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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


Leave a Comment

  1. Susan Kazara Harper on June 23, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Pamela, There is so much going on with your little one, it could be any of the combinations. Yes, medication and combined medications may have that effect; your vet could tell you. A change in diet can as well. It’s less likely that the mass on it’s own would cause diarhea but it’s still possible. Truly, your vet probably knows your dog’s health the best, and can also probably recommend something to help with it. I know it’s tough because you care so much and want to help her. Good luck, and giv eher big cuddles from all of us on the team.

  2. Pamela Combs on June 20, 2015 at 8:26 am

    my dog started having seizures , she is 13, the vet took her blood levels her liver was 300, he said she probably has a brain mass, because the liver level is not enough to cause seizures, he put her on phenobarbitual 16.2mg 1/2 tablet twice a day, predisone 5mg 1/2 tablet 4 days twice a day , 1/2 tablet once a day for four days and 1/2 tablet every other day for four days and densoyl 90mg once a day, she is having bad diahrrea since going on medication for two day, been feeding her pumpkin seemed to work at first now not working, could it be the mass causing diahrrea or could it be all the medication thank you

  3. Susan Kazara Harper on June 16, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    So beautifully said. Thank you. I remember months of laying with my boy, mattress on floor and spending incredibly precious time with him. The cancer is a horror, but sometimes it brings amazing blessings. Thank you for sharing your message, and give your boy the biggest, most loving hug from all of us.

  4. Susan Kazara Harper on March 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Dear Tami, You need your vet’s expertise to really know what options you have, but you also have your heart and your love for him. Our dogs let us know, when we know them so well, and if he’s ready to move on, trust me, you will know. It hurts that you fought hard for him and it seemd to be going well. Be with him, look at him, and ask him what he wants. You are his best champion, every minute, and through everything. All the best to you both.

  5. tami on March 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Hi, my 10 yr old golden had histiocytic sarcoma of spleen 17 mo ago and was removed. was on lomustine once a month and tolerated well. Last week cbc went all down, rushed to specialist, did ultrasound, did not see any cancer, but cancer in lungs on xray. completely listless, not eating (for about a week now) had steroid shot, and yesterday and today prednisone, but no change. Is this the end, do we put him out of misery? Is he in pain? Do we do a bone marrow tap? That seems crual. Please help

  6. Susan Kazara Harper on February 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Dear Jordan, I am SOOO sorry that you haven’t had a response yet. We’ve been backed up, and I know how scary and frustrating it is when oyu reach out for help and don’t hear anything. How is Eli now? Any changes? Please do let me know. The situation you described does not SOUND like a cancer, but you surely need someone you can work with and feel that you’re getting somewhere with. Please let us know.

  7. Jordan on February 4, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I’m really at a loss. I have a 7 yr old male Maltese/shih tzu mix. Eli has never had any medical issues. He is not fixed.

    We moved into a new place, and everything changed. He went from having a yard to having to share an apartment with another dog. The other dog has digestive issues and we couldn’t keep them from eating eachothers food, so his food was changed. First he started to develop eye stains for the first time in 5 years. Then there was a hot spot that wouldn’t go away, long story short, after 2 vets and weeks of antibiotics, we found out there was a foxtail in his foot. As soon as the abcess healed, another one popped up.. As well as wheezing and difficulty breathing. He went from 13 to 11 lbs during this time.

    We went back to the vet because his breathing concerned me. Not only because it sounded bad, but it was obvious he just couldn’t get comfortable. He was constantly pacing and whimpering and got aggressive. The vet looked at him for 2 minutes, listened to his breathing/heart, and saw he’s had stool test and heartworms medicine, and said he was just going to give me an anti inflammatory medicine and charged $80.

    The medicine has been taken, breathing hasn’t improved at all. His demeanor seems better, but that’s about it. Well, I’ve been planning how to pay for tests since the anti inflammatory didn’t work (I don’t have vacation at work yet, so every visit is on average $100 and I lose pay for a day.. That’s about $220 total a visit, for 5 visits). So what happens? I took him to the restroom tonigh and his stool was COVERED in blood. Not a streak, but completely covered by a layer of blood.

    I don’t know what to do. The vet won’t take anything serious (I’ve been to 2 so far) and it keeps getting worse. I feel like I’m throwing money at them because when I take him in, they spend 5 minutes in there and don’t really give an answer. Could it be cancer?? I just graduated from college and every bit of my savings and “extra paycheck” has gone to my dog in the past few months and I have no idea what’s wrong or how to make him feel better. I’m out of money, I’ll find a way to pay for another visit and tests but at this point I’ve lost my confidence in the vet.

    Do you know if these symptoms sound like cancer or have any advice for me? Please help.

  8. Susan Kazara Harper on December 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Maggie, you are doing everything that you know, and you know your dog. She knows you are there and doing all you can. See her clearly, speak to her and ask her what she needs. In your quiet heart, you will know. Food fluctuates, and in addition to preparing good, natural meats and vegetables for her, you can often offer her food by hand. Many dogs find this loving gesture just the ticket that will entice them to eat what they otherwise turn away from. As painful as this is, it is her journey. And when you honor that and accept that you are her loving guardian through it, much of the pain and pressure release for you both. All the best to you and your girl. Give her a loving, gentle hug from me.

  9. Maggie on November 15, 2014 at 6:34 am

    My duck toller is eleven years old and has terminal cancer. She is not herself. Losing weight rapidly, one pound in one week and her appetite is fluctuating. I have bought every type of food for her and sometimes she eats and other times she just walks away. I can see her steadily going down hill. Her breathing is very rapid. She no longer comes to the door but sleeps. I feel like I am doing her an injustice. I wish I knew if she was hurting. I just want to do the right thing. I don’t want her to suffer.

    • Mei on September 19, 2016 at 6:35 am

      Just make her comfortable and spend more time eith her…just gò thru with her last breath…mine gone recently, was 13…keep calm to her as much as you can.. i feel for your sìtuation too…take care..

  10. Susan Kazara Harper on September 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Hello Nutan,
    Do you have the biopsy results yet? Don’t worry about these days since the last surgeries, because Tia needs to heal during this initial stage before starting any targeted treatment. Just focus on the best nutrition, love, play and whatever support your vet recommends. Keeping you both in our thoughts and prayers.

    • Nutan W on September 24, 2014 at 4:57 am

      Yes Susan…we got the biopsy results on Friday…Hemangiosarcoma…the dreaded result. We saw the oncologist on Sat. He recommended a four prong approach. Chemo, the low dose chemo after the second cycle of the traditional chemo, I’m Yunity and diet changes. Chemo will start on Saturday. Tia meanwhile is doing great…very active, eating well and sleeping great. She is our focus and our lives are revolving around her. I wish I did not have to go to work but the rest of my time is spent with her. She seems very happy and upbeat…
      We will continue to do everything for her and will surround her with positive energy and prayers.
      Thank you for thinking of us,
      I will keep u posted and will tell u how things go on Thursday…

      • Susan Kazara Harper on September 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        Hi Nutan, Well Hemangiosarcoma isn’t great, but my own dog beat it, so let that be a bright light for you. By low-dose chemo do you mean metronomic chemotherapy? It’s relatively new, but highly recommended for hemangiosarcomas. Please consider Apocaps as part of the treatment protocol. Your vet can check it out at Good food and joy underly it all, as you know. Good luck! Please let us know how things progress.

        • Nutan W on September 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

          Yes’s metronomic therapy! I’m so encouraged by your words…thank you! And yes we already talked to the vet about Apocaps on the first visit ( thanks to the info provided by you! )…he is very open to it and wants to start it after the second dose of chemo…
          I will keep you updated!

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