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

Problem Solving while having a Dog With Cancer

Updated: December 26th, 2018

Lymphosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma.  Osteosarcoma. Mast Cell Tumor. Nasal Tumor. Melanoma. Mammary Cancer.

All these words, so harsh, so foreign and scientific. And also, so horrible.

Do you love a dog with cancer?  How are you dealing with this fact?

Upon reflection, some may not even allow the reality to sink in.  You are telling me my dog has cancer? What?  It is surreal, at times not even believable.

Some put the information in a dark corner of the mind, and don’t go there often. Stay away from that corner of pain. We sometimes run from it, desperately trying to find a solution in the fixing of the problem.

Some of us create a super-mature persona that feels safe and secure.  We throw a switch that has a “numb-out” effect at other times. This can make feelings go away altogether.

Whatever these are, we all have our flavors, our unique patterns and defaults in the avoidance of pain.

Avoiding pain prevents us from truly moving through and beyond the problem.

In order to truly solve something, there are two basic approaches.  One is to get out there and fix the problem.  This is an external approach.  We don’t like what is going on, so we look outside of ourselves to find the solution.

Another way we can approach a problem is looking inside.  This way is often avoided in our society.

In other cultures though, it is not. Time is spent devoted to this area of problem solving. In most Western cultures though, we often look down on this, since it seems to have a bad associations with weakness and mental instability.

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When faced with such a traumatic ordeal as living with a dog with cancer, we forget that sometimes what makes us truly human is our ability to feel.  We spend so much of our efforts engaged in not feeling what is happening that we become less effective problem solvers.  If we are unable to feel, we paralyze our ability to move forward.  Our coping skills decrease. We never are able to truly let things go.

We forget that half the solution is within us.

Those in positions of high stress (presidents, Olympic athletes, humans dealing with dog cancer, overwhelmed persons, maybe someone close to you) work best when they have someone they can turn to who is experienced in dealing with internal life.

Most Americans have been indoctrinated into thinking only of a “mental health professional”. This is just one way of addressing our internal life to regain access to feeling again.  Yes, psychologists and psychiatrists help millions. There are also others who can help: priests, counselors, Cabbalists, Zen Buddists, Taoists, Sufis, Avatars, Touch Therapy practitioners, energy workers, Yogis, and more. Don’t forget about support groups (online and otherwise), true friends, and family members.

Sometimes even someone in the line outside the movie theater might say something that can shift your viewpoint.  You never know.  Could be someone right in front of you.

What is your comfortable way of managing your internal life?

Best to all,

Dr Dressler

Leave a Comment

  1. Basil on April 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Our dog Han is a 7-year-old Black Lab that was diagnosed with a malignant Grade III mast cell tumor in July 2008. He had a successful surgery in August in which the tumor was removed. Throuughout the fall, he had chemotherapy with Lomustine and Vinblastine. He was feeling fine and looking great and not showing any signs that the tumor had returned. In February 2009 he an ultrasound that revealed the mast cell tumor had spread to his lymphnodes in and around his abdomen. In February and March he had four more chemotherapy treatments with Vinblastine and six radiation treatments. The lymphnodes have decreased to their normal size and the original tumor has not returned. He had a chest x-ray two weeks ago that revealed the lymphnodes in his chest were enlarged, probably because the mast cells had spread there. Han is on a new drug that is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and has been taking it since March 19. He didn’t exhibit any side effects until the last week or so when his appetite began to wane. The previous radiation treatments gave him colitis, and we have been trying to manage that with Sulfacalazine, which works fairly well. However, this new drug also causes diarrhea. Another dog owner revealed their dog was on the same drug and had experienced loss of appetite as well. Han’s oncologist started him on radiation therapy again on Thursday, April 9, to treat the lymphnodes in his chest. He came through just fine but as been extremely tired and won’t eat anything except for a few bites here and there. Even though this didn’t happen with his radiation treatments that were focused on his colon and abdomen, can radiation therapy in the chest or different parts of the body cause different side effects?

    • Dr. Dressler on April 15, 2009 at 10:57 pm

      Basil, the shore answer is yes, it can. Depending on the tissues that are exposed to the beam, the side effect of chemo can very quite a bit. It could be the cause of the inappetance you are seeing, but it could also be due to something related to the chemo.
      I will answer your question more completely in the webinar:

  2. Suzy on April 3, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    My 10 yr. old pug Barney has just been diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma Stage 2…nasal cancer. I am researching diets, anti inflammatory meds, etc. to help slow the process. I would appreciate ANY information. I am devastated.

  3. Carry on March 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    We lost our chocolate lab Snickers a year ago today. But it wasn’t to the cancer it was to the treatment. She had an osteosarcoma on the spine. I now know more about osteosacromas and treatment than I do about most human diseases. My poor mom didn’t have any medical background and was overwhelmed by all of the medcial speak. So I had to become her rock and show as little emotion as possible. We tried a new treatment that was offered at CSU. The IMRT. It is used in humans extensively but CSU just got their machine and had only used it twice and it was on osteosarcomas on the limbs. They had had good success with this but this was the first time on the spine. The tumor was so large that they were afraid to do surgery on it do to it destablizing the spine and chemo has not been successful so we tried this. It worked! We had our dog back. Until a few days before she was to go down for her second round of chemo. My mom came to church said Snick had a hard time getting into the car. By the time we were done with church she had lost all function of her hind end. We waited a few hours then made a mad dash to CSU. We live about 3 hours away. After extensive testing they concluded that the spinal cord had died due to too much exposure. It was heart breaking. We made the final trip down to put her to sleep two days later. I think after holding it all in all of that time it was worse for me. I held her little body until the very end. She will be greatly missed. And looking back on it I don’t think we would have changed a thing. The only side effect we had from the radiation was some skin sluffing and there wasn’t any effects from the chemo. We had a few more weeks with a fabulous dog.

    • Dr. Dressler on March 19, 2009 at 12:43 am

      Thank you Carry,

  4. Sue Szczupaj on March 18, 2009 at 11:02 am

    In February,2009,my 9 mo. old Doberman, Luca, developed a lump on the left side under his jaw. Our vet , first thought it was a reactive lymph node. He treated him with anti-biotics and said if the swelling didn’t go down in a week, to bring him back and he would have to surgically remove it. Well, a week later we were back at the vet. The lymph gland did not get smaller, it got bigger. The vet took him into surgery, removed the lymph gland, looked at the cells under the microscope and couldn’t believe it. He saw Cancer cells. Sent the specimen out for it to be biopsied. The results came back. My 9 mo. old puppy has lymphosarcoma, and his prognosis is “guarded.” I immediately went on line. I went on a site and is a form of laetrile.a cancer drug used in the 60’s or 70’s. I immediately ordered some. I switched his food to Taste of the Wild. Luca is also getting K-9 Immunity, Omega 3-6-9, K-9 Transfer Factor, Barley grass capsules, ground flaxseed, and cottage cheese. He is also going for accupuncture treatments. All the things we are doing is to boost his immunity. It has been over a month, and there is absolutely no swelling in any of the lymph nodes. My vet is amazed. Even if Luca is not cured, we at least are buying him some time without raveging his body with chemo.

  5. LisaT on March 15, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Jeannie, I think I would use a more pure mushroom product; I do not think that the amounts in the K9 immunity product are sufficient.

  6. Jeannie on March 15, 2009 at 11:50 am

    My 9 year old lab, Sage, was diagnosed with Stage 3 Mast Cell Tumor, which presented in between her toes and was considered to large to operate. Went to an Oncologist and he gave us a protocol that sounds pretty much like everyone else gets….prednisone to shrink so she could have surgery, a chemo drug to attack the cancer cells. Nothing happened..tumor got larger…another chemo drug was started…after a week or two, still nothing…then another stronger chemo shot was recommended. Meanwhile, I was reading everything I could while have a vet who specialized in accupuncture come weekly and give treatments along with some potent mushrooms to help her immune system.

    Anyway, after reading all the side effects possible from the drugs and being so against drugs myself, I decided to try the “Budwig Protocol”, change her food to a “no grain” variety, plus cook chicken and give sardines, and ordered K-9 Immunity from Aloha Medicinals.

    The tumor did start to shrink and the top gooey, bloody, oozing, opening closed up. The bottom opening stayed the same. Now the tumor is getting larger and opening up again. The Vet told me that Mast Cell Tumors are constantly changing and are bloody, oozy, and very stinky, and he was right, but wrapping it only makes it worse because Sage cannot “clean” it and it just get absorbed by the wrap.

    I have taken pictures daily and am keeping a journal. We are now in our 2nd month of going “natural” but the tumor is so scarey looking. Sage seems to feel great other then limping on it when she walks, but she is alert, eats well, poops look good…..her blood work was all good before we started chemo, according to the vet, but the tumor was said to be aggresive and malignant (after only an aspiration) The oncologist said you cannot always tell from just an aspiration…it should be biopsied.

    Anyway, my question…..I have been giving Sage ginger in both capsule and fresh form, hoping to help shrink the tumor as I read it is a great anti-inflammatory herb. Also, I know that the mushrooms in the K-9 Immunity have anti-inflammatory properties. What do you think of Browelia? I just read about it in yet another book and want to give her that too.

    Thank you for listening.


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