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Tag: cancer

Who knows what’s best for Jack?

jack

Dog blogger and broadcaster Steve Friess says he’s not going to spend $5,000 to put his dog though chemotherapy that could extend his life a year or more — and he’s going to try not to feel bad about it.

Even when he says his final goodbye to Jack in what could be less than a month.

In late October, Friess noticed the dog he’d adopted nine years ago was getting lethargic, and that his weight had dropped from his usual 11 pounds to around eight.

A vet diagnosed that Jack had an aggressive form  of lymphoma that was spreading quickly through his body.

Friess did some research, checking with friends, and vets, and friends who were vets: One of the latter urged him to “do the full chemo protocol ASAP!” It could send Jack into remission for nine months, or 12 months, or even longer.

Friess and his partner researched, debated and decided against chemotherapy — not because it would be all that rough on the dog physically (they handle it much better than we do). The main reason, he admits, is the money, which, he also admits, they just doesn’t have.

There will likely be those who second guess Freiss, or maybe try to lay a guilt trip on him: Take out a loan, hit up your friends, get a second (or third) job, launch an online fundraising campaign, let me be the first to donate.

We’ve become a nation of such overflowing compassion for dogs, with such promising new medical technologies, and such handy online fundraising tools at our beck and call, that it’s easy to lose sight that decisions about life and death — both ours and our dogs — are still our own, and that throwing in the towel, for financial reasons, or others, isn’t always a shameful choice.

We suspect Friess will receive some support for his decision, but will hear from many more questioning it. His decision to write about it, as he did in a post for Time.com, is brave, but also an open invitation to second-guessers. In any case, the decision on what’s best for Jack should be (and has been) made by the person who knows him best, and deserves to be respected

Friess, a freelance writer and co-host of The Petcast, said neither his advisers nor his vet seemed to be trying to make him feel guilty about his choice. But, as is the way with guilt trips, we often don’t need a tour guide.  Feelings of shame can start as soon as we ask our vet the question Friess did:

“How much will it cost?”

For Friess, the estimate was a minimum of $5,000 — more than he and his partner had.

“(It) means we have about 30 days. The end will probably come in time for holidays … ”We’ve received a lot of advice, both solicited and unwelcome, through social media. Nobody comes right out to say it, but the disappointment some express at our decision shows that they question our love for Jack. In an era when people spend big on animal clothes, artisanal foods and medical intervention, and when medical science makes it possible to spend $5,000 so Jack dies slightly later than sooner, there is pressure to go as far as we can.”

There’s one more twist. Friess and his partner are trying to adopt a human baby, and they’re working on saving the $15,000 fee for that.

“If that $5,000 could cure the cancer and restore Jack’s full life expectancy, maybe we’d do it,” he wrote. “Maybe. It certainly would be a tougher choice. But to buy a year during which we’d be waiting for his lymph nodes to resume their swell? We could endure the end stages either now or later.”

(Photo of Jack by Steve Friess)

A drug to make your dog live longer?

antiaging

Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Hector, the former Vick dog, passes away

hectorslastwalk

Hector, a pit bull rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, has died of cancer at his Minnesota home.

One of 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels in 2007, Hector was rehabilitated at Bad Rap and, about a year later, adopted by new owners, Roo and Clara Yori in Rochester.

During the six years he spent with them he became a therapy dog, visiting local nursing homes and hospitals.

About a month ago, Hector was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

In recent weeks, his owners twice scheduled appointments to have Hector put down, but both times they backed out.

This week, as his suffering intensified, they went through with it, according to Hector’s Facebook page.

The Yori’s placed this post on that page Tuesday, written from Hector’s point of view:

“Hello everyone. Unfortunately my time has come, and if you’re reading this, that means that I have already passed. My last day was as good as one could ask for. The sun was shining, the frogs were out for me to chase at the pond, and I had Roo and Clara to carry me off the trail when my legs just couldn’t go any further. I called shotgun to assume my co-pilot position on the way to the vet, where I passed away surrounded by people who love me.

I think my past life caught up with me and caused my time to come a little early. However, I can proudly say that I gave it everything I had all the way until the end. To my Vick Dog family, and all the other dogs rescued from similar cruelty situations, keep carrying the torch! There are a lot of dogs out there that still need help, so keep proving they deserve their chance through our success…

“Please remember that dogs don’t really have a choice on where they end up, and some really good dogs end up in a bad spot through no fault of their own. Before you pass judgement, give them a chance to show who they are regardless of appearance or past life. You never know how it will turn out…”

hectorlake

(Photos: Hector on his final hike, from his Facebook page)

The homeless man and his white dog

elwoodandgladys

For more than a decade, they were a familiar sight around downtown Salisbury, Maryland — the homeless man and his silky white dog.

You could often find them stationed outside Benedict the Florist, or located in what was an even shrewder spot to panhandle — behind the Dunkin Donuts, where cars lined up at the drive-through.

Elwood, the homeless man, and Gladys, his dog, weren’t shooed away too often in Salisbury. That, likely, was in part because of Elwood’s friendly demeanor, maybe in larger part because of his highly sociable dog, who he found as a pup in a box by a Dumpster, or in a bag in the middle of Highway 13, depending on who’s telling the story

In any event, the troubled man and the Wheaton mix became partners in homelessness, and for more than a decade survived off the kindness of friends and strangers in Salisbury.

elwoodgladys2Then, about a year and a half ago, they disappeared.

No one has seen Elwood since last May, though some people still think they see his dog at various locations around town.

Edna Walls had that feeling when she saw a silky white, mid-sized dog at a groomers recently, asked about it and learned it was — sure enough — Gladys.

Elwood Towers died last May of cancer, the groomer explained to her, and since then his dog has been living with the owner of the flower shop outside of which Elwood and Gladys once panhandled. She recounted the encounter in a reader-submitted column published on Delmarva Now.

The Lucky Dog Pet Salon never charged Towers for grooming Gladys, Walls reported, just like some local veterinarians cut him a break when Gladys needed shots or medical treatment.

An obituary on Legacy.com makes note of the kindness the two received. Submitted by his “adoptive family,” it thanks “the business and professional community and the thousands of people that took the time to help him, say a kind word, or give Gladys a pet. Those things are what made his life meaningful.”

The obituary continues, “He leaves behind his dearest and closest companion, Gladys. The ‘homeless man and his white dog’ were well recognized from their travels throughout the Salisbury area in the last 15 years. Elwood loved the outdoors and his ‘WORK;’ the proceeds of which were often shared with others in need.”

George Benedict, who took in Gladys after Elwood’s death, agrees that Elwood was known for being poor, but also for being a giving sort. Once, he got kicked out of an apartment for refusing to get rid of a stray bird he was nursing back to health.

“He was a generous man,” Benedict told ohmidog! ”If he took in $100, he’d give half of it away or buy groceries for friends in need.”

Elwood, before he died, took steps to make sure Gladys would be cared for. He asked George Benedict to take ownership of Gladys.

In years of writing about homeless people, and homeless dogs, and homeless people with homeless dogs, it’s something I’ve noticed. A homeless person may not know where their next meal is coming from, but they know where their dog’s is. A homeless person may have no roof over his head, and no plan for tomorrow, but likely they’ve made contingency plans for what will happen to their dog when they’re gone.

gladysBenedict, who had always been fond of Gladys — who’d never suggested the pair move on when they lingered outside his shop — agreed. He’s retired now, and the floral shop — a local institution for 130 years — closed in 2011. Benedict still works with homeless people, though, through an organization called Hope, Inc.

He knew Elwood for almost 15 years, and remembers when Elwood found Gladys — in a box by a Dumpster, he says — and decided to keep the pup. Some people told Elwood that was a mistake, Benedict recalls, pointing out to Elwood that he could barely take care of himself.

Elwood had spent much of his life in prison, including his teens. He looked down on drug use, and while he enjoyed a beer or two, he wasn’t a heavy drinker, Benedict said.

Still, after taking in Gladys, Elwood never had another drink, Benedict said. “She was pretty much his whole life.”

For a while, Benedict said, Elwood lived in an unheated garage, paying $300 a month for it. About the time city inspectors asked him to leave, Gladys had a litter of pups. Elwood gave them away, including one to Benedict.

Benedict said that dog died at age 6, from lymphoma.

“I never imagined I would actually wind up with Gladys,” Benedict said.

In his final years, Elwood was fighting cancer, too.  His lower jaw had to rebuilt after one surgery. He called off the fight in 2012, deciding not to seek further treatment.

In Elwood’s final months, Benedict spent a lot of time with him. He died May 17, 2013, at age 75 at Coastal Hospice at the Lake.

Benedict took Gladys to the groomer just before Elwood’s funeral, and she attended the service, along with about 35 humans.

“They were sort of unique in Salisbury,” Benedict said. “I guess it was the combination of him and Gladys. People gave him a lot more tolerance than they might some other folks.”

Gladys is 14 now.

“She’s an amazing dog,” Benedict says. She just instinctively likes to be with people … My wife and I are convinced she has some sort of aura about her. She goes with me wherever I go, and all the stores let her in. Wherever I go, people get out of their car and say ‘what kind of dog is that?’ I tell them she’s a Wheaton mix.

“Some of them say ‘I used to give food to a man who had a dog like that.’”

While Elwood has been dead for a year and a half, donations can still be made in his memory to the organization specified in his obituary: The Humane Society of Wicomico County, 5130 Citation Drive, Salisbury, MD 21804.

Duke’s last day

duke

When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.

Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.

Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.

“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”

duke2She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.

Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.

Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on  her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)

“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”

“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”

duke4

(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)

When your dog tells you you have cancer

taffyFour years ago, Nancy Granato was sitting at home in Pitman, N.J., with her granddaughter’s dog on her lap.

Suddenly the shih tzu began going in circles, nudged her in the left breast, then got down on the floor and howled.

It was unusual in several ways. For one thing, Taffy never barked.

Granato, as the dog continued yapping, reached for the spot Taffy had nudged and found a lump.

She visited doctors, had some tests done, and was told she had nothing to be concerned about. To be safe though, she underwent a biopsy. It confirmed what she suspected Taffy was trying to tell her — she had breast cancer.

“I did listen to the dog, but I also listened to me,” she told the South Jersey Times.

The ability of dogs to detect cancer is well documented, if not completely understood. But it’s unusual for one who hasn’t been trained to do so to make what seems to be a diagnosis.

 Researchers believe what dogs are smellling are the chemical changes that occur when normal cells are altered by cancerous ones.

Granato found out she was in the first stage of breast cancer. Doctors removed the lump and she underwent chemotherapy. During her treatments, Taffy provided some emotional support, she said.

Granato said she has been in remission for four years. Doctors detected another lump last September, but she says she wasn’t too worried.

“I kept saying, ‘The dog didn’t bark,’ ” Granato said. “It can’t be.”

Results showed the lump was benign.

(Photo: Nancy Granato and granddaughter’s dog, Taffy; by Lori M. Nichols / South Jersey Times)

Kabang heads home

kabang1Kabang, the dog who lost the top of her snout when she stepped between two girls and an oncoming motorcyle, is headed back to her home in the Philippines after a series of surgeries and treatments at the University of California, Davis.

Kabang was brought to the veterinary hospital last October — not to have her snout restored, but for treatment of the gaping wound left where it once was.

Complications arose when veterinarians found she had heartworm disease and cancer.

“We were able to treat all of the complications that arose with the best specialists available,”  said Professor Frank Verstraete, chief of the hospital’s dentistry and oral surgery service.

kabang4In a five-hour surgery, they were able to close up her facial wound, leaving her less likely to fall victim to infections.

Kabang was given a final examination and officially released from the veterinary hospital Monday, according to a UC Davis press release.

Kabang leapt into the path of a motorcycle heading toward the daughter and niece of her owner in late 2011. The motorcycle’s front wheel ripped off her nose and the top her jaw. The girls were not injured.

The dog’s heroics, and the condition they left her in, sparked donations from around the world, and hundreds donated to the private organization Care for Kabang to make her treatments possible.

kabang3Kabang’s heartworm and cancer treatments were successfully completed in February, and the veterinary team determined that the dog was in good health and ready for the dental and facial procedures.

On March 5, veterinary surgeons first performed oral surgery to remove two of the dog’s upper teeth and reconstruct one eyelid that had been damaged by the motorcycle. Then they prepared for the maxillofacial surgery to correct the dog’s facial injury.

The nearly five-hour surgery on March 27 closed Kabang’s facial wound with skin flaps that were brought forward from the top and sides of her head. Following that procedure, surgeons reconstructed her nasal openings by inserting stents that would allow two new permanent nostrils to form.

Because it was not possible to reconstruct Kabang’s snout and a functional upper jaw, she’ll never look like she did before her accident.

“We were extremely pleased with the overall progress Kabang made while at UC Davis,” said Gina Davis, head of outpatient medicine at the veterinary medical teaching hospital and a clinical veterinary professor. “Kabang ideally completed each stage of treatment throughout the nearly eight months she was with us, and it was a pleasure having her as a patient.”

kabang2“We are so appreciative to Rudy Bunggal and his family in the Philippines for entrusting our veterinary team with their precious dog over these many months,” said Professor David Wilson, director of the veterinary medical teaching hospital.

Wilson also acknowledged Kabang’s veterinarians Anton Lim and Ed Unson of  the Philippines, and Care for Kabang coordinator Karen Kenngott of Buffalo, N.Y.

More detailed background information and a timeline chronicling Kabang’s treatments are available at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital website.

(Top photo by Don Preisler / UC Davis; Kabang with veterinarian Anton Lim, by Karin Higgins / UC Davis; Kabang at her intake, by Karin Higgins / UC Davis; Kabang with a toy, by Don Preisler, UC Davis)

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