Archive for the ‘Senior Dogs’ Category

11 Myths About Pet Cancer Treatment

Posted on December 7th, 2012

1. Cancer doesn’t occur in dogs and cats.

Unfortunately, animal cancer is common. It’s the leading natural cause of death in dogs and the second leading cause in cats. Around 50% of all dogs and 30% of cats will be affected by a tumor in their lifetimes, and one report shows that 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will die from cancer. Estimates indicate that cancer occurs at least as frequently in veterinary patients as in human patients.

2. There’s way more cancer now than before.

Yes and no. The incidence of some cancers has increased both in humans and in pets, but the perception that pet cancer rates have increased is most likely because most pets now receive better healthcare and live longer lives. While cancer can occur at any age, it most commonly affects older patients, and since cats and dogs live longer now, more cancer is diagnosed.

3. The environment/my neighbors/commercial dog food/tap water caused my dog’s cancer.

Cancer is a complex disease with both genetic and environmental effects at play. Because of inbreeding, genetic factors most likely play a much larger role in veterinary medicine, as borne out by the fact that there are breed predispositions towards particular cancers. But genetics certainly can’t account for all tumors, and environmental exposures may also contribute. Associations have been evaluated with environmental exposures such as secondhand smoke, herbicides, exposure to paint solvents, urban living, and so on. We strongly recommend that you not smoke (and not smoke around your pet). If you have concerns, you may also test for other exposures (tap water, asbestos, radon). However, please know in advance that whatever caused your pet’s cancer most likely will remain unknown. The best you can do for your pet is to feed a high quality dog food as the main diet, to keep your pet’s weight within normal range, to provide a safe and loving environment, to provide daily exercise, and to perform regular checkups and health care as appropriate for your pet’s age.

4. There’s no reason to treat cancer in pets. They’re just going to die from it anyway. Isn’t treatment just delaying the “inevitable?”

Well, aren’t we all just delaying the “inevitable?” That’s just life. Seriously though, while cancer is often thought of as one disease, it actually is a large and varied group of diseases that all have different outcomes, expectations, and treatment options. Some tumors are very aggressive, and treatment for these may be unrewarding. But others can be cured. Most are treated as chronic diseases in veterinary medicine. This means that a patient may eventually go on to succumb to the disease, but treatment is targeted to give the patient a good-to-great quality of life for a substantially longer time period than would otherwise be possible. For many pet owners, this benefit is well worth it. Certainly, it pays to seek advice as early as possible in the course of the disease and to learn what is possible for a particular cancer.

5. I’ve read a lot of books written by veterinarians who seem to know a lot about cancer and they’ve recommended treatments. So why do I need to go to a veterinary oncologist? Won’t he or she just charge me more and recommend toxic treatments?

There are veterinarians who have spent a considerable amount of time reading and writing about cancer; however, this experience in no way compares to the training undertaken by a board-certified specialist. A veterinary cancer specialist has completed 4 years of veterinary school, 1-3 years of internship training, and 3 years of residency training specific to oncology. A specialist has performed and published research in the peer-reviewed veterinary literature and has also passed a series of examinations both in general internal medicine and in the more specific field of veterinary oncology. Requirements to pass these examinations include knowing all of the major human and veterinary oncology texts and also the last 10 years of all of the veterinary and major human oncology studies published. In my time, it meant taking 24 total hours of additional examinations above and beyond those required to become a general veterinarian. If the information you are reading is not written by a board-certified veterinary cancer specialist, the information may not be as accurate or rigorous as it should be. Given their extensive knowledge and experience with pet cancer, board-certified veterinary cancer specialists should be your most trusted source of information.

As for treatment, veterinary cancer specialists recommend first what is known to be most effective for a particular patient. For many pet cancers, recommendations may include cytotoxic (cell killing) drugs and radiation. This is because the goal of treatment is to either remove or kill tumor cells so that normal cells can survive and thrive instead. However, please note that every case is different, and if effective alternative options are available, they can also be discussed. Oncologists recommend treatments known to be effective or potentially effective, and they are the best people to evaluate other recommendations you may have received to determine whether they have any merit or whether they will simply be a waste of your time and money.

6. My dog has cancer, but he seems fine. It’s okay to watch and wait, right?

Not usually. For less aggressive or benign tumors, a watch and wait approach may be okay, but it’s a gamble. But for the VAST majority of tumors, it’s the wrong way to proceed. As a tumor grows or spreads, treatment becomes exceedingly more expensive, complicated, and ineffective. The patient becomes sicker, which means side effects are also more likely as well. The best chance an owner has of ensuring his or her pet’s long term survival is to diagnose early and treat quickly and thoroughly.

7. A needle aspirate or biopsy diagnosis is not important prior to surgery, since the tumor is getting removed anyway, right?

Wrong. A diagnosis will help to plan the surgical approach needed to successfully remove a tumor. Different tumors behave differently, and it’s best to understand the tumor’s nature before removal, particularly for larger tumors or those in difficult spots. Biopsy is also performed after removal to further confirm the diagnosis and receive a piece of tissue for tumor grade.

8. Why do you need to biopsy after surgery if you already know or suspect the diagnosis?

The biopsy reveals some of the most useful information about a tumor. It shows whether the margins are clean. It shows the grade of the tumor. Some say if it’s worth removing, it’s worth a biopsy, and we believe this to be true. It’s one of the most important pieces of information we have about a particular tumor.

9. My dog will go bald.

It depends on the breed and the treatment. Even in the worst case, it usually occurs only partially. This can occur in non-shedding breeds, such as the Bichon Frise, the Old English Sheepdog, and the Poodle. Hair loss is non-painful and purely cosmetic. It will also grow back after treatment.

10. My pet is too old for treatment.

Age is not a disease. Most pet cancer patients are older, and statistics provided to the owner generally refer to the effectiveness and tolerability of treatment in older patients. More important than age is whether a patient is systemically healthy.

11. Traditional chemotherapy will make my pet sick, and my pet will suffer and have a miserable life if I opt for treatment.

Please remember that our goal is your goal – to give your pet a great quality of life for as long as we possibly can and to prevent distress and suffering. We don’t like it when our patients are sick either! In a quality of life survey performed at the University of Pennsylvania, owners rated their pet’s quality of life while on chemotherapy as an average of 8.9 out of 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best possible quality of life. Thus, we treat much differently in veterinary medicine than they do in human medicine. We use many of the same drugs that are used in human oncology, but we use them at much lower doses and do not give as many at the same time to reduce risks of side effects. In veterinary cancer treatment, less than 1/4 experience adverse side effects, and less than 5% suffer effects serious enough to require hospitalization. If hospitalization is required, the patient usually improves in 24-72 hours. The likelihood of a chemotherapy-associated fatality is less than 1 in 200. If toxicity occurs, we substitute drugs, lower doses, or add in medications to prevent illness from happening again.

For more information on pet cancer, visit The Cancer Center at CARES at There you can learn about caring for a pet with cancer, read our cancer dictionary, find out all of the treatment options available, read patient tales of pets who have undergone cancer treatment at CARES, and more.

About The Center for Animal Referral & Emergency Services (CARES)

CARES is a full service, specialty referral, 24-hour emergency and critical care veterinary hospital with one clear goal: to provide a gold standard of care for your pet. The highly trained and compassionate team of veterinarians at CARES collaborate between specialties as well as with referring veterinarians to optimize the care of your pet. CARES ensures the latest, most advanced and best treatments available. Specialty and referral services include: Anesthesiology, The Cancer Center at CARES, Cardiology, Clinical Pathology, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Radiology and Surgery. Specialty cases are seen by referral from your primary care veterinarian. CARES also offers 24-hour emergency care. For more information, visit You can also find CARES on Facebook at

Petfinder’s Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week: Adopt A New Fur-Baby!

Posted on September 16th, 2012

This upcoming week in September is a very special week for certain rescue pets… and for Petfinder, the renowned national website that is a database and houses thousands upon thousands of pet rescues and animal rescuers.

Sometimes, certain animals in shelters, foster homes and rescues have a harder time getting adopted. It might be because of their color; it might be because of their timid temperament; it may be for medical reasons; it may even be because people just judge a book by its cover and don’t give the animal a chance.

Regardless, these are known as “less adoptable pets.”

So Petfinder is once again putting the spotlight on all those pets that have the hardest time getting placed from September 17-23 with Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week.

The famous animal rescue website has a record number of adoptable “less adoptables” in its gallery this year … nearly 1,000 shelter-nominated pets who are having a hard time getting homes.

In fact, this year they did a survey of Petfinder shelters and rescue groups and found out that these “less-adoptables” are likely to spend nearly four times longer than the average pet waiting for a home – sometimes as long as two years!

So this year I’m joining Petfinder like I do every year in telling everyone who will listen just how special a special-needs pet can be.

I hope you’ll join us in sharing this important message.

Here’s what you can find on Petfinder for Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week this year (here’s the home page for Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet):

  1. A gallery of nearly 1,000 shelter-nominated “less-adoptable” pets.
  2. 2012 SURVEY: Find out which pets shelters have the hardest time placing and how long they stay in shelters.
  3. Fast facts and resources for adopting a “less-adoptable” pet.
  4. Widgets, graphics and badges to help you promote Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week.

Help a “less adoptable” pet find a home… Share a pet from Petfinder’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week slideshow today:

And if you can, get out there and either volunteer or adopt a new fur baby for yourself. Don’t forget to do your research first on an animal, prepare your home, prepare your other pets or persons in the household, etc. For more information on bringing a new pet into a household, see this article.

Adopt a new pet now during Petfinder’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, September 17-23! Get a black cat; get a senior dog! Just adopt one!

Book Review and Pet Product of Week! “Labrador Retrievers: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend”

Posted on August 25th, 2012

I have grown up with Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers in the family and close circle of friends – so naturally I’m the type of person who can’t even walk down my street exercising or through a pet store shopping without stopping to pet the bouncing, bubbly breed when I see one.

Lorie Huston, DVM, feels the same I believe. She has written a gem of a book about Labrador Retrievers, her preferred breed, and how easy it is for you, as a Lab owner, to become your Lab’s lifelong BFF. As a pet blogger, I was given a free copy of “Labrador Retrievers: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” to review and I feel so lucky to have gotten that chance because I absolutely adored the book and the valuable information contained therein. I think Huston is a fantastic writer and she weaves in information and how-to’s in a format that’s easy to comprehend and put to good use. She isn’t too wordy, she doesn’t use words most people don’t understand, and she’s straight-forward and gets to the point without beating around the bush.

Labrador Retrievers: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” is a wonderful yet short read, almost a reference guide if you will, that anyone considering adopting the breed should read before they get one. It’s also great orientation for someone who already has any aged Labrador Retriever.

Huston’s book is a How-To, a Top Ten, an “I Should,” and a “I Need To” in terms of Labs. In other words, it’s a ‘how-to have a great lab and keep him healthy,’ a Top Ten on any dog book list, an “I should follow these guidelines and read this information to stay up-to-date on my dog’s health,” and an “I need to follow along with these guidelines to keep my dog happy and healthy and myself grounded and informed as an owner of a bounding, excitable, yet intelligent breed of dog.”

Chapter 1 is on the history of Labradors and it’s short yet interesting. Chapter 2 is on where to get a Labrador Retriever. It’s by far the best chapter because Huston is against buying from pet shops and gives some brilliant information on how to find a good dog breeder or rescue group. I personally am not against all breeders like some rescuers are and believe firmly in good ones, so I agree whole-heartedly on her points in this chapter.

The next few chapters cover how to prepare your house for a Labrador Retriever, what to get for him so he’s comfortable, how to complete basic training, the importance of socialization, pet care tips including feeding recs, and veterinary visits.  A part I found particularly insightful was on feeding portions. Huston is bright and informed and it shines through in her writing. A well-written excerpt is below where she discusses recommendations for feeding portions as it’s easy to over-feed our precious pooches…

Lorie Huston, DVM

Huston endorses in this part, “Evaluate your dog’s body condition to determine whether it is eating the proper amount of food. Feed your dog to keep it lean. You should feel the ribs without fat between the rib cage and skin, see its waist when viewing your dog from above and find an abdominal tuck when viewing it from the side. Use the body-condition evaluation to adjust your dog’s daily food intake. If the ribs are getting difficult to feel and your dog is losing its waist, decrease its food by 15 to 20 percent of what you were previously feeding. Re-evaluate your dog’s body condition regularly, preferably weekly for a growing puppy. Don’t be surprised if your dog requires less food than the feeding guidelines indicate for optimal body condition. “

I never knew that. Wow, what a revelation.

Huston them details in a full chapter the lessons of basic training. She not only covers the basics, but also behavior issues. She doesn’t promote one certain training method as being better than another but does stress against the use of dominance training – and gives a damn well put-together argument against it. She also talks about things like being consistent and how to manage fears and phobias, which I thought was awesome as Labradors historically, get separation anxiety (hello, Marley and Me!)

Huston goes on to discuss the importance of grooming, veterinary visits, dental care, spaying and neutering (which I was absolutely THRILLED to read because many think they have the perfect lab and want to breed it right away), and tackling emergencies – , i.e., expecting the unexpected.

Overall, Huston has a well-written, informative and intriguing book on one of America’s most beloved breeds. I found so many novel and perceptive subjects in this book about Labs — particularly the importance of socialization and other forlorn topics you won’t hear much about like shedding, diseases to watch for in the breed, ear cleaning (how to and importance), raw food diets and pet insurance.  These are crucial topics that every dog parent needs to know about.

Labs are great dogs from the get-go, from puppy-hood on through their senior years, no matter the time you take them home; they will be a fantastic addition. So applying a few of Huston’s lessons and ideas will bring out the sweet, caring side and help moderate the excessive energy these breeds have (especially the young ones).

Kudos and congrats to Lorie Huston, DVM, on her accomplishments with creating a great reference guide for new and “used!” dog owners! I think every Lab owner should grab a copy of this book ASAP!

You can get “Labrador Retrievers: How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” as an e-book on Amazon for just $2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle for PC on Amazon for free and read it on your computer.

According to, Lorie Huston, DVM, currently blogs at Pet Health Care Gazette. She specializes in providing pet health care information to pet owners to assist them in making educated decisions about their pet’s health. Her work has been published in many venues both online and in print. Huston is a practicing veterinarian and works in a busy animal hospital in Rhode Island. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska.

Can You Recognize Doggie Flu Bugs?

Posted on June 4th, 2012

The Dog Daily: Illness and Disease

Could You Recognize Dog Flu?

By Jennifer Viegas for The Dog Daily

Could You Recognize Dog Flu?

“Flu” seems to be a catchall word used to describe many different illnesses, from human flu to avian flu. Now, dogs can catch dog flu. But do you really understand the symptoms, treatment and prevention of this potentially life-threatening illness?

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines about canine influenza (aka dog flu). Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch of the CDC’s Influenza Division and other experts help answer key questions about this disease.

How did canine influenza first emerge?
The canine influenza virus was first identified in 2004, but scientists believe it was around for a while beforehand. “We have demonstrated that the virus was in the greyhound population as early as 1999, and we speculate it was likely introduced sometime before that,” says Tara Anderson, a researcher at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She and others first became aware of it due to numerous outbreaks of respiratory disease among dogs at racing tracks.

Donis explains that the virus causing the flu, called H3N8, was known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. “Scientists believe that the virus jumped species, from horses to dogs, and has now adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread efficiently among dogs.”

Can it spread to humans?
There are no known cases of humans suffering from H3N8. “This is a disease of dogs, not of humans,” says Donis.

What are the symptoms?

  • Affected dogs may show the following symptoms: cough, runny nose, fever, pneumonia (but, as with humans, only a small percentage of dogs get pneumonia).

How does the illness spread from dog to dog?
Airborne transmission is the primary way canine influenza spreads, according to Annette Uda, founder of PetAirapy LLC, an Illinois-based company that specializes in air-purifying systems for the pet industry. “When an infected dog coughs or sneezes, it releases the virus into the air. The virus, which is in the form of droplet nuclei, is able to survive for hours — and in some cases much longer — on dust and dander until it is inhaled by another animal, causing infection.”

Can any dog get the disease?
“Nearly all dogs are susceptible to infection,” says Donis. About 80 percent will just get a mild form of the disease. A lower percentage can get pneumonia and suffer more severe cases. Among that group, the fatality rate is between 5 and 8 percent.

How is canine influenza treated?
It is important to first confirm the presence of H3N8 via tests — either on blood or respiratory secretions or both. Once the disease is confirmed, treatment largely consists of supportive care, such as taking steps to ensure your pet is well-hydrated. “Broad-spectrum antibiotics may be prescribed by your veterinarian if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected,” says Donis.

How can you help prevent your dog from catching canine influenza?
Try to keep your dog away from other dogs that might be ill. Dogs in close quarters, such shelters and racing facilities, are more susceptible to this disease. “It’s very much a proximity issue,” says Ron Schultz, chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. “Open-air spaces like dog parks, however, carry a much lower risk.”

Schultz helped formulate a vaccine for dog flu, which is now widely available. He recommends it for dogs that are at high risk of infection, such as dogs that regularly go to doggy day care facilities or participate in dog shows. “Even if you have 20-30 percent of dogs vaccinated, that would make a difference. It’s a group thing,” explains Schultz. “It only takes one of those dog flu outbreaks, and then people really start to think. It’s not ‘mild’ for the dog that dies.”

What should you do if your dog has a cough?
Coughing in dogs is frequently associated with a contagious illness, just as it is in humans. Take your pet immediately to the vet for a checkup. This is for the sake of your furry pal, and also for that of other dogs that might catch the illness. Older canines and those with weakened immune systems are likely more susceptible to severe forms of the virus.

If your dog is diagnosed with canine influenza, keep it away from other animals. “Clothing, equipment, surfaces and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease,” advises Donis.

IAMS Play Young Stay Young Honorable Mention Winner: Play the Contest on Facebook

Posted on May 12th, 2012

Please meet Jasmine the super-sweet, white Jack Russell, who is 15 years young, and lives with her Mom Joyce in Warsaw, VA.

Jasmine is this week’s winner of Honorable Mention in the Iams Senior Plus, Play Young, Stay Young Contest which is happening on Facebook right now!

“Jasmine, our 15 year old Jack Russell is always on the go! We recently moved to the country and it didn’t take Jasmine long to inspect her 10 acre property. Our little girl likes to run, bark, dig holes and race up the porch steps for a taste of cat food put out for the ferals. Jasmine loves rolling around in good smells in the grass and always looks for trash bags to get into! Sunning and chewing a good bone are also favorites, but acting her age is not! She just keeps playing young & staying young! “

Congrats to Jasmine!

*** Do you have a cat or dog who refuses to act his age? If you do, enter him/her in the Iams contest!! It’s awesome and you can win premium pet food! ***

IAMS started the contest recently, and it goes ‘til June 3rd; it’s on their Facebook page.

“Play Young, Stay Young” goes as follows:

1. Each week, until June 3, the Iams team will pick one cat and one dog winner (11 years or older – “super senior pets”) based on a photo and a 100-word essay submission from pet parents.

2. It’s super easy to enter! They’re seeking pets that essentially refuse to act their age – pets that are older but still act younger. (For example, our Benny [Golden Retriever] is over 12 but still roaches around on his back like a puppy after he gets his dinner every night!)

3. Each winning animal will receive a year’s supply of Iams Senior Plus dog food! That is a lot of dog food!

So are you wondering how you can enter the awesome IAMS contest?

It’s easy-go here to the IAMS Facebook page!