One of the main points Dr. Dressler makes throughout the Dog Cancer Survival Guide is how crucial it is to record as many details as possible related to your dog’s cancer. When you hear the devastating news, it can be easy to become disorganized, and it’s difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on. A dog cancer journal is a tool that can help you track your dog’s schedule, medications, side effects, symptoms, diet and other aspects related to her fight against cancer.
Why You Should Use a Dog Cancer Journal
Using a dog cancer journal helps you and your dog in many ways.
You can bring the journal with you to your vet’s or oncologist’s office. And, you can count on your journal to remember the information for you.
Keeping a journal also helps by allowing you to see even small changes you may not have noticed. For example, if you track your dog’s water and food intake, when and what kinds of medications and supplements she takes, you’ll be able to see how any changes affect her mood, behavior and energy level.
You may not have noticed a difference on your own, but if you look at your notes, you’ll be able to see even small differences.
Tools You Need for Your Dog Cancer Journal
We’re assuming that you’ll be using a blank notebook as your journal, but in reality, you should use any tool that works for you. Some folks like to keep a separate diary, and others just want to jot down their notes in their existing journal. Some people use a digital app on their phones to record notes, and others use their calendar programs. We know some people use their dictation apps to text their spouse notes!
What you use is really up to you — but for the purposes of this article, we’ll pretend you are using a plain old ring-bound notebook.
Starting Your Dog Cancer Journal
When you start your journal, your first task is to record a description of your dog when she’s healthy. Her ‘healthy’ story should include her routine – how much she eats, how much she drinks, sleeping times and play times. You can also add what her favorite foods are, favorite toys and favorite activities. Make sure to add as many details as you can think of, including a description of her personality.
This will help you later in your journey, as you look back and compare your dog now to your dog then. Changes will be more evident, and you will see how things you are doing are helping, or not helping your dog. To make it even more useful, make a habit of recording a current description of your dog each month. Then, go back and review your ‘healthy’ report, and see how your dog compares.
Treatment Plan Records
In addition to your description, make sure you record your dog’s current treatment plan, including all medications, supplements, nutraceuticals like as Apocaps CX, modifications to your home or living area (like installing shades, etc.) … and anything else you are doing to help your dog. If you need to make adjustments to your treatment plan (which is almost always inevitable), go ahead and record a new treatment plan in your journal.
What Else to Include In Your Dog Cancer Journal
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of jotting down notes in your journal every day so you can include as many details as possible. Write everything down as it’s happening so you don’t forget later. In The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr. Dressler lists several items you might want to track in your dog cancer journal:
- Mealtimes: What did she eat, and when? How much did she eat? Does she have a good appetite? Does she still seem to be enjoying her food?
- Medications: Which medications? How often? What time were the medications taken? Any new medications?
- Side effects: Any side effects from any of the medications? If so, how did you manage the side effects?
- Discussions with the veterinarian or oncologist: Include every visit to the vet or oncologist in your journal. What did the vet or oncologist say? You can also include upcoming appointments here.
- Temperature: When you notice your dog isn’t feeling well, take his temperature and record it in your journal.
- Changes in coat quality: Any fur loss? Does the skin appear healthy? Hotspots?
- Thirst: Keep track of how much he’s drinking. Drinking less? Drinking more?
- Energy levels: Normal energy levels? Tired? Sluggish? Hyper?
- Vomiting: What time did the vomiting occur? What color was it? What was in it? How did you manage it? Did you call your vet or oncologist?
- Weight gain or loss: Dr. Dressler recommends weighing your dog every 5-10 days, and noting any weight gain or weight loss in your journal.
- Stools: Diarrhea? Any blood in the stool? Mucus? Any straining?
- Panting: When did the panting occur? Anything else unusual with the panting? How long did she pant for?
- Sneezing: Any nasal discharge? What color?
- Coughing: When did the coughing occur? Wet cough or dry cough?
- Color of gums: Normal gums are salmon pink. Are your dog’s gums normal color, yellow, white, pale?
- Surgical notes: Is the site healing well?
- Vocalizations: Any crying? Moaning? If so, when? How did you help?
- Changes in cancer: Note any changes in the tumor (if your dog has one). Change in size? Bigger? Smaller? Compare it to an object like a pea or a golf ball, so it’s easy for you and your vet to understand it’s size.
As you journal each day, you might find that there are things you don’t need to track as closely, because as you get used to your dog’s condition, you’ll be able to just note when things change. But still, make a note each day — even “no changes, doing great” will help you later if you need to understand when a new symptom cropped up, or when discomfort began.
If you are new to keeping a journal, bullet journaling is a helpful method you may want to look into, because it’s simple and organized without being restrictive and fussy.
Watch the video below to learn how to bullet journal. It’s not a must to keep your journal like this, but for some people, this may be an excellent way to keep track of everything you have going on.
Final Thoughts for Your Dog Cancer Journal
Always remember, it’s better to include too much information in your journal than not enough. And, your vet or oncologist will be happy to see as much detail as possible. Too often our brains are cloudy with our dogs not feeling well, and it results in us being ‘lost’ at the vet’s office. Our journal is our ‘mind’ when the weight of the cancer is pulling us down physically, mentally and emotionally. We’re still able to depend on what we have written in our journal to guide us on the difficult journey ahead of us.
PS: If you’re stuck on what type of notebook to buy, don’t be. Both of these journals have thick pages (no bleed-through), come in blank, ruled, or squared off versions, are hardcovers (which make them last a long time), and include pockets for receipts and prescriptions. The Moleskine notebook is a classic, but the Leuchtturm 1917 also has a table of contents, making it a fantastic choice for keeping organized. Available everywhere, but also on Amazon.
Amber L. Drake has been working with dogs for over 10 years. Throughout this time, she has served as a Canine Behaviorist and Canine Nutritionist working with dogs throughout the United States. She has worked with private clients, rescue organizations, shelter organizations and corporations. She has also been an Adjunct Instructor of Biology at a local community college teaching Animal Sciences for the past seven years and Kaplan University for the past two years.
In addition to experience in the field, she has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework in Pre-Veterinary Science at Cornell University, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and Biochemistry at UC Berkeley. Drake is currently finishing a second Master’s Degree with Kaplan University.
She is continuously enrolling in additional courses, seminars and conferences to remain up-to-date in all dog-related topics. She has a desire to share her passion, knowledge and experiences with others.