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

Is There Hope For Dog Cancer?

Updated: October 9th, 2018


Even looking at the word on a computer screen can cause an odd mix of feelings.  This is especially true if you are coping with a canine cancer diagnosis.

If there was ever a double-edged sword, hope is it.  On one hand, allowing yourself to feel hope can turbocharge your abilities and motivation. On the other hand, hope can entrap you in a fantasy attachment to a fake reality that does not happen.

How is one supposed to steer through these muddy waters?

Just for a minute,  let’s turn our attention to some background on the subject of hope.

The Greek myth of Pandora describes her curiously opening a jar which releases all of the evils of mankind into the world.  However, the myth points out that hope was left in the jar.

It is interesting that hope was found in the jar of evils in the first place ( by the way, Pandora’s ” jar” was turned into a “box” long after the ancient Greeks were gone).

Hope is evil? Well,  hope might be seen as creating the torture of disappointed dreams.  Perhaps you are familiar with this torture in your path through dog cancer.

On the other hand, the Greek’s hope was left inside Padora’s jar,  not being released at all.  Perhaps this means that the hope we have in the world is not evil after all (with the evil one contained in Pandora’s  jar). Maybe our hope powers accomplishment.  Hope could be used to fuel a pursuit for better treatments, attention to detail, diet, life quality enrichment, supplements, and all of the steps in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

How to avoid the evil hope left in Pandora’s jar?  How to avoid the torture of disappointed fantasy dreams?  How to allow yourself to hope for a good outcome for your dog while avoiding blindness to reality?

Here is the key.  People who doggedly (sorry about the pun) hit their head against immovable objects usually have their reason for it.  Those who insist in living in fantasy worlds (which produces about as much real-life change as hitting your head against bricks) are usually avoiding some pain or fear.

This  next bit is amazing.  By taking some time (minutes, hours, days, or whatever is needed) to intentionally experience the pain and fear, we will automatically shift, becoming more present and capable. It is like a circuit breaker pops.  A useful way to actually do this (as opposed to reading about it on this blog post, which will have little effect), is to write down this question:

“What bad things might happen to me if my dog has cancer?”

Then write down all the answers you can for as long as you can.  Don’t lose focus, keep at it, and keep at it some more!  Pay attention to all aspects, including both the external world and internal experiences.

By allowing ourselves to stop avoiding, we stop creating false hope.  I believe false hope is the one left in Pandora’s box, because we got the real one here on Earth!

May real hope be used to restore your power, competence, resilience, creativity, and your ability to manage the tempest of dog cancer.

Thinking of you,

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Tucker's momma on May 26, 2015 at 8:05 am

    My baby, Tucker, also has a heart base mass. Do you still (5 years later) suggest N-Acetyl carnitine, CoEnzyme Q and hawthorne ?

  2. Janelle Gryzmala on October 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

    My 5 year old chocolate lab has been diagnosed with a bone tumor on her left hind leg. We at first thought it was a torn or severed ligament or tendon because she keeps the leg lifted very close to her body and it is starting to atrophy. Yesterday she was taken to the vet who did x-rays and she has shown us that it is a tumor. When we questioned about amputation and the vet advised it was not really an option due to the fact that she feels it is cancer and it will travel to her lungs. We are at a loss right now as to what to do and our gut says find a vet who will tell us that this will go away with a pill and she will live a long life yet. But, in the back of my head is this little creature that I would love to scream at to be quiet. That little creature is telling me to think of the changes we have been seeing the last couple months in Bella. I can see her spine; even though she eats good the spine is getting more and more pronounced. She was vomiting up her food…hasn’t for a while now, but it hadn’t even been digested and she would vomit it and then try to re-eat it. Sometimes she would if I didn’t catch her, but most times I would let her eat it cause it had only been down for less than five minutes. She has had off and on diarreha for a few months; sometimes it is like colored water, but she never has an accident in the house, she goes when let out. She has been panting lately and I assumed it was from hobbling on just three legs, but now what I am reading is this type of diagnosis typically goes to the lungs. What I am asking of you is shouldn’t there be lab work done to positively confirm cancer. What if it isn’t cancer, can something be done? I guess I’m confused why the vet doesn’t want to do lab work. I understand that if she has seen enough patients that have this same type symptom that she can diagnose without lab work. What do you think. I do want to add that I have always fed all three of my dogs homemade food. What we eat, they eat and it is considered healthy. I do give them dog food now again by Nature’s Variety, the Instinct line which is a grain-free product. I am more than willing to purchase Apocaps if this would help her. Please, we are asking your opinion.
    Thank you and take care.

    • DemianDressler on October 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      Dear Janelle,
      the first thing to realize is that you feel like you should get a second opinion. That is an important thing to pay attention to and you should follow your gut. Bone cancer can indeed be biopsied with a core needle biopsy taken from the center of the affected area. The second thing to realize is that not every dog reads the book, and I have seen many dogs with bone cancer live a long time after amputation, sometimes a year or more, depending on what is being done. Not every dog, of course, but some. So the bottom line is that you really need information at this time to help you reach a decision and you are not getting it. Dogs under my care receiving Apocaps usually benefit in my experience. Although we do not have a cure for cancer, many patients can lead good lives for a long time after the diagnosis, especially if you use all of the tools available in treating dog cancer, I would highly recommend that you get The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and take some time to read it. It is easy reading and will help a lot.
      Dr D

  3. javeria on September 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Hello, I came across your site while searching for remedies for dog cancer, I have a mastiff he has cancer in his front leg, he has been operated on it twice the doctor wants to put him down because the cancer is coming back, we took him to another vet who will do all the testing again. He has been with the vet since past 3 months the new vet asked us to take him home inbetween the procedure as staying in a kennel has made him depressed. The vet sugguested that is one reason he keeps scratching his wounds, it is a huge wound as the doctor scrapped his bone too, please advice what to do should we put him to sleep? or if you have other advice, treatments or medication which I could buy off of you please email me as soon as possible I would like to start them. Waiting for your reply. Please email me as soon as possible. Thank you

  4. Nancy on March 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I have posted before on another thread. Snoopy, my eight year old beagle, started having blood in his urine june 2009. After treating for urinary infection (3 rounds / blood re-occurred), x-rays were taken to rule out stones. Large prostate then ultrasound w/ biopsy ultimately led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer (carcinoma) in early december (he was my dad’s dog until my dad passed away in september then I took over Snoopy and his care as I promised my dad I would). Snoopy was put on piroxicam / misoprostol and several supplements (caprylic acid, maitake, saw palmetto, melatonin) and kept on primor (antibiotic) to prevent infection from reoccuring.

    Snoopy had been doing great until this past weekend. Saturday he had trouble urinating so I ended up taking him into the emergency clinic where they catheterized him to drain his bladder (small amount). They sent him home with a prescription for tramadol for pain (thinking pain was preventing him from urinating since he was not blocked)

    Today (monday) I took Snoopy to his regular vet since he was still having trouble urinating. Vet catheterized him and got a small amount but the bladder felt the same size so we took an x-ray. x-ray showed enlarged bladder and my vet said likely the cancer had spread and suggested euthanizing him even though he seems happy, bright eyed, and good spirits otherwise (why I did not make the decision yet) the radiologist consult will be back tomorrow.

    At the dog park I told a few people I knew that it was likely Snoopy’s last day and they were surprised because he seemed so happy and was wagging his tail / smiling as usual.

    Since Snoopy seems so happy, I am very uncomfortable deciding on euthanasia at this point – but I do not want him to the point he is suffering either. His appetite is still very good and he is drinking well – and defecation seems normal. He has actually gained weight since his diagnosis (just a couple of pounds) even though I switched him to a holistic low carb high protein diet.

    I’ve lost animals to cancer before but when the time came, it was an easy decision. Snoopy seems so happy and is doing great otherwise (I haven’t given him any of the tramadol) so I don’t know what to do.

    I know one of the side affects of piroxicam is inability to urinate / painful urination – does it cause an enlarged bladder? What are the chances the enlarged bladder is caused by something other than the spread of his prostate cancer? I could not live with myself euthanizing him and then finding out the enlarged bladder was caused by something else that could be easily fixed

  5. eva on January 14, 2010 at 6:46 am

    My 9 1/2 yr old Rottie, Boots has cancer in the lymph nodes. We are awaiting test results to confirm, meanwhile he is on prednisone to reduce the swelling. He started to loose weight fast, that’s why i took him to the vet. He is very young for his age, full of energy, not a gray hair on him. He seems slightly better on this 2nd day of prednisone. He has a good appetite. we’ve been giving him soft foods, since his tonsils are also swollen. We are going in when the test results come back to confirm & go from there.

  6. Burt Twisdale on January 1, 2010 at 9:02 am

    I have a 1 1/2 year old male mixed beagle/basset that was having trouble urinating. I took him to our vet and he did an ultrasound and found a mass close to the outlet in the bladder. He took a small sample and sent it off to a pathologist (2). They could not definitely diagnose it as cancer. My vets assumption is that it is mast cell carcinoma. He is currently treating it with Proxicam (one pill daily). The last ultrasound was done 1 month after it was discovered but the mass seems to be the same size and not grown. My vet tells me that this situation is inoperable because of the possible spread if it is cancer in the bladder. We are perplexed as to what to do. I can find no other case of a dog this young having this problem. He (Hamilton) is otherwise totally healthy with regular bowl movemnets other that the squating frequently when he urinates. He manages to emit amounts of urine when he goes, sometimes the quantity is larger than other times and there are traces of blood in the urine, especially at the end of the urinating period. Some times there several drops of bright blood at the end of urinating that appear on the floor. We dont know what to do! Help.

  7. Sandra Smith for "Cindy" on December 30, 2009 at 7:05 am

    My 50 lb German Shepherd mix has a mass in her chest cavity next to her heart. She also has a water sac around her heart that reduces her heart beat. Her appetite is poor, she is losing weight but her stamina in spite of her condition and upbeat attitude is amazing and keeps me going to do everything I can for her. I purchased your book and I thank you for it. It has guided me through this difficult journey to try and keep her alive and make her as comfortable as possible. God Bless You!

    Sandy Smith

    • Dr. Dressler on December 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you so much Sandy. Also you may consider N-Acetyl carnitine and CoEnzyme Q. You also could consider hawthorne. I will blog on getting in contact with a vet that is more familiar with some of these “alternative” therapies. All changes in your dog’s care should be done under vet guidance…
      Dr D

Scroll To Top