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My dog has mast cell cancer - looking for other options

My dog Emma, a 5 year old Sharpei-Chow-Akita-Italian Greyhound (DNA test confirmed) has systemic mast cell disease. She's had 3 surgeries to have tumors removed and has had 4 different types of chemo, none of which have proven effective.

Mast cells are full of histamine so she's on Pepcid and Benadryl, which makes her very constipated. She's eating a Tb of pumpkin to help with that. She's on prednisone and is also in a trial study of K-9 Immunity which has colostrum among other things that are supposed to boost her immune system.

The Cancer Care vets in Santa Fe have been great, but it looks like we are running out of options. Any experiences, advice, feedback is appreciated. In particular I had a couple of questions.

1. Has anyone had experience with Gleevec, a very expensive cancer drug. I'm interested in hearing from others who've tried it with dogs, if it significantly prolonged life and if you have any leads on where it could be purchased at a reasonable price.

2. She's on the "cancer diet" which is 60% fat, 30% protein, and 10% carbs. Cancer cells thrive on carbs, so the idea is to starve them. Her dinner is pork fat, sardines, carrots, spinach, garlic, olive oil, green bell pepper, sometimes eggs and yogurt. Any advice on other foods high in fat or with anti-oxidants that dogs can eat is welcome. Is purslane (for Omega-3)and dandelions (Vit C) OK for dogs to eat? Blueberries?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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So far, what I am reading it looks like you are doing everything right. When I lived in Santa Fe, my Shih-Tzu, Pitti-Sing had liver cancer. I did everything that the vet told me to do. She lived for another 6 months. Are you seeing a holistic vet in Santa Fe? I use to go to Dr. Dee Blanco. She is wonderful. I do not know if she is still practicing. I know there are wonderful holistic vets there, unlike here in RI. We only have one.
Good luck and I am white lighting you.

Hello Aleta,

Thank you for the reply. Dee is still in the area but I don't know if she is still practicing (I know her through other channels). The vets at Cancer Care are Drs. Mullins and Kelly. They are great, young, energetic women and do have a holistic approach. I'm sorry to hear about Pitti-Sing. You know how it feels, then. Whenever I leave the house I worry I'll never see her again. I will talk to Dee, though, and see if she has any advice. Thank you!

By the way, for those of you who have suffered through pet loss, Cancer Care has a pet loss support group every other Monday (not just for cancer patients). 982-4492.

Please, give Dee my love! I miss her so much and miss the beautiful land out there.

Love, Aleta xooooooo
Hey Julie,

I was wondering how your dog is doing and whether you found any alternative treatment options for Emma. I'm basically in a similar spot with my dog Vodka - he has systemic MCTs and was responding really well to chemo and steroids until about a week ago. Now, we're somewhat strapped for options and I'm trying to figure out alternate treatment possibilities for him.

Good luck to you and Emma!

Unfortunately she was euthanized on Sept 11 of all days. She went into liver failure and was in a lot of pain her last couple of days and I'm kicking myself for not letting her go sooner. Her last week she spent mostly at the emergency vets instead of at home with me because I kept hoping she'd get better. Dr Dobesh said he'd never regretted putting one of his dogs down too soon, he's only regretted not doing it soon enough which is what happended to me. She was throwing up, she was all swollen.

The pred and antihistamine really constipated her and when the vet checked her she said, "has she been eating gravel?"

I did put her on the Gleevak which was $2000 for a one month supply. As it turned out the vet gave her way too high of a dose - at least 7 times higher than it should have been and she started going into liver failure after 4 days on the meds so I stopped that. THe vet never apologized or acknowledged it, but she didn't charge me for any treatment after that, including the euthanasia, and paid for the cremation and urn.

My regular vet told me the cancer vets, all they do is treat and treat and if something doesn't work they try something else and usually these treatments are so hard on the organs and the side effects make the dogs feel terrible. It's such a tough choice. In the end I spent $14000 on Emma's treatments for mast cell cancer, from removing the first tumor in Oct 2007 with chemo x2, then in April another round then they just kept coming.

In the end nothing worked well. I'm not sure if I bought her a few more months, but if I did it wasn't a real comfortable existence.

Good luck with Vodka. Any questions let me know. Give him lots of hugs and walks while you can!

The photos are Emma just a few weeks before she died. She had a couple of fun off-leash hikes in her final days.

Hi Julie. I'm sitting here reading your final post for the first time, and crying as my heart breaks for you. It's a dilemma, isn't it? How far to go to try to save our companions that we want so badly not to lose? I had the same experience with Isaac, my beloved goat. He died one year ago. I still believe in my gut that if I hadn't tried so hard to 'fix' him, he might still be with me today. My lesson from him was that we can't be in control of everything, and some things just ARE, and need to be left alone. It's SO hard to accept that, I know. Isaac's story was that he was attacked by dogs on the Navajo rez before he came to me. He should have died, but didn't . Instead he filled my life with 7 months of joy and laughter. I miss him every day. I know you still think of Emma every day too. You did the best for her with the information you had at the time. Don't beat yourself up. It's obvious how much she meant to you. You know that she knew that. And take comfort in the fact that Isaac was waiting for her on the other side ready to show her around. You'll see her again, I'm sure of it, as I'll once more see Isaac.
Take care of yourself, Cindy

I don't even know what to say! This sounds so horrific. I'm truly sorry to hear this, hope you're doing ok. You did *so* much for Emma, I just wish you had a fair shot at spending more time with her or atleast letting her go the way you wanted to.

Re: Vodka - he's happy and romping around right now, but I'm pretty frustrated with not being able to find a decent treatment option. I'm not sure if you have heard of Neoplasene, but several folks have suggested that I try it. I'm afraid of the impact of using this on Vodka's body since he now has one recurrent cutaneous mass as well as an internal lump in his shoulder.

We're meeting a different holistic vet in Seattle tomorrow, am really hoping to be able to figure out treatment options for him after that.

Holding good thoughts for you.

Hello K,

I haven't heard of Neoplasene but now that I looked it up I wish I had. A recurrent tumor isn't good. Emma had 3 surgeries to remove tumors. When the 4th one showed up the vet said no more surgeries. I think she lived about another 3 months after that.

Please keep me posted on Vodka's treatment. I'm thinking of you and hoping very hard you'll find that exact something that Vodka needs.

Hi Cindy,

What a good person you are for taking that goat in! It sounds like he got 7 bonus months and luckily found you to enjoy them with. I borrowed goats last fall to eat weeds in my yard and I had no idea how friendly and fun they are!

In hindsight I wished I had just used more common sense, made decisions with my head instead of just my heart, and made sure the vet understood that I didn't want to try everything under the kitchen sink until the end and instead looked to meds or removing meds to make her last weeks more comfortable. And I foster dogs with SF and ESP shelters and now wished I'd stopped that as soon as it was apparent Emma was pretty sick so I'd have given her my full attention for her last days.

Thanks for the shoulder, Cindy. You are right, we both did the best we could with what we knew at the time.

my german dobrman started votiting about two months ago, i taken him to the vets where he was kept in, then we got told he had bloody stolls, n told he had pancrititus n gastricenteritus too (gut deases) n pos gut cancer. we got him home and he was bleed for two weeks. he was on a bland diet and his bloody stools was going. then we wake up n his cant stop wanting food, n losing wait fast. now i no he has gut cancer. whens it best to say by to the big gental giant that i love so much, a much needed trip to the vets again today. i love him n want him to not go but whens do u say enough is enough. love ya big fella.
Hi Simon, There's no easy answer. I kept holding on to some hope that there'd be a miracle cure. All the while Emma was suffering. One vet told me with his dog's he never regretted putting his own sick dogs to sleep; the only regret he did have was waiting too long. I felt I might have waited too long with Emma and she suffered extra days, but when the vet gave her the lethal dose.... she squirmed, yanking her arm like it hurt her arm where the IV was. In that moment I thought she was telling me she wasn't ready to die, but it was too late. Gosh this is hard. She was 5. She was too young to die and she wasn't ready mentally I'd guess, but her body was ready. If your dog won't eat and doesn't seem to get pleasure out of what he used to and he's in a lot of pain, then maybe it is time. I often wonder why we put ourselves through this... we know we won't outlive our dogs. But remember and cherish the good times. It's all worth it.
We had a border collie Big fella, he died last year peacefully in my arms and today our little dog joined him.
She got sick just a few weeks ago and we tried everything that we could and gave her every chance. She had a very aggressive cancer that started developing really fast, this last two days, her back leg gave way, that seemed to recover, yesterday her front leg gave way and she started panting, I think she was in pain, she also started to pace in circles and kept bumping into things, this has all happened inside two days. So this morning I called our super vet and like he did for our big fella, he came to the house. I held her and she was content to let me hold her, I cuddled her and kissed her little face as the overdose was given, she did not struggle, she just let him do his job, strange cos she hates vets or people in her house lol. Just prior to the vet coming she got into her bed and crawled up and put her head on Bg Fella's box which contains his ashes and fell asleep, peacefully, as if he was there waiting for her. Like Big Fella, I told her how much we loved her and what a good dog she is and it was OK to go and leave us now and go and see her mate.
I know it was the right thing to do, but why does it hurt so much? I am crying now, she has only been gone a couple of hours and the house feels empty and void and my OH is so upset, it is hard to see a big strong man cry.

To all of you who have lost your pet, it hurts, but take comfort from we gave them the best of lives and it feels raw and desperate now but because I have lost two dogs previously, I know it gets better, and we still remember them and talk about them and never forget them, each one is individual and can never be replaced, but that doesn't mean we cant love another little individual animal that needs our love and protection.

My OH says he can't go through this again, but I think that somewhere there is another little dog waiting for us, who maybe is not having such a good life and we need to help her or him.

Sorry I am rambling, cos I am hurting. xxx


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