New options for cancer treatments in dogs don’t exactly occur every day. Around 2008, I heard of a new option to complement cancer surgery. So far, my results using this option have been very impressive.
Until recently, my “follow up” treatment after removal of cancerous tumors included chemotherapy and radiation therapy, just like in people. Both options have potential side-effects, and their cost can reach thousands of dollars, that’s why I’m excited about the new option of chemo beads.
About chemo beads
Chemo beads cost a fraction of any other option. Using chemo beads, veterinarians are now able to place tiny cisplatin-impregnated beads around the tumor site. Cisplatin is then slowly released from the beads, which are reabsorbed by the body over 4-6 weeks. Cisplatin is a common chemo drug, normally used IV in our canine cancer patients. One of the most common side-effects of this method is kidney damage. Now, by including a minuscule dose of cisplatin in the beads (instead of IV), we are able to drastically decrease, if not eliminate, the side-effects.
The beads measure 3 mm in diameter, or about 1 tenth of an inch.
The limitations of chemo beads
Although cisplatin beads seem to prevent the cancer from coming back, they do not prevent spreading (metastasis), e.g. to the lungs. Luckily, some of these tumors do not spread readily to begin with.
When are the beads placed?
The best time to place the beads is at the time of surgery, when we know exactly where the tumor was and where cancer-free “margins” (i.e. edges) are questionable. Implanting beads after the surgery (e.g. after the biopsy report reveals narrow margins) has 3 drawbacks:
- It is difficult to know where margins were
- It requires another surgery under anesthesia
- There are additional costs.
The number of beads varies with the size of the tumor. They are typically placed every 1-2 cm. However, to decrease the risk of complications, we try to limit the number of beads to 15 in dogs. This means that the tumor can’t be too big, if the patient is to be a good candidate.
Side-effects of chemo beads
Side-effects are rare and typically local. They occasionally include swelling, irritation and skin drainage. Although IV cisplatin is toxic to the kidneys in dogs, general side-effects have not been observed after bead placement in dogs.
Chemo bead safety for people
Ironically, chemo drugs can cause cancer. Therefore, the pet parent should not touch any drainage with their bare hands. It is important to wear disposable, single-use gloves to clean any oozing. The patient should wear an E collar 24/7, and should be separated from other pets.
FDA on chemo beads
Cisplatin beads have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in dogs. However, there are almost no FDA chemotherapy drugs approved for pets! Most often, what veterinarians must use are actual human drugs.
Which cancers might chemo beads be used for?
Cisplatin beads do not work on all tumors. Your veterinarian or a veterinary surgeon is in the best position to decide if they are appropriate. Indications include tumors removed with “thin margins” such as:
- Soft tissue sarcomas (nerve sheath tumor, fibrosarcoma, hemangiopericytoma)
- Melanoma (in the skin or the mouth)
- Some carcinomas (squamous cell carcinoma, salivary gland carcinoma, thyroid carcinoma, anal sac carcinoma)
I have used the beads in a variety of cancerous tumors with impressive results, including:
- After the removal of a cancerous tumor (carcinoma) of the anal gland in dogs (most common)
- Multiple soft tissue sarcomas, e.g. a nerve sheath tumor in the upper thigh, a fibrosarcoma in the tongue, hemangiopericytomas in the legs
- Several thyroid cancerous masses (carcinoma)
My view of chemo beads
So far the beads have been remarkably well tolerated, and I have not seen any toxicity at all, in the kidney or anywhere else. They can, however, have local side-effects, around the surgery area. Based on informal conversations, other surgeons who use the beads have been as impressed as I have with the results.
So what’s my take? Overall, the beads are keeping their promise: they are effective, cost far less than all other options, and have had few side-effects.
Chemo beads have changed the way I deal with cancer surgery. Sadly, few colleagues have even heard about them. Hopefully, more surgeons start to use them, so that more patients can benefit from the tiny beads nationwide.
Next, check out: "Tiny Beads Cause a Revolution in Cancer Treatment in Cats" >
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Friday, September 18, 2015
2. Feeding your dog a special diet can prevent cancer.
Just as in human cancer, there is no special diet or superfood that can prevent cancer in pets. However, some studies do show the benefits of different vegetables and herbal supplements in improving the overall health of a pet, both those with and without cancer. For example, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine treated dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma with the Yunzhi mushroom, also known as the Coriolus versicolor mushroom. The results were promising, with the dogs treated with the mushroom having the longest survival times compared to other treatment studies conducted by the school. It should be noted that this is only one study and that more trials are underway. Furthermore, all dogs in this trial had already been diagnosed with cancer.
No definitive studies prove that a certain diet or supplement will prevent cancer. For more information about various pet supplements, check out the article written by the Animal Medical Center of New York.
When reading about how different herbal supplements and natural remedies can possibly cure cancer, make sure:
- To confirm that a board-certified veterinary oncologist wrote the article.
- That the study was a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved clinical trial – and that other studies have been conducted around the same ingredient.
- To look for legitimate studies published in peer-reviewed journals like the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) or Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (JVIM), which covers veterinary studies in animal internal medicine, oncology, neurology, and cardiology.
5 Side Effects of Revolution for Dogs
Revolution for dogs is a topical treatment for parasites. Because the topical medication protects against ear mites, fleas, mange, parasitic worms, including heartworm, and ticks, it's extremely cost effective and beneficial. It's widely recommended by veterinarians to prevent common diseases spread by insect bites.
Revolution is generally safe for dogs over the age of six weeks, but there can be uncommon side effects. Not every dog experiences the five main side effects, in fact, only about one percent of dogs on Revolution ever experience any problem. However, because there is a small chance of an overdose or reaction, pet owners are advised to know the signs of poisoning or overdose.
Do not use Revolution for dogs on sick, elderly, pregnant or underweight animals without first consulting a veterinarian. Drug interactions may also occur, so make sure you notify your veterinarian of any medication, prescription or non-prescription, including vitamin supplements, that your dog is currently taking.
How can you get an infection from a pet?
Bites and scratches
It’s best if you can avoid bites and scratches while you are getting cancer treatment. If your pet plays rough, you may have to call a halt to that until your immune system recovers.
- Get your dog or cat’s claws trimmed often so that you’re less likely to be scratched.
- Scratches should be cleaned and covered until they heal.
- If any redness, swelling, or pus forms around a scratch, call your doctor right away.
- If your pet bites and breaks the skin, call your doctor. All bites carry the risk of infection and can require hospitalization even in people with normal immune systems. It’s likely you’d need antibiotics and maybe other treatment, depending on the location and severity of the bite. Cat bites are especially likely to become infected, because their long narrow teeth can make deep puncture wounds that are hard to clean.
Feces and urine
A number of illnesses can be spread via pet droppings, and a few spread through urine.
- Keep litter boxes away from food preparation areas and places where people eat.
- Have someone else remove waste from the litter box or bird cage every day and discard it safely.
- If a pet has an accident inside, it’s best to get someone else to clean it up and the area should be disinfected.
- If you must do the clean-up, wear disposable waterproof gloves and wash your hands afterward.
Licking, saliva, and vomit
A few illnesses can be transmitted by saliva, so it’s best not to let your pet lick open cuts or near your mouth.
- Wash with soap and water if you get pet saliva on your skin.
- Any vomit should be cleaned up by someone else if possible, while wearing waterproof disposable gloves.
Some germs can be picked up by touching or petting the animal. That’s why washing your hands after pet contact is important.
Protecting your health during cancer treatment
Here are some tips that can help keep you safe during cancer treatment.
- Avoid very close contact, such as kissing, snuggling, or sleeping with your pet in the same bed.
- Visit your veterinarian so your pet(s) can be checked for any diseases that might cause infection and get medications to prevent infections from heartworms, fleas, or ticks.
- Make sure your pet(s) are up to date with their vaccinations. Ask your vet whether any vaccines are “live,” and check with your cancer team before live vaccines are given.
- Have your cat(s) tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses. Even though these viruses can’t infect humans, they affect the cat’s immune system and put them at risk of other infections that can infect humans.
- Bring your pet(s) to a veterinarian if you suspect they are sick.
- Keep your pets and their sleeping areas clean.
- Feed pets only high-quality commercial canned or dry food, or well-cooked table food. Never let them have old or spoiled food, raw meat or its juices.
- Wear waterproof disposable gloves if you must clean the fish tank, bird cage, cat litter box, or to pick up dog droppings.
- Bird cage liners should be cleaned every day.
- Don’t handle the outside of your gloves after you use them. Remove gloves by pulling off from the inside surface at the cuff, then discard them.
- Wash your hands after petting, caring for, touching, feeding, or cleaning up after pets (even if you wore gloves).
- Wash your hands before taking medicines and handling food, dishes, or other things in the kitchen.
- Ask others to clean fish tanks and cages of birds or other pets.
- Avoid contact with animals you don’t know, especially strays or those that look sick.
- Avoid contact with reptiles, their cages or terraria, and objects from their cages.
- Wear gloves when gardening to avoid contact with animal droppings.
- Keep your pets, like cats and dogs indoors as much as possible to minimize exposure to other pets and animals, such as birds and rodents.
- Make sure you have someone who can take care of your pets and their living quarters if you get too sick or have to be in the hospital. Keep written instructions for feeding, cleaning, medicines, toileting, and veterinary contacts ready if needed.
- Getting a new pet during cancer treatment isn’t usually recommended. But if a family chooses to adopt a pet, a healthy older dog or cat would probably pose less risk than those under a year old. The animal should be checked by a veterinarian before it’s brought home. Puppies and kittens can pose higher risks than older pets. They're also more likely to play rough, bite, or have in-home "accidents" that must be cleaned up.
- If your pet has a runny nose, cough, weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea, see a veterinarian right away. He could have an infection that can be passed on to you. A person with a weak immune system might be at higher risk of getting an illness from their pet when it’s sick.
- Keep your pet away from animal waste, garbage, and other "found treats".
- Don't let your pet drink from the toilet or standing water outside.
- Don't allow your pet to visit with sick pets or wild or stray animals.
- Watch for signs of rats or mice in your home, and take measures to control them. Don’t allow your pet to hunt them keep pets away from any infested areas. After rodents are gone, the area should be thoroughly disinfected using a bleach mixture.
Keeping pets healthy
Be sure that the vet prescribes medicines to prevent heartworms, and use flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats. Pets and their sleeping areas will also need to be kept clean. You might need help with your pets’ care during some parts of your cancer treatment – it’s good to line up a helper or two before you start treatment.
Help your pet avoid infections
- Keep your dog inside except for brief outings to use the toilet and walks on the leash in places where they won’t meet other animals.
- Cats should also be kept inside – those that go out are likely to hunt birds and small rodents. This is a common way cats get a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis. It doesn’t often make the cat sick, but it can seriously sicken or even kill someone with weakened immunity.
- Keep your pet from visiting with “outside” pets of unknown health. It’s best not to board your pet in a kennel if you can avoid it.
- Dog parks and pet stores that allow pets inside are other places where pets can pick up new infections.
How high-tech treatments add hope, and cost, to keeping a sick pet alive
If your golden retriever was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, you were likely given two options: chemotherapy or compassionate euthanasia. Today, you may have access to a variety of advanced treatments, such as stents that deliver high doses of chemotherapy straight to the cancerous growth, the injection of tiny beads that block the tumor’s blood supply or precise radiation guided by high-definition imagery. You may even be able to take advantage of what many veterinary oncologists consider the holy grail: new immunotherapies that harness your pet’s immune system to launch an attack on cancerous cells.
“That’s what is so cool about this,” says Dr. John Chretin, head of oncology at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Not only are there more treatment options available, but “nowadays, we’re getting better at predicting which cancers will do better with minimal therapy or if we need to break out the big guns.”
Cancer treatment is one area that has seen a huge transformation — in part because of new imaging techniques that allow veterinarians to know exactly what they’re dealing with. But high-definition imaging has also allowed for the development of minimally invasive procedures used to treat such conditions as kidney stones, collapsed airways, blood clots and broken bones.
High-tech tools that are standard equipment in human medicine, such as MRI machines, CT scanners and specialized scopes, have only recently become more widely used in veterinary medicine.
“We have the same technology available as human medicine the only limiting factor is the cost,” says Dr. David Proulx, head of radiation oncology at California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad. Medical equipment costs the same whether you use it on a person or a poodle, so most veterinary practices can’t afford to invest in the latest machines. However, as human facilities upgrade to newer, better machines, veterinary hospitals can buy secondhand equipment.
There are far fewer research studies in veterinary medicine than there are in human medicine, Proulx says. Because drug companies don’t make high profits from investing in veterinary treatments and government agencies are focused on human medicine, very little funding goes toward veterinary research. The exception is when animal model studies can be applied to human medicine — but even then, once trials have shown a medication to be effective in pets, drug companies don’t often make the product available for veterinarians to use. They simply move on to developing the drug to market for humans.
And when new treatments are available, they often come at a high cost — raising difficult questions for pet owners. Few have pet insurance, and those who do have policies may find that they have high deductibles or are reimbursed for only a small percentage of expensive procedures. In the face of lifesaving treatments that may cost upward of $10,000, even those who can afford to foot the bill may struggle with the question of how much their canine companion’s life is worth.
The proliferation of options is what is so exciting about the recent developments in veterinary medicine, Chretin says. “Now we can say, ‘Your dog has lymphoma.’ We can give standard treatment with medicine. Or we can do antibody therapy in addition to chemotherapy. Or we can go crazy with a [bone marrow] transplant. If it’s an older dog, or the owner doesn’t have enough money, we can go more conservative.”
Here is a glimpse into some treatments that have the potential to add high-quality years to your animal companions’ lives:
Bone marrow transplant
As far as cutting-edge treatments go, this is one of the most sophisticated available. Because it’s so specialized and expensive (about $20,000), it’s not very accessible to most pet owners. But it offers a potential cure for lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Chretin is one of the few veterinarians in the country who does bone marrow transplants. The procedure is exactly the same as that done in humans, he says. First, a dog is treated with a high dose of chemotherapy and a hormone that causes stem cells to release from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. A couple of weeks later, the dog is hooked up to a blood-separating machine that collects stem cells from the blood. The next day, the dog is treated with total-body radiation to wipe out all the white blood cells and, afterward, the harvested cells are infused back into the dog, where they will regenerate white blood cells in a, hopefully, cancer-free environment. The cure rate is about 40%.
Because radiation doesn’t distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells, there is typically a limit to how much can be used without damaging healthy body tissues. CyberKnife is a system of robotic radiosurgery that delivers radiation so precisely that patients can tolerate a much higher dose with few side effects. While the machine takes continuous X-rays of a patient, a robotic arm delivers beamlets of radiation from 140 angles, all of which converge on the tumor with an accuracy of less than 1 millimeter. Because it is so precise, the veterinarian must know exactly where the tumor is located, says Proulx, who is one of only a handful of veterinarians in the world who are using CyberKnife in pets. “Not all pets and tumors are candidates, but we’ve certainly seen that in dogs with brain tumors we’ve been able to double the survival time.” The procedure costs approximately $12,000.
Stem cell therapy is one facet of veterinary medicine that has been pioneered ahead of human medicine. Dr. Nicole Buote, chief of surgery at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, uses stem cells harvested from fat to help pets that suffer from arthritis, torn tendons and degenerative spinal problems. She harvests patients’ belly fat laparoscopically from a 2 centimeter incision, then sends the tissue off to VetStem, a company in San Diego, where it is processed with enzymes that separate fat cells from stem cells. VetStem banks some of the stem cells and sends the rest back to Buote. She can either inject the stem cells into a patient’s joint or administer them through an IV, where they travel through the bloodstream and home in on areas of inflammation. They work both mechanically and chemically, by rebuilding new tissue in damaged areas as well as shutting down chemical processes that cause damage. Though stem cell therapy in humans has recently come under the scrutiny of the FDA, several studies have shown that stem cells extracted from fat tissue are effective in relieving arthritis and torn tendons in dogs and horses.
“This is not magic — it’s not going to make a 10-year-old dog like a 1-year-old dog. But stem cells can stop inflammation in joints and can start to heal some of the tissues,” Buote says. The initial harvesting and treatment cost is $2,500, with subsequent injections every three to six months, at about $200 per treatment. (The stem cell banking fee is free the first year, then $150 annually.)
The melanoma vaccine is another area where veterinary medicine is ahead of human medicine — and one that may have future human applications. Melanoma, a cancer of the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), is one of the most common cancers found in dogs. Unlike in people, in dogs it has nothing to do with sun exposure and is usually found in the mouth. Since the melanoma vaccine is not preventive, the name is a bit of a misnomer, Proulx says. Sold under the trade name Oncept, it’s used to lengthen survival time after a patient has undergone surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The treatment is a form of immunotherapy, in which a strand of DNA that’s encoded for a protein normally found only on melanocytes is injected into a dog. The protein stimulates an increased immune response in the dog, tricking its immune system into attacking the cancerous melanocytes. Oncept costs about $2,800 for a series of four shots.
If regular veterinary medicine is behind human medicine in terms of technological advances, exotic animal medicine is medicine’s forgotten stepchild. There are very few research studies on exotic species, and those that are available are often limited to a single species. “A tortoise is not a snake, is not a lizard, is not a frog — and, even among one of those groups, they’re all different species, from different countries,” says Dr. Amy Wells, an exotic vet at the Avian and Exotic Clinic of Monterey. Plus, she adds, most pet owners are not willing to pay as much money to save the life of their iguana or parakeet as they would for their dog. So groundbreaking treatments in exotic animal medicine are a little less dramatic.
But one recent innovation has been able to span many species. Deslorelin is a contraceptive hormone that has been formulated into a sustained-release implant and is widely used as birth control in zoos. Only within the last couple of years has it become commercially available in the exotic pet market. The size of a rice grain, the implant is inserted beneath the skin with a wide-gauge needle. Over time the implant releases deslorelin, which acts on the pituitary gland to shut down the cascade of circulating reproductive hormones. Wells uses it to treat adrenal gland disease in ferrets, as well as to relieve parrots suffering from sexual frustration — often self-mutilating and becoming aggressive to their owners — when they are kept in captivity without a mate. She also frequently implants deslorelin in backyard chickens to prevent oviduct impaction — a life-threatening condition that occurs when eggs get backed up in the reproductive system and which costs about $1,000 to surgically repair. The implant costs $200 and lasts four to six months in a chicken parrots should have a replacement implant yearly, ideally before the breeding season begins.
Unfortunately, your natural flea plan cannot be completed by doing something once and calling it good. Those who have the most success stamping out fleas instigate a multi-pronged, ongoing approach.
STEP #1: Make your pet an unwelcome place for pests.
Fleas are anatomically designed to burrow themselves in animal fur, making your best friend a flea’s favorite hide out and lunch spot. The first step in cutting the flea current is to get rid of those fleas that have already set up shop.
If your pooch has a severe infestation, get him into the tub right away. Believe it or not, a simple shampoo of equal parts biodegradable dish soap and vinegar added to 4 parts water will kill adult fleas almost instantly.
After shampooing, be sure to comb your dog thoroughly with a fine-toothed flea comb. Have a bowl of sudsy water handy so you can dip the comb in it between swipes.
STEP #2: Use a natural flea treatment for your home and yard.
Clean, clean, clean your floor and pet bedding at least once a week. Vacuum your carpet often, as well as between couch cushions. Toxicologists at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recommend daily cleaning for intense infestations. 10
In addition, you can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth 11 or borax on carpets. Both of these substances are non-toxic to humans and animals, but should not be inhaled. Be sure that no one (including your pet) is around when you sprinkle the powder and wear protective gloves and a mask. The powder should sit for several hours before vacuuming. Use diatomaceous earth that is intended for garden or home, not the chemically-treated varieties meant for swimming pools.
Finally, consider “nematodes” in your yard. These are microorganisms that love to feed on flea larvae. They can be sprayed on landscaped areas and lawns and are totally safe for animals and humans. 12 If nematodes are not available, try garlic. Fleas hate it, so planting it around you home or spraying “garlic water” (garlic boiled in water and steeped for several hours) can be effective as well. Go light with the spray, however, since too much garlic can sometimes harm beneficial bugs.
Especially during hot, humid weather, you will want to add natural flea control techniques to your weekly routine. In addition, there are actions you can take every day.
When a dog’s immune system is strong, they will be less likely to succumb to conditions such as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Stay away from cheap commercial dogfoods that may contain infection-laden animal parts and moldy grains. B vitamins can ensure a shiny, flea resistant coat. Coconut oil is also an anti-bacterial that can be mixed directly in with food (and most dogs love the taste).
Black walnut has been a traditional flea repellant for centuries 13 but be sure to consult with a holistic vet since too much can be toxic. Also keep in mind that digestive health is directly related to skin health. Your dog needs digestive enzymes and probiotics just as much as you do.
Finally, you can make a natural yet effective spritz for daily application. There are dozens of natural dog flea repellent recipes out there. The easiest is vinegar and water or a few drops of lemon essential oil and water. Add to a spray bottle, shake, and spray! (Avoiding your dog’s eyes, ears, and other sensitive areas, of course.)