Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Rusty a beautiful 8 year old Spoodle (Spaniel cross poodle). Rusty is a fantastic dog with a gorgeous, affectionate personality. Unfortunately for Rusty we was having trouble going to the toilet and his breathing had become a bit noisy and raspy causing some discomfort.
Rusty had an anal gland infection but we also noticed that the lymph nodes all over his body were enlarged. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system so they can be swollen from infection, inflammation but also rarely due to cancer. We got a sample by drawing up some cells from the glands with a fine needle and sending them to a pathologist. This can sometimes save a full biopsy where a large sample is taken surgically under anaesthesia. We sent Rusty home on some antibiotics for his anal gland infection while we waited for the results.
You can imagine our devastation a few days later when we got the results confirming Rusty has type of cancer known as lymphoma. We discussed his options including palliative care until his quality of life deteriorated necessitating euthanasia. This would only give him a matter of weeks to live, or we could try chemotherapy. Lucky for Rusty, his human companions loved him a great deal and considered he was too young to give up on without a fight.
When people think of chemotherapy many imagine the hair falling out, weight loss, nausea, lethargy, long hospital stays and generally feeling unwell. In animals this is not usually the case as we don’t push so hard for a cure. Our aim is to cause long term remission of the cancer so as to make them feel well again. Some cancers such as Rusty’s can respond well and we can get remission for months to years. This is a great outcome considering a year is a long time in a dog’s life.
Chemotherapy can be very sophisticated and highly tailored to the individual but sometimes the budget doesn’t spread that far so we may try a simplified version that still can be effective and affordable.
The good news for Rusty is that he is in full remission. All his glands are back to a normal size, he is breathing normally and going to the toilet does not cause him trouble anymore. Every week he bounds into our hospital eager for some treats and lots of cuddles from our staff, for a short stay while he gets his treatment. Rusty is happy, eating well, maintaining his weight and loving life.