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Canine Cancer

Author: Erin Schneider | Date: May 28, 2012

May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, so I figured I would take this opportunity to talk about my experience with pet cancer. If you have read any of my previous posts, you may know that late last year my 6-year-old Westie, Bailey, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. When I found out, I was not only devastated, I was shocked. This may sound very naive, but I honestly didn’t think cancer would affect a dog that was so young.

Logically, I know that cancer can impact anyone at any age, but it just never occurred to me that it could affect MY dog, MY baby. At least not until she was much, much older.

The thing I had the hardest time getting used to was treating my dog like I always treated her, which was a happy, healthy, food-obsessed terrier and not as a dying patient. At first, we didn’t know how fast the tumor would grow or if we could do anything to prevent it from growing (due to the location of the tumor in Bailey’s bladder, her cancer is incurable). I tried to stay positive, but it was hard not thinking that any moment could be her last.

We started treatment and Bailey had a very difficult time adjusting to her meds. The first two days were some of the worst days of my life. She was throwing up almost every hour and I felt helpless. We put her on some medication to help sooth her stomach, but it took months of trial and error before we found the right medication for her. It has now been 5 months since she was diagnosed and the tumor has shrunk almost 50%. We are still unsure how long we will have with her, but we are enjoying every minute and thankful for the extra time. Bailey is a fighter, so we have to be a fighter for her.

We are very lucky to have caught the cancer early. This is in part because we are big believers in preventative care. We always took Bailey in for checkups every six months and we didn’t wait around until she wasn’t feeling well to see the vet. I have included some early warning signs from The American Veterinary Medical Association.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat displays any of these signs:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow.
  • Sores that do not heal.
  • Weight loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening.
  • Offensive odor.
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing.
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina.
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness.
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating.

If there is anything I have learned from my experience with this horrible disease is that time is precious. Enjoy your pet and treat them as well as they treat you.  And even though cancer is scary, you have to remember to have hope.


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