Miss Tillie's fight with canine lymphoma
We have been on quite a roller coaster with our sweet Miss Tillie. Miss Tillie is our Chinese Crested Yorkie mix rescue baby and one of our dog models on our precious pet website.
In May of 2020, when Miss Tillie was 9 years old, I notice enlarged lymph nodes or lumps on the right side of her neck which was diagnosed as Canine Lymphoma. I am a retired pharmacist who worked at a cancer institute for a couple of years but today, I am very anti-pharmaceuticals and adhere to a natural lifestyle. For this reason, the decision to give her chemotherapy was very difficult for me but without treatment, the prognosis for canine lymphoma is about 1 month. With treatment, the long term survival is 1 in 10. Not good odds but we couldn't stand the thought of losing our little girl in spite of our concerns about the cost.
Thank heaven we found an unbelievable canine oncologist. Her name is Dr Heidi Ward in Sarasota, Florida and it was about a 2 hour drive to her office until we moved closer. She is truly amazing and we are so lucky to have found a highly qualified pet oncologist who is genuinely concerned about the quality of life as well as the financial burden on the family. It's my girl's life and I would drive 12 hrs and get a hotel if I had to.
Well it's been 26 months and Miss Tillie is in her 4th remission and I want to share some of our experiences during Miss Tillie's fight against canine lymphoma.
First let me say that I was shocked at how well our little 8 pound girl handled the chemo. Depending on the drug, she was lethargic for 1 to 3 days with each round. The Doxorubicin was the toughest and gave her diarrhea for a couple days but it was the drug that has immediately put her in remission each time. Doxorubicin can only be given a maximum of 5 times which she has received.
Secondly, people should know that vaccines can knock a pet out of remission and even make further treatment ineffective. Unfortunately, Tillie was in her 3rd remission when I was rushed to the hospital and she had to be put into a kennel. The kennel facility administered a rabies vaccine, even though we sent an exemption letter from Dr Ward. When I picked Miss Tillie up 4 days later, her little belly had numerous lumps and severe bruising which was not there when she was brought to the kennel. Then when she got her 5th dose of Doxorubicin, she had a terrible reaction during infusion that she had never had before. Thankfully, Dr Ward and her staff knew just what to do. So PLEASE do not give your pet with canine lymphoma a vaccine.
Lastly, I want to address the cost of treatment. It varies dramatically. In the past, I paid nearly $3,000 for 1 visit for my dog to be misdiagnosed at Blue Pearl Veterinary Hospital so beware. With Dr. Ward, I don't think we've spent $3,000 over the 2 years and 4 remissions! I'm sure this varies by the drugs used and supporting therapy but that's been our experience and we are so thankful. So don't discount treatment just because of cost fears, Shop around and get recommendations.
Bottom line: In spite of the poor prognosis for canine lymphoma we have had our wonderful little Miss Tillie for 26 months more than we would have without chemo. It wasn't that hard on her and she's acting like a puppy today. She has had a great quality of life in spite of chemotherapy and the cost has been way less than we ever thought. We have her on a traditional Chinese medicine regimen of nutrients that is phenomenal for both humans and pets. I will talk about it in a later post.
Our Miss Tillie is going to be that 1 in 10 that beats canine lymphoma but your prayers are always welcome and greatly appreciated.