“Human” conditions like diabetes and cancer are afflicting our pets and it seems it is happening in higher numbers. This could be perception because social media is so prevalent and our friends and family are sharing the diagnosis of their pets and their cancer journey online.

May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and we wanted to share the real struggles and joys some of our pet friends have dealt with with their beloved dogs.

Raising Awareness About Cancer In Our Pets

Michelle Maskaly, of My Tail Hurts From Wagging So Much, shared that her dog, Toby, was diagnosed with lymphoma. “The vet called me first thing in the morning to tell me Toby had lymphoma and we should get him to an oncologist as soon as possible,” she wrote in an email to me. She was able to get Toby into an oncologist that afternoon. “He laid out a number of options based on science and data and I knew the quicker we acted, the better chance Toby had.”

Toby photo from Michelle

Michelle listened to the possible treatments, weighed them against her own values and what she thought was best for her beloved Toby. “I wanted to not stress him out, give him the best chance and make sure he had a good quality of life.” Michelle chose the “middle of the road” option and Toby started treatment. “When he went into clinical remission I was diligent in checking his lymph nodes and bringing him back for check-ups.”

It was because of Michelle’s diligence that they caught him coming out of clinical remission early and started treatment. “Again, I had to pick the best treatment plan. It is so hard to not be emotional, but you need to put your emotions aside when making these kinds of decisions.”

Michelle researched everything she could find about canine lymphoma, attended conferences on the subject all in an effort to have Toby’s life make a difference for others. “Because his immune system was compromised, we made modifications to how we lived.”

Toby was a great little dog, Michelle shared. ‘His favorite thing was to go kayaking with me. He would lie on the back of my boat as I paddled, his face to the wind. Everyone got a kick out of seeing him there. We would even have big boats slow down and say hello when they saw him.”

For Susan Willett of Life With Dogs And Cats, who lost her dog, Tucker, to cancer. In April, 2019 Susan noticed that Tucker wasn’t quite acting like himself — he didn’t come down when breakfast was served. Later that day when he should have been around while she prepared dinner, he wasn’t he was lying in the living room with what Susan wrote in a blog post. “a sad look on his face.”

She continued in her post that while she didn’t label him as lethargic, he wasn’t himself and she called the vet and decided to take him in the following morning. She wrote in her blog post that, “looking back I should have taken him in that day.” She also thought they’d just overdone it on the game of “playing with the ball” they’d enjoyed the day before.

Tucker photo from Susan

Tucker underwent several medical procedures that you can read about here on Susan’s blog. He passed in August, 2019 and left what Susan wrote was a “Tucker-shaped hole in her heart.” She had him for eight years and said he was,

Her trusted veterinarian examined him and didn’t notice anything dramatic, but Susan said her “worry was off the charts” and her vet listened to that instinct she had about her beloved dog. He received treatment and was with Susan for several more months.

In response to an email question, Susan wrote, “Tucker was a ball-obsessed scruffy terrier who gave himself fully to all and everything. He was my muse. My friend. My shadow. My heart dog. Like a shooting star, he came streaking into our lives, lit up our home and the people he touched, and was gone. He was only with us for eight years, yet he left behind uncountable treasured memories, and a Tucker-shaped hole that can never be refilled.” What an incredible tribute.

The General Manager of DOGTV, Beke Lubeach lost her beloved Jake whom she called her “little boy in a dog suit” several years ago. Jake was the poster boy and the face of DOGTV.

Beke & Jake

We’d written about Jake’s inspirational story in the past and wanted to share a portion of there here today. In an interview with Beke in the past she’d said, “When you hear stories of pets with cancer, you typically hear stories with sad endings. I wanted to share a story of inspiration, Jake’s story.”

She adopted Jake from San Diego Animal Services and named him after the San Diego Padres ace pitcher, Jake Peavy! He was one-and-a-half years old, and known at his daycare as Padre Jake!  He had been left in the shelter by two previous owners.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Jake has been the best dog anyone could ask for. He was always at her side and up to some kind of mischief.

Jake had quite a life. He had been the face of DOGTV for six years, helping to launch the first television channel scientifically developed for dogs. Jake had been a model for Dog is Good, lifestyle brand for dog lover, been the best friend to three foster children and he helped to launch four other pet-focused businesses.

You can still see his images on the DOGTV website and he is always in the hearts of all who knew him. You can read Jake and Beke’s story here.

Teresa Rhyne, author, beagle mom and cancer survivor, wrote, “I had a beagle named Seamus who was first diagnosed with a mast cell tumor when he was only two-years-old. It was my first experience with cancer and it was terrifying as I was told that even with surgery and chemotherapy, he would likely live only a year. But I got the treatments for him and three years later he was alive and well.”

Daphne, Teresa and Percival

It was then that Teresa was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. “I was able to hear my diagnosis and understand both my treatment options and the prognosis (“odds”) with far less fear and anxiety for having gone through it with Seamus; after all, he beat the odds. My experience paralleled Seamus’s in many ways–including one of the same chemotherapies–so I just followed his lead. My motto, which later became the title of my memoir, became ‘The Dog Lived (and So Will I).’”

When Seamus was about ten-years-old he was diagnosed with a second cancer, an eye melanoma. “Unfortunately, even after his eye was removed, the cancer returned and he passed away,” she’d written. “That experience, and dealing with so much cancer in one house, led me to change our household products and the food I and my dogs eat.”

She adopted another beagle after she’d lost Seamus and her name was Daphne. She was about five-years-old when she came to us, and had a tumor in her chest that turned out to be a mast cell tumor. “We had that removed and since it was low grade and they got clean margins, no further treatment was necessary. She had another five mast cell tumors over the next several years with the same outcome. When she was ten, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. We tried chemotherapy, acupuncture, and holistic supplements, but Daphne passed away in October of 2018.”  

Teresa says she didn’t regret any of the efforts she went through to save her dogs. “As a cancer survivor myself, I know treatments can be tough, but they also can be life-saving, and my dogs deserve everything we can do for them.” She currently shares her life with three rescue beagles, none of whom have cancer.

When it comes to canine cancer, David Haworth, DVM PhD, a new board member at DOGTV says, “The treatment & care for each patient different, but differing philosophies even make end-of-life decisions in pets highly individualized, which is different than the ‘whatever it takes’ approach typical for people).”

He said, pet parents can take a few steps to protect their dogs from cancer and those include: Limit exposure to second tobacco smoke; limit exposure to pesticides and make cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli) part of their dog’s diet. “This seemingly random collection of facts reflects the sporadic nature of the research into canine cancer, but other than that we say the normal things: healthy diet, moderate exercise and stress-free living, knowing all the while that the genetic underpinnings of cancer dictate that mutations present at birth are the biggest pre-disposer of all.”

Not to make light of cancer, but when Dr. Haworth said to provide your dogs with “stress-free living” we know that separation anxiety is a stressor for many dogs. That’s why we always offer pet parents a free 7-day trial to DOGTV as a way to alleviate separation anxiety and to provide their dogs with comfort when the pet parent is away.