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.