My Indy has had cancer again… but he is still with us!

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Those of you who follow us on Instagram (@living_with_a_border_terrier) or Twitter (@Giulia_Indy) will know already. After only 11 months from his first cancer, our Indy came down with cancer again 🙁

But this blog does not have a sad ending. Because the extremely very good news is that Indy is still with us, happier than ever. Once again, today I would like to raise canine cancer awareness by making you aware that there are canine cancer treatments available, unlike only up to a few years ago. But before I do that, let me tell you how it all happened


It all happened very quickly

It all started back some seven weeks ago, when Indy started developing a little flap under his tail and right above his bottom. The little flat has grown steadily to the size of a walnut, and we started worrying. If you remember, Indy was found to have melanoma of his left anal sack last December, when he had the left anal gland removed along with a bit of anal wall. The post-operative treatment since then has been four melanoma vaccine jabs, followed by six-month booster of the same vaccine.

When all this started happening, we were puzzled, to be honest. Since surgery and the vaccine treatment, Indy had found a new lease of life. And he has been a very happy dog for the whole year. Indy is now 13 and has longer snoozes during the day, but he still enjoys his long walks – one or two a day – and his ‘zoomies’ attacks, that is running around the house like a pup. Indy is still playful and enjoys toys and treat alike. The perk of his advance age is that he has become mellower with other dogs, although he still enjoys barking like mad at ‘creatures’ hiding in the garden, such as squirrels or any other scattering animal.

Indy walnut lump
This was Indy’s walnut size lump under his tail pre-op

And that’s why at first we could not interpret whether this lump could be anything benign or whether it may be related to Indy’s previous tumor. Indy was too well in himself, and was not showing any symptoms of cancer present in his bock, such as drinking more, lethargy or weight loss. His stools were also very ‘healthy’.

We had Indy checked at Dick White Referrals, which successfully operated on Indy last year, two weeks ago. It was decided: this lump could not stay there, even because it was keeping growing, and there was the risk it could affect internal parts of Indy.

However the lovely surgeon Georgia was optimistic as from her manual examination, she was quietly confident the lump was sitting externally to the anus.


The next step was surgery

There was no alternative, but to do surgery on Indy to remove the lump.

We left Indy at Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire last Wednesday. On that same afternoon, Indy was sedated and underwent ultrasounds, from which they assured us that there was no other primary cancer anywhere else in Indy’s body.

The following day, Indy was prepped for surgery. The surgical team run bloods and an x-ray on Indy, and operated on him at lunchtime.

Soon after the surgery – a couple of hours later – Georgia phoned to inform all had gone well. As planned and as discussed with me when I signed for consent, Georgia had removed the lump and a little bit more of anal wall where the lump was sitting. As it appears that Indy’s bottom is his delicate part, she also removed the right anal sack just in case. She had already explained to us that anal glands are not of much use in dogs, and felt this time it would be best for his healthy one to come out too.

We collected Indy on Saturday, primarily as before discharging him, they wanted to make sure he wasn’t suffering ill effects from the anesthesia, as well as ensuring he was eating and drinking and going to the toilet alright.


What’s gonna happen next

Indy’s lump was going to be sent for histology, to find out which type of tumor he has had.

The internal medicine team at the hospital had already aspired some cells from Indy’s lump when we went for the check up two weeks ago, and their pathology team had confirmed the lump was cancerous, but with a different type of cancer from the melanoma he had last year.

Indy walnut lump gone
Indy’s bottom after surgery was shaven and had his anus quite exposed due to the removal of part of the anal wall. The swelling is already reduced and the exposed part will be less visible as his fur starts growing back.

After surgery, Georgia suspected Indy’s lump may be an adenocarcinoma, which typically dogs can get under their tail or in the bottom region.

We are still waiting for histology to produce their results to confirm which type of cancer this second tumor of Indy’s was, so that we can then put in place a forward plan with the internal medicine team again.


How is Indy coping?

Before I tell you how Indy is doing, let me remind you all the medical ups and downs he has endured.

Since adopting Indy and moving him in our house and formally making him part of our household, Indy has had two dental surgeries, he was of course surgically neutered and had a couple of surgeries to remove odd lumps here, there and everywhere. In early 2016 Indy hurt his back, but no surgery was required as with immobility his inflamed disks slipped back into place. And then of course, the cancer last December.

We are extremely fortunate, I feel, as one of Indy’s strongest personality traits is that he doesn’t know how to feel sorry for himself. Oh yes, when he is unwell, you will know, especially as he will turn lethargic. But otherwise, regardless of whichever procedures he has had to go through, as far as he is concerned is business as usual.

This time Indy reacted exactly the same. Partly this was due to the fact that the surgical procedure this time was deemed less invasive. The matter of the fact is that, in spite of the epidural injection that Indy was given during surgery, on the same evening of the surgery he was back on all his four legs. And the hospital told us the next day he was quite happy to go for moderate walks. He never lost his appetite, nor his toilet functions.

I took this picture today. Indy is definitely back to his own self!
I took this picture today. Indy is definitely back to his own self!

The impressive thing about our Indy is that when we collected Indy and brought him home last Saturday, he would have been quite happy to go for walkies and to play with his toys, had we not been told to keep him on limited activities for the next few weeks.

This has only proven possible for the following couple of days, mostly as due to snow and really cold weather, we decided not to take Indy for a walk.

However, we allowed Indy to start playing with his toys a couple of days ago, and yesterday we went for our first walk – yes, only one week after surgery!

Indy’s bottom is looking much better, with the scar self-absorbing more and more every day. And Indy has now completed his course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drops.

We are still waiting patiently to hear from Dick White Referrals about the histology results.


Be prepared – 5 things to remember

Firstly, apologies for the rather descriptive pictures. I can imagine they may not be for the fainted hearted amongst us. But the reason why I wanted, once again, share Indy’s story about his latest cancer is in fact to give hope.

I’ve always believed, and I still stand by it, that knowledge is power. Even when my father was ill, the worst part I could not cope with was the not knowing. Once we were told what his illness was, I googled and googled to find out potential prognosis and … well, what to expect. My father passed away two years ago, and I found watching him fade away physically and in mind excruciatingly painful. But, I knew it was going to happen. I believe if I hadn’t known, the pain would have doubled up by the addition of fear.

With Indy, like with all my family, I have always been the same. Our vets, or the DWR consultants, now know to be prepared to answer a million questions when they see us, as I’ve always wanted to know where we stood with diagnosis and prognosis of any medical issue Indy has had.

I believe that, knowing what processes Indy went through may help you if you are told your dog needs surgery. Having such a bad news delivered to you is painful and inevitably will bring tears. And, rightfully so, medical staff will not reassure you unless they have evidence in hand that the news is not too bad after all. But there are steps to expect, which may be equally scary, if you are not prepared for them. So, here we go:


  1. Shaving: when operating on your dog, surgical teams normally shave the area they have to work on – again, this is pain free for your dog, but it might cause itchiness when the fur start growing back.
  2. Ultrasound & x-rays: ahead of surgery, your dog may have to undergo ultrasounds and x-rays, for which (s)he will be sedated – but this is not painful for your dog.
  3. Anesthesia: for virtually all surgical procedures, your dog will be anesthetised. General anesthesia is required to ensure your dog is fully still during the operation. This is the case even during dental surgeries. Your surgeon will however always ensure your dog can take the anesthetics, checking that the both heart and lungs are well functioning. Your surgeon will never put your dog through unnecessary risks, and especially when your dog is more advanced in age, your vet will weigh up the risks with you.

    Indy doughnut of shame
    Indy hates the Doughnut of Shame!

  4. The Cone of Shame: for nearly all surgical procedures, your dog will have to wear a plastic cone around his/her neck, to prevent them to reach out to the part affected to leak and sooth. Dogs normally do not like it. To make it less bad, we use on Indy the ‘Doughnut of Shame’, some sort of inflatable Elizabethan collar which is devised for the same purpose but at least it enables him to reach out to his food and water bowls.
  5. Take It Easy: after surgical procedures, your dog may have to take it easy. This is the more difficult when the dog is of younger age. The first couple of days after surgery, your dog might still feel sleepy – this will be due to general anesthetics, which is often required for most procedures to ensure your dog is still during the operation.


Canine Cancer Awareness

Veterinary science is developing at the same fast pace as human medical science and the more we move into Indy’s older years, the more we realise that there is so much that veterinarians are still prepared to do to keep Indy alive and well.
It is only of a few years ago that surgery was not even contemplated whenever a dog was diagnosed with cancer. The most dogs were put through was a painful chemo and radiotherapy sessions, in an effort to prolong dogs’ life.

Don’t get me wrong, we are aware that Indy is getting old and is likely to die through cancer. One day, we know, we might face up to the fact that cancer may have come back and be inoperable.

The way my family and I see it, with this new cancer Indy has just had removed, is this. For humans, the cut off point is the five-year mark: the aim for a cancer patient is to survive five years and over in order to be deemed to have defeated a specific type of cancer. But that does not mean that later in life that person may not get other types of cancer.

Indy our Christmas present
We feel blessed that Indy is still with us. We try to make the most of each day, as every day with Indy is as special as Christmas Day.

If it is true that one year in dog life is equivalent to five human years, then yes, Indy has survived his melanoma, he has defeated it. Unfortunately he has now come up with another type of cancer, as sometimes it happens with us humans.

With Indy’s fight against cancer I want to raise awareness that canine cancer does not necessarily lead to immediate death. Scientific development has moved on from that point. Yes, it is true that unfortunately dogs only live up to a certain age – an age that varies statistically with the breed and the size. And yes, it is also true that statistics are just that, they are not the absolute rule. Ten to fifteen or sixteen years is nothing in our lives, at the thought of loosing such an important ‘person’, our faithful dog who has been our most trusted, fun and loving companion for such a small part of our lives.



But with the new research, dogs’ lives can be extended without compromising the quality of their lives. I have said this before and I am reiterating it now. Provided we can afford it, we will carry on fighting cancer for Indy, until that day comes that clinicians tell us we cannot go any further or that his well being will be compromised. We want Indy to be with us for as long as possible, but only provided he still enjoys his happy life.

If you would like to find out more about Indy’s new ordeal, or if you have concerns of a practical or ethical nature, by all means do leave your comment below.  It is good to share views and experiences, and I am looking forward to your input!


  1. // Reply

    This is a very interesting website. I work with rescued animals but don’t recall hearing about this. I know cancer research has advanced for humans but I’m glad to hear that animals are also being included.

    Tried and true


    1. // Reply

      Oh yes, believe me, veterinary science has made giant steps in all directions to preserve life for longer for our fur children. But not at the expense of their quality of life. I am no advocate of the mad professor stereotype of medics who are prepared to test any type of practice for the sake of science progression. I do not believe reputable referral centres spread all over UK and other countries marry this code of conduct at all. And I know for a fact that, when that time comes, they as much as we will be the first ones to stop, in order to grant our Indy the best possible quality of life in his older days yet.

  2. // Reply

    Such a sweet and beautiful sharing Giulia =) I’ve always loved your sharings. It shows your natural and deep love for your fur babies. Several years ago, I have a mixed Japanese Spitz who almost had the same symptoms. It was tough but we carried on until it was time to let go. But all throughout the journey, we showed her love and affection, just like how you are sharing the love now with Indy. Canine Cancer is prevalent but almost neglected by a lot of peeps. It is through stories like yours we are made aware and it is thru loving fur moms like you, we can empathize and share the same love for our fur babies who are experiencing the same. Thank you again Giulia. We wish well for you and Indy =)

    1. // Reply

      I believe,JR, a lot of people think this is the end when they see a growth in their dogs, or when they notice the dog has become lethargic. Some put it down to the fact that the dog has grown older, and possibly rightly so they do not want to put the dog through unnecessary pain in an effort to try to avoid the inevitable. Yes, dogs do age much more quickly than humans – as I mention, it’s the proverbial 5-7 dog years to 1 human year. Yet, veterinary science noawadays can prolonge dogs’ life far more successfully and can improve their quality of life beyond belief. And I believe in doing so, they do not compromise the well being and the quality of life of our pets.
      I know that Indy will probably be taken from us by cancer, and I know that it’s probably going to be much sooner than we think. But for now we just cherish that joy he brings to our lives every minute of every day 🙂
      Thanks for coming back to our website, JR, and look forward to hearing from you again1

  3. // Reply

    Thank you for sharing all the details about your baby, and even the painful ones. This is not an easy process. I’ve swore to myself that my next pet will be insured from kitten or puppyhood, there’s just way too much that can go wrong.

    1. // Reply

      I found with us, first time dog owners, we possibly didn’t realise how quickly time goes, where dogs grow older faster than us. And, like with us humans, when they grow old, they get ill. It is a shame that so many of us have to chose between medical treatment for our pets and the inability to afford it due to the extremely high costs. That is why, you are right, pet insurance is paramount with responsible pet owners. Veterinary science can do so much nowadays to grant our pets a healthier and longer life with us – pet insurance helps us afford all this.
      Thank you for passing by and for your input. I hope you will keep visiting my website 🙂

  4. // Reply

    Wow, this is a touching article. I hope your dog fully recovers!

    1. // Reply

      Thanks Jacob, so far it’s all good. We have been pre-warned ahead of the next check up after at the beginning of January, that cancer may come back. Deep down we know it is probably the one illness that’s gonna take our Indy away from us, but we are grateful that veterinary science has so far granted wonderful days with our Indy – and hopefully many more to come!

  5. // Reply

    I am touched by your article on your experience with cancer with Indy, it seems cancer is affecting us all even our pets today.

    I strongly believe the root of cancer is the chemicals in our food, but we have very limited things we can do about this we all must eat.

    I am so happy for you Indy has recovered and is back to his old self again, I being a long time dog owner I do worry about my own fur baby getting cancer and shortening his life……… home would be so empty without him for sure

    1. // Reply

      Now, here’s is where I’m gonna get a tad more morbid. Because through this ongoing journey with our Indy, I’m starting accepting that our Indy is indeed getting older and one day we may have to let him go. I bring myself to tears sometimes trying to envisage how heartbreaking that day will be for all of us, but I know for a fact the one thing that will help us get through it is the thought that our boy will stop suffering. 

      Until then, we keep taking one day at a time, and enjoying each and every second of it with our Indy ❤️❤️

  6. // Reply

    Awww. I am sorry to hear about the diagnosis. I am glad to see that Indy is good hands and in good spirits still. My mother and sister have raised three dogs who passed away but I have never. None of those dogs had Cancer.

    So I forget that dogs have such diseases as well as humans. I see now all the things that comes with it. And Yes I agree. I am thankful for technology and medical advances that have allowed us all to live longer with such terrible diseases.

    Keep enjoying the moments and enduring the rest. 🙂

    Many blessings to you all!

    1. // Reply

      Thank you ever so much for your words of support. Yes, I agree, it’s not going to be an easy ride, but our pain at seeing our Indy ageing and eventually get ill again will be repaid by the many moments of joy we are still sharing.  

      Thank you for your input, and I hope you’ll come back to my website soon 🙂

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