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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. Susan Kazara Harper on September 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Susan, Again, run it by your vet as he or she knows your dog better than anyone, but you of course 🙂 It depends upon the dosage and whatever else may be going on. You have good instincts. Take care of yourself along this path too. All the best.

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on September 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Susan,
    The ultimate decision to change a prescribed treatment like prednisone has to be made between you and your vet. Preds is a NSAID, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and usually prescribed to help with pain management and/or inflammation on some level. Neither hemp oil nor hydrogen peroxide have data to prove that either would take care of this for your girl, so please proceed carefully. Also, although there is a lot of anecdotal information about the success of hemp oil in treating cancer, there are no studies proving that it is helpful in dogs. One of the problems is that there is no standardization. When the cannabinoids are standardized so they are tested in dogs such that you don’t get dysphoria (which happens in roughly 20-25% of dogs) it may be possible to recommend it for our pups with cancer. Until then, it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. Holistic treatments can be very powerful and play a major role in supporting cancer protocols, but do remember that cancer is a wild fire, and please don’t ignore the big guns of conventional treatment if they are available to you. I hope this helps. Good luck and a big hug to your girl.

    • Susan Anderson on September 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      thank you so much for that, I will ck with her vet tomorrow Is prednisone one of those drugs that should not be stopped cold turkey, but gradually?

  3. Susan Anderson on September 21, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Dr D. My queensland heeler, Della, has been diagnosed with a tumor on her brain. her vet put her on prednisone 20mg twice a day and has been on them for 8 days. She does drink alot of water and of course, very frequent urination. So much so, that she wets herself when she sleeps. I am also treating her with hemp oil, and adding small abounts of food grade hydrogen peroxide in her drinking water plus a vitamin which strengthens her immune system. My question for you is, can I stop the prednisone for now and see how she does with the hemp oil and other holistic treatments?

  4. Susan Kazara Harper on September 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Bless your heart and her wagging tail!
    Di let us know if we can help in any way, and I’m going to hold you all in my thoughts.
    Take care!

    • Nutan W on September 19, 2014 at 2:18 am

      Hi Susan,

      I am happy to report that Tia is recovering fabulously after her two surgeries. Prayers, perseverance, and hard work have all paid off. Yesterday was a beautiful day…Tia was back to her normal baseline self and the spark was back in her beautiful brown eyes! I am frustrated though. Her biopsy results are not yet back. Her first surgery was on Sunday Sept 7Th and the samples were sent to the lab on Monday Sept 8Th. Her surgeon is frustrated too. Attempts to contact the lab have not yielded any useful information. We do not even have a timeline. Fearing the worst, I am gravely concerned as I would like her to see an oncologist and start chemotherapy right away. I’m afraid that a delay in tissue diagnosis will gravely impact her prognosis…
      Thoughts? Suggestions? Prayers…
      Hope to hear from you soon…

  5. Nutan W on September 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Hi Doctors,

    I am writing because my 13 year old chocolate lab, Tia, 9/7/204
    presented with labored breathing and pale gums. We immediately rushed her to
    the ER at the local vet where it was found that she had a hemoperitonium.
    Emergency surgery was done and a splenic sub capsular mass was found.
    Splenectomy was done and biopsies were taken from the liver – suspicious small
    lesions 1-2 cm. Post surgery, Tia failed three extubation attempts due to her
    laryngeal paralysis. We transported her intubated on room air breathing spontaneously
    to a specialty hospital on 9/08/2014 she underwent a ventral laryngotomy and
    bilateral arytenoidpexy and a temporary tracheostomy. She recovered in the ICU
    and was treated for aspiration pneumonia. The trach tube was removed on
    09/10/2014. Tia was discharged home on 09/12/2014 on Clavamox, Famotidine and

    Tia has a history of remote surgeries for foreign bodies
    and ACL repair 5 or 6 years ago. She is on Rimadyl, Glucosamine Chondroitin and
    Gabapentin for arthritis.

    Biopsy results from the spleen and liver samples were expected
    to be back on 09/10 or 09/11 but we received a call from them saying we would
    not get them back till 09/15 or 09/16.

    I will be very grateful if you can point me in the right
    direction for Tia’s care. My questions are:

    When can chemotherapy be started?

    What is the role of the Chinese herb – Yunnan baiyao

    Is there a specific anti cancer diet that she
    should follow?

    What else can I do in terms of treatment options
    including alternative or holistic medicine to improve her survival and quality
    of life?

    We are committed to her care and will not spare any expense
    or effort for her.

    Thank you very much for your input regarding Tia.



    • Susan Kazara Harper on September 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Hello Nutan,
      You have given a very thorough presentation of what Tia’s going through. I can help a little bit here, yet ultimately these specific decisions must be made between you and your vet, because you know Tia better than anyone, and your vet can actually assess Tia’s [hysiology and her response to all treatments.
      1. When chemotherapy can be started absolutely must be on the recommendation of your vet or a vet oncologist.
      2. Regarding Yunnan Baiyao, there is a very helpful blog at which I’m sure you’ll find interesting.
      3. There is a highly recommended diet, The Dog Cancer Diet, which is explained in full in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide book,and also available as a free download from the blog page or at Nutrition is the foundation of a healthy immune system, so you’re wise to get going on this right away.
      4. Regarding other treatment options, the book I mentioned does give a wonderful spectrum of information. Apocaps ( may be a perfect addition to Tia’s protocol, and if you go to ou can search for a holistic vet near your location.
      I really hope this helps you and Tia. There is so much you can do to help her fight, and you’re asking great questions.
      Most of all, be with her, not on the computer too much. Find answers yes, but she wants you nearby, enjoying all the moments together.
      Good luck!
      Susan Harper
      Animal Health Consultant

      • Nutan W on September 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        Thanks Susan for your great input. I will follow your advice. And we are doing exactly as you have suggested…spending time with her. The weekend was spend just hanging out with her, treating her ( and thereby ourselves ) with massages, taking care of her and nursing her as she is post-op. I wish I did not have to go to work! I will keep you updated…
        Many many thanks,

  6. Susan Kazara Harper on August 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Rozzie,
    It’s tough and scary to get this diagnosis, but please take a deep breath. There is a lot you can do. Most vet oncologists agree that lymphoma is a highly treatable cancer. I would first recommend that you get a copy of the report… it helps to know the “immunophenotype” and and the substage which has been diagnosed. This helps you move forward if you are looking for more precise information for your own dog’s condition. The Dog Cancer Survival Guide book has an entire chapter on Lymphoma. You can get it at in various formats. Nutrition is also vital… good ‘real food’ nutrition is the foundation for your dog’s immune system, and a healthier immune system will help in this fight. The full diet is in the book, and you can download the main points for free from the main blog page (look for the place to put your email in and get the instant download). As to help with the bowel movements, and I know that was your primary question, really you need your own vet to work on this. The movements may be upset because of medication, because of diet, a combination, or a fluke. Yes, you’ll have to make a decision soon, but that can be ‘what do I want to feed’, ‘where can i find a second opinion’, ‘should we go to the park again today?’ etc. Don’t give up. You have many, many options, and we’ll help support you with information and resources. Please consider Apocaps ( with your vet, as part of your dog’s treatment protocol. Take that deep breath and know that you can walk this road with your dog. Good luck!

  7. Rozzie on August 17, 2014 at 5:57 am

    My dog was dx with lymphosarcoma a couple of days ago, can I gv her anything to help her with a bowel movement. I know that I will have to make a decision soon, but I can’t today. My heart aches

  8. Susan Kazara Harper on July 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Hi J B, We are always thrilled when our dogs get better. however it comes about. There is a lot of buzz about marijuana oil. So far, the data suggests that about 20-25% of dogs get dysphoria, which is a state of feeling unwell or unhappy, discontented, with emotional and mental discomfort. This in itself can adversely affect health. When the cannibinoids are standardized so they are tested in dogs such that we don’t see this response, it will be easier to support its use. We always urge caution when searching for solutions. Use discernment everyone, check the studies, and make good choices for all the doggies out there.

  9. J B on July 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Hi Marijuana oil. (Rick Simpson Oil) is effective in treating animals with cancer ! A lot of success!

  10. Helen on January 23, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Dear DR D,
    I have an 11.9 year old female spayed White German Shepherd Dog who I have raised since birth. I had raised her mom as a pup, and her mom was a full WGS who was bred with a full WGS male.. Princess has a history of an umbilical hernia at birth which was reduced at age 10 weeks. Princess was diagnosed with muscle wasting in her hind quarters about two years ago which continues to be a problem for her as she ages. WE do not know why she has muscle wasting, and neither does our Vet. Regardless, she manages. She has a history of UTI, and some leaky incontinence over the past few years and she has been treated with appropriate antibiotics and her peri area is kept clean and shaved to avoid bacteria. Her last ultrasound 8 months ago was negative and unremarkable. Last Friday, she was incontinent of a large amount of gross hematuris. I brought her to my Vet who advised me to do an US on Monday which I did. The US showed a 3.8X3 CM mass in her bladder which is thought to be Transitional Cell Carcinoma. Options are: to do nothing- gives her about 3 months, to do surgery followed by Chemo, unsure, about a year time, Chemo without surg has 35 % chance of shrinking tumor but dogs feel better on it, or anti inflammatory therapy w/ piroxicam- 15% chance to shrink tumor. Any advice sir? My Princess girl moves slowly, but has the spirit and innocence of a puppy in her eyes…

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