How To Treat Cancer In Dogs

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The two recent experiences of cancer we went through with Indy have prompted me to do much research on how to move on from where we are at now. And, that is why I would like to touch on the very sore and painful subject on treating dog cancer.  I do not claim, as ever, to be an expert, but purely to share with you my findings as well as recommendations by Indy’s veterinary team.

Indy wearing his 'collar of shame' after surgery
That’s possibly the worst part for Indy, having to wear that ‘collar of shame’ after each surgery!

There are two main ways to tackle cancer in dogs: by using natural canine cancer treatments, or to go with the more traditional drug based treatments. I shall attempt to describe both approaches as good as I can.

But, first and foremost, let me tell you how our Indy is doing.


Indy’s Outcome Of His Second Cancer

You may remember that in the early part of December, Indy underwent surgery to remove a big mass that had grown out of his bottom quite rapidly – if you didn’t know, click here to find out more. At the time the surgeons did not think it may be the same type of cancer he had experienced some twelve months before – again, find out about Indy’s first cancer here.

Surgeons confirmed that Indy did not have any other primary cancer internally after doing an ultrasound on him, and at the same time they reassured that the margins of the mass had been completely cleared with surgery.

It remained to see what the outcome of the histology test may be.

Unfortunately the result was the lesser favourable to Indy, as pathologists finally came to the conclusion that the mass removed was indeed the recurring episode of melanoma cancer Indy had removed last year.

If you remember, the post-operative treatment for Indy in the course of 2017 was the most innovative melanoma vaccine. Success percentage for this vaccine were unclear, particularly when compared to the unusual area where Indy’s melanoma had developed.

Can you see it, that 'ball' or mass under Indy's tail?
Sorry about the descriptive picture, but I wanted to show you the mass under Indy’s tail before it was surgically removed in December.

This second time around the conclusion was apparent that Indy was not responding to the vaccine as well as we had wished.

We were now put before the question of what options to take to prevent cancer from coming back, and to prolong Indy’s life as good as we could without affecting his quality of life.


The Clinical Approach

So, the news is good so far. We have had Indy checked over twice in the last two weeks, and another check up is due in two weeks’ time again. So far, Indy is still completely clear of cancer.

However at the Dick White Referral Centre where Indy has been treated, they explained to us that the fact that the same cancer has come back after twelve months in spite of the vaccine treatment may mean that this melanoma harbour in an aggressive form within Indy and will come back within months or weeks if we don’t do anything about it.

The thinking process, medically speaking, is exactly the same as with human cancer. We hear so many times with cancer patients, that surgery is followed by a period of chemo or radiotherapy to prevent the cancer from coming back.

Our internal medicine specialist proposed three options:

  1. the more radical chemo therapy – stronger doses of chemo, followed by a few days break to allow your dog’s body to recover. This type of intervention aims to kill the cancer and is measurable in terms of success results, but only with 30% survival rate, and on more common cancers, of which anal melanoma is not one. In addition, yes, radical chemo therapy could cause vomit, loss of appetite and lethargy;
  2. metronomic chemo – thy is a newer type of chemotherapy, which is given in tablets on a frequency that is proportionate to the weight of your dog. It is meant to target and inhibit blood vessel cells, stopping them from ‘feeding’ nutrition to the cancer. Success rates are not measurable, and in some 8-10% of cases, we were explained, it can cause cystitis;
  3. palladia chemo – again, this chemo uses the newly discovered palladia drug, which again is subministered orally, but unlike with cyclophosphamide used in metronomic chemo, this type of chemo is known to have the known side effects typical of chemo: vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy. Likewise, success results are again unclear for any type of cancer.

Remember that, at any stage of our talks with our medical team it was paramount that Indy’s current very good quality of life was maintained.

For this reason, I had to explore the alternative non-drug holistic approach.


Canine Holistic Cancer Treatment

As with all holistic solutions, this type of treatment focuses not on killing the cancer, but to strengthens your dog’s body so that his or her immune system learns to fight cancer cells or stops their growth.

Fish Oil is one of the many products you can use for a holistic approach to treat your dog’s cancer.

I must admit, as soon as I read about this approach, I was taken. If you think of the devastating effect chemo drugs can have on our human bodies – with loss of hair as the least effect most patients have to suffer – why would I want to put my Indy through highly chemically charged drugs which would batter his body even more than it is already? Why would anyone want to do that to their own dog?

Many of us, I am sure, have lost loved ones to cancer at some point of our lives. Many of you, like me, will have seen the effect that chemo had on a family member or friend, and how possibly, in spite of having to enduring suffering and unwell being, our family member or friend lost their battle against cancer. This was stronger motivation for me to very much clench to this natural based treatment.

The holistic approach is very much based on vitamin D3, hemp oil (yes, oil extracts from cannabis, very much legal, unless the actual herb consumption, which at least here in UK is still illegal) and other supplements, such as curcuma, fish oil and more.

The fundamental difference sits in the fact that, whilst chemo and the even more conventional radiotherapy releases free radicals to kill the cancer, holistic herbs and natural ingredients release antioxidants which fight free radical. For this main reason, it is deemed that particularly some specific ingredients should not be used in combination with clinical post-op interventions.


A Most Difficult Decision

I believe the choice before which we as a family we were put, and decision we had to make this week, was one of the most difficult things personally I had to do.

I ask you kindly that you do not judge, but you simply try to understand.

Yesterday we started Indy on the first tablet of metronomic chemo, to be taken one every three days.

Why we have gone for this option?

This was my mental process.

When my father was told he had life-threatening cancer, at first he refused treatment. Only eventually he agreed to undergo surgery, followed by chemo and radiotherapy which, at his already advanced age of nearly 83, proved all worthless. What I personally was left with was the memory of a number of months when my dad had to go through physical as well and mental pain, given by the fact that the inevitable could not be avoided whilst the extra months he was given did not grant him pain free days.

I do believe in holistic approach to many ailments. And possibly, I should have tried this approach in conjunction with the melanoma vaccine Indy had in the course of 2017. But the fact that Indy had melanoma again means that this cancer is really aggressive towards Indy, and I felt natural remedies on their own would not play the trick.

I know that Indy cannot talk and cannot tell me what he would like us to do for him. In some ways I see as a blessing the fact, as we are often reminded, that dogs live in the moment.

Indy is a very happy boy. We hope he will remain like this for as long as possible.

We felt, however, that by trying metronomic chemo we and Indy had nothing to lose. Yes, we have to be careful that Indy keeps drinking more than he is used to (he is a lazy drinker), and has wees regularly to keep his bladder flashed out so as to avoid cystitis.

Indy’s well-being remains paramount and our foremost concern. Both the specialist and ourselves have agreed that, if at any one point we realised Indy is starting suffering from cystitis, or if cancer reappeared, we will stop the tablets, and then we will let nature take its course.

Was our decision a selfish one? I hope not.


Indy The Survivor … For Now

Please don’t call me morbid. I am only trying to be realistic, even if writing these very words brings tears to my eye.

We are fully aware that the chemo tablets are not going to bring a new lease of life to our Indy. We are fully aware that, possibly (but who knows) our Indy may not see the next Christmas. We are fully aware that most probably cancer is what is going to take our Indy away from us.

But, I am keeping my tears at bay, as I watch my Indy still enjoying his adventurous walks every day or still playing with his toys, or with us indeed. Every moment spent with our Indy – as indeed we are soaking on these moments – is a moment full of joy. So much joy to make your heart explode. These are the memories I want to cherish and carry with me till the end of my days.


  1. // Reply

    I just recently put my dog to sleep. He was a Rotti not a border terrier but your headline of treating cancer in dogs really drew me here. I appreciate the detailed info on the holistic treatment. It unfortunately is a reality with these little souls that visit us for such a short time. My Rudy was only with me for 8 short years. 🙁
    He’s with me in spirit and I’m sure he’ll come back to me.

    1. // Reply

      Sherry, I’m ever so sorry to hear about your Rudy. I’m sure one day I’ll understand too well the void you are experiencing since your Rudy left. And you are right, in most cases it’s a horrible reality we have to prepare for. Cancer or else, the reality is that we are destined to outlive our dogs – and that’s the one rule of nature that, no matter how much and often I try to brainwash myself, I struggle to accept.
      I’m sure your lovely Rudy will always be with you ❤️ You are welcome to send in pictures, even if Rudy was not a Border. I happen to believe that Rotties have the sweetest eyes ever. And I’m planning to put together a gallery of pictures. It would be lovely if Rudy were part of us. By all means, feel free to email me on 🙂

  2. // Reply

    Hi, nice to read this story. I hope Indie is getting better and can enjoy more years with such a caring family.
    Cancer is a bitch and I wasn’t aware id occurred with dogs as well.
    All the best, Stefan 🙂

    1. // Reply

      Yep, unfortunately it does, Stefan. And the worst part is that it comes back more quickly than with humans, given the fact that dogs have a shorter life span than humans. Your hope is our hope. But ultimately our hope is that Indy continues to enjoy the simple things he has always enjoyed in life till the very end, with no pain at all: and that’s food, toys, walks and … barking at the wind 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words, Stefan, and I hope to hear from you again 🙂

  3. // Reply

    This is a heart touching story. I love dogs, they are my favorite animals. I think you made the right decision. You know your dog and you were put there to take care of it, and whatever you do, you are doing it so that Indy gets better. I’m sure he can sense that on some level and appreciates it. I hope he gets better soon.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you ever so much, Ben, for your kind wishes, but also for appreciating why we came to the decision to go ahead with metronomic chemotherapy. As a dog owner, I don’t think there is any right or wrong in making decisions for the wellbeing of our fur babies. I think our hearts tell us what is best for our dogs, and we can only hope that what our heart chooses is the right path.
      Thank you very much for reading about our mini ordeal, Ben, and I hope you will keep in touch to find out more about living with a Border Terrier, and being a dog owner more in general 🙂

  4. // Reply

    I am so sorry that Indy and your family are going through this. I can only imagine how every decision is so difficult. Trust your instinct and do not worry about what others think. Thank you for mentioning fish oil. I will have to look into that. Our dog Dash is 13, and he has fatty tumors on his underbelly. We were told that these are not uncommon, but I still keep an eye on him making sure he is comfortable. Do you happen to know of any natural supplements for a dog that would help for pain? Thank you, and I will keep you all and Indy in my prayers.

    1. // Reply

      Colleen, first of all, I’m ever so sorry to hear about your Dash and his fatty tumours. My experience tells me they are normally benign, but you do right to keep an eye on them. I believe holistic treatment is ideal as a preventative approach in ensuring those fatty lumps don’t get any worse. I’m in the process of putting together a review of best holistic ingredients to tackle cancer in dogs. I’m hoping I shall be able to find some natural ingredients to alleviate pain too. I hope you’ll keep in touch for more news 🙂

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