How Long Does My Dog Have?
Updated: January 10th, 2019
It is very important to do what we can to avoid ongoing depression when trying to cope with cancer in our dogs. Ongoing depression is exhausting, steals our reserves, and clouds judgment.
It decreases your dog’s chances of good life quality during a life with cancer. Yes, your ongoing depression.
Please do not misunderstand me. There are many legitimate reasons for guardians of dogs with cancer to be depressed.
Here are some of these reasons:
Take a look at median survival times with conventional care (chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery):
- Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen: median survival time after spleen removal without chemo is about 2 months, and with chemo is up to 6 months.
- Transitional Cell Carcinoma of the bladder: median survival time on piroxicam alone is about 6 months.
- Melanoma of the toes: following removal of the affected toe, this cancer will take the life of half the patients within a year, assuming there is no evidence for spread at the time of surgery.
- Lymphosarcoma: patients receiving the Wisconsin chemo protocol have a median survival of roughly 6-10 months.
(For more specific data on median survival times with different cancers and protocols, see The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.)
So there is every reason to have sadness. But….continued sadness is not helpful to you or to your dog. After experiencing the grief, it is time for an expectation analysis. Time to organize yourself and move forward.
Suppose your dog was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, and seems to be having good overall life quality 6 months later. Guess what? This is very good news! Median life expectancy with chemo being 6-10 months, about half the dogs with lympho have passed away in as little as 6 months after being diagnosed.
And that is with chemotherapy!
If you have a dog with lympho and your dog is doing well 6 months after diagnosis, you are already beating the curve, since median survival is as low as 6 months in some cases with the chemo.
Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful information and tools
What if your dog has lympho and is on pred only? Median survival for those dogs is roughly 2 or 3 months. So you are ahead of the game if your dog has good life quality 2 months after diagnosis.
If you were to look at some of the other statistics above, you can see that if you had a dog who underwent spleen removal 8 weeks ago, is not on chemo, and is still maintaining, you are beating the odds. This is very, very good news. This is successful treatment!
An integration of these statistics in one’s mind allows for a realistic picture of where we stand with conventional cancer care.
We really must take into account how short these survival times are in our expectations! We need to redefine success in malignant cancer management.
An understanding of these figures also tells us how we are doing with the addition of our “outside the box” treatments discussed here and in The Guide.
Once we get past the grim reality of these numbers, we can alter our expectations and begin appreciation with gratitude.
The practice of gratitude for each of these days, realizing the odds, is they key to avoiding continued sadness.
Best to all of you,
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.
If there is anything I would like to learn for the benefit of my pets, one of whom I had ut down yesterday due to cancer, is how to make sure her cancer is caught s early as possible. Ten of my 12 dogs over the years have been euthanized due to cancer: lymphoma, mammary gland carcinoma with lung metastases, mast cell tumor with mets, melanoma of the toe, bowel cancer that went undetected until she got peritonitis. In every case, the dog was misdiagnosed, even with my being an NP myself and saying, “I think I feel a lump here”, “This toe is very strange and looks like what in a human would be VERY suspicious for melanoma”, even “but the “bump” you removed is not the one nearby you found had mast cells in it!”. What am I saying or not saying that is causing them to behave so stupidly? Having lost one that had a mammary gland tumor, was very high risk due to being a puppy mill rescue, and on whom I felt a lump the week I got her, I am dumbfounded that 4-5 vets over 2 years missed it, even when she got pancreatitis, spent days in the ICU, and had an abdominal ultrasound! (No, the US wouldn’t help with that, but if she was on her back with her belly exposed, and I had asked they check it…? What are the magic questions that will get them to take my observations seriously? don’t criticize, argue, mock or challenge them, but I do persist, and read up, and ask questions. By the time they become interested, it’s too late and I get (but don’t) to say the words you never want to say, “I told you so.” I don’t usually say them, be how can I word it? I want an investigation, the definitive exam or test, and an honest prognosis. I want to be told about options available other places, not just what that clinic offers! (I belive not mentioning these other possiblilities to be totally unethical.) I am so sad and frustrated. How can it be I see these things and am very right to be worried, and yet it is missed–misdiagnosed, discounted, or mistreated until it is too late, 10 out of 12 times?? The dog who just died had a lump I found before I became more familiar, so i’s not just knowing the dog better…
My dog is going to be 14 years in July. He was having a a belly breathing with little whining noise and coughing a lot. I took him to my vet and the rest is history. Before I got the result I have spent $. He has a very big heart and a tumor a size of golf ball was found in his right heart. He is on medication Palladia 15mg since 4/3/2019 to shrink down the tumor. He is also taking Vetmedin, Enalapril and Furosemide. Do you know how long my Yorkshire Terrier will live? He used to be 17 lbs but now he is 13lbs. I am worried because yesterday and today he started the belly breathing and crying. The coughing did stop only when he is excited he will cough. I don’t know why the belly breathing started. Does that mean the medication not helping him?
Thanks for writing, and we’re sorry to hear about your boy. It does sound like he is not well, and it may be a good idea to take him to your vet. As Molly writes in this article, your first priority should be to find out what’s going on and what’s causing these signs and symptoms. The have a look at diet, pain management, and life quality.
As we’re not veterinarians here in customer support, we can’t offer you medical advice, and we can’t tell you what might, or might not, be working in your boy’s current treatment plan. Check in with your vet, and let them know what is happening. They know your dog and will be able to provide insight into this situation.
Hello Dr. Dressler,
A few weeks ago, my corgi, Copper (10 years old), started acting a bit lethargic and not interested in his dry food. We had multiple blood tests and urine tests done at our local vet, they didn’t really lead to anything. Long story short, we took him to another vet and it turned out (after an ultra-sound) he has tumors on his kidneys. The vet said it may have started off as lymphoma, but now has spread to his organs. The prognosis sounded grim and she recommended we put him on prednisone. He is my best bud and of course a member of the family, we are heart broken.
He started feeling peppier and eating like a champ pretty soon after the prednisone. I’ve been giving him the Turkey Tail mushroom supplements, too. He pants more often, and acts a bit antsy sometimes, but overall seems to be doing alright. He is alert and barks at rabbits in the yard, like usual. I’m thankful the prednisone seems to have helped him some, but struggle with sadness and anxiety about the future and if there’s anything else we can do to help him. The vet didn’t recommend chemo, but said she could refer us to an oncologist if we wanted to. I’m wondering if chemo would help since he seems to be fairly stable, or if it’s too far along. I know chemo is a lot to put dogs through, too (we’re kind of thinking we shouldn’t put him through that). I’d do anything if it’d help him. So far we’re giving him lots of love & extra treats & trying to take it one day at a time.
Sorry this was a long-winded response, but any advice/ wisdom is much appreciated.
Hello, thanks for writing and we’re sorry to hear about your boy 🙁 It sounds like he has an amazing guardian 🙂 We’re not veterinarians here so we can’t offer medical advice, however, we have some general thoughts for you based on Dr. Dressler’s writing.
One of the hardest things to do when you find out that your dog has cancer is to overcome your negative thoughts and emotions. In Chapter 2 of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. D writes that Emotional Management is critical for any guardian dealing with cancer. In order for you to have clear mind and make the best possible decisions for both you and your dog, you need to overcome these negative emotions. Dogs can pick up on your emotions and can also become sad or stressed, even if they aren’t sure why, and this can hinder their healing and quality of life.
Here are some great links on emotions and emotional management that you may find useful:
Whether you wish for your dog to undergo chemo is entirely up to you. You are your boy’s guardian and know him best. Do you think he would be able to handle the treatments and side-effects? What is most important to you? There are three types of guardians that you could be based on a number of factors, such as your own personal beliefs and your dog’s personality, to name a few. Knowing what kind of guardian you are will help you in making the RIGHT decision for YOUR dog because everyone is different, every situation is different and every dog is different.
You may find this article to be super helpful in determining what kind of guardian you are. Here’s the link:
And you may find this article to be helpful in deciding whether to do chemo or not. Here’s the link:
Finding little things for your dog to be happy about is one of the reasons why quality of life is so important in deciding your dog’s health care plan. Chapter 15 and 18 of the book by Dr. D covers the topics of quality of life and joys of life extensively, but here are some articles that you may find to be beneficial in clarifying these 🙂
Here are the links:
We hope this helps! 🙂
Thank you for your quick response! I appreciate the links, this blog has helped when I get panicked and start googling. My mom spoke to our vet again and it sounds like the tumors Copper has wouldn’t respond too well to chemo, might give him an extra month or two. I’m really concerned about keeping his quality of life as high as possible. I guess we’re probably just going to stick with the prednisone. It’s hard but we’ll have to focus on right now and how he seems to be doing pretty well.
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Hi. For the last couple of weeks our Miniature Pinscher was coughing and gagging. I thought maybe he had allergies and phlegm was getting into his throat. I took him to the Vet yesterday and an x-ray showed a 10cm by 10cm caudal lobe lung mass. The Vet thinks it is bronchogenic carcinoma. We have an appt tomorrow with a Veterinary Oncologist but wanted to ask ya’lls thoughts on his prognosis. I don’t want to be misled tomorrow so I’m trying to get a little educated on this type of cancer. I don’t want to put him through a painful surgery if there’s little hope of his recovery.
We have a mini pin who was only last week diagnosed with lung cancer. In April 2016 she had an X-ray but nothing showed up. Last Thursday Aug 18 2016 she had another one and it showed 4 masses in her lungs. They gave her 1 month to 2 months to live. It’s just waiting and making her comfortable. She’s our baby! Would be 14 yrs in Jan.