Category Archives: Cancer

Cancer Fighting Foods For Dogs

 There are many foods that have been shown to prevent cancer in dogs or fight the effects of cancer. It’s always a good idea to consult your vet before making any dietary changes for your pup. Here are a few foods that you should discuss with your vet that have cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing qualities.

1. Fish Oil

Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 which is a fatty acid that shrinks tumors and reduces inflammation.

Fish oil has a host of other benefits for your dog, and many owners add it to their pups’ food to help keep coats shiny and fight skin dryness. Fish oil can slow the growth of cancer and is often recommended for dogs who have it.

2. Animal Fat And Protein

Tumors take a lot of protein from other areas of the body, leaving less protein available for muscle growth, disease immunity, and wound healing. To make sure your dog’s body has enough protein, they’ll need a high-protein diet.

Some dogs with cancer also have a reduced appetite, which means that their body will start using up stores of fat. A more fatty diet is needed to replace those stores. Animal fats and proteins should make up the majority of the diet for a dog with cancer.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are full of antioxidants, and they contain ellagic acid, which blocks metabolic pathways that can lead to cancer.

The antioxidants in blueberries prevent cell damage, and the anthocyanins or dark pigments that give the fruit its color have anti-inflammatory properties, as well. In laboratory tests, blueberries have been shown to kill and prevent many types of cancer.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in glucosinates, which are broken down into biologically active compounds that have anticancer properties.

These compounds protect cells from DNA damage, make carcinogens inactive, induce cell death in tumors, prevent tumor blood vessels from forming, and provide anti-inflammatory effects.

5. Pumpkin



Diana Ruth Davidson,  Westside Dog Nanny,             Certified Professional Pet Sitter,                            Certified by American Red Cross in Pet First Aid

Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Dog Cancer: Treatment, Prognosis, and Aftercare



Few diagnoses in the veterinary world bring more pain to the chest of a dog owner than one simple word: dog cancer. The mind instantly goes to the perceived harshness of chemotherapy or radiation treatments, possible remission, and perhaps a greater still possibility of losing the battle altogether.

Despite the connotations of cancer, conditions such as kidney and heart disease can be much more difficult to treat and have a poorer chance of survival—but this doesn’t stop the specter of cancer from casting a dark shadow over your pet and family.

As is the case with humans, there are a multitude of cancers that affect the organs and systems of our dogs. Included in this are tumors of the skin, digestive, respiratory, musculoskeletal, reproductive tracts, and nervous system, and blood-borne cancers.

An obvious first question to a diagnosis of cancer in our dogs is simply, why? The simple answer is that there is no definitive reason. While some cancers are more specific to certain breeds, factors such as age, genetics, and environmental and lifestyle factors also play a role. There is no reliable formula to determine whether or not your dog may one day be afflicted.

Recognizing  Dog Cancer Symptoms

According to Veterinary Oncologist Dr. MJ Hamilton of Crown Veterinary Services in Lebanon, NJ, there are many signs that could be indicative of cancer. “Usually, we’ll see big changes at home. So things like decreased mobility, lethargy and changes in appetite, collapse, or inability to urinate,” says Dr. Hamilton.

While those signs can be a result of many other conditions, says Dr. Hamilton, a diagnosis of cancer comes from further testing. “Usually it’s during a workup that you’ll find it; either through an ultrasound, biopsy, or cytology.”

Dog Cancer Treatment

When it comes to treatment of cancer in dogs and other pets, they are generally the same as in humans—chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Veterinary medicine has made some recent strides in treatments, such as immunotherapy or antibodytherapy, but these are less prevalent than the first line treatments.

The course of your dog cancer treatment will be determined by your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist, and will depend on the type of cancer, as well as other factors.

While chemotherapy is a blanket term for using drugs to combat disease, such treatments for cancer come in several forms. According to Dr. Joanne Intile, staff oncologist at the East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Riverhead, NY, chemotherapy can be administered orally, intravenously, topically, subcutaneously, intramusculary, intratumorally (directly into a tumor), or intracavitary (directly into a body cavity).

Chemotherapy can be adjuvant: used after a tumor is removed in the hopes of killing the remaining or residual cancer cells; neoadjuvant: which is used prior to surgery in the hopes of reducing the size of an existing tumor; or induction: which is used to hasten remission for specific blood borne cancers.

The majority of dogs treated with chemotherapy don’t suffer any serious side effects at all. Unlike people, most dogs will not lose their fur during chemotherapy, but some breeds (those with continuously growing haircoats like poodles and Old English Sheepdogs) might experience some thinning of hair. Your dog might also experience temporary diarrhea or vomiting and have less of an appetite between treatments. These side effects are typically mild and treatable at home. The chance of a severe reaction, one requiring a trip to the veterinarian or hospitalization, is less than five percent.

Chemotherapy can result in a lowering of red and white blood cell counts, which can affect the immune system and the ability to fight infection. Your vet will keep track of your dog’s progress through bloodwork, and may make changes in the dosage or choices of drug that are used for treatment.

Depending upon the type of cancer and how it is affecting your dog, your vet may recommend radiation therapy rather than chemotherapy.

Dr. Rick Chetney Jr., of VRC in Malvern, PA, is a veterinary oncologist who specializes in radiation treatments to fight cancer. “Radiation therapy is a localized therapy, like surgery,” says Dr. Chetney.

“It’s often used for tumors that we can’t surgically remove because they’re up against necessary structures such as the heart or brain. Chemotherapy is a systemictreatment—once we inject it, it goes all throughout the body battling microscopic disease when it starts spreading to other locations. Again, radiation is more localized.”

“A definitive radiation therapy protocol is given once daily—usually with between 16 and 20 daily treatments—so it takes about three or four weeks,” says Dr. Chetney. “An individual treatment takes about an hour and a half to two hours, and most of that time is spent waiting for the patient to become sleepy from the sedative, and then later to recover from the anesthesia. The treatment itself only takes about 5-10 minutes.”

Animals are given varying levels of sedation for radiation treatments, mainly to keep them still, but there’s no direct pain from the radiation treatment itself.

If you live close enough to your treating oncologist, you might be able to bring your dog to its daily radiation treatments. If distance is an issue, the animal can be boarded during the week for treatments and be permitted to go home to recuperate over the weekend. Your dog is apt to be tired at home, but this is more an effect of the anesthesia than the treatment.

How Much Does it Cost to Treat Dog Cancer?

Once a cancer diagnosis is determined, among the first considerations is cost. Even if you do research on this topic, you may find very little definitive information. Consulting with your vet or oncologist will certainly help get a ballpark figure for a route of treatment, but he or she may be hesitant on nailing down a specific figure. No protocol is 100 percent guaranteed to work, even for the most treatable types, and subsequent treatments might be required.

Simply put, as with so many other things in life, terms like reasonable, expensive, or exorbitant are all in the eye of the beholder. For the financially secure, money indeed might be no object when it comes to cancer treatment for their dogs. Especially devoted pet owners of modest means may be of this same mindset initially, but as costs begin to mount, a serious look needs to be taken in the decision to continue treatment. Those in a financial bind might not be able to even consider treatment.

Veterinary insurance is an option and should cover cancer treatment (most likely partially)—but as is the case with people, rules concerning pre-existing conditions will most likely prevent you from getting coverage once your dog has been diagnosed. Your veterinary oncologist will lay out a treatment plan and proposed rate, but there are many factors that can affect the eventual cost, as well as aftercare.

“It varies wildly, and it’s something I really can’t answer,” says Dr. Hamilton. “There are some cancers that are very affordable and inexpensive to treat, and others that really start to add up. Some cancers can be a couple hundred dollars a month, and others that start to add up into the thousands before you’re done. Everything is completely customized to that pet, what we know, and what the wishes of the family are.”

According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, an initial visit to confirm a cancer diagnosis can be upwards of $200. Major surgery to remove a cancerous tumor deep inside the body, or that will require reconstruction, can start at $1,500. Chemotherapy treatments might range from $200 to $2,000, depending upon the type and severity of the cancer. Radiation therapy can range from $2,000 to $6,000 or higher. You will also need to factor in prescriptions that might be needed for aftercare, such as pain meds or antibiotics—which could cost another $30 to $50 per month for an indefinite period.

Dog Cancer Treatment:  Natural Remedies and Diet

During and after treatment for cancer, dog owners might be tempted to look to the East for more traditional holistic medicine. One such veterinarian who uses the Eastern approach is Dr. Patrick Mahaney of Los Angeles, CA, who specializes in natural and alternative treatments for pets. According to Dr. Mahaney, this type of pet care is imperative before a cancer diagnosis and should begin once you decide to own an animal.

“It’s crucial that all veterinarians and pet owners be attuned to whole-body health, even when a pet is diagnosed with cancer and is going through surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy,” says Dr. Mahaney.

“What’s not totally addressed in the veterinary oncology community is nutrition. We’re so dependent on processed, commercially available pet foods, primarily kibble, and really it’s not the ideal thing for any pet to eat. It’s fairly simple to make dietary changes to a whole-food based diet that can really benefit whole-body health.”

Dr. Mahaney is dubious of most of the current state of available pet foods that make up the multi-million dollar pet food industry. It all begins, he says, with the concepts of “feed grade” products that are welcome for animals, but judged unsuitable to be fed to humans.

Dr. Mahaney believes in a life-long pet diet that consists of whole and human grade foods. His top choices are Honest Kitchen and Lucky Dog Cuisine.

“Even if you can’t afford such pets foods—they can be prepared at home with fresh meat and vegetables instead of kibble,” says Dr. Mahaney.

“Whole food feeding is key. Human grade ingredients have lower thresholds for certain substances that can be toxic—even carcinogenic. Mold-produced toxins (called mycotoxins), including Aflatoxin and Vomitoxin, can irritate the intestines, supress the immune system, and are carcinogenic (cancer causing). You want to be sure that while your pet is being treated that their food is not going to further contribute to cancer.”

While a diagnosis of cancer in your dog is by no means a death sentence, it’s sure to be a stressful time for both dogs and their families. Your veterinarian and veterinary oncologist will work with you to find the best choice of treatment and help walk you through any costs and difficulties that come with it.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Chemotherapy for Dogs – Managing Dog Cancer Treatment


During nearly every consultation, there comes a time where pet owners must make the decision whether to pursue chemotherapy or not. While a small number of people arrive assured that they will treat their pets, more frequently owners arrive with an open mind to the available options, searching for all possible choices before moving forward.

On rare occasions, at the onset of an appointment, an owner will inform me they have no intention of ever pursuing chemotherapy. I’m marginally astonished when faced with such assuredness, given I’m a veterinary oncologist and treating cancer is what I do for a living. With time, I’ve come to appreciate such an owner’s motivation for simply seeking my advice without intention to follow it.

Somewhere in the middle lie owners who initially decline therapy, but later change their minds and elect treatment.

Personal Experience Influences Decision

Most animals with cancer are diagnosed at relatively asymptomatic stages of disease. Owners are typically shocked if I tell them their otherwise happy and healthy dog or cat might only be expected to live a few weeks or months following a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer such as lymphoma or high-grade mast cell disease. Convincing that owner to pursue treatment is a challenge, until the pet’s health declines and the owner feels urgency to move forward out of desperation.

More often, owners digest the information I present to them and reverse their initial decision to not treat after learning the facts about chemotherapy. Their prior misconceptions may stem from personal experience with chemotherapy, or from observations of close friends or family members. Even an owner’s primary veterinarian can discourage meeting with an oncologist by perpetuating myths about cancer care in animals.

Of all the misunderstandings related to chemotherapy preventing owners from pursuing treatment, the biggest hurdle I face is communication with owners who are certain chemotherapy is guaranteed to make their pet sick.

Dog Chemotherapy Side Effects and Quality of Life

The goal of veterinary oncology is to preserve quality of life for as long as possible while minimizing potential deleterious effects. Approximately 25% of all animals receiving chemotherapy will experience self-limiting side effects from chemotherapy. This generally entails mild gastrointestinal upset and/or lethargy that occurs during the first several days following treatment, and they only last for a day or so.

Adverse signs can usually be controlled using over the counter or prescription medications. Roughly 5% of chemotherapy patients will have severe side effects that require hospitalization. With appropriate management, the risk of these side effects causing the death is less than 1%.

If a patient experiences serious side effects, the prescribing oncologist will reduce future doses of chemotherapy to avoid similar complications in the future. Additionally, to help reduce the risk of complications in sick pets, every precaution is made to ensure they are strong enough to undergo treatmentprior to instituting therapy.

The quality of life for animals receiving chemotherapy is excellent.  Multiple studies indicate that the majority of owners are happy with their choice to pursue treatment for their companions and their outcomes and would elect to pursue treatment again if necessary.

Placing Your Trust in Medicine

For those owners who initially decline treatment, but then move ahead, experience tells me they would feel no different from those owners committed from the onset of diagnosis.

If you’re facing a diagnosis of cancer in your pet, you do not need to be absolutely positive you want to pursue treatment prior to speaking with an oncologist about your options. If you’re concerned chemotherapy will be “torture” for your animal, I can assure you this is untrue. No veterinary oncologist endures the rigors associated with their training and credentialing with the goal of imparting pain and suffering on their patients.

Veterinary oncologists are here to make your pet feel better from their disease and to know the appropriate and least impacting treatment for their situation. We’re not here to convince you to treat with chemotherapy. We’re here to provide the facts and allow you to consider what is most appropriate for your companion.

Even if it takes a little time for you to reach your decision, your oncologist will be there for you and your pet during your time of need.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

Processed Food vs. Whole Food for Pet Cancer Patients — What’s Better? Part 1

When a pet is diagnosed with cancer, a series of life-changing events occur. The pet is potentially faced with a treatment protocol involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of the three on a short or long-term basis. The owner is faced with the uncertainty of not knowing how long the beloved pet will live, in addition to the financial and time-management aspects of managing the pet cancer.

The process of getting a pet’s cancer treated involves many factors that come into play. As I work alongside veterinary oncologists providing chemotherapy or radiation to treat canine and feline cancers, I’ve observed that often the conversation about how to nutritionally support the body to best handle the prescribed treatment may not be part of the initial treatment conversation.

Diet For Dogs With Cancer

Yet, the “you are what you eat” perspective especially applies to cancer patients. The treatments used to manage the disease, or the cancer itself, can affect a pet’s appetite and ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. This is why owners must be proactive in ensuring that the meals entering their pets’ mouths contain ingredients that are highly bioavailable (easily absorbed) so that the nutrients can be readily utilized to fight cancer’s effects, reduce inflammation, resolve infection, and manage other ailments.

My own dog, Cardiff, exclusively eats a whole-food based diet and treats (The Honest Kitchen, Lucky Dog Cuisine, and human foods), and has since he was a puppy. So, even though I took all measures to prevent him from consuming foods and treats that are known to have toxins or are known to be carcinogenic, his body had other ideas and he still developed cancer.

Yet, I generally see that my patients who eat whole-food diets throughout their lives have fewer health problems. Additionally, my patients undergoing chemotherapy, including Cardiff, typically tolerate chemotherapy better than those eating processed pet foods.

Here in part 1 of 2, I will be sharing my perspective on this topic.

What Are the Differences Between Processed and Whole Foods?

Commercially-available kibble and many canned pet diets undergo significant processing to achieve the final product and are thereby considered processed foods. Processed foods contain fractionated ingredients (a process that separates the components of whole foods into smaller parts), like meat and grain “meals and by-products,” which either don’t exist in nature or are radically changed from what nature created.

Conversely, whole foods appear identical or very similar to their natural form. Whole foods contain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins that all work best when consumed together. By breaking nutrients apart, the synergistic qualities of whole foods can be lost. Co-factors essential for digestion may be lacking and can lead to poor absorption of nutrients and digestive tract upset (inappetence, vomit, diarrhea, flatulence, etc.).

Synthetic vitamins may not be efficiently absorbed as compared to natural vitamins existing in whole foods due to improper binding with receptors inside the digestive tract (see visual examples in Good Food/Bad Food: A Little Book of Common Sense Nutrition). Additionally, the body may identify synthetic vitamins as foreign and eliminate them in a process that creates free radicals that are harmful to internal organs.

Natural, whole-food vitamins are generally better absorbed as a result of improved binding with digestive tract receptors, and are not eliminated in a manner that creates additional stress on the body like their synthetic counterparts.

Is Kibble Considered Whole Food?

No, kibble is not considered to be whole food. Even from a visual perspective, which is what drives many owners to feed particular types of food or treats to their pets, kibble doesn’t lend a natural appearance.

Kibble is produced through a moisture-depleting cooking process called extrusion, which requires the body’s gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes, or an external water source, to facilitate digestion. Extrusion also denatures proteins and deactivates enzymes that are essential to the digestive process.

After being high-heat cooked, kibble is sprayed with rendered fat to improve its taste and is also often artificially colored (caramel coloring, etc.).

Kibble is often associated with gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV or “bloat”) in dogs, and vomiting in cats.

Many types of kibble, and some canned foods and treats, have caramel color added to make them appear more like real meat. When it comes down to it, dogs and cats don’t care about the color of their food. The aroma and flavor, yes; the color is added to satisfy humans.

According to information I received while on a media tour at a major pet food brand that produces many types of kibble, studies showed that pet owners responded better to kibble that included caramel color to make it look meatier.

But caramel color has come under fire as a toxic food additive, as it contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE), a known animal carcinogen. Studies have found that long-term exposure to 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE) caused lung cancer in mice, so it’s been added to California’s list of Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity.

So, by choosing to feed a their pets a diet with ingredients that have been radically modified from nature’s version and added color to replicate real meat, owners may be unknowingly predisposing their beloved canine and feline companions to develop cancer. Considering most pets eat the same 4-MIE-containing foods for morning and evening meals on a daily basis, we’re continually showering their internal organs with a carcinogenic substance that could otherwise be avoided if whole food options were fed instead.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to move away from kibble to fresh, moist, whole foods.

Are Canned Foods Considered to Be Whole Foods?

Canned or moist food has water as the primary ingredient and often appears closer to a whole-food format. Some even have real pieces of meat, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Such options are better choices for pet owners seeking to feed a whole-food diet than canned foods that appear smooth and “pate-like” without discernible chunks of whole-food ingredients.

Yet, some canned foods appear to have chunks simulating meat but which are actually conglomerations of meat and/or meat and grain “meals and by-products” that appear different from real meat when examined in cross section (after cutting in into the piece). So, make sure to use a discerning eye when comparing canned food options to make sure your pet consistently eats canned diets that are whole-food based.

Unfortunately, many canned or moist foods are congealed or have a glistened appearance; this is due to stabilizing agents like guar gum, xanthan gum, or carrageenan.

Guar gum has its origins in ground guar beans and is a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate). Let’s Take Back Your Health-Starting Now reports that guar gum actually has some health benefits, as rodent studies showed “reduced body weight and lower blood glucose, even with guar gum making up 15% of the diet.”

Yet, 15 percent of the diet is “over 100 times the FDA Acceptable Daily Intake” for humans and is something I don’t recommend you provide for your pets. Guar gum is linked to digestive tract upset, including soft stools and gas-related bloating.

Xanthan gum is also a polysaccharide—the product of fermentation by Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. Fortunately, xanthan gum hasn’t been correlated with cancer. However, xanthan gum is reputed to be indigestible and, as with Guar gum, animals with digestive tract sensitivities can experience vomiting or diarrhea after eating xanthan gum-infused diets.

Carrageenan is derived from red algae and is another polysaccharide. TheInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) has reported “sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans.” Like Guar and Xanthan Gum it is also correlated with digestive tract upset.

If you were making home-prepared pet food, you would not add guar gum, xanthan gum, nor carageenan to make the food smooth and shiny. You’d just use basic, whole-food ingredients, perhaps slightly warm the food to release aroma, and then feed it to your pet.

Feeding fresh, moist, human-grade meals during times of illness and wellness is my recommendation.

Make sure to check back for Part 2 of this article where I delve further into whole food feeding for cancer patients.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372



Chemotherapy For Dogs and Cats

Chemotherapy for Dogs

Chemotherapy for Cats

For Pets, ‘Quality of Life’ Supersedes ‘Life At All Costs’

Humans with terminal cancers or with widespread metastases are offered treatment with the hope of an extended lifespan, despite a grim prognosis. People are routinely administered second, third, fourth, and beyond treatment plans when they fail to respond to the frontline therapies. This is done with little to no evidence-based information that would suggest such interventions will actually result in a positive outcome.

The benefit of aggressive therapy in patients with terminal cancers is poorly described. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) identified chemotherapy use among patients for whom there was no clinical value as “the most widespread, wasteful, and unnecessary practice in oncology.”

When I read those words as a veterinary oncologist, I had only one thought.


The majority of patients I treat with cancer will ultimately succumb to their disease. Pets are typically diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease, and a cure is nearly impossible. We also accept much lower rates of toxicity with our chemotherapy protocols than our human counterparts; therefore, with good reason, we can’t treat animals’ cancers to the “fullest potential.”

I would estimate that the premise of treatment for greater than 90% of cases I see is rooted in palliation (i.e., relief from pain) rather than a true belief of cure.

Yet, veterinary oncology is fundamentally based on principles of human oncology. So if the data for human oncology tells us that the treatment of terminally ill cancer patients is not only poorly beneficial but also wasteful (in terms of not only finances but resources), how can I justify the recommendations I make each day?

The answer is simple: Veterinary oncology is premised on the idea of treatmentmaking our patients feel better, not worse. Rarely are animals diagnosed with cancer incidentally. Most show some sort of clinical signs prior to their diagnosis of cancer. Treatment, therefore, is aimed at relieving such signs and returning their quality of life to their baseline level.

A study recently published in the Oncology edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the evaluation of the use of chemotherapy and quality of life for people with end-stage cancer. Specifically, researchers were interested in knowing whether chemotherapy had a positive or detrimental effect during the last week of life for human patients with cancer, and if the effect was dependent on the patient’s overall health status prior to treatment.

In people, performance status is used to evaluate a patient’s quality of life. There are several different scoring systems, with the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) being widely accepted and outlined as follows:

ecog performance status, cancer treatment, pet cancer

In the aforementioned study, a patient’s quality of life near death (QOD) was measured using a validated caregiver’s rating of their mental and physical distress during their final week of life.

Results from the study raise several interesting points:

  • There was no improvement in QOD scores for people with performance scores of 2 or 3 who underwent chemotherapy, compared to those who did not undergo chemotherapy.
  • People with performance scores of 1 showed a significantly worse score for quality of life near death with treatment.

Though difficult to compare side by side, how can the results of this study be translated to veterinary medicine?

  1. We do have a modified performance scale we use in screening the overall health of dogs and cats, which scores pets’ activity level and ability to eat, drink, and eliminate as either normal (0), restricted (1), compromised (2), disabled, or dead (4).
  1. We are able to have owners evaluate how their pets behave at home following treatment and their assessment of their quality of life in a subjective manner.
  1. We have several veterinary studies examining an owner’s perception of their pet’s health status prior to, during, and after treatment. Results consistently showed owners were happy with their decision to treat their pets, most felt their pets’ quality of life increased, and they would pursue treatment again in the future if faced with a similar decision.

Despite the shared foundation of human and veterinary oncology, there is an enormous disparity between the end goals of each discipline.

Human oncology is based on the concept of treating patients with the mantra of “life at all costs,” while veterinary oncology accepts our limitations, choosing to  “maintain or improve quality of life” over cure.

This is the message I attempt to relay during each new consultation I see.

This is the information I am passionate about dispersing with my written and spoken dialogue each day.

This is why I work so hard to help animals and their owners at every possible junction I am afforded.

The battle to dispel the misconceptions about cancer care in animals is never-ending but worth enduring, knowing I can make a difference if even for just a few.

Especially if the few are those who feel the “ouch” factor mentioned above just a bit deeper than all the others.

Cancer in Dogs and Cancer in Cats

 7 Dog and Cat Cancer Warning Signs
Cancer in cats and cancer in dogs is the number one cause of death in dogs and cats. Currently 50% of pet mortality is due to cancer, and cancer affects one out of every three dogs. Golden Retrievers now have the highest incidence of cancer among all dog breeds, and the breeds lifespan has now dropped to 10 ½ years, with 60 percent of all golden retrievers dying of cancer.This article will highlight the top 7 cancer warning signs that you should be aware of; signs which warrant a closer exam, and veterinary visit.

Cat cancer symptoms and dog cancer symptoms

1. Lumps/Masses. Most lumps or masses are non cancerous, such as the common dog benign fatty growths or lipomas. Early warning signs are ones which are are fast growing, palpate as firm, solidly attached and not easily movable under the skin.
2. Weight Loss. Any time there is unexplained sudden weight loss in a dog or cat, I was concerned about cancer. Cancer can speed up your pet’s metabolism, producing the weight loss. Common medical causes include diabetes in pets, hyperthyroid disease in cats. Regularly monitor your pet’s weight, and if weight loss occurs, have a veterinary exam and blood work.
3. Lethargy, low energy. If your pet has cancer, they may be anemic giving them less energy. My own dog died of spleen cancer (hemangiosarcoma), but the first sign was him not having the energy to run with me. Cancer can affect multiple organs, producing the lack of energy and general malaise.
4.Anorexia/ Lack of Appetite. Anorexia has multiple causes, such as organ dysfunction, dental disease, While a lack of appetite in dogs and cats can be an indicator of many things, they never stop eating without a cause. Not necessarily a sign of cancer, a decrease in appetite can indicate an oral tumor, which would make it painful and difficult for your pet to eat and swallow.
5. Difficulty Breathing. Most cases of respiratory distress ( labored breathing) are due to heart disease producing fluid in the lungs. Your pet will be having slow, deep breaths, and you will see the chest move in and out markedly. Cancer though often spreads to the lungs, so this is an important cancer warning sign.
6. Progressive limping/lameness. Osteosarcoma ( bone cancer) is common in medium to large breed dogs, producing swelling at the end of a long bone ( ie the femur on the back leg, radius on the front leg). Intermittent limping is typical of arthritis, but progressive painful lameness warrants an exam for bone cancer.
7. ADR or Ain’t Doing Right. This unusual non-medical term applies to those pets who just aren’t themselves, such as with behavior, eating, energy levels. Your pet may have an unusual smell from their mouth, difficultly eating, a wound that won’t heal, a limp that won’t go away, or a unusual swelling under their jaw as seen in lymph node cancer. You know your pet far better than your veterinarian, so if you see dramatic changes, then usually there is a medical condition to explain it. Ensure that your veterinarian checks for cancer, while examining your pet for other diseases that can explain the symptoms.
There are numerous different types of cancer, from lymphosarcoma, to mast cell tumors, to spleen tumors, and there is not one particular sign, but the 7 above signs are some of the most important ones I watched for in veterinary practice. If your dog or cat exhibit them, then I advise a thorough veterinary exam, and potential additional diagnostic tests, to check for more serious underlying disease.
We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
310 919 9372

Canine Cancer: Lymphoma

Learn about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this common canine cancer.

Lymphoma is a common form of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that are part of the circulatory system.

“The lymphatic system produces B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, disease-fighting white blood cells that travel through the blood in a fluid called lymph,” says Mona Rosenberg, D.V.M., a board-certified veterinary oncologist and founder of Veterinary Cancer Group, which has four locations in Southern California. “Lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes grow uncontrollably, forming tumors in the lymph nodes that can spread to the organs, tissues, and bone marrow.”


Symptoms of Dog Lymphoma

The most common sign of early-stage lymphoma is enlargement of one or more lymph nodes, located near the front of the jaw, in the armpits and groin, at the front of the shoulders, and behind the knees. “Many owners discover the enlarged nodes when petting their dogs,” Rosenberg says.

More advanced signs include:

  •  Anorexia, or lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

Risk Factors for Dogs with Lymphoma

Although any dog can get lymphoma, certain breeds are genetically predisposed, including:

  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Retrievers, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers
  • St. Bernards

Lymphoma occurs equally in males and females, with middle-aged to older dogs most often affected.

Diagnosis of Lymphoma in Dogs

The first step of diagnosis is typically a fine needle aspiration, during which the veterinarian inserts a tiny needle into an enlarged lymph node to extract a cell sample. The cells are viewed under a microscope to determine if they are abnormal.

Other tests include:

  • Core needle biopsy to check for tissue abnormalities
  • Blood work to look for cancer in the organs
  • X-rays to check for cancer in the lungs
  • Ultrasound to look for cancer in the gastrointestinal tract and surrounding organs

Lymphoma is classified by stage — ranging from 1 to 5 — and the type of lymphocytes affected. “Dogs at all stages can respond to treatment and go into remission,” Rosenberg says. “However, dogs with B-cell lymphoma statistically live longer than those with T-cell lymphoma.” About 75 percent of canine lymphomas are B-cell.

Treatment for Dogs with Lymphoma

Since lymphoma travels in the bloodstream, veterinarians use chemotherapy drugs to target the entire body. Rosenberg says that a typical protocol involves a combination of pills and injections administered over a six-month period.

“Ninety percent of dogs treated with chemotherapy go into remission, and most don’t suffer any adverse side effects,” she says. Untreated dogs typically live only four to eight weeks from the time of diagnosis, while the median survival time for treated dogs is about one year.
Rosenberg advises that owners discuss treatment options with their veterinarian and a veterinary oncologist to determine the appropriate protocol.

Cancer Prevention

Although no known prevention for cancer exists, Rosenberg recommends a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate exercise, a nutritious diet, and avoidance of unnecessary environmental toxins.


We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
310 919 9372



Top 10 Warning Signs of Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Yes cats and dogs get cancer like us humans.  Here are some signs that can alert you to possible danger.

Editor’s Note: November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month and Vetstreet Veterinary Board Member Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, who is also a board-certified veterinary oncologist, reviews some of the important signs that can help you save your pet’s life.

In a recent article, I compared the common types of cancer in pets with those found in people. My next step, in this article, is to write about how pet owners might recognize signs of cancer in pets, with a special focus on the common types. Some of these signs, such asweight loss and bad breath, may be indicative of cancer or they may signify other health problems. Regardless, they should always prompt a discussion with your veterinarian.

Here are the ten signs that top my concern list as a veterinary oncologist:

  1. Bleeding or discharge from any place on the body, such as the mouth, eyes or nose, or in the urine
  2. Change in urination or defecation habits
  3. Sores that do not heal
  4. Bad smell from the mouth or body
  5. Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  6. Loss of energy; reluctance to exercise
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Weight loss
  9. Swellings or lumps that enlarge
  10. Lameness or stiffness

Let’s look at how these signs present with some of the more common cancers that affect cats and dogs.

Breast Cancer

Possible signs: Swellings or lumps that enlarge; sores that do not heal.

In both dogs and cats, breast cancer can be detected by the pet owner during a relaxing session of tummy rubbing and scratching. Breast cancer starts as tiny, pinhead-size lumps anywhere along the chain of mammary glands found on the underside of the chest and abdomen of your male or female dog or cat (although it is rare in males). Once the tumors reach the size of raisins, they can easily be felt as somewhat soft to firm lumps or masses. Any lumps or masses in the mammary area should be evaluated by your veterinarian.


Possible signs: In cats, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or blood in the stool. In dogs, rapidly enlarging lymph nodes. Occasionally, increased water consumption and urine output.

The most common form of lymphoma differs between dogs and cats. In cats, insidious weight loss is the hallmark of lymphoma, which occurs most commonly in the feline gastrointestinal tract. I know from personal experience and from scientific research that pet owners sometimes have a hard time assessing a plumper-than-normal or a skinnier-than-usual dog or cat. Weight loss and appetite loss are indicative of many diseases other than cancer, though, so it’s important to notice any changes. Next time you visit your veterinarian, ask her to help you assess the “body condition score” of your pet. Ideal body conditions generally score about a three on a scale of one to five or a four or five on a scale of one to ten.

One good way to keep tabs on your pet’s weight is to stay in close contact with your veterinarian, who keeps detailed records about your pet’s weight as part of her wellness examinations. Most veterinary offices have a readily accessible scale and would welcome your pet for a quick weigh-in anytime you are concerned about potential weight loss. If lymphoma affects your cat’s stomach, you may see vomiting. If it affects her intestines, you may notice diarrhea or blood in the stool. Some cats with lymphoma may also have a poor appetite or stop eating altogether.

From my veterinary perspective, the most common clinical sign of lymphoma in dogs is swollen lymph nodes. The easiest lymph nodes for owners to see and feel are just beneath the skin under the chin, in front of the shoulders and behind the knees. In a normal, healthy dog, lymph nodes are not detectable by the average owner. Lymph nodes affected by lymphoma, however, are an example of rapidly enlarging lumps that should be immediately evaluated by a veterinarian. Another key sign, although it is seen in less than half of dogs with lymphoma, is a metabolic change that results in an increase in both water consumption and urine output. Again, keep in mind that increased drinking and urinating can also be signs of diseases other than cancer and always warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

Skin Cancer

Possible signs: Lumps or bumps that enlarge, sores that do not heal, limping and/or bleeding or broken toenails.

In dogs, the most common type of malignant skin cancer is a mast cell tumor. These tumors are superficial lumps that can be painful. They often swell, frequently bleed and then scab over, only to bleed again a few days later. They should not be squeezed by the owner, as squeezing can make them swell even more.

Similar signs occur in cats with the most common type of feline skin cancer — squamous cell carcinoma. This tumor may cause skin ulcers that bleed and scab, especially in the lightly haired skin around the eyes and nose and on the ear tips.

Unlike in humans, melanoma is typically benign in dogs and cats. It can occur in the mouth in dogs, however, and when it occurs in this location it is often highly malignant (see the Oral Cancers section below). The other location where melanoma can be malignant is at the junction between a dog’s claw and toe. If you see swelling, bleeding, an unexpected broken toenail or limping caused by a mass at the claw-toe junction, it may indicate a serious problem in your dog. Your dog should be evaluated by your veterinarian, who may recommend a biopsy.

Melanoma is somewhat unique among cancers in that it spans the spectrum from benign when found in the haired skin of pets to deadly when it occurs in the toes or mouths of dogs.

Oral Cancer

Signs of oral cancers include bad breath, blood in the saliva, decreased appetite, and difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

Many different tumors occur in the mouths of dogs and cats, but all have similar clinical signs. The most common in dogs is melanoma, while squamous cell carcinoma commonly occurs in cats.

Dogs with melanoma of the oral cavity may experience blood in the saliva, difficulty chewing and swallowing, or a decreased appetite. Dog owners frequently first notice heavy-duty hound halitosis, or bad breath. Cats with squamous cell carcinoma will exhibit similar signs. Because these tumors often block the tear ducts, a cat owner might also notice an increase in eye discharge in just one of their pet’s eyes or a funny look to their cat’s face because of the facial swelling associated with these tumors.

There are many types of cancers that occur in the oral cavity in both dogs and cats, and some of them can be quite aggressive. Anytime you note the above signs, or a lump or bump in your pet’s mouth, you should consult your veterinarian.

Osteaosarcoma (Bone Cancer)

Possible signs: Lameness and reluctance to put weight on a particular leg; painful hard lump or swelling.

The most frequently diagnosed tumor of the bone in both dogs and cats is osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. The clinical signs of any bone tumor include lameness and reluctance to put weight on a particular leg because the tumor makes it painful to walk on. If the tumor occurs in just the right location, you may be able to feel a hard lump or swelling on the bone, although be advised that these lumps can be extremely painful to the touch. An X-ray and biopsy will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Be an Observant Owner

Though I’ve covered some of the more common signs of the most prevalent cancers, the important message here is to realize that many types of cancer have similar signs. Some of these signs can also be indicative of serious diseases other than cancer. When you are interacting with your pet daily, look for the signs I have described. If you see something of concern, have your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian. Even something as nonspecific as a general loss of energy or an unwillingness to exercise can be a warning that something is wrong. Always remember that an early diagnosis can help improve the chances of treatment success, whether your pet has cancer or any other serious disease.


Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372