Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Time Out For Best Friends

For the past few months, I have referred to our ongoing battle against Mast Cell Tumor disease that has been diagnosed in our little RatCha, Rocky. It was discovered in April and we thought we had it under control until he started sprouting new tumors, two within a month of each other. We are about to embark on the good ship, Chemotherapy, and I am not looking forward to the trip, for the Rockster or for us.

I have placed a logo, information and a link in the sidebar of this blog for anyone who would like to learn more about canine cancer and learn how you can help. No donation is too small and they are very up front with where the money goes. The Magic Bullet Fund is not able to pay for everything, but they are helping us out as much as they can and for that, we are grateful.

It is estimated that 50% of all companion dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime. It usually shows up at or after age 7. The types of cancer run the gamut from lymphoma to osteosarcoma. The Veterinary Specialists Clinics are full of anxious pet owners and their brave doggies having surgery, radiology and chemotherapy. Some are just there to get palliative care and comfort as their best friends lose the battle with the beast. Cancer is now the leading cause of death in companion dogs.

Unlike humans, dogs react differently to chemo and other procedures. They are stoical and often you have to look closely to see if they are in discomfort. On the upside, because they will get back on their feet as soon as they can, their recoveries can be remarkable. The treatments they receive are the same as those a human being with cancer would receive, and just as expensive, in comparison. Often, as in our case, pet health care insurance cannot be acquired due to a dog's tendency to certain diseases. Some breeds are more prone than others, but it can happen to your sweet little mutts, as well. The cost, so far, for Rocky's treatment has eaten into our IRA and left us stretching every penny.

Why, some may wonder, don't you just put the animal to sleep and get on with things? It's simple. We love our dogs and, with the advances in Veterinary Oncology, many dogs are beating the odds and going on to a good quality of life. Shouldn't they also be given their chance? There are no guarantees, but we have made a plan for our furry kiddo. As long as he has quality of life and is responding well to the treatments, we keep fighting. If the disease keeps showing up, we go to palliative care and make sure what time he has left is full quality and when it is his time, we will do what we have to do out of love. He is not only our baby and our joy, he is also our responsibility. He looks to us for all his needs and we have to do what we think is best for him.

Just like the damage caused by adoption separation is a message that many don't want to hear, the message about the vulnerability of our family pets to this monster disease is a downer. Next to justice for EMS mothers and our adult children, this is the cause that has become nearest to my heart. One day, down at the AVS clinic, where all is state of the art, I held a big guy, over 6 and 1/2 feet tall, in my arms as he fought the sobs making his body shake. He had been forced, by a very aggressive case of nerve sheath carcinoma, to release his Lab from any further pain. Stooge had gained an extra 2 years of quality life before the cancer started winning and his "Daddy" knew it was time. If our Rocky can gain those 2 quality years, we will feel blessed.

Mast Cell Tumor cancer in dogs is often called "The Great Pretender" because it can show up in many different ways. We are fortunate that Rocky's disease is, so far, confined to his skin. But, the poor pooch can't even develop a normal skin tag without us getting a bit panicky. You never know what it is going to look like, how big it will changes size and even color. His first tumor appeared directly over his neutering scar as a thick, disc-shaped mass that looked bruised. That is one of the worst places for a dog to manifest MCT. That was in April, and we are still fighting.

If you have a healthy, happy dog or more in your home, give them a hug and a treat for me and thank your lucky stars. And if you have a dog that has been diagnosed, read, research, ask questions, get second opinions and find a veterinary oncologist, pronto. There is hope.

No comments: