President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush’s dog Barney, a twelve-year-old Scottish Terrier, died this week of lymphoma. Lymphoma is one of the most common diseases veterinary oncologists diagnose and treat in dogs and cats. In many practices, almost 50% of the cancers treated are lymphoma. Canine lymphoma is virtually identical to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in people in terms of biological behavior, as well as molecular and genetic changes. What we learn about better diagnostics and treatments in dogs that have lymphoma can help people and the new effective therapies yet to be discovered for lymphoma in people may help our pets.Treatment for lymphoma typically involves chemotherapy, as lymphoma is really a systemic disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Many pet owners assume chemotherapy causes severe side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss; however, most pets treated with chemotherapy do not respond this way. Veterinary oncologists working alongside pet owners have made a conscious decision to modify chemotherapy protocols to lessen and eliminate reactions, maximizing both quality of life as well as survival time. Because pets live compressed lifespans, the veterinary professional and the owner consistently evaluate the quality of life of a pet to determine if continuing treatment is the best option.
The death of Barney from cancer reminds us that no dog, no cat, no person is immune from the reach of this devastating disease. Our hearts go out to President and Mrs. Bush, not because of who they are, but because they have lost a beloved member of their family, their pet, to cancer.
For more information about lymphoma in dogs, go to http://www.vcchope.com/resource-center/typesofcancer.
For more information about the similarities between human and pet cancers go to http://www.acfoundation.org.
Dr. Gerald Post