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

Thanksgiving and Coping With Dog Cancer

Updated: May 15th, 2024

Thanksgiving and dog cancer….a horrific pair.

Coping with canine cancer is heart-wrenching any time, and during the holidays can be almost unbearable.  Here are some tips that can help a guardian cope with dog cancer during this season.

During holidays, there are expectations that people will act or feel certain ways.  If we see family, often there are expected ways of acting.  If we see friends, the same holds. As a matter of fact, we are seemingly constrained many times by expectations.

When coping with dog cancer, it is safe to say a guardian will feel anything but festive.  Gratitude and thankfulness are miles away.  Outgoing social behavior is difficult.  And the internal storm of grief, dread and fear simply does not align with what is “supposed” to be happening during the holidays.

During these times, it is sensible to do what is necessary to take care of the guardian (you), so you can best care for your dog. A parent who cannot focus is less effective for their child.  A leader who is distracted is not competent.  A dog lover in distress cannot deliver proper supervision, care and compassion to a dog with cancer.

For these reasons, removing oneself from situations where you are expected  to be cheerful when you cannot muster a smile is reasonable.  Take this time to use the exercises in the Guide to release the grief, anger or fear you may be feeling so you can be there for your dog.  Counselors, other mental health  providers, and spiritual guidance can all help in times like this.

On the other hand, perhaps social interaction is what you need at this time.  Many people thrive on relationships and they provide strength, reassurance, and distraction.  Guardians can use the support of compassionate and caring relations and social events. 

Be aware though that those who have not experienced similar journeys with their loved dog may not behave in a sensitive way.  Words like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be meaningless. They don’t know about coooking a Dog Cancer Diet, apoptogens, acupuncture, anti-metastatics, and the other host of tools that need to be utilized.  Treatment plan analysis is greek to them.

For this reason, it can be helpful to compartmentalize.  This word is often negative but here means to put painful feelings into an internal box, temporarily.  Then we deliberately forget about dog cancer, create a break, and recharge.

The most important thing to do in this process is to take time to discharge the destructive feelings after compartmentalizing.  This is where we sit with the Guide methods and go through the steps to “experience away” the sadness, anger, or numbness.

The end result is a more effective guardian for your dog…and relief for the guardian.

So when out in the world during this holiday season, remind yourself to guard the guardian too.


Dr D



Leave a Comment

  1. Christine on November 25, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for this article. I coped this Thanksgiving by spending some time writing about my beautiful husky, Mosey May, who is currently battling T-Cell Lymphoma. I started a blog for her yesterday: “Mosey May, Chemo, and Me: Navigating Canine Cancer with my Best Friend.” Please check it out, and consider following Mosey’s story. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful that my best friend is still happily by my side.

  2. Susan on November 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Thank you for acknowledging a difficult time for many of us, and thank you for the valuable resources you have provided. Oscar has had mast cell cancer for several months. He had a small, low grade II tumor removed in May which unexpectedly spread to his lymph node in July. After a second surgery, we unsuccessfully pursued a traditional chemo approach and have been happily using Kinavet since October. With no side effects and his normal four-year-old behavior, we are so thankful to have our Oscar back but realize this is an ongoing battle. We took an integrated approach much like you recommend, and resources like the guide have made a huge difference. In my experience, there are not many who support or are knowledgeable about multi-pronged approaches. We can only hope for ongoing success, but we are so thankful for where we are today. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on December 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm


Scroll To Top