It seems to me that veterinary chemotherapists are like human chemotherapists: they are a fountain burbling with statistics and data. When Misty and I met her chemotherapist last Friday, here were some of the numbers that tumbled forth:
· Osteosarcoma is number 1 in the frequency of bone cancers in dogs (and the most virulent).
· Younger dogs and older dogs are the age groups most commonly diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
· 90% of dogs don’t experience any ill effects of chemo because it is not as strong as the chemo prescribed for humans. If Misty does experience side effects, they’re likely to be some nausea or vomiting that will last a few days, and we give you medications for that.
· Another side effect: Misty’s bone marrow may become suppressed as it does in humans, meaning she could be at risk for infections. I asked whether that meant she would have to give up visiting in hospital while she’s receiving chemo and he replied, “Yes. Therapy dogs show a higher incidence of hospital acquired infections when they are immunosuppressed and still visiting in hospitals.”
· Without chemo, Misty’s expected lifespan would be 1 ½ to 3 months.
· With chemo, Misty’s expected lifespan is about 8 months.
· Chemo is administered by IV every 3 weeks for a total of 4 times.
· In response to my question about veterinary naturopaths, he said he is treating one dog with lymphoma (a very different cancer) but who’s life expectancy also was 8 months – this dog, however, has been seeing a veterinary naturopath and is going strong 1 ½ years later. Although he said he didn’t know if it is the naturopathic treatments making the difference in that dog, I got the name of that naturopath immediately – and Misty will be seeing one of the naturopaths in that clinic on Tuesday.
The surgeon also saw Misty and is very pleased with her progress. She removed Misty’s staples and asked me what substance had I applied to the skin around the incision.
“Tea tree oil for antibacterial purposes but also to keep her from licking,” I replied.
“We recommend using vitamin E squeezed out of capsules instead. Tea tree oil is toxic to dogs if they ingest it.”
“Ah. Right. Okay...sigh...”
Friday I hovered over Misty waiting to see if she would start to become ill... she didn’t. On Saturday, she ate her breakfast well, but needed some “please eat” prodding from me.
This morning (Sunday) she just didn’t want to eat. I had heated up the mixture of cooked ground turkey, rice and papaya and mixed that with her food (and with Finnegan’s and Delaney’s food because they were very aware goodies were being served one bowl away). She turned up her nose at the food... but she wasn’t acting sick – just more like she was disinterested.
My next tactic was to handfeed her a mouthful of food each hour (away from Finnegan and Delaney) and that met with limited success. After an hour or so of soaking up the spring sunshine, Misty came to the door and barked – her signal that Delaney should come out and play their “Biting noses” game. So I stepped out and began throwing balls for the girls... wow! That was the Missing Medicine! You can see from the video the gusto that Misty brought to the game... then she came in and wolfed down the rest of her breakfast.
Bloodwork to check her white blood cells and platelets next weekend. Next chemo: in 3 weeks if all goes well.