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Some facts on canine melanoma

Siwa sleeping again!Needless to say that I’ve been scouring the web for information on canine melanoma. Here’s the important stuff:

  • it is an aggressive form of cancer that typically appears in the mouth
  • dogs that are beyond the initial stages will not survive beyond five months with conventional therapies
  • treatment often includes radiation and surgery
  • the cancer spreads rapidly and is often unresponsive to chemotherapy
  • it can be incredibly painful
  • most common in dogs with dark pigmentation
  • there is a vaccine that has shown promise in clinical studies; published reports have included individuals whose cancer completely disappeared!!

Here are some facts about Siwa, based on the lab results from the vet:

  • though she is 12 and has cancer, her blood work apparently had a healthy dose of all the good things (sorry I’m a little fuzzy on the details)
  • she has a healthy appetite (loss of appetite is a bad sign)
  • she still has control of all her bodily functions (thank goodness!)
  • she can still see, hear, and smell
  • though she has slowed down on the trail, she still exhibits a playful enthusiasm when she hears the word W-A-L-K
  • in short, if it weren’t for the cancer, she would be perfectly healthy

Back to the vaccine. The vet said she is a good candidate for the vaccine, which is administered four times in two-week intervals.

It’s expensive (~$700/shot) but not as expensive as the less successful surgery and radiation (~$5K-$8K), nor is it as uncomfortable. If the tumors grow back after the first two shots, then we know the vaccine is not working and we discontinue with the treatment and just give her painkillers. My biggest concern has always been Siwa’s quality of life. This was the least intrusive, least painful, and least expensive option.

Siwa was with me at the beginning of my journey into adulthood – she put up with a lot from me, including every significant relationship I’ve ever had, five moves (one of which involved crossing several state lines), two cats, and Sammy. It’s the least I can do for her.

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2 Responses to “Some facts on canine melanoma”

  1. Theresa says:

    Trish keeps her wry sense of humor in spite of the sadness: “in short, if it weren’t for the cancer, she would be perfectly healthy.” Good lord.

    I’m wishing Siwa a very happy and pain-free day today. Do you remember the time Smokey came home from the other side of the mountains and you were so happy you yanked out the entire roast chicken in your fridge and fed it to the poor dog? I guess Siwa will be getting take-out from Morton’s steakhouse one of these days…

  2. trish says:

    Oh, Siwa is getting home made dog food: ground turkey, with veggies, rice, doggie vitamins, glucosamine, and all sorts of yummie goodness, thrown into a blender to make it nice and squishy. Her mouth is still healing so her food has to be in a form that she can slurp up and swallow! Yum!

    By the way, I think the vaccine is working! The bounce in her step is back!