Unfortunately, it’s highly likely that you have either had a dog with cancer or know of a friend whose dog has been diagnosed with this disease. Just this past month, more than a handful of my friends and training colleagues have received cancer diagnoses for their dogs. It’s a shocking moment and hard to know where to turn.
The good news: you can turn to the book, When Your Dog Has Cancer by Lola Ball (available from www.dogwise.com). The book contains a wealth of information to help guide dog guardians through the myriad of decisions that must be made along the way should your beloved companion be diagnosed with this dreadful disease.
Ball certainly knows about what she writes.
Her first dog, Porter, a chocolate lab was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and she inadvertently was led to hospice care to help him enjoy the highest quality life possible until his death. Then during the writing of this book, her yellow lab/hound dog mix, Jasper, was diagnosed with mast cell tumor. Hospice was again her choice. Ball also has a keen understanding of research having worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Knowledge is power.
Ball shares what she learned from her experience with Porter and Jasper. She has an easy way of explaining the physical phases a dog with cancer may experience, as well as the range of emotions the dog’s guardian will experience, whether or the decision is made to treat the disease, choose hospice or choose euthanasia. Ball discusses types of cancer, treatment plans, hospice care, pain management, diet and nutrition, quality of life during treatment, prevention, the natural dying process and interesting ways to honor and remember the dog you loved so much. Ball eloquently takes you through her own challenging decisions and offers suggestions as to how one might address specific moments during the cancer journey. She reminds us that each and every decision along the way is a very personal decision and can only be made by the dog’s guardian or family.
Though I never hope you have cause to refer to it, one of my favorite parts of the book is the Chapter on Treatment Plans. The detailed text is accompanied by an easy to read, multi-page comparison chart that describes a specific treatment and the pros and cons of that particular method. It’s so easy to immediately rush to consider treatment when one first is given the news their dog has cancer. We want to save our dog! Though in reality, a specific treatment may not prolong the dog’s life and could potentially add to the discomfort for the dog. The pros and cons will help you make an informed decision. And though I shed more than a few tears, I also particularly enjoyed learning about hospice care for dogs and how to build a solid, educated and talented support team to work with the dog’s guardian and family in order to prepare for a natural death.
The latter part of the book is complete with a number of poignant, real-life cancer experiences, not all of which end in the loss of life of the dog…..such great news that cancer “can” oftentimes be put into remission or even cured. Ball also includes a robust resources section that covers most every topic needed in order to make educated decisions should your dog be diagnosed with cancer. Ball reminds us that each and every experience with canine cancer will be unique and how each of us ultimately deals with the diagnosis will also be unique. She reminds us to follow our hearts and prove that we’re worthy of the dog’s devotion.
The National Canine Cancer Foundation states that cancer amounts for half the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Whether your dog has been diagnosed with canine cancer, whether you just wish to become more informed about canine cancer, or wish to learn more about possible ways of prevention, Ball’s book is a lovely resource to help guide you along the way.
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe. www.coldnosecollege.com