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Canine Cancer: Phoebe’s Story Part II

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Phoebe resting on the deck Intelligentdomestications.com

If you are a pet owner, you already know how deep a love for a pet can be. It doesn’t matter if your pet is a dog, cat, bird or some other creature that loves you back. It hurts our feelings when one of our beloved pets isn’t well. I want to share Phoebe’s cancer journey in hopes of helping others become informed. You can go here to read the first part of Phoebe’s story, Our Dog Has Cancer: This Is Her Story.

Phoebe has Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma which is skin cancer. Phoebe’s cancer first appeared on her belly close to her back legs as a sore. We actually thought she probably had a hot spot and that she had gnawed at it until it needed attention. We were certainly not expecting a cancer diagnosis. We learned that the sore was actually a tumor. Phoebe took a variety of medications following her surgery. There were antibiotics as well as the steroid Prednisone. During the time that Phoebe was taking the Prednisone, there was never a dull moment in our house! She chased our 2 cats from one end of the house to the other, every day. She was clearly energetic on the Prednisone. We were glad when that was over!

I have taken the time to educate myself and wish to share that information in the hopes that it may prevent another sweet pet from experiencing skin cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Light colored or white dogs
  • Living in high altitudes
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Older dogs

Phoebe is 8 years old. Although she is white, brown and black, she is predominately white having white skin. She has been sun bathing every morning in the back yard all eight years of her life.

Breeds at Risk

Certain breeds are more at risk than others. I researched several sites for information. Between four different sites, I found four different lists of breeds at risk. For instance, some but not all terrier’s are on the list. Please read more about it to learn if you own a breed considered to be at risk and be sure to discuss it with your Veterinarian. Phoebe is a beagle, basset mix which both breeds are on the list.

  1. Morris Animal Foundation
  2. Pet MD
  3. National Canine Cancer Foundation at WeAreTheCure.org
  4. Dermatology for Animals

Partial List of Breeds at Risk

  • Terriers; Scottish, Bull
  • Pekingese
  • Boxers
  • Poodles
  • Bassett
  • Elkhounds
  • Dalmatians
  • Beagles
  • Schnauzers
  • Basset Hounds

Diagnosis

Diagnosis may include a biopsy of the area. In Phoebe’s case, the Vet recognized the tumor by sight. It was necessary to have the tumor surgically removed at which time a biopsy was done. Other tests may include cytology,  x-ray or ultra sound as well as a complete blood work-up. The lymph system should be examined. Phoebe’s Vet was able to determine that she does have an enlarged lymph area where the cancer has spread. Her x-ray’s also showed that her spleen was enlarged.

Treatment

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy (application of extreme cold)
  • Photodynamic therapy (application of a medication that photosensitizes the area of the cancer to kill the cancer cells)
  • Plesiotherapy (topical application of a radiation source to the area of the cancer)

Prognosis

The prognosis for Phoebe is unfortunately not very good. This is because her cancer has metastasized into her lymph system. She continues to be a happy playful dog at this time. We are spoiling her rotten and giving her lots of love. All skin cancers in canines do not necessarily metastasize. Each incidence is different. As with any health condition, early diagnosis is of vital importance to the prognosis.

Prevention

Limit the amount of time your dog spends in the sun. This isn’t to say limit their time outdoors. Be aware of the times of day when the sun is at it’s peak and provide your dog a nice shady area as an alternative.  If you own a light skinned dog, you may want to consider making it an indoor pet. All light skinned dogs will not get cancer they are simply at a higher risk than dark skinned dogs are.

My goal was simply to make you more aware of the possibility that your dog may be at risk for skin cancer. I hope you will speak with your Vet about your precious pet. Please tell me about your pet in the comments!

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8 Comments

  1. We have a Weimaraner & her very short fur leaves her at risk for sunburn. She likes to lay in the sun, so I try to put sunblock on her exposed parts because it gets hot out here 🙂 She is turning 12 this year & she’s developed a lot of fatty tumors. It really makes me nervous. Your baby is very lucky to have you.

  2. My dog is a poodle mix 🙁 I insist on grooming him myself so I can hopefully catch any change in him ASAP.

    My neighbors lab had cancer at 8. It was so sad. She was one of the smartest dogs I ever knew. Unfortunately she only lasted a few months after the diagnosis.

    I pray you still have lots of GOOD days left with your fur baby.

    1. It’s great that you groom your baby. You are a good Mama! Ask you Vet about the skin cancer risk the next time you have to go. All 4 of the websites I researched had different breeds on their lists. Some of the breeds did overlap but then there are specific breeds within a breed. There are a few different types of terriers and some are at risk but not all. I would trust the Vet with that information about a specific fur baby. We do have a lot of good days left. She is having more good days than bad days right now. She chased a squirrel this morning and got out of the fence as my husband was leaving for work. She had gone out to use it and refused to come back. I had to get the leash. She’s a mess!

  3. You know, I have never even thought about dogs getting skin cancer! The risk sounds a lot like the risks for people – light skinned, etc. Thanks for providing such excellent information. I have learned much while reading Phoebe’s story. My heart goes out to her and to your family. I know you must be devastated and I’m so moved by how well you are caring for her.

    1. Thank you Alli. She has good days and not so goodThe Vet thinks she has several more months so we are making the best of it. I felt like taking this opportunity to create some awareness would be helpful to someone like us who did not know! We had no idea #1 that a dog could even get skin cancer and #2 Phoebe was at risk.

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