When Your Dog Has Cancer:Making the Right Decisions for You and Your Dog


By Lola Ball. Dogwise Publishing. $14.95.

With the increasing incidence of canine cancer, few of us have not owned an affected dog or not known someone who has.

We have owned three – a greyhound with osteoscarcoma, a German shepherd with spleen cancer and golden retriever with hemangiosarcoma – and it left us numb each time.

As Ball, a Redmond author notes, the first is a teaching lesson for the owner in negotiating the canine cancer pathway, accented with lessons and questions aplenty. Ball has ventured down that route twice with Porter, a chocolate Labrador retriever, and Jasper, a yellow Labrador retriever/hound mix.

The guidebook addresses diagnosis, types of cancer, treatment plans (both Eastern and Western modalities), hospice care, diet and nutrition, providing your dog a high quality of life, prevention, the natural dying process, embracing grief and honoring memories and featuring real-life canine cancer experiences. A glossary, resource list, and listing of pet loss and grief support phone lines complement the earlier information.

While Ball gives only a cursory look at the types of cancer, she serves up a solid explainer on location, grading and staging of tumors, along with recognizing signs. In the Treatment Plans chapter, the author poses a sound variety of questions to ask, an overview of treatment options, featuring a chart listing the pros and cons of each modality.

After the cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, the owner has plenty more to consider, namely making certain the animal maintains a quality of life for as long as possible and then approaching the gut-wrenching end-of-life decision. Like it or not, finances play a key role in owner decisions on how to and for how long to proceed with treatment and care.

Ball writes that exercise, stress reduction, quality of sleep, grooming, positive and happy outlook and massage are all factors in maintaining a high quality of life for the cancer-ridden patient.

“Having gone through two canine cancer experiences, I can assure you that you will want to do everything you can to prevent it from happening in the first place,” she emphasizes. By managing contributing factors such as nutrition, avoiding environmental and household toxins, providing access to clean, filtered water, limiting vaccines and carefully researching medications, exposure to second-hand smoke, the owner can play a positive role in minimizing the dog’s cancer risk.

“When Your Dog Has Cancer” is an elementary primer designed to make you proactive and become a key member of the triad team that includes the primary veterinarian, a veterinary oncologist and the owner.