friend 7 months old now and I feel that book of yours was the best doggie investment I ever bought.I still read it from time to time to help my new friend and take good care of her now. frank

  6. Susan on January 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    We often feel that if we don’t dive deeply down into the grief, we haven’t respected our dogs, or have adjusted too easily to losing them. Or just to their illness. But when my Shadow was fighting his cancer with joy and happiness and cooperation, we worked to make sure our home environment was happy. Sure, there were days of frustration when we were at our wits end – PLEASE Shadow, take your tablet – but they were few. You just get so very tired of the constant worry and fight.

    However, we found incredible peace and love in sharing his life’s journey with him. And I reached a real emotional intimacy with Shadow, that we hadn’t previously experienced. I knew that boy’s soul, and he knew how deeply he was loved. I know that knowledge completed him in wonderful ways.

    We need to experience our grief. I read somewhere that, to experience grief is to honor the depth of your love. But it’s OK to give grief it’s time, and then release it. Visit it again, honor it, feel it. Then release it. It becomes less bitter, and more sweet as time goes on.

    I put aside my Survival Guide for months after Shadow died, but I’m picking it up again now. Not because we have another diagnosis, but because I want to learn everything I can about prevention for my other two dogs, and all the others who will come into our lives.

  7. Julian on January 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

    To all,
    Dr. D is completely right on this. I (we) just lost our fight with MCT and right now I am completely defistated. However, in looking back, I am so glad that I took the advise. Although I had emotional lows when there were set backs, I made sure that so long as she was feeling up to it, we went on our walks, trips to the parks and just “bye bye in the car”. These were things she had always enjoyed. Seeing her perk up and enjoying the smells and marking everything she could, made me that much more happy. Although it is tough at times, think about when you are having a tough time in life, when you go out with friends and family to enjoy things that make you happy, at least for awhile you feel that much better.

    The book is excellent, and although I hope to never need read through it ever again, it brought me comfort when we first learned the diagnosis…helped me divise a game plan…helped me feel that I wasn’t alone in this battle.

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