Dogs get cancer at about the same rate as humans and it accounts for almost 50% of disease-related pet deaths a year. One in four dogs will develop a tumor of some sort in their lifetime. The symptoms can range from a visible lump that is changing or growing, chronic vomiting or diarrhea, chronic weight loss, abdominal distension, oral odor, straining to urinate, lameness, cough, swollen lymph nodes or unexplained bleeding.
May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month and it made me think about my sweet Kirby.
When I adopted Kirby no one knew his exact age but he was thought to be eight years old. When he had emergency surgery the third day I had him, it was determined he was “at least ten.” Over the next four years he had many surgeries on his knees, hips, eyes and bladder. He came through each one strong and had very smooth recover periods.
He had just recovered from two knee surgeries and was pain free and able to run on grass. Such a happy little dog. Then a couple of months later I noticed a rapid weight loss. He was losing his appetite and just not looking like himself. I took him to our vet and they went through a long list of tests.
It was discovered he had a mass on his liver. His tiny liver. We were referred to the same clinic where he had his orthopedic care but this time it was to meet with the oncologist.
Kirby was thought to have cancer.
After more testing we knew the diagnosis and the prognosis was not good. For so many pets a treatment is introduced and they have an excellent chance of surviving their cancer. One of our fellow therapy dogs was thought to have just a few months but with treatment is still with us almost two years later.
But with Kirby it was not to be. The cancer had spread to several of his tiny organs and the best course of treatment was palliative care – canine hospice.
Kirby was only with us for four more days.
So this month let’s remember all the animals we have lost to cancer and all those many more animals that are thriving with the improved care and treatment options available today.