Life With A Dog Thats Been Diagnosed With MCT The dahliah connection

What Has Dahliah Been Diagnosed With?

While some of you may or may not know, Dahliah has been diagnosed with Grade II Mast Cell Tumour. If you would like to know more about Mast Cell Tumours, you can click here for a fairly short but good article i found. The short story though, Mast Cell Tumours are a type of skin cancer produced by the immune system, more specifically its involved with the cells that respond to allergic reactions and inflammation.

Dogs and Cancer

With cancer cases increasing in dogs, a lot of us are weary of all the different kinds of breeds and their inherited/common health problems. Golden Retrievers and Labradors both have a history for Cancer for example, CKCS (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) are known for heart problems like murmurs, Pugs are known for their breathing problems, etc.... The list can really go on, and one can find a problem in every single breed if they really wanted to. Realistically there is no breed with no problems, but its important that you adopt or for lack of a better word "buy" your dog from a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder is a good breeder that breeds responsibly, health tests, makes sure her studs and dams are in excellent health to breed excellent puppies with little to no health issues inherited.

Dahliah is a Mini Multigenerational Australian Labradoodle, while this is not a registered breed in North America, it is in Australia and they are considered pure-breds. Anyway, Dahliah was bought from a reputable breeder that did health test, but i guess we were unlucky in the sense of her health. Just to be clear, we do not consider ourselves unlucky because we got Dahliah. We're incredibly lucky to have an amazing, loving, beautiful dog, and we have absolutely no regrets that we got her. Although we do wish she was healthier, i mean, who wants their fur baby to have the dreaded C word? No body does! Moving on...

How did we find it?

Okay so, potentially and realistically speaking any dog can get cancer. So, how did we find it?

I was giving Dahliah a belly rub one day, (Nov, 14, 2016 to be exact at around 5-6PM) I noticed a bump, upon closer inspection it looked like a cyst. It didn't feel hard, i could squish it and Dahliah didn't seem to be bothered by it. Concerned and worried i decided to make a vet appointment right away for the same evening and have the doctor look at it.

The vets did their inspection and believed it was just a fatty cyst which is normal and common in dogs. The vet expressed that we would have it removed during her spay. However, soon after, Dahliah started licking it and got it infected. The removal had to be done and i thank god it was done then. The vet sent it to lab, got the results, and said:

"its a type of cancer but its benign, if it comes back we have to remove it but otherwise nothing serious"- Vet

i literally thought what bullsh*t ! The words cancer and benign do not mix! Thats when we changed vets, got referred to an oncologist, did surgery again to remove larger margins, and now chemotherapy. I guess what I'm trying to say is, check your dogs for lumps and if i were to find another lump again i will refuse to have my vet "assume" its a fatty cyst. I will request to have it tested!

For the full story about Dahliah's cyst, you can read this blog.

How Do They Test It?

Well, theres two ways they can do this:

  1. They can stick a needle inside the cyst, lump, or mass and get a fluid sample. The fluid will contain cells that is produced by the unknown mass which are sent to lab and are tested. This test isn't completely accurate at times because some tumours do not shed cells but it is a start.
  2. Another way, is by doing what we did. Removing the mass surgically and sending it to lab for diagnosis. While this is completely accurate, the disadvantages is that the vet did not know what he was dealing with going into surgery. Thus, he did not remove enough margins. Hence why we had to do a second surgery.
Life with a dog thats been diagnosed with MCT in its simplest form is stressful and expensive - Karine

Without pet insurance we honestly would have not been able to afford any of this. ANY of it, ZERO. Often times, fur parents have to make the choice of putting their babies to sleep because they can't afford treatment and we're SO lucky to have bought pet insurance because all of this started two weeks after getting Dahliah. Yes, you read that right, TWO WEEKS. The cyst was first noted two weeks after we brought her home. To date, we've actually spent over 5,000$ for her treatment. Its sad, heartbreaking, and depressing. So much crying took place, sleepless nights, and thoughts you shouldn't be thinking of. Its really like living with a ticking time bomb. You just don't know if that bomb is going to go off, or when its going to go off. Is it a fake bomb? Is it real? Are we in the clear? and all of the answers to those is I DON'T KNOW. The worst thing in all of this is the unknown. We just don't know anything, and you really start to question yourself. Am i doing the right thing? Are we doing this all for nothing? Is this whats best for her? all the endless doubtful questions.

Last week, we started chemotherapy. She's having a mixture of injectable chemo and oral chemo. The actual medication that she's on are: Vinblastine (injectable), Cyclophosphamide (oral), Prednisone (oral), Benadryl, and acid control Famotidine. She was on Histamine blockers as well prior to chemotherapy, she might have to remain on a daily dose of the two over the counter drugs (Benadryl and Famotidine) for the rest of her life.

Her chemotherapy plan is currently 6 sessions of the injectable and oral chemo drugs for 12 weeks spread out on 18. She gets an injectable thats good for a week, followed by two doses of oral chemo thats good for a week, then she'll get a two week break and the cycle repeats for six times. This sounds aggressive, because it is. We've done a molecular testing on the original biopsy to study the behaviour of the tumour and it has been determined through the test that the tumour is aggressive and has a high reoccurrence rate. She was given a chance of 31% of reoccurrence and a chance of 50% survival past the age of one if it does reoccur. Thus the need for chemotherapy, which increases her chances of survival to 85% for the age of one and 76% for the age of 2. After that, we need to monitor her for a year for any new lumps or bumps and probably for the rest of her life.

The reason i didn't get a chance to finish the orders this morning was because, i noticed 3 tiny bumps on Dahliah near her incision and i totally freaked out. I called the vets, rescheduled the appointment for today instead of tomorrow, got dressed, and head out immediately. The oncologist said not to worry too much about them because he think they're sutures underneath the skin form surgery, because these sutures are knots its hard for the body to digest them and sometimes the body will push them up to the surface and hence why we can feel them. They have a very distinct feel to them compared to her first mass so, i am hopeful that they are just sutures and that they will subside. To be safe however, we are going to be monitoring them, any progression for the worse and we will take action.

Prior to surgery Dahliah also had an ultrasound for her abdomen, liver and spleen plus two X-rays of her chest to insure that there is no spreading. We do blood work every time she's due for a chemo session to ensure her WBC (white blood cells) count is good. She's a growing puppy and the chemo will very likely have an affect on her growth, which is very upsetting.

Life After The Diagnosis.

When you're dog gets diagnosed with MCT or any kind of cancer you become all about healthy, green, and natural. Dahliah has been switched to a pre made raw diet since the diagnosis but now she's on cooked food due to the chemo suppressing her immune system severely. Once we're done with chemo she will go back to raw. We are also giving minimal tick, flea, and heart worm medication instead of all year round. This is personal choice and we respect anyone who wants to feed kibble or give medication all year round, but it is our belief that they are not necessary when we get a freezing winter where temperatures are way below zero for 4-5 months of the year. Dahliah hasn't had any tick/flea/heart worm meds since December and we haven't had any issues. We will test for heart worm once a year or once every six months and we will administer medication during the hot summer months. Incase you're wondering why we do this, one of the reasons is because these medications are technically pesticides, and pests will develop resistance to pesticides when over used. Just like antibiotics are becoming ineffective, the same goes to tick/flea meds. We do not wish to offend anyone and we know this is a hot topic so, we respect all lifestyles and whatever you choose but this is what we're doing and our reasoning. Prior to chemo she got a mixture of home made golden paste and a herbal solution that promotes healthy cells. We will go back to this once chemo is done because it might interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment.

All of this sounds expensive, and it is expensive. You can buy a bag of kibble that will last you 2 months and pay 60$ instead of paying 70-80$ for raw that will last you a month. The difference however, is night and day. There are extremely limited carbs (only natural ones that are present in the veggies/protein) extremely limited sugars which both feed cancer. There are zero preservatives, zero processing, it's all natural, healthy, you can read every single ingredient on the list, the meats are ethically sourced, CFIA inspected, and are human grade. Do we know if the meat in kibble is human grade? Probably not. This is why we feed raw, and if you can't afford it or don't like it thats fine, we respect that but we hope that you can see the benefits of non processed food.

Life has been very stressful for us. We are trying our hardest to do the best that we can for our Dahliah, who we consider to be our family member and not just a dog. Finally, the things i would want any reader to take away from this is: check your dog regularly, get pet insurance, make sure you're feeding high quality dog food, and always ask your veterinarian questions (like drill them with the questions). Most importantly try to stay positive, i know its hard. Even i need encouragement and support, but you need to be positive to get through this or any other situation no matter the outcome. Dahliah needs us to be strong for her. So, if you don't want to be strong for you, be strong for them! Remember that we love you, and we're here for you! Everyone is going through something and we want you to know that our lives aren't perfect, we go through things too, we understand! You can talk to us anytime!

Dahliah is technically MCT free right now and we hope that the chemo treatment will help keep it that way for a very long time!

Thank you for your love and support! You help us provide Dahliah with the best treatment possible.

Until next time...

Love,

The Dahliah Connection Family xx

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