Please excuse the absence: my dog has had cancer!!

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The ones of you that follow my blog regularly may have wondered whether I had abandoned this project at all.  Unfortunately I had to, after receiving yet again a not very good news towards the end of this year – possibly the most devastating news in the last 12 months in fact.  Our Indy was diagnosed with canine anal gland cancer.


Why did my dog get cancer

This is a question that we keep asking ourselves if and when we become ill with cancer, or more so if we have a loved one affected by the disease, or more so if we have lost a loved one to cancer.  The mental process is the same, believe you me, when you discover that your dog is affected by the same illness.  But it is a question that will never find a logical answer.

Whether you are a matter of fact dog owner, or whether you cannot help but thinking of your dog like the child you never had – whether your dog is a big working dog, or a small sized lap dog, the feeling of despair that this may be it, and that this terrible illness may be the one taking your dog away from you is the same as with humans affected by the illness.

Your dog becomes a family member.  And when your dog is in hospital, it all sinks in too soon as to what your household and your life may be like without your dog.  But, even before you get there, the waiting for a diagnosis, and the thought that your dog may have to suffer, are equally unbearable.

Another conundrum is whether you are going to make the right decision by your dog.  Many schools of thought are inclined to avoid offering dogs, or cats, any invasive intervention.  Dog owners veering toward this alternative will want to ensure that their hound will never suffer at any one stage, but feel fairer that nature take its course, as invasive procedures will only prolong the inevitable.  However other currents of thought support the extensively new surgical techniques implemented in the last few years to treat dogs and cats successfully, granting them a longer and comfortable life.

With Indy, when we were told the possible diagnosis, we immediately decided we did not want him to go through any surgery or any other treatment.  But, as soon as we were advised referral for removal of the mass, and possibly making him well again and allowing him to enjoying a few more years with us, our brains went into automatic mode.  Nor my husband, my son or I ever asked the question again: whether we were acting in our own selfish interest rather than in Indy’s best interest.  And, given the result so far (and we are only at week one from surgery last week), we have not regretted our decision to go ahead with the referral.


How did it happen

It all started some time in September, when Indy started scooting regularly (that is, the action dogs make when they get an itchy ‘bum bum’ after going to the toilet).  At the time, and in the course of October, Indy had his anal glands expressed twice by the nurses at our vet surgery – this is a manual and painless procedure that some dogs, mostly males and older, have from time to time to endure when the anal glands they use to mark their territory when going to the toilet become obstructed.

Nothing more came of it, until we took Indy to the groomer at the beginning of December, and in cleaning his ‘derriere’ she found his glands inflamed.  She suggested taking Indy to the vet as he may have an abscess and may need antibiotics.

The long and short of it is that, after aspiration at the local vet surgery, one of the surgeons there informed there was the suspicion that Indy may have a rare form of canine melanoma cancer, for which it was advisable to refer him to a specialist centre.

Indy was admitted at the Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire last Tuesday.  It’s just dawned to me it is a week today, yet it feels like a month!  There Indy had a CT scan with contrast where it transpired that thankfully both liver and lungs were unaffected.  However Indy underwent surgery on the following day to remove the left anal gland and part of the anal wall and rectum.  Yes, rather undignified part of the body!!

At Dick White Referrals Indy received care by the clinical staff like second to none.  Surgery went much better than expected, and the lovely surgeon Georgia managed to send Indy home on Friday – just in time for Christmas.  Yet, the mass was sent for biopsy analysis, and we should see an oncologist in the early part of January 2017 for advice as to whether additional cancer therapy may be needed.


Awaiting results

I suppose we are now at a cross road.  We have discussed with my husband and with my son the various implications pending the outcome of the biopsy results.  Cancer in dogs can very rarely be cured like in humans, but their lives can be prolonged noticeably, but proportionately to their age.

If indeed the initial suspicion were confirmed of melanoma, a new canine vaccine was discovered a few years ago, which again would help in prolonging the life of dogs without affecting their quality of life.  On the other hand though, would it be fair to prolong my Indy’s life by only a few months?  Would that only be for the sole purpose to fulfil my selfish will?

We are all aware that unfortunately dogs are often outlived by their human families.  We also know that, although our Indy is a relatively small breed hence destined to live longer than bigger breeds, this natural trend is not set in stone, and once reaching the age of 10, he started classing as older senior dog.

I always enjoy looking at pictures of my family, and they include pictures of Indy.  In his past younger days, how much fun he had!!  He was always laughing like dogs do, always ready to plays and to mess around with my son or with any of us.  In the last two years Indy has aged in behaviour: he enjoys longer sleeps during the day, and does not smile any longer as often as he used to.

However, am I suggesting that my Indy is past his ‘sell by date’?  Not in the least!!!  And I suppose that is also the reason why instinctively we went for the surgery that may lead to our Indy getting better and, hopefully, having a few years more with us.  And that is because we can see that our Indy has still plenty of energy to give.  He still enjoys his adventurous walks, his food, and he is still much playful, albeit not with the same energy levels of times past.  And he is still paying tricks on us, which make us laugh to tears.  So, why letting nature take its course with a ‘cheeky monkey’ who is still full of elderly life?  There’s definitely still life in the old dog!!!


Our special post-op Rudolph
Our special post-op Rudolph


What next

Well, as well as waiting on results, the resolve is to make the most of what we have together as a family with our Indy, no matter what the verdict with the oncologist may be.

I am not in any manner of talk trying to portray a doom and gloom scenario.  When we meet with the Dick White Referral oncology team, the outcome may be rosier than we fear.  And we shall be delighted if that is the case!!!  Or it may be good for the time being, but not excellent- and we shall be equally grateful.

Until our Indy is with us, our endeavour is to respect his older age and his ailments, but also to keep fulfilling his ‘sniffing’ interests by letting him enjoy his adventurous walks, or special trips to dog friendly places.  The plan is to move forward with Indy, as the last thing we want to do is to let him fade away as if he were already gone from our lives.

For me personally, I feel that this year particularly external factors in my life have got in the way of me being able to spend more quality time with my Indy.  As months progressed, more and more circumstantial occurrences have taken place with increased frequency, but which have had a negative effect on my every day well-being – these included my mother and husband’s health problems, and Indy’s back injury in February, from which, I must say, he recovered magnificently.  Indy being diagnosed with cancer at the end of a trying year was the tip of the iceberg.  But it was an awakening call too!

If there is one thing that I have learnt from Indy’s ordeal is not to take my dog’s presence for granted, but to keep cherishing every moment that we spend together.  So many times this year I have had to prioritise the needs of other family members, or work even, at the expenses of my Indy.  Don’t get me wrong, I never felt that my Indy was becoming part of the furniture as I kept feeling guilty that I could not spend more time with him.  Nevertheless, I feel I was slipping down the road of forced complacency.

So, my resolution for 2017 is to never forget how precious my dog is.  I am not kidding myself, as I am fully aware that life will keep throwing testing times at me.  And I am aware that at the end of the day our dogs are not forever.  I accept that.  But nor I nor my family are ready to let Indy go.  And so long as Indy is with us, we shall feel blessed by the joy and love that he gives us every day.



I am endeavouring to keep you up to date with further developments on Indy’s health and his next appointments.  please let me know if you have undergone a similar experience with  your dog, so that I may be prepared for as much as I possibly can with different outcomes.

In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a wonderful Christmas time!!!







  1. // Reply

    I am very sorry to hear that and will you have post about it after biopsy analysis? I hope your dog will be well and get rid of cancer. I wish you have merry Christmas as well.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you for your support Furkan and yes, I shall definitely keep blogging with updates. In sharing our journey, my aim is for other dog owners not to give up easily, as – hopefully – there are ways forward.
      All the best for the New Year Furkan, to you and your family.

  2. // Reply

    That is horrible and I hope Indy recovers well. Have you heard of Asea? That has done wonders to help animals and might help him too. I always am intrigued to hear about dogs getting cancer of any kind and especially after you had his glands expressed then he gets sick. Its like danged if you do, danged if your don’t. Animals are a big part of my life too as I have two Siberian huskies who are a big part of our families lives. Wishing the best.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you for your support Brent, and yes, I should look into Asea asap. We keep wondering whether the cancer was already there a few months ago but too small to be detected. Now we can concentrate on a relative positive outcome, hopefully, from the oncologist. We are keeping everything crossed!!

  3. // Reply

    I am so sorry to hear about this news! Dogs truly are a member of the family and we hurt for them just like we would a child. My dog is getting up there in age, and I am getting worried that something will happen to her. I know I would not handle it well. I like that you said you will remember to think about how precious your dog is. Sometimes it is easy to take them for granted. I will be praying for you and hoping that you all get good news!

    1. // Reply

      Thank you ever so much Katie. Maybe one way to celebrate my Border and the fact that he is still with us is to keep writing on this website – at the end of the day, he was the inspiration for this site!!
      And please don’t worry about your dog. What has happened to us does not necessarily mean it happen to her. But, if and when she gets the older age ailment, I’m sure she will energise you in tackle them together, head on and with a positive approach.

  4. // Reply

    The diagnoses of cancer of any kind is devastating news. I am a dog owner and a veterinarian technician and I see this too often. My own dog was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen last year, Devastating! we opted to surgery , because the alternative was that the tumor could rupture and resulting in a very painful death, The surgery was sucessful and we were blessed with another 4 months with our Marley.

    1. // Reply

      I know when you mention 4 months more with your Marley, you try to reassure me whilst breaking the facts down to me gently. And yet I’m thinking: what, 4 more months only with my Indy?!?!?! My brain tells me that at least you had 4 precious months to enjoy your Marley and to prepare for the worst, but my heart tells me that even 4 more years would never be enough. We are waiting anxiously to hear the outcome of the biopsy.

      Thank you for your comment, Jen, much appreciated ❤

  5. // Reply

    Hello Giulia,

    I can understand and imagine how it feels. Indy is part of your family and family comes first. So, everyone understands why you haven’t been a while. It is not an excuse. There are other important matters in life which we should not overlook. Thanks for sharing your resolution. We won’t forget Indy as well after what you’ve been through for the last few months. Stay strong.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you Tar, your words bring us all great comfort. We are due for a check up appointment in the next couple of weeks where we should be advised the outcome of the biopsy, so that they can advise further course of action.

      In the meantime, I must admit, we have cherished our Indy each and every day of this Christmas period. He has made a remarkable recovery from his surgery, and we love to see him in full shape.

      Let’s hope he lasts like this for a while longer. But I shall definitely keep you all posted with whatever the future brings.

      Thank you again

  6. // Reply

    My heart goes out to you! What a coincidence, but for the month of December I had the pleasure of looking after a border terrier and I absolutely fell in love with her. I know exactly what you mean. They do become a friend. I’ve since left my pet sitting gig and I absolutely miss that scruffy excitable thing. I hope your fur baby recovers x

    1. // Reply

      Thank you so much for your good wishes Kate. And of course you find me completely bias, but you are right, there is something about this breed that you can’t put in words, but which makes them the best canine companion you can wish for. I’m not sure whether it’s that combination of grumpy face, cheeky attitude and high intelligence which makes them so funny!! As I say, I often find myself laughing all by myself at the trick of the moment my Indy plays on me.

      Well, next week it’s verdict day, as we have the check up appointment where we are going to be told the results of the biopsy, and then take from there. I’m sure I shall post a blog to keep you all up to date 🙂

  7. // Reply

    I feel for you and your family. I am going through a similar issue (auto immune disease and just recently he ruptured a ligament in his hind leg). I am doing the best I possibly can to help him and I know it is something we animal lovers do not give up on. I really hope Indy makes a speedy recovery and that you can all enjoy as many hours, days, years with him as possible. Keep strong and I hope from now on all your news is good news. Wishing you, your family and Indy all the best and good luck!

    1. // Reply

      Thank you ever so much Elizabeth. I haven’t blogged about developments yet, but the biopsy confirmed a malignant melanoma, which they are going to intervene on with the recently discovered canine vaccine. This will prolong Indy’s life – we were explained in dogs cancer will come back and it can not yet be cured like in humans. We are seeing the oncologist next week for further details and to start the treatment. In my mind, I’m still hoping for a miracle and that our Indy will last for a few more years ❤❤

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