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

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 D


Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

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  1. getreal19783 on November 13, 2013 at 4:32 am

    I hope your Maltese is still doing good. I have a chihuahua who was diagnosed the same way. He is on Piroxicam every day, eats 95%meat food as per oncologist .

  2. Alissa on September 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Hello, I am a proud pug momma of Mabel, 6.5 yrs old. We took
    her in to the vet for a check up bc she just didn’t quite seem like her self,
    slower on her morning walks when she usually pulls . Within a week and
    continued testing, they found that she has a renal mass in her kidney and the
    vet recommended surgery to remove one kidney and the renal mass. That was done on Sept 5th, the surgery was good and they took out all the tumors they can see/feel. Yesterday, they came back to us with the biopsy results and informed us that it was Hemangiosarcoma (renal type which is rare). We are devastated! There is no visible evidence(i.e. nodes in the lungs, liver, etc) but the assumption is that it has molecularly traveled in the body, because it is in the blood stream.

    Mabel is recovering well from surgery, she is just super
    friendly, happy, determined (especially when she wants to go to the park)! We
    also just started her on Chemo (Doxy something) and on schedule to do 5
    treatments then follow with metronomic chemo combo of paladia and Cytoxin.

    We are looking at some holistic options + diet changes; we just want to make sure not all changes happens at once and stress her system

    i love this article, I find myself in and out of sadness and
    I really need to just forget the statistics and enjoy Mabel for who she is…

    • Susan Kazara Harper on September 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Hello Alissa, I’m sorry to hear that Mabel and you are going through this. But the goods news is that you got her in to the vets when you noticed unusual behavior, and that you have a treatment plan.
      The first thing I want to tell you is to not lose hope. I know that Hemangiosarcoma sounds scary, and it is a tough one, but my own dog had hemangiosarcoma in the spleen three years ago. I too freaked out a little when I realized it was a blood vessel-based cancer, but he was already on a fantastic, real-food diet (thanks to another one of our dogs who had cancer the year before) and with chemo and great nutraceuticals, well, he’s still with us with no sign of the cancer. Metronomic chemotherapy is a much easier protocol to manage than some, and apparently it is particularly effective for hemangisarcomas. Your plan to help her with diet and all means of support is great. If you go to you can find an immediate download of the best recommended foods to give (and those not to give) your dog. You’re right on track; take and enjoy every day, because that’s what Mabel is doing. Don’t look for bad news, enjoy every moment. All the best!

  3. Janet on May 30, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Dr. Dressler.
    My 10 year old miniature schnauzer, Pinky, was diagnosed with Stage 2 lymphoma in October 2012. She underwent 19 weeks of chemotherapy with my vet and we visited Texas A&M veterinary hospital every 4 weeks for her Doxyrubicin injection. She responded very well to chemo, entered remission within weeks of beginning treatment and stayed in remission throughout her treatment. Needless to say, we were overjoyed with her response to treatment and were hopeful for a long remission. Unfortunately, remission lasted only 4 short weeks! End of April, her lymph nodes were once again palpable and we noticed another small lump on her right side. We have started a rescue protocol of L-spar, Lomustine and prednisone. My baby is NOT doing well. After the first treatment, her lumps shrank within days but only a few days later came back and increased in size very rapidly! I feel that this relapse is happening very fast, is very aggressive, and is not responding well to treatment. The worst part is that her lymph nodes are so big she is now having difficulty breathing. This is dramatically affecting her quality of Iife. She is not as energetic and playful as she usually is. Her appetite is intact. she is still urinating normally and stools are normal…no vomiting…but panting all the time and her nights are the hardest.
    We have an appointment with our vet tomorrow for blood work. I am going to ask him if there is any other drug we can add to the regimen to try to get some shrinkage of her lumps….also I am concerned that the lymphoma may have spread to other organs. I am wondering if I should request another referral to the vet school to see what they say. I have ordered some Black Cumin Seed essential oils and some lufft leaves to augment her treatment…these will not be here for several weeks. And I am also doing daily massages with essential oils just to calm her nerves, keep her relaxed, and to share some quality time with her in quiet communication and prayer.
    Any advice you have for me would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you for your time.

  4. Laura on May 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

    My two year old dachshund was diagnosed with cancer covering her stomach and her spleen and intestines. Apparently the tumor had been growing for three months and the doctors just kept putting her on different food diets. The doctor keeps telling us she has anything form a few days to two weeks left to live because the cancer is really aggressive and has spread very far. Please give me some sense of direction as to what to give her and what vitamins to add to her food. Im trying to take it one day at a time i just want to do as much as i can to keep her as long as possible while she’s still eating and responding to us.

  5. Jini Amonn on April 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Dear Dr, Dressler..

    We became aware this past January that our 11 year old female had TCC. Even though her tumor may of been removed we opted do to her age and degenerative joint issues to treat her holistically with some traditional and natural supplements to maybe prolong her life, She was prescribed the liquid Medicam from her cancer vet instead of Perioxcam since she has a super sensitive stomach. The medication was replaced by my local vet when I mentioned how expensive it was now she is on Meloxicam. Additionally I was told she needed to take antibiotics for life, Cephalexin, Her bowel movements became very runny I assume from the antibotiotics and the vet stated to cut back to two a day. I went further down to one and supplement with Cranberry and D=Mannose. I have been giving her one treatment of the Budwig remedy with half cottege cheese and yogurt and flax oil a day, She seems to be ok with that, additionally she takes a mushroom multi, probiotic,doggie vitamin by NuVet, My issue is the reoccuring bleeding and licking of her vulva. These spells come and go and I was wondering why? I have checked her PH and it is high on the alkaline side and I was wondering if ACV would help. Bottom line is these bleeding spells are they do to the tumor and to be expected for her cancer? She is eating, has energy, but has started licking alot, bleeding and squats alot when outside. There is urine coming out but brown or bloody…does this mean her tumor is growing and will eventually burst?, Thank you…

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on April 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Dear Jini,
      the first step I would suggest is to read the guide. It is not a difficult read and will give you many of the answers you are looking for.
      I would be on the look out for not only blood from a bleeding tumor (yes, that can be the culprit), but also resistant urinary infections (cephalexin may not be addressing any bacterial component). If this were my dog I’d also be considering things like Apocaps, dandelion , yunnan baiyao, and the other steps discussed in the Guide, all under veterinary supervision. Further options are a low dose of oral neoplasene with mirtazapine under veterinary supervision.I would avoid red meat and keep your dog lean too as these are documented risk factors.
      Dr D

  6. Doris Z on March 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    My golden mix, Wagner, age 12.5 began to show a decreased appetite and some weakness about a week ago. Yesterday, an ultrasound showed a swollen spleen and a most likely dx of hemangiosarcoma with liver mets. He has declined rapidly in just a weeks time. Given that he has a serious blood pressure problem (cause could never be determined, labs normal, ultrasounds normal with the exception of heart enlargement) and is on multiple meds for that x 2 years, I opted not to do surgery to remove his spleen. He doesn’t seem to be in pain, and my vet recommended several holistic supplements as well as antibiotics, since the ultrasound indicated that the liver lesions could possibly be infection rather than mets.

    My prayer is for him to have whatever good time that is possible, even if it’s only a few days. The decision was not a financial one, rather one that I thought was most compassionate for him, although this is breaking my heart. Wagner is my “heart dog.” Knowing I will lose him to this awful disease is unbearable, yet I have to put him first. His appetite remains poor and I am having great difficulty getting him to take any of his meds, although he continues to drink well.

    Dr. Dressler… My question… am I making the right decision for him? Should I opt for the surgery and hope for a better outcome? I know that without surgery, I will lose him very soon, yet his heart condition might negatively impact his recovery from surgery and he could suffer more. I want to do what’s right for him regardless. If he was eating well and seemed at least somewhat ok at this moment, I would probably have decided to do the surgery… however, in less than a week’s time, he has gone from a typical 12.5 year old to very compromised, weak, and refusing to eat for the most part. He continues to seek me out and desire loving affection and does not appear to be in pain.

  7. Robbie on March 27, 2013 at 3:04 am

    I first wrote on this board on September 20, 2012, 3 days after I found out my 9 yr. English Bulldog, Munson, was diagnosed w/ hemangiosarcoma. Yesterday afternoon, 3/26/13, at 4:40 pm EST my little buddy passed peacefully at our home w/ me, my wife and my daughter. Our vet came to our home to help put him to sleep. It was very painless and peaceful as he passed in my arms in one of his favorite places. We were blessed to have a little over 6 months with him since the diagnosis. His time to live at that point was estimated to be only 60 days. For all the people out there w/ pets who have cancer, I truly feel your pain. May God Bless All of You and Watch Over You.

    Rest in Peace Mr. Munson…………

  8. NIcki on March 19, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Hi there,
    Just wondering if you could offer some advice on how much time my 4 year old golden retriever might have left with us.
    He was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma in the deep leg tissue around 4 weeks ago. we was under going test the 4 weeks before.
    He never showed any signs of illness other than he had a lump on his front leg.
    After they did the biopsy to get a final result of what the problem was, the wound just never healed. after 2 weeks he had a bad bleed from the wound and we amputated his whole leg and shoulder.
    The ultra sounds scan shows no spread and he has recovered really quick. 14 days after the op he is jumping in and out of the car and playing and running as normal.
    When i decided to go for removing his leg the vets told me it was a complete cure; now they are saying there is likely to be microscopic spread and that he only has a short time, though due to his age and position there is little infomation on the progression of what the cancer should follow.
    Just wondering/hoping that you might have some more info.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Dear Nicki
      we need a little more info…are there any other treatments aside from the amputation?
      Whether or not there were may impact the information you are seeking.
      I would also read this post to be sure you are using all the tools available to you for your dog:
      I also just wrote a blog today on some survival data of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen with different chemo protocols, in addition to a new one, that you might want to discuss with your vet and oncologist.
      Dr D

  9. Gareth Bailey on February 12, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Dear Dr Dressler,

    I have found out today that my Dog Kai a cross between a mastff and an American bulldog has cancer (grade 2)in his back leg where they removed a lump.
    They have told me that they can remove it fully as there is not enough skin for it to heal and he will be left with an open wound.

    The only option they have given is to either give him chemo or try some new drugs that have only just come onto the market, (the name escapes me) they haven’t even used them at the vets so he wants to research them more.

    Just want to know if you can give me any advice?

    I feel so helpless and heart broken, i don’t even know how long he’s got as they said with type 2 it’s so hard to find out.

    Any information would be gratfully appreciated.

    Thanks and regards,

    Gareth Bailey

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on February 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

      First thing is to get the name of the cancer. Was is a grade 2 mast cell tumor? Next is to consult with an oncologist and maybe a surgeon. Oncologists like me focus on treating pets with cancer and have more experience, especially when it comes to chemo. (Was your vet talking about Palladia or Kinavet?) Also do some homework =) I have a series on blogs on mast cell tumors here, so get the diagnosis. Also check out the Guide for lots more info.
      Good luck! Dr Sue

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on March 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Dear Gareth, I am sorry to hear this tough news. But you may be able to try some other options, or at least consider them.
      One would be to see if there is a vet there who is aware of some of the other steps:
      I’ve been using apocaps along with low dose oral neoplasene with mirtazapine along with the steps in the Guide (diet, immune support, doxycyline, benadryl if this is a mast cell tumor, etc) in my patients for mast cell tumors for some time with success. Please be sure to have all steps supervised by a vet..
      I hope this helps
      Dr D

  10. Mary on February 10, 2013 at 5:21 am

    i have to say that looking over this and other sites, cancer seems generally no win. I have a 11.3 year old dog who has a mass thought to be spleen cancer, and will not be taking the 4-6,000$ course of “chemo and radiation” or spleen removal surgery. He had an excellent life, could not have been better. I am nursing him and trying to keep him comfortable and determining when it the time to “send him over the bridge.” He now seems to be blocked in the colon, although his scant eliminations look normal. I was told he had this condition 2 months ago. It’s a wait and see situation. I feel subjecting him to heroic medical intervention at this point will reduce his quality of life and possibly span.

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