July is National Sarcoma and Bone Cancer Awareness month. While sarcoma accounts for only 1% of adult cancers, it is much more prevalent in children and dogs. In fact, it is approximately 15 times more likely to occur in dogs than in humans. Both hemangiosarcoma and osteosarcoma are in the top five most common dog cancers, and unfortunately, both are extremely aggressive and both have historically poor prognosis. But new research is bringing hope for better outcomes. I wanted to share my personal story of my dog’s cancer, in hopes that some of the things I learned along the way might help other dog owners in the future facing the same diagnosis.
When my vet told me the news that our dog Enzo had Osteosarcoma, I was devastated. At the time, I knew Osteosarcoma had a poor survival rate, and I felt helpless, hopeless, and overwhelmed with so many decisions to make. In Enzo’s case, we chose amputation and chemo for treatment. If you ever have to consider amputation for your dog, the website Tripawds, Three Legged Dog and Cat Amputation Support Community, has a ton of information, resources, and a whole supportive community of tri-pawd dog owners. If you choose chemotherapy, compare your options. We chose a local veterinary oncology center for treatment, which actually saved us a couple thousand dollars and they were so knowledgeable and kind. Enzo tolerated the chemo very well, maybe a little more tired for a day or two, but he was never sick. There are a couple different chemo protocols for Osteosarcoma so be sure to discuss the pros and cons of each with your veterinarian.
We chose an integrative approach to Enzo’s treatment, so in addition to surgery and chemo, he received acupuncture, immune boosters to keep his body strong, a specialized diet to feed him instead of the cancer, and some additional supplements. One of the supplements that I wish I had known about much sooner is Turkey Tail Mushroom extract. A study done at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine showed that dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and treated with Turkey Tail Mushroom extract had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease. And there were no negative side effects reported. Not only did we give this to Enzo, but all our dogs now get a daily dose, in hopes of it being a preventative as well. If you’d like to read the study article, “Compound Derived From a Mushroom Lengthens Survival Time in Dogs With Cancer”, click here. Make sure you consult your own veterinarian before starting your dog on any supplements—each dog’s situation is unique and you want to make sure it’s a good supplement for your dog’s personal health.
At the time of Enzo’s diagnosis, there were no clinical trials accepting new patients in our half of the US. Now, the Canine Cancer Alliance is supporting a promising vaccine trial for dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma. It has just expanded to 10 cities throughout the country. The new trials are showing a lot of promise, with 40-50% of dogs becoming long-term cancer survivors. They also have a wealth of information on cancer and resources available on their website. You can also find a lot of information at the National Canine Cancer Foundation. And the Morris Animal Foundation supports ongoing cancer research. While the research is too late to help Enzo, it gives me hope that other dogs will have the opportunity to survive these cancers, and get to live longer, happy lives with their owners.