Knowing what to do after your dog has been diagnosed with cancer can give you the confidence and peace of mind necessary to embark on a path of healing or hospice. In this 3-part series, we’ll explore a holistic approach to treating canine cancer. Here’s Part 1.
After the Tears, Here’s What to Do Next
When my dog, Haley, was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a particularly nasty and aggressive canine cancer, after a tumor burst in her spleen, I went on a mad information-gathering binge.
Websites. Books. Magazines. Medical journals. Friends. Vets.
You name it, I explored it.
My veterinarian told me her prognosis was slim – her doctor told me Haley might only survive one to three months.
But I was determined to give it my all through a holistic approach, meaning I was not interested in only treating just the cancer. I wanted to bring back balance to her body and achieve the highest state of wellbeing that was possible for her – physically, mentally, emotionally.
A true wonderdog, she was one of fewer than 10% of dogs to survive hemangiosarcoma over one year, treated exclusively with gifts from nature – she even became a certified therapy dog while living with cancer. Her phenomenal story was featured by the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Foundation and shared by Dr. Karen Becker, a leading integrative vet.
What to Read and Watch First
- Visit the Canine Cancer Library at The National Canine Cancer Foundation – find detailed reports on every dog cancer so you can learn more about your dog’s particular type
- Familiarize yourself with the cancer terms you might hear
- Read “When Your Dog Has Cancer: Making the Right Decisions for You and Your Dog” by Lola Ball – a practical guide to steer you gently through every step — from diagnosis and treatment options to cancer research and end of life care. Because the information is given by a pet parent who has been right where you are (three times), it’s an excellent primer for what you need to know now to create a targeted action plan.
- If you don’t have time to read her book, watch Lola’s 90-minute webinar Canine Cancer Insights: A Holistic and Balanced Approach to “get beyond the panic” and focus on your pup’s wellness
- Using Alternative Therapies to Fight Cancer, Dr. Karen Becker – discover “less toxic, effective therapies” to treat cancer
- What to Expect When You Visit a Veterinary Oncologist [Podcast], American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation – what to bring with you, common tests your dog may receive and how you can make best decision for treatment
Assemble Your Team
Get your team together. You’ll want to work with a holistic vet – and possibly an oncologist – to create your cancer action plan. If you have a trusting, nurturing relationship with your current veterinarian, ask her for a recommendation or start here:
- Find a holistic vet at American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
- Find an oncologist at Veterinary Cancer Society
The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) defines hospice as “focused on meeting the needs of pets and their families during the final stages of incurable disease and is an alternative to premature euthanasia.”
- Learn about the benefits of hospice from the IAAHPC
- Read this insightful article from The New York Times
- Take this workshop and learn how to apply “joy therapy” during hospice — how to move beyond the extreme sadness and celebrate the moments we have left with our cherished friend
- Find a hospice care provider in your area
Cope with becoming a “canine cancer caregiver” by holding onto a positive attitude (your dog can tell). Thinking positively will reduce your stress and give you much-needed energy to care for your pup and all that is to come. Anticipate the best, not the worst. Refuse to give into negative thoughts and feelings. Focus on creating action.
You got this.
This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated.