What I learned losing a dog to cancer

“You’re wrong”, I remember telling the vet.  “Nobody in my group is allowed to get cancer.”  Of course, while there are a lot of things I can control in my crew, apparently keeping cancer out of our vocabulary didn’t turn out to be one of them. Despite not spraying my yard, not vaccinating beyond puppy shots, and using only tick medication and wormer sparingly, this is the diagnosis it had come down to.  Somehow, I thought we were immune.

Roxie’s rough start 

Roxie had just turned 13 a few months earlier.  I’d taken her in in November 2003 when she and another puppy (that I was not able to catch) showed up down the road near a dry creek bed where a lot of the cats and dogs I’ve rescued over the years have come from.  She was a little puppy, but she was feisty, barking at us instead of coming when called and not wanting human interaction of any kind.  I finally had to catch her by sticking my hand in a hole under a big rock she’d crawled into and coaxing her out slowly with food.  Hence her name, Roxie.

Roxie was about 8 weeks old and weighed six pounds.  She was covered in mats, dirt, cockle burrs and debris.  She looked a lot like the neighbors’ Great Pyrenees dogs about 1-1/4 miles down the road, but when we called, he said he wasn’t missing any dogs.  Considering he lived in a house that looked like nobody lived there, it wasn’t really surprising.  Given her condition, we were glad that she’d escaped and that he didn’t claim her.

Roxie had hair missing from her tail and her ear, so we’d decided to get her well and then find her a good home.  She was such a little character, though, that we fell in love with her and decided to keep her.  Having come from a line of dogs living in such deplorable conditions, she apparently inherited a very strong immune system.  Before August 2016, the only time I could recall Roxie needing to go to the vet was for her puppy shots and to be spayed.

My dog got cancer
Roxie as a puppy. For the first few weeks, she hid under the furniture.

Reliable Roxie

Fast forward all those years of having Roxie outside every night, except the nights that were too bad (by my standards, not hers, as I’m pretty sure she had none when it came to the weather).  As a breed known for protecting livestock, she took being on the lookout very seriously despite there being no livestock to protect.  When she did want in the garage, usually because she wanted out of the heat, she would stand outside of the house and bark in a way that I knew exactly what she wanted.  If I took too long to let her in, when I did let her in, she’d be ‘sassy’ in what can best be described in an Arrr, Arrr, Arrr kind of whiney and playful way as she threw her head around.  Basically, I was being scolded by my dog for being too slow to respond to her request.

my dog's cancer diagnosis
Roxie preferred to be outside as much as possible. Here, she used my pampas grass as a makeshift nest.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) diagnosis

In August 2016, Roxie stopped eating like normal and was having trouble getting around.  I wasn’t entirely surprised the two were going hand in hand because the hip and joint supplement I was giving her was sprinkled on her food, so if she wasn’t consistently eating her food, she wasn’t getting her supplement and therefore, it was a trickle-down effect.  She was also having trouble going potty.  Suspecting something like a UTI, but wanting to be sure, due to her age, I made an appointment with the vet.  On August 26th, 2016 after a blood and urine test, Roxie was diagnosed with a UTI.  The vet had said these ‘older girls’ sometimes got UTI’s from holding their bladder so long.  We were given some antibiotics and sent home.

While the antibiotics helped, they didn’t completely alleviate Roxie’s symptoms.  Instead of putting her on more antibiotics, I decided, since we’d gotten a diagnosis of what the issue was, I’d put her on some natural remedy supplements and try to keep her ‘lady parts’ trimmed where the vet said the infection likely stemmed from.  I researched naturally treating UTI’s extensively online and came up with Resources Canine Urinary Tract Support  http://amzn.to/2vomSAT being highly recommended.  After using them for a couple of weeks and not having any better luck with them than I did the antibiotics, I decided to try the other product I’d found that also had very high success among users, Pala Tech Cranberry Plus Chew Tabs  http://amzn.to/2v4RKE0.

Hindsight is 20/20

Looking back, of course I’d have done things differently, had I only known.  It didn’t help matters that September 2016 had been a very hectic month.  Besides Roxie having her potty issues and her appetite waning so much I had to constantly try different foods and tricks to get her to eat, I also had a cat go missing in August and we had been out aggressively looking for him.  While looking for him, we ended up taking in a new cat in September that we ran across in our search that was not being fed in hopes he’d go away and then upgraded to being kept in the garage.  Lacey, one of my other rescue dogs, had a scary episode one Saturday of not being able to get up, drooling profusely, and being panicked, which required a costly after-hours emergency vet visit.  Between monitoring Roxie’s potty habits, acclimating a new cat to my other five cats, looking for a lost cat, and checking on Lacey regularly to make sure she was doing okay, all while trying to work, I was doing the best I could.

I also wasn’t extremely concerned about Roxie’s UTI being a bigger issue than it was because aside from the squatting more than usual to go potty and still not eating or subsequently getting around that well, she was acting pretty normal.  Her blood work, according to the vet, was fine and everything I’d read about senior dogs made it sound like a decreased appetite wasn’t really that unusual.  If I hand fed her, Roxie would eat two cans of the canned food most days I offered it to her, so I felt like that was encouraging.

Roxie, always in good health, isn’t getting better

As a rule, up to this point, my animals had all been very healthy.  I’d never had a dog with a UTI and my previous dogs, including my two other seniors, had smoothly sailed into their teens without much trouble.  Aside from a cough that I had almost completely eliminated, Sadie was otherwise very healthy at 13-1/2 before the vet had prescribed her the NSAID Previcox for arthritis, which proved fatal, that I wrote about here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/previcox-killed-my-dog/.  Her brother, Justin, was 14-1/2 when I decided neurological issues had affected his quality of life to the point in his last few months that letting him go was the kindest decision for him.  Sadie, Justin, and Roxie had only needed vet care a handful of times, so the idea of Roxie having something like cancer, didn’t even enter my realm of possibility.

As the weeks went by, I continued to try things to finally rid Roxie of what I still believed was just a stubborn UTI.  Twice a day, with canned food and supplements, I’d feed her from wherever spot she’d decided to lay out in the yard.  Canned food was still the only food I could consistently get her to eat after trying other options, including attempting to switch her to raw, thinking nobody would refuse that.  Roxie still preferred the canned, so that’s what she got.  The supplements were ones I’d researched to try to bring her back to good health.  Among other things, I tried Golden Paste, the coconut oil, turmeric and fresh ground black pepper mixture well known to fight inflammation, cannabis oil, and apple cider vinegar.  Knowing how hit or miss natural remedies can be and how long they can take to start working, every day I went out to her hoping that was the day that whatever thing I was trying on her, started helping her.

Another diagnosis – this time it’s cancer

Instead of helping her, even with all the things I was trying, Roxie continued to decline.  After her hind legs started to swell and she had even more trouble getting up and walking, despite still getting her daily supplements that had always kept her moving easily, I decided enough was enough and this wasn’t just some UTI that refused to go away.  I called the vet and made an appointment.

In the back of my mind, I think I feared something worse than a bad UTI, but I pushed those thoughts out because no matter how bad things are with anything, I always try to think positive and have hope.  All my researching of things online hadn’t even hit on the swelling being related to cancer.  After my three different bad vet experiences with Sadie, Cooper, and Lacey, I honestly didn’t have much faith in any of them.  I didn’t have the money for expensive tests and I wasn’t about to give Roxie anything with dangerous side effects after seeing what Previcox had done to Sadie.  I hoped that whatever it was was easily and quickly treatable with natural remedies.

Roxie’s appointment was on November 18th.  When the vet ran the tests and came back in the room, her news was nothing short of devastating.  Aside from the Lymphedema in her legs, Roxie had a UTI, a fever, and was anemic.  She thought Roxie either had Lymphosarcoma or Bladder Cancer.

As shocking and heartbreaking as either of those diagnosis’ were to hear, even more upsetting was her telling me that 50% OF DOGS OVER AGE 10 GET CANCER.  Why didn’t that first vet we saw back in August tell me this?!  And how did Roxie go from just having a UTI a few months ago to her current dire state?

I can tell you unequivocally without a doubt, that if I had been made aware of that cancer statistic at our first vet visit, I would have been much more concerned after the run of antibiotics and the other urinary tract supplements I tried, failed to give her permanent relief.  One out of two dogs getting cancer is a serious statistic and even though I would never have expected it to happen in my crew, I feel it is valuable information that every dog owner should know.  Especially those with dogs well over ten and having health issues that could be indicative of a more serious problem.  Instead, after looking at Roxie’s blood and urine test results, the previous vet had downplayed her symptoms and diagnosis as just the result of Roxie being a senior female dog.

The fight for Roxie’s life

Still in shock and disbelief, all I could do was cry.  Cry for Roxie and the fact that we’d lost valuable time fighting whatever this was because I’d only been led to believe it was a run of the mill UTI common in older female dogs and had been treating it as such.  The vet, ready to give up on Roxie, went through the options, none of which were going to help, only make her “comfortable” before she died.  Giving my dog immune suppressing drugs when she needed her immune system to fight this disease was not an option.  I knew Roxie was tough and if any of my dogs could ever beat this, it would be her.

I brought Roxie home to begin our fight now that I knew approximately what we were fighting.  We were very late to the game and things didn’t look good at all, but I was determined to save Roxie.  And prove this vet wrong.  Especially after she’d told me that if Roxie were her dog, she’d take her off of all of the supplements I had her on.

I set about researching every possible cancer treatment or cure there was. There is a docu-series titled ‘The Truth About Cancer’ which I had watched parts of the year before that talked about all of the cancer treatments available that are not widely known that have been used to cure it.  A couple of them that I had jotted down, just in case, were Essiac Tea and the Budwig Diet.

I bought this Essiac Tea Concentrate  http://amzn.to/2uaiupu  from Amazon and had it overnighted.  I also had Will go by the health store and pick me up a few large bottles of Flaxseed Oil and some low fat cottage cheese for the Budwig diet protocol.  With Thanksgiving coming up and him being gone visiting his family out of state for a few days, I didn’t want to have to leave Roxie for a minute.  By this time, she was needing help getting up to go out and not always making it.

I wish I could say that the Essiac Tea, Budwig Diet, powdered Argentinian beef liver, the tons of supplements I bought to help boost her immune system, including liposomal vitamin C, shark cartilage, mushroom immunity booster, Artemisinin, Astragalus, and Cat’s Claw saved Roxie.  But they didn’t.  She passed away December 10th, 2016, three weeks after her diagnosis and 3-1/2 months after her first vet visit.

Another dog lost, another hard lesson learned

Maybe if I’d been more proactive with vet care, or the vet had paid more attention to Roxie’s symptoms or the blood test results or even mentioned that there was a 50% chance Roxie might have or would get cancer, the outcome would have been different.  It’s hard to say.  One thing is for certain though, now that I know the awful statistic and that my animals aren’t immune, I will never be so reserved with any treatment when appetite disappears and doesn’t come back within a few days.  In both Sadie and Roxie’s cases, that was the start of the end.

Roxie’s story is another instance of as a pet owner, you have to trust your gut or just as importantly, be informed.  I’m not sure how, with as much time as I spend online, I never saw the statistic that 50% of dogs over age 10 get cancer, but I can tell you I will forever be paranoid about it now.  Cancer is a nasty disease that can obviously have common symptoms with other maladies and it can strike and kill quickly if not diagnosed properly and/or treated correctly and promptly.

Despite feeding raw, minimizing vaccines and toxic exposure, adding supplements, or whatever else you may be doing that you believe makes your dog immune from cancer, just know that statistic.  And if your senior dog begins to have any health issues, don’t let a naive/uninformed/negligent or whatever the case may be, vet be nonchalant about it.  If your vet brushes you off or you question the diagnosis, don’t be hesitant to go back or get a 2nd opinion.  You would have thought I’d have learned my lesson after the nightmare with Sadie and that vet, but apparently, I didn’t realize just how common vet negligence was until I lost two dogs from it.

I will be writing a future post about treating cancer naturally and all of the products I researched and tried, as well as the ones that seemed promising, but that I didn’t try.  If you aren’t subscribed to my newsletter yet, please sign up for it so you don’t miss it.


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