Pet Cancer Awareness Month: My Personal Story of Canine Cancer, Clinical Signs, and Quality of Life

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By: Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD

For pet owners, learning that one’s beloved canine or feline companion has cancer is one of the worst imaginable conversations that can be had with their veterinarian. The diagnosis of cancer is life-altering for pets and their human caretakers. Our daily routines with our pets take on new meaning and we perpetually question “how much time do we have left.” Concerns about the financial, emotional, logistical, and energetic input required to treat a pet’s cancer create additional burden on the owner’s stressed mental state.

My Personal Experience with Canine Cancer:

Not only do I convey the cancer diagnosis to my clients, but I‘ve also received the bad news for my own dog, Cardiff. As a veterinarian, my circumstance is different than that experienced by most pet owners, as I’m well aware of the challenges faced by anyone caring for their beloved canine or feline companion during cancer treatment.

I’ve been involved in the process of diagnosing Cardiff’s cancer from the beginning. I actually suspected Cardiff had a stomach, intestinal, or another abdominal organ tumor based on the clinical signs signs he exhibited, including:

  • anorexia (decreased appetite)
  • regurgitation (bringing up partially digested food)
  • lethargy (seeking rest over activity)

I also assisted on the ultrasound discovery and surgical removal of Cardiff’s intestinal mass and delivered the bad news to myself upon receiving the histopathology (microscopic evaluation of cells) report. Cardiff had T-Cell Lymphoma (malignant white blood cell cancer), but fortunately it turned out to be isolated to the loop of intestine that was surgically removed and had not spread to any other tissues.

Cardiff’s cancer diagnosis wasn’t surprising to me, but the plan to put him through a 7-month-long chemotherapy course and and frequent diagnostics (blood testing, ultrasound, etc.) to increase the likelihood he’d have the best possible quality of life was quite daunting.

I’m glad I put Cardiff through chemotherapy, as he’s now cancer-free and I have my urban-trekking companion back!

Pet Cancer Awareness

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, so I’m striving to help owners on a world-wide basis become more aware of the clinical signs of cancer and the variety of veterinary services available to treat our canine and feline companions.

Although animals and humans share some of the same cancer diagnoses, our pets cannot directly verbalize their health concerns to their owners or veterinarian. As the primary guardians of our pet’s health, we must keep a keen awareness of their day-to-day habits so that clinical signs of illness are recognized and evaluation by a veterinarian can be immediately sought.

I’m fortunate to work with the esteemed team of veterinary oncologists at the Veterinary Cancer Group (VCG) in Culver City, CA. In addition to providing cutting-edge cancer diagnostic testing and treatment, VCG educates clients on early recognition of illness through their 10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs & Cats, including:

  1. Persistent change in appetite and/or water intake
  2. A lump that is enlarging, changing, or waxing and waning in size
  3. Progressive weight loss or weight gain
  4. Non-healing sore or infection, such as persistent nail bed infection
  5. Abnormal odor
  6. Persistent or recurring lameness
  7. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
  8. Persistent or recurring cough
  9. Unexplained bleeding or discharge
  10. Difficulty swallowing, breathing, urinating, or defecating

Cancer Treatment There is Hope

The good news is that pets are surviving longer and overcoming cancer due to the numerous therapeutic options available. Cancer treatment has evolved to the extent that your pet’s disease may be resolved or well-managed through:

  • Surgery – A tumor can be surgically excised (cut out) from the body so that the entire mass can be evaluated microscopically (histopathology) and a definitive diagnosis can be reached. Surgery can also completely cure cancer if the margins are clean, which means that the mass has been completely excised and no detectable cancer cells remain in the body at the surgical site.
  • Radiation – Certain tumors cannot be surgically removed or cancerous cells may be left behind post-surgery if the margins extend deep into normal tissues. Therefore, radiation can be used to kill cancer cells, shrink tumor size, and improve comfort and quality of life.
  • Chemotherapy - There are a vast variety of injections (intravenous or intramuscular) or oral medications that kill cancer cells. The good news for animal patients is that chemotherapy is often used in lower doses than it is for humans and has a less-toxic effect. Chemotherapy is individually tailored for each patient, as there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach and each animal’s tolerance of the drugs is different and must be closely monitored by the veterinarian and owner for side effects.
  • Nutrition – The body is best able to fight cancer when all parts are working optimally, so nutrition is a key component of cancer treatment. For all stages of a pet’s life, but especially during treatment for cancer, a whole food diet having an appropriate balance of fresh, moist meat, vegetables, fruits, and grains should be fed. Like with chemotherapy, there’s no one diet that is appropriate for all pets, so for my patients I focus on cooked foods that are either commercially available or home-prepared depending on the animal’s needs and the owner’s desires for convenience in the food-preparation process.
  • Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) – CAM is the main focus of my veterinary practice when treating cancer patients. Treatments I recommend include immune system supporting and natural anti-inflammatory nutraceuticals (supplements), blood moving and anti-cancer herbal remedies, and acupressure/massage and acupuncture. Chinese medicine food energy can also help the cancer patient, as foods having cooling energetic properties are used to clear the heat caused by cancer cell division and tissue inflammation.

As cliché as it sounds, staying positive and enjoying enjoy every moment with your pet is important for everyone involved in the disease management process. With the help of a support system (veterinarians, family, friends, etc.), pet owners must face illness in their companion canine or feline with an informed sense of realism about the possible outcomes. Even if a complete cure of cancer can’t be achieved for our pets, we owe it to them to provide the best quality of life possible.

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Hit the Refresh Button This Fall!

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The air is crisp, heaters are getting turned on, and crock pots are getting dusted off. Speaking of getting dusted off, are there other things in your home that need to be dusted off, tidied up, or tuned up for the cooler months? Probably! Here are a few fall freshening tips for around the house that not only benefit you, but your four-legged family members, too:

  • Vacuum upholstered furniture, especially if your cat or dog sheds a little (or a lot). Since the weather is cooling down, more people will be confined to the indoors or entertaining inside instead of outside. You probably want your guests bringing a dish to your fall pot luck or football Friday night party, not a lint roller! Make sure to get rid of any pet hair clinging to your furniture or stuck in the cracks of cushions. And, when spring arrives, you’ll have less to tend to.
  • Lilly snug as a bugGet cozy by laundering pillow covers, bedding, and blankets. Don’t forget your pet’s bed or blanket, too! If your pet’s bed has a zippered or removable cover, chances are that it is washer and dryer safe, so toss it in there with the other laundry items for a good, deep cleaning. If your pet’s bed doesn’t have a removable cover, check the tag on the bed to see if it’s OK to be tossed in the washer at least. Even if it’s not dryer-safe, you can just air dry it outside in the afternoon while the sun is shining.

 

 

  • Hit the refresh button this fall and add something fun and new to your home! The Himalayan Blue Drinkwell® Pagoda Fountain combines style and function to give you a fun home accessory that provides fresh, filtered water for your pet. That way, when you’re enjoying your hot cider that makes you feel so good, your pet is also enjoying constantly fresh water making him feel good, too! Himalayan Blue was the People’s Choice Vote Winner on the 2014 DIY Network™ Blog Cabin series on HGTV, so it’s sure to be a talking point with guests! Himalayan Blue Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain
  • Tidy up the kitchen counters by cleaning, removing, and storing away any appliances that haven’t been used recently. This will lead to an uncluttered kitchen and less work for you when family and friends visit for fall gatherings or holiday celebrations at your home. When cleaning your appliances, don’t forget to include your pet’s drinking fountain or automatic feeding device! Some pet fountains are even dishwasher safe, like our stoneware fountains, so that makes for super easy cleaning.
  • Stock up on supplies for the winter, such as furnace filters, to avoid any last minute or emergency trips to the store on dicey roads or in cold weather. When making your stock run to the store, don’t forget to snag items for your pets such as fountain filters or poop bags to ensure they’re also ready and stocked up for winter.

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Thanksgiving for your Furry Family

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fe11b63cd00ae26f7dc5170b6d372d98Movies paint the picture so well. The family is gathered around the table preparing to pass the potatoes when, out of the blue, the family pet jumps up and steals a turkey leg off the table. Everyone gasps and pushes their chairs back in unison, shocked at their ruined feast.

Don’t let that movie scene be you this year.

There are so many things you can do to prepare your pets for the influx of food and family this holiday season. Your family members should enjoy the company of your pet, not fear the repercussions of your pet’s actions. And your family’s pets they bring along? There are also solutions to make sure Aunt Susan’s cat is right at home when she visits. Here are three common furry family concerns you can fix before you pass the potatoes.

Doggie Drama

available at petsafe.net

Available at petsafe.net

Begging pups are going to happen. What would you do if you couldn’t have the turkey on your plate? It’s a natural occurrence, but aggressively stealing food is when it becomes not okay. If you are concerned your pet might bug grandma or sneak food off your cousin’s plate when he turns his head, you may need a barrier between your pet and your plate. Try the Pawz Away® Mini Pet Barrier to give you a space about 5 feet in diameter of protection. Your pet will wear a collar that produces a static correction when they enter the off-limits zone. The correction will deter them from invading your space or your table.

House Guests

Introducing your pets to your Aunt’s cat can be a task. You may want to try having them in two separate designated spaces for the first part of her trip. Make sure your pets still have their normal areas to keep their routine, but block off a special space for her pet and to allow them to to get used to each other. Introduce them in short time periods, while making their time together fun (hint: toys and treats). Never leave the pets alone together. It’s a recipe for disaster. If you slowly introduce the pets, everyone has more time to adjust. If they don’t get along, give them their space, you know, like how you deal with your in-laws.

Stuffed as a Turkey

A ScatMat is also a great option to protect your counters.

A ScatMat is also a great option to protect your counters.

If you are like me, your family doesn’t adhere to the “No human food for the pets” philosophy. As Fido visits each house guest, you can bet that at least half of them will give him a handout. If you aren’t a strict mom, that’s fine, but if you have a hefty pup like I do, you may need to set some ground rules. I tell everyone as soon as they get to the house my pet is watching his weight. If they would like to give a treat, that’s fine, just make sure it is on his diet list. I give them the appropriate treats and a limit, like two a day, so at least he gets a little something extra. I can’t promise they won’t pass him food under the table, but at least you tried.

Something unexpected will always happen when you have family together. At least this year you can be ready for a few common holiday hazards.

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Crafty Tails- Make a Personalized Scarf with Yor Pet on It!

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If you are like me, you might have a dog or cat breed that is uncommon. I am always bummed that I can’t find the cute clock, or artwork with Australian Terriers. For this project, I was inspired by a cute silk scarf with Dalamatians all over it. What better way to prepare for the cold weather than a fun fall accessory? Read on to learn how to make your own personalized scarf with your pet on it.

What you need:

Your Supplies

Your Supplies

  • Fabric of your choosing (I used a stretch jersey)
  • Stamp in the shape of your animal Acrylic paint
  • Fabric painting medium Paint brushes (optional)
  • Needle and thread
  • Sewing machine or liquid stitch
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard to protect your surface

 

1. Prepare your Fabric

Sew carefully!

Sew carefully!

First, pick out a fabric you think is going to be cozy. I made mine in to an infinity scarf that wraps twice. The amount you need depends on how thick you want the scarf and how many times you would like to wrap it around your neck. Once you have cut it to your preferred length you will want to finish the edges (mine is about a foot and a half across and 3 yards long.) I sewed the length of the fabric on the sewing machine. An alternative for this step is using liquid stitch. If making an infinity scarf, don’t sew the short ends together yet! It is best to finish the long sides at this step so you know how far to the edges you can go with your stamping. Place your fabric on to the cardboard to prepare for stamping.

2. Stamping on your Image

Jack's perfect match!

Jack’s perfect match!

I bought a stamp of an Australian Terrier from the Australian Terrier Club of America. However, as an alternative I could use a stamp of any terrier breed. Next mix each of your paint colors with the fabric medium per the bottle instructions. The medium will make your paint washable. Paint colors can be realistic shades of your pet or fun like pink or blue. Because I was attempting to make the scarf look like Jack, I used a charcoal color and a metallic copper for fun. I painted the acrylic and medium combination on to the stamp with brushes for accuracy and then pressed it on to the fabric. For one color, you can press the stamp directly in the paint.  I was able to get 4 to 5 presses out of each paint application. As you can see, the details from the stamp did not translate on to the fabric, but that was okay with me! Also each pressing had a little less paint so I tried to distribute the stamp variations evenly through the rows. I eyeballed my stamping, but this could also be measured for accuracy. I continued on and covered the entire scarf with stamping.

Personalize with your pet's name

Personalize with your pet’s name

3. Personalizing Your Scarf

As a little something extra, I hand painted Jack’s name under a few of the images. I wore this scarf when competing with him in rally. This was before I had Lily, or I would have added her name too! Another idea would be to add cute words like “Woof” or “Meow.”

4. Finishing It Off

I let the paint dry for 24 hours before I sewed the short side together to make it an infinity scarf. I would not suggest liquid stitch for this end as it need to be sturdy to hang around your neck. Hand stitching is also an option for this last step. Heat set your fabric per the textile medium instructions. Now you’re done! The actual work time for this project is about 45 minutes plus the drying time. Now go out and stay warm in your new scarf!

DSC_6738

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Keep Your Cat Safe This Halloween

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Halloween is a fun-filled holiday for children and adults, however, for a cat it can be a stressful and dangerous holiday.  Your cat depends on you for protection, so taking a few extra precautions outlined in this infographic can keep your furry friend safe and calm this Halloween season. #AAFPHalloweenSafety

AAFP Halloween Cat Safetysdafg Tips Infographic FINAL

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7 Reasons We Love Shelter Cats & 3 Ways You Can Help Them

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7 Reasons Why We Love Shelter Cats & 3 Ways You Can Help Them

1. Everyone loves an underdog! (Or should it be undercat?)

Rogue foster kitten

Rogue the foster kitten

What stories could shelter cats tell us? Many would tell tales of neglect, abuse, escape, or homelessness. We can only guess how hard their lives were before. Their mysterious pasts make us want to give them even better lives in the future to make up for it.

 

 

 

2. Cats love to recycle.

Cats are cheap! They turn paper balls into toys and dirty clothes into beds. Don’t throw out that paper bag; it’s your kitty’s new hidey-hole! Cats don’t care how much you spent on that fancy scratching tree. They’d prefer to climb the drapes and explore under the couch.

3. No one can resist the paw!

kitten paw in shelter Image courtesy of http://hamptonroads.com/2009/07/high-numbers-cats-shelters-euthanized

kitten paw in shelter Image courtesy of http://hamptonroads.com/2009/07/high-numbers-cats-shelters-euthanized

Cats are masters of manipulation. They’re experts at melting your heart with a well-placed paw through the cage bars. When you walk into an animal shelter, odds are you’ll notice the active pets first. Most adopters say the reason they chose that pet was because the pet interacted with them. Reaching a paw, jumping in your lap, meowing when you walk in the room – it’s like they’re asking to come home with you.

 

4. A little purring in your life keeps you healthier.

By now everyone knows that owning pets reduces stress, and being less stressed improves your immune system and overall health. Pet owners are 40% less likely to die of a heart attack. How many extra years will you live if you adopt that kitty in the window? With an adoption fee of $50-200 plus an annual cost of $500-1,000, a shelter cat more than pays for himself over his lifetime by lowering your healthcare bills and improving your quality of life.

5. Cats have professional training to defend your home from insects and rodents.

Many strays have learned to catch their meals, and they’ll bring that unique skill to your home. Your shelter cat might help keep your home free of bugs and pests. With 4 cats sharing my house, we don’t have live moths or beetles wandering around, or at least not for long. We also had a mouse incident that unfortunately didn’t end well for the mouse, who chose death by cat instead of the safety of a humane trap.

6. A cat’s the perfect cure for a boring party.

 

Kirsten and Chili the foster kitten

Kirsten and Chili the foster kitten

Thanksgiving is coming, and that means spending time with sometimes boring relatives. Good thing Grandma has a cat to liven things up. ‘Sure, Aunt Mildred, I’ll keep you company while you watch the home shopping network, as long as I can play with the kitty at the same time.’ ‘Oh sorry Uncle Jim, I can’t help wash the dishes; I have a cat in my lap.’ Bring a laser pointer for hours of free family entertainment!

 

7. Mutts tend to be healthier than purebreds.

Mixed breed cats, also known as Domestic Shorthairs and Domestic Longhairs, are protected from genetic diseases better than purebreds. Purebred cats pass on certain traits for a specific personality or appearance, but they also pass on genetic problems. For example, flat-nosed cats like Persians are known for having dental and respiratory problems, and large breeds like Maine Coons tend to have joint issues. Mixed breed cats don’t have such a limited gene pool, so they’re not as prone to genetic diseases.

Easy Ways You Can Help a Shelter Cat

"You could help me!"

“You could help me!”

1. Donate items you don’t need. Pick a shelter near you and ask them for a list of items they need. Check your house for anything you don’t need that you can donate. Every time you prepare to make a trip to Goodwill, make a pile of stuff you can donate to the shelter too.

2. Go pet kitties at the shelter. You can do a good deed by spending an hour a month socializing cats and kittens in your local shelter. Petting, brushing, and playing with shelter cats is a great way to keep them from being bored. They get exercise from play and become more adoptable by improving their social skills. Plus who doesn’t love getting swarmed by cute, cuddly kittens?

3. Sponsor a cat. Can’t add another pet to your home but still want to help? Sponsoring a cat means you cover a cat’s adoption fees or cost to keep him at the shelter. Potential adopters still have to go through the shelter’s adoption process, so you know your sponsored cat will go to a good home.

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How the Himalayan Blue Came to Be

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You may have a pet in your home, but you shouldn’t have to compromise your style! Staying on trend doesn’t just have to apply to people, it can apply to pets, too. At PetSafe®, we recently launched our new Drinkwell® Pagoda Fountain color – Himalayan Blue. As many people know, we have a great time developing new products and are always having fun tinkering with new things. The Himalayan Blue Pagoda Fountain is no exception…

Users voted on two Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain colors: Taupe and Himalayan Blue.

Users voted on two Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain colors: Taupe and Himalayan Blue.

The Himalayan Blue Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain was featured in the 2014 DIY Network™ Blog Cabin series in the oh-so-tranquil sunroom. If you’re not familiar with the Blog Cabin series, this interactive show asks Internet users to vote on a series of design aspects within a home. The DIY Network experts will be on-site to build and incorporate the design aspects that users, just like you, choose. Usually there are a few design features to vote on, and the one with the most votes will be incorporated into the home.

Photo credit: Eric Perry © 2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo credit: Eric Perry © 2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

And you guessed it – Himalayan Blue won… by a landslide! Himalayan Blue received over 390,000 votes and was featured in the Blog Cabin home!

Not only was it featured in the Blog Cabin series, but since it was the people’s choice against Taupe, we made it out newest fountain color, available for purchase now!

Wondering how we got the name “Himalayan Blue” for this fountain color? This story is pretty simple. We turned to our furry friends and got inspiration from the stunning eyes of the Himalayan cat. There you have it – the fruition of the Himalayan Blue Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain, a.k.a. the newest member of the PetSafe family of products! Snag yours today to add a little pizazz to your pet’s area of the home.
acdae

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The Best Thing on Your Fall Checklist

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October is Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month!

The days are getting shorter and in many parts of the country the temperatures are starting to drop.  Here in East Tennessee it won’t be long till we see our first frost.  This is the time of year when people begin to nest.  We hunker down for the cold, dark winter ahead and dive headfirst into pumpkin spice lattes (or pumpkin ales!).

image via www.ochumanesociety.com

image via www.ochumanesociety.com

What a great time of year to think about adding a new best friend to our lives!  Before those three-dog nights kick in, every household should have at least ONE dog to cuddle in front of the fire.  It is probably more than just coincidence that October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!

 

 

And, even if you aren’t looking for a snuggle buddy, we could all use an exercise partner!  Staying motivated to get off the couch gets even harder when it is cold and dark outdoors.  A dog provides amazing incentive to take those brisk walks and get the blood pumping in spite of the season.

Shelters and rescue groups always have plenty of wonderful dogs (and cats and assorted other critters) awaiting new forever homes.  And, don’t be fooled by the myths or stigmas that often surround shelter pets.  Contrary to what you may believe, they are not “damaged goods”.  Most are homeless through no fault of their own.

Many healthy, happy pets end up in need of new homes not because they are defective, but because their original families had unrealistic expectations.  Rarely do pets come into our lives with a complete understanding of our expectations.  They don’t know our “rules” until we teach them.  They don’t misbehave out of spite, but out of confusion.  And they don’t communicate the same way we do.  Shouting does nothing but frighten and confuse pets (and most people, too).

image via www.rover.com

image via www.rover.com

Training saves lives.  Pet parents must be committed to teaching their best friends what behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable.  Once they understand, they inevitably want to please.  It is up to the humans in the relationship to meet all the pet’s physical needs (nutritious food, fresh water, veterinary care and secure shelter) and to meet psychological needs, as well.

At PetSafe we are proud to offer a wide-range of behavior-based products designed to help pet parents meet their pets’ behavioral needs.  Training products such as remote training collars and clickers as well as automated feeders to help maintain schedules and treat-dispensing Busy Buddy toys all help build stronger bonds between pets and their people.

We talk a lot about ways to create more “Best Moments” with our best friends.  No relationship is perfect, but by training our pets and setting realistic expectations, our relationships with our pets can come pretty close to perfection.

image via dogster.com

image via dogster.com

There’s another week left in Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, so head to your local animal shelter and bring home that perfect companion.  And, newsflash…there will still be plenty of wonderful pets looking for new homes in November and December, as well!

 

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month is coming up in June, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait till then!

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