Just before Christmas 2014 I discovered 2 small lumps near Mikey's throat and having previously experienced this with my last Golden Retriever, I had a fair idea what the outcome may be – canine lymphoma. Unfortunately, I was correct as tests within the next couple of days proved.
My last dog was a good candidate for chemotherapy as I had picked up the symptoms early, but at 13 years old and with other health issues I decided to just go with a course of Prednisone, to slow the progress and keep him comfortable. As per most of the predicted timeline outcomes, I got a precious 9 more weeks to spoil Carter before he succumbed to the cancer. He was happy in those 9 weeks, especially with the extra food and he still had his daily walks and played with the rest of my canine family, but he did progressively slow down as his muscle tone was lost due to the steroids and the lymphoma spread.
With Mikey (age 10.5 years) I also had options, as I had again detected the lymphoma in its early stages. I was going to go along the same route as Carter (prednisone only) as I didn’t think Mikey would cope with weekly IV treatments, but listened to all the options I had available and decided to go with a middle of the road treatment protocol that I didn’t know was available – CCNU (an oral administered drug given once every 3 weeks for 5 treatments, plus an initial short course of prednisone). At this stage I had little knowledge of canine chemotherapy but found there are options that an owner can feel comfortable about choosing and I am very happy with my decision.
Mikey’s treatment started 4 days after I had detected the lumps. Initially he seemed to feel a bit nauseous over a 24 hour period as he drooled quite a bit (especially overnight) and was quieter than usual, but no vomiting or diarrhoea. The prednisone increased his appetite and thirst, so there were more frequent times during the night when he needed to be let outside, on a bad night twice, but that was a small price to pay.
The treatment seemed to very quickly halt any progress on the lymphoma spreading and Mikey’s submandibular nodes started shrinking, being that Mikey’s lymphoma was typed as T cell (the more aggressive type compared to B cell) I was thrilled, but still knew there were no guarantees as to how each dog and their cancer cells will respond to their treatment option.
Mikey has been very closely monitored throughout his treatment with weekly check-ups, usually involving blood tests to see just how his body was coping, and with the help of the very meticulous team at Total Vets, dedicated to providing the best possible oncology care, his treatment plan was tailored to suit his particular needs. This involved administering an antinausea drug before each chemo treatment (just one was required each 3 weeks) and also a couple of days of another drug to help line and protect his stomach. I am pleased to say after his 3rd treatment; even the slight nausea side effects were non-existent.
Throughout, Mikey has remained his usual cheeky, happy self (actually even more so after the first couple of treatments as the lymphoma was controlled and he started feeling better) and apart from some dry, flaky skin and the expected low immunity after treatment (which was covered by administering antibiotics to protect him from infections), he has been living the exact same life he was before he developed lymphoma. He plays with my other dogs, does his usual forest walks and has been enjoying lots of swims over the summer, plus lapping up lots of extra special cuddles and food treats.
At the time of writing this, Mikey is almost a week post his last chemo treatment, so now it’s a waiting game to see if he goes into remission for awhile. There is a possibility he won’t and the lymphoma will return but considering he would not still be here with me right now without the CCNU and the fact that both he, I and his litter sister and niece, have had a lot more quality time to enjoy with each other over the last 3 months, I certainly have no doubts at all about my choice of protocol and would absolutely use this treatment option again in similar circumstances.
Joanne Wilson and Mikey