Dog Dealing with Malignant Melanoma

Dog Dealing with Malignant Melanoma

by Dave

Hi all.

I rescued 2 lab mixes in the spring of 2004. Ruby and Diamond :). Awesome dogs, wonderful, sweethearts.

On Dec 20, 2012 my wife left for work, and 20 minutes later Diamond woke me up. I got up and found Ruby laying in my walk-in closet, which was odd. I called her name to go eat and she wagged her tail but didn't move otherwise. I walked to her and helped her get up, and she stood up on her own, but then stumbled slow down the hall, then collapsed. I panicked. I got dressed as quick as I could and got her in the car. The nearest emergency vet is 10 minutes drive, and she died half way there. My vet thinks she had a freak stroke and died peacefully. She thinks Ruby just felt tired and fell asleep and died. This was absolutely brutal.

But now I have an even worse situation. Exactly 4 weeks after this happens I find that Diamond has cancer. I got overprotective of her when Ruby died and took her in to get fully checked over. My vet noticed a small growth where her incisors are on her upper jaw, but thought nothing of it. I was gonna have dental cleaning done anyway so she took it out and had a biopsy done . It came back malignant melanoma. I immediately lost it in the vet's office.

The vet was caught completely by shock also. The growth was pink and healthy looking, she didn't expect this. Nevertheless, I got referred to an oncologist for her. Had a CT Scan done, and they saw nothing in the lymph nodes but wanted to do a cytology on one of them. That came back suspicious but inconclusive, and high recommendation for removal and biopsy.

(start my rant)
So going back a minute, we had a consult with the oncologist. And she said of course, there's no cure, no guarantee on anything, there's data which is absolutely useless, and I don't even know why they tell people this data. I mean honestly, these studies are done on a sample size of 5-10 dogs at a time, in all different stages of cancer, and all different ages, and breeds. I mean my Goodness why don't you just lie to me? It'd be easier to deal with. Instead no, you tell me she has 6 months to live WITH EVERYHTING WE CAN DO based on garbage data. I mean, I literally got upset about that in the office. I'm an engineer and in my field there is ALWAYS an answer, or a solution. It's very hard to accept that there is no guarantees, no answers, no promises, no nothing. Oh and by the way, it's gonna cost you a fortune, so put a price tag on the life of your dog.
(end my rant)

So the oncologist recommended an aggressive jaw bone removal surgery and removal of the lymph node, as well as the vaccine to slow the progression. So today I met with the surgeon and went ahead with these 2 things, because it seems to be the best option that I have to give Diamond the longest life she can have in the most comfortable way.

I have read some other stories of people that couldn't afford to do anything or chose not to, and just the terrible suffering the dogs go through without this stuff, it just sucks. I know that Diamond may still face this but I just felt like I had to do everything I could possibly do to give her the best chance.

Based on the fact that the growth was found in the front of the mouth, and was pea size, and that it wasn't obvious that the cancer got to the lymph node (although I'm sure I will find out in 10 days that it is there), but is in small amounts, the oncologist thinks she has a great case and it is very early, and has a good shot to live on the high end of the data averages.

So that's where we are now. She's at the vet now, getting surgery tomorrow, I'll be able to bring her home the next day, and then it's just keeping her on the vaccine and seeing how long she lasts I guess.

I am very angry still about things. I am still hurt I lost my first baby, and now I'm angry that there's nothing more I can do, there's no answers, there's no good studies to help make decisions, no data. It is so frustrating. I don't deal well with that kind of thing. When an expert in the field says "I don't know", I can't accept that. How do you not know anything? You're a specialist! I mean honestly, what am I paying you for? I am angry but I am starting to just understand that this is the way things are. But it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

I would love to read some positive cases if anybody out there has any, maybe a dog in similar situations that lived 2+ years after they were given the "6 months with the vaccine and surgery" speech.

Thanks for reading.

(submitted Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013)

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May 31, 2019
Claire - Where to get ESSIAC tea
by: Hazel, Site Editor

Hi Claire,

Sorry about your dog.

Yes - blueberry powder is safe and in fact good for dogs, as it is a great antioxidant.

As for ESSIAC tea for dogs, see this article for more info.

Good luck.

May 30, 2019
Where to get Essiac Tea?
by: Claire

Hi Everyone

On the article shared about Little Harold, they were giving him Essiac Tea. Does anyone know where to get that for dogs?

My dog Toby is nearly 15 and has had a melanoma removed from his mouth. He's now getting the vaccine. Due to his age I've decided no more anaesthetic to get him scanned and staged. He's happy, energetic....

I'm also giving him a tiny amount of turmeric paste and Life Gold (as it has astralagus in it and that apparently inhibits melanoma.........I want to add blueberry powder to this if it would be safe, does anyone know? It enhances the effect)

Thanks for listening. Thinking of you all and your fur babies.

Nov 28, 2016
My 10 year old Golden has melanoma
by: Brenda

My golden retriever, who is 10 years old, is diagnosed with malignant melanoma two weeks ago after having a dental procedure to remove a little growth in the side of his mouth on the inside.

The best way is to go and have a consultation with the oncologist for $138, and then a needle aspiration, for lymph node and an x-ray or CT of the lungs. If that shows positive no treatment; if it says negative she suggested the treatment that some of you referred to - I think it's four over eight weeks.

We aren't going to do that but wonder about any natural cures. Online I saw where you can give them coconut oil, fish oil, mushrooms and green tea. Anyone know about these or other things to try?

May 28, 2015
Advice Needed PLEASE
by: Anonymous

Hello all!

My sweet Sophie was diagnosed with melanoma on her tongue. Our vet removed it and then referred us to an oncologist. Basically, for $200 and 30 minutes I was told I would at least need $5,000 to treat her and it would only give her an extra year at max. She shows no symptoms though. I only knew something was wrong because of her breath being horrendous. She will be 10 this year and the treatment is just not an option. Does anyone know what we should expect? How do I know if she is in pain currently? She never expresses if she does but I can't imagine having oral cancer and it not hurting? I feel very confused and $200 later left with zero comfort about how to care for our Sophie in the coming days. Any and all suggestions welcome, PLEASE.

Apr 06, 2014
How do you know if your dog is in pain?
by: Anonymous

Our 15 yr. old German shepherd Charlie was just diagnosed with this cancer. Since he is older the vet recommended not to have surgery, just let him enjoy what time he has left (2-6 months).

I have no idea what to expect and I really do not want him to be in pain. He seems ok so far, we are just taking it day by day. He doesn't exhibit any pain now, but he really never did throughout his life. I'm not sure how to tell with him.

Anyone who has gone through this with some insight is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Apr 09, 2013
Dave and Diamond
by: Debi Clarridge

Dave, my 14 yr. old Scarlett was just diagnosed w/the same cancer. We chose not to put her thru anything due to her age, just to give her a few more months. If she was younger we would have taken the same steps as you. Scarlett's tumor was about the size of a grape, maybe a hair larger and hadn't attached to the bone yet. My vet which I have went to for over 45 years said this is a very aggressive cancer and what to look for, that the average is 4-6 months, doing treatments would give her a few months, but this type of cancer has no cure.

I'm devastated, heart broken, mad, being selfish because I don't want her to die. And since I'm in a dog rescue group and when I feel the pain of losing my best friend and family member that I would do all I could if I could save her, I think about those dogs so abused and the cruelty they go thru I want to rip those kinds of people apart.


Feb 11, 2013
Update on Diamond
by: Dave

Hi All,

I got the biopsy results back today from Diamond's piece of jaw bone and her lymph node.

I would just like to first say that all of the news was wonderful.

The jaw bone came back with clean margins, which I guess to the best of their ability, they got the tumor/destroyed bone out of her mouth.

The lymph node came back almost positively no cancer in it. The lab wants to do a special staining (more money of course) to 100% guarantee their preliminary results, but they believe that from Diamond's original surgery where the tumor was removed (about a month ago now), that there was just inflammation and the white blood cells they found contained her own melanin, and not cancerous melanin.

This is tremendous. I almost cried when the doctor called me. I rushed home to tell the wife, and she did cry haha. So, Diamond is stage 1. The oncologist was shocked, and so were all of us pretty much. We expected it had spread. I guess it's very rare that they find a dog in stage 1 with this kind of cancer. And, apparently there's not much data for this, so hopefully we are on the extremely high end of prognosis now.

We did the jaw surgery, and are doing the melanoma vaccine, and I'm going to be changing her diet to all organic and giving her whatever vitamins the oncologist recommends. The one we have has a specialty in holistic dieting for dogs, so I can't wait to pick her brain about it.

I am so happy. Hopefully we have her around for another 2-3 years minimum. She's gonna be 9 on April 1, so she has a good 3 years until normal life expectancy for black lab mixes.

The money has paid off thus far. And, if one good thing came of Ruby dying (my other doggie), it was that I got very overprotective and immediately took Diamond in for a thorough examination when the small tumor was found in the upper front of her mouth. Otherwise, I would never have taken her in and it would probably have been a much worse outcome.

I'll report back with the special biopsy next week.


Feb 03, 2013
by: Dave

I took a look at the diet, and now I'm researching everything I can. I will ask the oncologist when I see her in 2 weeks.

They want Diamond on canned soft food for 3 weeks. I'm using blue buffalo natural recipes or natural home recipes, whatever it's called. Its pretty expensive.

I need to come up with a couple of different recipes I can cook for her once she comes off the canned food. No more dry kibble I guess lol.

Diamond is home and doing ok so far. She's on quite a bit of pain meds, and probably is wondering why she had to go through that. I hope she doesn't think she was punished or something.

She's just so loveable. How can I look at that face and not do everything I can for her?

Feb 02, 2013
Best of Luck
by: Hazel, Site Editor

Hi, Dave,

I am sorry about your two dogs, Ruby and Diamond. I can feel your pain and frustration, especially when even specialists cannot be sure about the prognosis... However, I guess when we are dealing with a living body (not a machine), no one can be 100% sure how that body will react to treatment, etc. Also, there is still not much research done on canine cancer - hopefully that will change...

It is however a relief to hear that Diamond's surgery went well, and hopefully they got all the bad stuff out of her system.

While you are waiting for your baby to return home, I'd like you to read this page and the accompanying comments:

Little Harold has Healed from Melanoma.

Harold was diagnosed with oral cancer in August 2010, and as at June, 2012, was still alive. Of course, every dog is different, but I just hope that this little story can give you encouragement.

Best of luck to you and Diamond.

Feb 01, 2013
by: Dave

Hi and thank you, Jacqueline.

I got the call a few hours ago that my baby was out of surgery and resting comfortably. The surgeon called me, which was nice, so that I could answer any and all questions.

They had to remove part of her jaw, more like grind the jaw bone down in an area, not cut half of it out or something like that. Her melanoma was found between her incisors on the front of her mouth, not in the back, and it was a small tumor (less than 2cm), which is a better case than others have to deal with. The ones in the back of the mouth are apparently much worse, and grow much bigger.

Anyways, the surgeon told me they are happy with the margins that they grinded it down to and will know after the biopsy of the bone if they got it all out of the area. I'm praying they did.

Also, she had her right sub-mandibular lymph node out, because a cytology was performed on it during the CT scan and the lab was suspicious of it. He told me that to the naked eye it appeared normal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have cancer cells in it. So, I'll know for certain soon.

I have to assume it did get to her lymph node, but if so it may be very minor in there and removing it will just continue to slow the progression of the cancer. Hopefully the vaccine will prolong her life to her life expectancy range (they said 12-14 yrs old). She will be 9 in April.

I cannot wait to get her home. All I have done the past month is think about her constantly, worry about her health and the care she's getting, and hoping that acting quickly will give her good quality life for a couple years.

I just want her home.

I was a wreck when my other baby died, Ruby. I was worse off until I had her home after being cremated. Once she got home I placed her back in my bedroom (this is where she slept with us), and it was somewhat comforting to know that she was home again and staying permanently.

I dread, absolutely dread, the day that I will have to take her in and have her put down. I will try not to think of that until she starts to really wind down, but I just dread it.

Nature made the decision for Ruby, I just had to deal with grieving and the shock of it. But I think this is worse, having to put a price tag on a life, and then having to decide when enough is enough.

But, I have promised myself, that when her quality of life suffers, I am not going to keep her around for my sake. I don't want her to suffer.

Feb 01, 2013
Wonderful love
by: Jacqueline

How absolutely beautiful it is that you love your dogs so much. It makes my heart swell when I know there are people out there who love their beautiful animals as much as I love mine.

I did have three dogs but one passed away well over 6 months ago now, from liver cancer. I didn't see it coming and it broke my heart into tiny pieces. I still cry when I think about my little boy, Nelson. I feel your frustration - why can't we get the answers we so desperately need? I guess that science is like that - there's no definite answers much of the time unlike engineering where you do have the answers - it's all black and white. It wasn't until I had an autopsy on Nelson that I received my answers. I tried everything to keep him alive and, it wasn't until after his death, that we knew what had happened to him. I chose to have the autopsy because I still have his brother, Banjo, who I love with every part of me and I wanted to know what to do if he presented with the same symptoms as Nelson. I wanted to help the specialists too in case a similar case as Nelson presented at their clinic. I figured that if I could prolong the life of another poor animal, Nelson's death would have some meaning.

Unfortunately, the vets/specialists don't know everything. They do their best and I know it must be pretty gut wrenching for them when they can't help desperate people trying to hang on with dear life to their beloved pets. I know that, when Nelson was dying, I was an absolute mess every time I went to visit him. I couldn't get the answers I so badly needed and I would just cry and cry every time I was with him. But those specialists did all they could - I know they did. It must be just as hard on them, I guess. I do appreciate everything they did for my boy. They couldn't save his life but they did try for me everything. It was unfortunate that I did have to have him euthanized in the end - that was the worse decision of all. But he was dying an absolutely horrible death and I just had to release him from his pain. We tried for 2 weeks to keep him going and I know in my heart that I did everything I could.

I guess that you have to go easy on yourself. You're doing everything you can and you love that dog with every part of you. Sometimes love is the only answer when the science world lets us down. Hang in there. You're a good man.

Feb 01, 2013
Thank you Elaine
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the support. I'm sorry to hear about what you're going through as well.

I just wish there were something more to do. I would do anything. I just need to know what I could do. But, there's no more I can do I guess, other than hope and pray.

Diamond is in surgery probably right this moment. I should get a call in the next few hours to let me know she's out of surgery, and then be able to pick her up tomorrow as long as everything is fine.

It was very weird waking up without her there this morning. I had that same feeling the first night and first morning after Ruby died. But at least I still had Diamond. Waking up today and her not being there was tough. It just changes the routine. I expect to get up and feed her, let her out, give her hugs and kisses, and say goodbye on my way out to work. She's always staring at me every morning, sitting up, leaning against the couch, watching me walk out the door.

Those are precious moments.

Feb 01, 2013
My heart breaks for you
by: Elaine in England

Dear Dave,

Just like to say how very sorry I am, my heart just breaks for you.

This cancer in our beloved pets sucks. I lost my lurcher at seven and my greyhound to HSA, my other grey Spike had Thyroid cancer so far after treatment he is OK as far as that is concerned but has gone on in a few months since treatment to be diagnosed with mitral valve disease and spinal issues - he was ten.

My other grey has had seven blood tests to find out what's up with him and faces scans - he is nine. Thyroid suspected in him too - my vet could not believe two with thyroid issues in few months of each other.

Will be thinking of you.

Once again I am so sorry you face this dreadful situation. Sending you love and loads of white light your way.

Elaine Spike Hazy
Angels Benji, Thorn and Sonny

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