Monday, December 5, 2011


"We think your dog might have cancer."

This is one of the most frightening sentences a pet owner can hear.  Some of you may have already been the recipient of this message and know what it feels like.  Many pet owners will hear the same message at some point in time.  So many thoughts will go through your mind, the foremost of which is, "What does this mean for my pet?"

Helpful Buckeye will address this problem of cancer in dogs later in this issue.  Right now, with the Christmas holiday season being upon us, there is an important warning to mention that might help some of your dogs and cats avoid a serious illness over the holidays.  Many of you will have some of the beautiful plants of the season be a part of your home decorations.  Are you aware of some of the dangers that these plants can present?

Fall and Winter Holiday Plant Toxicity in Dogs

Flowers and plants add beauty to any holiday, and they make great holiday gifts. But if your family includes pets, you may want to learn which plants are safe and which ones you need to avoid.

Here is a list of plants to avoid. Remember that ingesting bulb plants often cause the most severe illnesses.

• Holly (Ilex sp.). This plant, commonly found around Christmas time, can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea. Mental depression can also occur.

• Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp). Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, tremors, drooling and abdominal pain.

• Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.). This plant, another Christmas plant, can also cause significant vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, this plant has been associated with difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, collapse and, if a lot is ingested, death has occurred. Some animals may even show erratic behavior and possible hallucinations.• Poinsettia (Euphorbia). This plant can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting. It has a low level of toxicity and is overrated as a toxic plant. Many people consider it basically non-toxic.

• Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus (Schlumbergera or Zygocactus). In dogs, if large quantities of this plant are ingested, vomiting, possibly with blood, diarrhea, possibly with blood and mental depression have been reported. With small ingestions, typically there are no signs of toxicity. These plants are considered low toxicity plants.

Some less common toxic winter holiday plants include:

• American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). Ingestion results in weakness, vomiting and seizures.

• European bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara). Ingestion results in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, weakness, confusion and low heart rate.

• Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, drooling and lack of appetite.

• Christmas rose (Helleborus niger). Ingestion results in abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and delirium.

• Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicuni). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, seizures, mental depression, respiratory depression, shock and death.

• Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale). Ingestion of the bulbs results in mouth irritation, blooding vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney failure, liver damage and bone marrow suppression.

• Thanksgiving cactus (Zygocactus truncactus). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Cats also can develop staggering.

• Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii). This plant is considered nontoxic.

• Christmas orchid (Cattleya trianaei). This plant is considered nontoxic.

• Christmas dagger fern (Polystichym spp). This plant is considered nontoxic.

• Mistletoes cactus (Thipsalis cassutha). This plant is considered nontoxic.

• Burning bush (Euronymous alatus). Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression and lack of appetite.

Adapted from:

Pay attention to this warning right now while you have the time to think about it! The closer we get to the holidays, the more distracted you will be...and you might end up dealing with a plant toxicity.

Now, back to the topic of cancer in dogs....

Consider this list of the most common disease/medical problems seen by veterinarians in dogs:

Top 20 Dog Diseases

1. Ear Infection
2. Skin Allergy
3. Skin Infection
4. Cancer/Tumors
5. Urinary Infection
6. Arthritis
7. Dental Disease
8. Gastroenteritis
9. Stomach Inflammation
10. Congestive Heart Failure
11. Chronic Kidney Failure
12. Laceration
13. Hip Dysplasia
14. Pancreatitis
15. Diabetes
16. Obesity
17. Food Allergy
18. Epilepsy
19. Kennel Cough
20. Hypothyroidism

Adapted from:

As you can see, cancer is pretty close to the top of this list.  To be better able to understand what a diagnosis of cancer might mean for your dog, it will help you to learn more about what cancer really is.


Finding out that a loved one has cancer can be very scary and confusing. When that loved one is your dog, it’s important to keep in mind that different veterinarians might have different views on the best way to treat the disease. It’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion, perhaps from a veterinary oncologist, and carefully review your options.

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is a class of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably, invade surrounding tissue and can spread to other areas of the body. As with people, dogs can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can be localized (confined to one area, like a tumor) or generalized (spread throughout the body).

What Causes Cancer in Dogs?

Cancer is a “multifactorial” disease, which means it has no known single cause. However, we do know that hereditary and environmental factors can contribute to the development of cancer in dogs.

What Are the General Symptoms of Cancer?

Symptoms of cancer in dogs may include:

• Lumps (which are not always malignant, but should always be examined by a vet)

• Swelling

• Persistent sores

• Abnormal discharge from any part of the body

• Bad breath

• Listlessness/lethargy

• Rapid, often unexplained weight loss

• Sudden lameness

• Black, tarry stools (a symptom of ulcers, which can be caused by mast cell tumors)

• Decreased or loss of appetite

• Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

How Is Cancer Diagnosed?

If a lump is present, the first step is typically a needle biopsy, which removes a very small tissue sample. Alternately, surgery may be performed to remove all or part of the lump for diagnosis by a pathologist.

Radiographs, ultrasound, blood evaluation and other diagnostic tests may also be helpful in determining if cancer is present or if it has spread.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Cancer?

Older dogs are much more likely to develop cancer than younger ones, and certain breeds are prone to specific kinds of cancers. Boxers, Boston terriers and golden retrievers are among the breeds that most commonly develop mast cell tumors. Large and giant breeds, like Great Danes and Saint Bernards, are much more likely to suffer from bone cancer than smaller breeds. It is important to be familiar with the diseases to which your dog might have a breed predisposition.

How Can Cancer Be Prevented?

You can dramatically reduce your dog’s chance of getting certain types of cancer by having him or her altered (neutered) at a young age. Breast cancer, the most common cancer for female dogs, can be avoided almost completely by having your dog spayed before her first heat cycle. And of course, a properly neutered male dog has zero chance of developing testicular cancer. Additionally, some believe that adding antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to a dog’s diet will reduce the likelihood of cancer.

How Is Cancer Treated?

Treatment options vary and depend on the type and stage of cancer. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. A combination of therapies may be used. Success of treatment depends on the form and extent of the cancer and the aggressiveness of the therapy. Of course, early detection is best.

Some dog owners opt for no treatment of the cancer at all, in which case palliative care, including pain relief, should be offered. Regardless of how you proceed after a diagnosis of cancer in your pet, it is very important to consider his quality of life when making future decisions.

Some cancers can be cured, and almost all patients can receive at least some benefit from treatment. Please note that if your dog’s cancer is not curable, there are still many things you can do to make your pet feel better. Don’t hesitate to talk to your vet about your options. And don’t forget that good nutrition and loving care from all the members of your family can greatly enhance your dog’s quality of life.

When Is It Time to See the Vet?

If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned in the above list, contact your veterinarian immediately. Should your dog receive a diagnosis of cancer, you may wish to consult a veterinary cancer expert. Many specialty veterinary practices and veterinary college teaching hospitals employ them.

Adapted from:

Now, if your veterinarian says to you, "We think your dog might have cancer," you will have a game plan in mind to help you sort through what that means for your dog.

The Pittsburgh Steelers kept pace with the Ravens at 9-3 as they head into the last month of the season.

Ohio State's basketball team, ranked #2, had a very impressive 23-point win over Duke, ranked #4, this past week.  The Buckeyes have reloaded very nicely as they try to replace 3 starters who graduated.  Also, from Columbus, the Buckeyes have hired Urban Meyer as the new football coach.  If he can keep the players out of trouble and get the wide open offense installed he used at Florida, the Buckeyes should start making their move back to the top of the Big 10 conference next year.

Helpful Buckeye got back on a racquetball court this week...not to play a game yet, but rather to just hit the ball around with my partner.  It felt great to be there, almost 3 months after tearing my calf muscle.  My leg is getting stronger and, hopefully, I'll be able to start playing again in 2-3 weeks.  The biking has been coming along nicely, although most of it has been in the gym...we've already had 25" of snow this winter.  That leaves packed snow, ice, and cinders in the bike lanes, not to mention the cold temperatures.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye are ready to start our "Holiday Movie Marathon"...we have about 12 favorite holiday movies we watch each year.  They never seem to get boring.

Let's close with this gem of a quote:
"Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail." Anonymous

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~


  1. The cool dog bed I would like to mention is the CoolDog Reuseable Ice Mat. Yes, your dogs will start to shiver and chill once it lies on this bed. I am joking. Regardless of its name, the Cooldog Ice mat will keep your dog cool and happy.

  2. Dogs are like humans, they also need love, care and a good health. Cancer is one of the deadliest disease that we humans are afraid of. In dogs, we don't want them to lose because we love them. Thank you for the information you've shared. It really helps us a lot. Thank you so much.

  3. Dogs have become part of our families now a days and we want to make them as comfortable as we are. There are all kinds of things for dogs these days. Among the many things that you can get for your dog are toys, clothes, and special foods along with fancy collars in all colors and beds. If there are big dogs then Extra large dog beds for Sale in the morket.

  4. Bailey a 12 year old male lab was brought to OSVDH because he was having trouble breathing. During physical exam a growth was discovered. This growth was inhibiting his air intake. Within an hour, surgery was performed and Bailey was breathing normally. Cancer in Dogs