Cancer. The heart-wrenching diagnosis that no one ever wants to receive. We immediately know our lives are about to change, and we become overwhelmed with thoughts, questions, and concerns for our loved one. Our dogs truly become a part of our family, and while the reason why they get cancer is often a mystery; it is our job as pet owners to look for warning signs and take preventative measures.
10 warning signs of cancer:
Swollen lymph nodes.
An enlarging or changing lump.
Chronic weight loss.
Chronic vomiting or diarrhea.
Straining to urinate.
While there are warning signs to indicate your four-legged loved one might have cancer, not all canines display them the same way. This was the circumstance for one of our most loyal clients; Debbi Ulin, and her adorable 9 1/2 year old golden retriever, Bernie. Unfortunately, golden retrievers in the United States have a higher risk of contracting cancer compared to many other breeds. While this is a recent development, cancer took the lives of 60% of U.S. goldens by the late 1990s.
“We had no indication that anything was wrong with Bernie. I felt a lump in January and brought him to the Vet. By the time the Vet felt for it, the mass had disappeared.”
It was then during a grooming appointment with G.C.F. three months after the lump was first discovered, that our CEO and Pet Stylist, Cait, felt a lump on Bernie’s right hind leg, between his knee and his ankle and immediately encouraged Debbi to get it checked out.
“I hadn’t felt it at all (and I was feeling often) between the time I brought him in January 2017 and his late April 2017 grooming appointment with G.C.F. A very common characteristic of mast cell tumors is that they appear and disappear which makes it hard for them to catch at times.”
Once Debbi took Bernie to her veterinarian, Bernie was unfortunately diagnosed with a Malignant Mast Cell Tumor in his right hind leg. The Vet informed Debbi that Bernie’s tumor had metastasized to the closest lymph node, but that all other lymph nodes removed were clear.
When a dog is diagnosed with a cancer diagnosis, the next step is to determine the best course of treatment between you and your veterinarian. When we asked Debbi the course of treatment she and her family chose for Bernie’s journey, she explained the following:
“We were given three options to treat Bernie: 1) No further treatment since they had removed the mass as best as the could (the Vet was not able to get clear margins due to the location of the tumor as it was too close to tendons, etc.) and only one lymph node which was removed, showed spread of the disease. 2) Amputate the hind leg or 3) 15 consecutive days of radiation to the spot where a very small piece of the tumor remained after surgery followed by 7 months of twice a month chemotherapy treatments.”
Debbi and her family chose treatment option #3, radiation therapy for 15 consecutive days and 7 months of twice a month chemotherapy treatments. When asked if Bernie had experienced any side effects throughout the duration of his treatments Debbi stated:
“The surgery and treatments were a small bump in the road of his life and he lives a perfectly normal, happy life. One of the chemo medicines made him a little quieter than usual about two days after he received the medication. It did not stop him from going on his walks or eating his food. We really noticed minimal side effects from the radiation and the chemo. He has completed all of his treatments, the last one January 23rd 2018. We are following up with the Dr. this month for blood work and an ultrasound for his abdomen to make sure all still looks perfect. Going forward after that Bernie will be monitored every 3-6 months with blood work and ultrasounds and we will put this stupid cancer in our rearview mirrors.”
Debbi was happy to report that after 11 months, Bernie is doing well. All of us here at Groomington Coat Factory could not be more pleased to hear that he is in remission and will continue to fight. We are very proud to announce the Ulin’s success over this cancer nightmare.
We want to strive to emphasize to all of our clients that all we can do as dog owners is continue to look for warning signs, keep them at a healthy weight, feed an anti-inflammatory diet, reduce their exposure to toxins, and refuse unnecessary vaccinations because early detection and prevention of this tragic, horrible disease is the key to recovery.