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Tag: cancer

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)

Puppies in training to detect ovarian cancer

Two chocolate Labs and a springer spaniel are being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a collaboration between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Centers, Ohlin and McBain (above) and Thunder (left) will use their noses to detect the disease in humans.

Ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation.

The collaboration, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Canines have been detecting lung and breast cancer for years. With an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, the new project will assess their effectiveness in sniffing out ovarian cancer, and continue an investigation that has been underway in Sweden.

The Swedish professor behind that project, who was using his own dogs for the study, is retiring. But he’s lending his expertise to those involved in the Penn project.

“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

While the disease is often difficult to diagnose, ovarian cancer’s victims have a survival rate of 90 percent. No effective screening protocol yet exists to detect cases in the early stages.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients. The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists, computers and the puppies at the Working Dog Center, who will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in vented containers they can’t access, but can smell.

The dogs began their training at 8-weeks of age.

“They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction,” Otto said.

(Photos: Philadelphia Inqurer)

Hachiko had cancer, Japanese scientists find

Seventy-five years after his death, scientists say they have determined what killed Hachiko, the legendary Akita whose story has been immortalized in his native Japan and the rest of the world.

Japan’s most famous dog — though rumors have persisted for decades that worms did him in, or that he swallowed a chicken skewer that ruptured his stomach — had heart and lung cancer, scientists now say.

Hachiko became legendary for the loyalty he showed by waiting for his owner every day at a train station — for 10 years after his master died.

Hachiko died in 1935 at the age of 13. After his death, researchers at what is now the University of Tokyo performed an autopsy on Hachiko’s body and discovered roundworms in his heart and liquid collected in his abdomen.

Using more sophisticated tests like MRI’s,  the Mainichi Daily News reports, a team of scientists at the University of Tokyo team analyzed Hachiko’s preserved organs and discovered large cancers in the heart and lungs. They speculated that the cancer may have spread from the lungs to the heart. Hachiko also had filariasis (a worm-caused diseased), and it’s possible that could have caused his death as well, said professor Hiroyuki Nakayama, part of the research team.

Hachiko’s preserved organs are displayed at a University of Tokyo resource center in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, along with a bust of his owner. A “stuffed” Hachiko is also on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. A statue of Hachiko was erected in his honor at Shibuya Station.

Hachiko accompanied his owner, a university professor named Eisaburo Uyeno, to the train station every day and watched him leave for work. Every evening the dog would be waiting for him when he returned. When Uyeno died, Hachiko continued going to the train station every day to wait for his master for about ten years.

The legend has been told in numerous forms in the 75 years since, most recently as a childrens’ book and a 2009 movie remake, re-set in Rhode Island, starring Richard Gere.

“Last Minutes wih Oden”

The short documentary above — and, be warned, it will make you cry — chronicles the last minutes of a dog named Oden.

One of more than 6,500 submissions from thousands of artists and filmmakers, “Last Minutes with Oden” won top honors in a video contest sponsored by Vimeo, the online video sharing website.

The video focuses on Jason Wood and his dog Oden, who got cancer and had a leg amputated last year. But the cancer spread, leading Wood to make the anguishing decision to put down the dog who taught him how to love.

The video by Eliot Rausch documents the last day of Oden’s life. Vimeo’s panel of judges named it the best documentary, and the best video, and Vimeo presented the owners with a grant of $25,000. The awards were presented last month in New York City.

Jeremy Boxer, Co-Director of the Vimeo Festival + Awards called the video “one of those rare, intimate shorts that leads with its heart and soul.”

Dog amputates his diabetic master’s toe

Kiko the terrier not only detected his master’s diabetes, he went so far as to perform surgery — chewing off his owner’s toe, and possibly saving his life.

The Jack Russell terrier apparently sensed an infection festering in his master’s right big toe — and, unlike his master, took steps to resolve the situation.

A trip to the hospital afterwards confirmed that Jerry Douthett’s toe required amputation, and Douthett credits the dog with helping him realize he has been suffering from Type 2 diabetes.

Douthett had a dangerously high blood-sugar level of 560 when admitted to the hospital, according to the Grand Rapids Press – many times the recommended 80 to 120.

Kiko apparently even waited until his owner, a 48-year-old musician, was well anesthesized before beginning the operation.

“Jerry had had all these Margaritas, so I just let him sleep,” his wife, Rosee, a registered nurse, told the newspaper. “But then I heard these screams coming from the bedroom, and he was yelling, ‘My toe’s gone, my toe’s gone!’”

Douthett said his toe began swelling several months ago, but he didn’t tell anyone:  “I was hiding it from people, Rosee included … It smelled, and I look back now and realize every time we’d visit someone with a dog, their dog would be sniffing all over my foot.”

At the hospital, doctors determined his toe was infected to the bone, and amputated what was left of the digit.

Researchers have found that dogs may be able to tell when their diabetic owners are in danger of having a severe diabetic episode. In a 2008 survey at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, researchers found that 65 percent of diabetics reported that their pets had reacted by whining, barking or licking when they were having a blood sugar emergency.

At the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs Research Center in Aylesbury, England, dogs are trained and paired with diabetics so that they might be alerted when their blood sugar drops dangerously low.

(Photo: Katy Batdorff / The Grand Rapids Press)

Heiress leaves mansion, $3 million to dogs

Gail Posner, the daughter of corporate-takeover king Victor Posner, has bequeathed her $8.3 million Miami mansion and a $3 million trust fund to her dogs, the New York Post reports.

Also named in the will were seven personal aides, including bodyguards and housekeepers, who were given a total of $26 million — and the right to live rent-free in the mansion while caring for the animals, according to court papers.

The 67-year-old heiress died in March.

Posner had three pets, including a Chihuahua named Conchita that she once called “one of the world’s most spoiled dogs.”

Gail Posner’s only living son, Hollywood screenwriter Bret Carr, has filed a lawsuit claiming his mom was drugged and “brainwashed” by her aides into leaving so much to her dogs.

In a 2007 interview, Posner admitted to buying a $15,000 diamond-studded Cartier necklace for Conchita. and once considered buying him his own Range Rover.

Posner changed her will in 2008, after she was already dying from cancer, and added the vast sums for her pups and workers.

The case is reminiscent of that of hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her Maltese, named Trouble, while snubbing two of her grandkids. A judge later knocked the amount the dog would receive down to a mere $2 million.

(Photo: Miami Herald)

O’Malley family’s retriever, Lady, put down

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and family have put down Lady, the golden retriever they took in 10 years ago, when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore.

Lady, who had been on medication for the past three years for a bad hip, was recently diagnosed with cancer, at 13.

The governor took the dog to a vet last month, after she became unable to climb the stairs to the bedroom, where she commonly slept on the floor on the governor’s side of the bed.

He shared the diagnosis with his wife, District Court Judge Katie O’Malley, who was at a conference in Russia.

They discussed waiting until the first lady’s return five days later but decided against that.  Lady was put down the following day, May 14.

“It would have been unfair to Lady,” Katie O’Malley told the Baltimore Sun. “Martin had to go all by himself and hold her in his arms while she went to sleep. It was very, very sad for the kids.”

Lady, whose image graced state highway maps and the governor’s Christmas cards, was taken in by the O’Malley family ten years ago when her owner, a friend of a friend, had to giver her up due to health problems.

But the governor’s mansion is still home to Rex, a cocker spaniel; Winston, a Yorkshire terrier-poodle mix; and two cats.

Dogs can detect prostate cancer, study says

A French study says dogs can sniff out signs of prostate cancer in human urine — a finding that could lead to better cancing-sensing technology, according to its lead author.

While some scientists have questioned similar reports of dogs with such diagnostic powers in recent years, French researcher Jean-Nicolas Cornu, who works at Hospital Tenon in Paris, said, “The dogs are certainly recognizing the odor of a molecule that is produced by cancer cells.”

Researchers don’t know what that molecule is,  according to U.S. News & World Report, but the study’s findings could prove useful in the detection of cancer, which often goes undetected until it is too late to treat.

Urine tests can turn up signs of prostate cancer, Cornu said, but miss some cases.

In the study, two researchers spent a year training a Belgian Malinois, a breed already used to detect drugs and bombs.

The dog was trained to differentiate between urine samples from men with prostate cancer and men without. Ultimately, researchers placed groups of five urine samples in front of the dog to see if it could identify the sole sample from a man with prostate cancer. The dog correctly classified 63 out of 66 specimens.

If the findings hold up in other studies, they’ll be “pretty impressive,” said urologist Dr. Anthony Y. Smith, who was to moderate a discussion on the findings Tuesday at the American Urological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

Family fulfills their Labrador’s “bucket list”

hudsonWhen Hudson, a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador was diagnosed with cancer, the Piper family of Irvine, California, put together a “bucket list” of his favorite things — from eating popcorn to riding in the car with his head out the window.

Their vet had predicted the dog had only a month to live, but Hudson survived three more months — long enough for the Pipers to check off every item.

Jenny and David Piper got Hudson the day they moved into their first home. After that, they moved on to children — four girls, including a set of twins, according to a story in yesterday’s Orange County Register.

After notifying their children of Hudson’s pending demise, the family came up with a plan to make the most of the time he had left — a bucket list.

The first item on it was a popcorn movie night, Hudson got his own sleeping bag on the floor with the kids to watch “Hotel For Dogs” and eat a bowl of buttered popcorn.

Next came a pancake dinner – a bowl of cheerios and pancakes. They would check off the list as they went. He had the car ride with his head out the window, more walks around the neighborhood, and extra hugs and kisses.

On the night it became clear that the end was near, the family all said their goodbyes,  and the next morning David Piper stopped and got Hudson some doughnuts on the way to the vet’s office, where he was put down.

In addition to fulfilling all the items on the bucket list, the Piper family left a gift in his name for canine cancer research.

Daughter Maggie, 8, after hearing a story at school about Terry Fox, who attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research — and decided to something similar.

She asked the school if she could sell bracelets on campus for animal cancer research.  In all, she earned $1,300. The family dropped the money off at the veterinary school at UC Davis  last week.

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