HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Since our pets are part of the family, it’s heartbreaking when they are diagnosed with a life threatening disease.
In fact, millions of dogs and cats are diagnosed with cancer each year. Yet, doctors are more optimistic than ever before. They are saving more lives through new technology, targeted surgery and basically treating pets like people!
Shawn Hunsberger was surrounded by her true loves on her wedding day. Her groom, Denny, and her dog Brooklyn.
“I just fell in love with him instantly."
But, then, she experienced double heartbreak. She lost her husband to heart complications. Soon after, Brooklyn got sick.
Oncology Veterinarian Stephanie Correa admits, many pet owners go through this kind of heartache.
“Fifty percent of dogs and cats over the age of ten will be diagnosed with cancer.”
Yet, here’s the good news. Dr. Correa says, now, cancer treatments for people are also helping pets.
“So we can improve quality of life while still effectively prolonging the life of the patient.”
In fact, Huntsville veterinarian Dr. Kevin Anderson says, dogs respond better to chemo than humans!
“You don’t see the nausea, you don’t see a lot of the hair loss, things like that. Dogs do very well. They’re very resilient as far as that goes.”
Researchers say Leukemia is the most common form of cancer for cats.
It’s Lymphoma for dogs. The day we visited Dr. Anderson at the Animal Care Clinic in Huntsville, he was treating a dog for Lymphoma.
“What we’ll do today is the chemotherapy protocol which is injectable medication. It will also be an oral medication. We’ll put an IV catheter and administer those drugs. He’ll stay with us this afternoon and we’ll run blood work.”
Some animal oncologists are using Stereotactic Radiosurgery technology that pinpoints the tumor. But, it doesn’t affect the healthy tissue.
Dr. Correa told us that they will “direct the beam of radiation therapy at the tumor from all different angles.”
Typical radiation can take up to four weeks. But, Stereotactic Therapy can be delivered in just three days!
She says, it can target "tumors like prostate cancer, brain tumors, lung tumors.”
Dr. Correa knows what it’s like to have a pet with cancer. Her 12-year-old Labrador, Speed, had a brain tumor. After three doses, Speed didn’t take long to go back to his playoff self!
Brooklyn had the same treatment for the tumor on his heart.
Shawn Hunsberger made it known, “I want him around.”
Shawn couldn’t save her husband’s life. But, she was able to save Brooklyn’s life. Months later, the two are still making memories.
Doctor Anderson suggests doing extensive research before getting a pet. He says, certain breeds like Boxers, Labradors and Golden Retrievers have a higher risk for cancer.
Also, see if pet insurance makes sense for your family. It may cover part of the cost of cancer treatment. You’ll want to read all the fine print to make sure what the insurance covers and if there are any exclusions.