Our Cocker Spaniel Sam the Cancer Survivor
by Jean West-Watanabe
Sam, looking happy after eating my niece's sandal
Our Cocker Spaniel Sam was diagnosed with a blood disease back in 2009. He collapsed on the floor of our apartment one day and lost control of his bladder and could not get up. We knew he had been acting a bit lethargic recently, but chalked it up to old age. Sam was 11 1/2 years old at the time. His disease was called IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia). In other words his body was attacking his own red blood cells, thus the depleted energy and labored breathing. He received a blood transfusion immediately and 8 months later after spending close to $3500.00 and giving him carefully monitored numerous medications, he received a clean bill of health from the specialist and we stopped all treatment. Sam had a 50/50 chance of survival and he had pulled through.
Several months later in late summer of this year, we started to notice smudges of blood in Sam's bed, on the carpet and anywhere else he had been resting. One day we found a smudge on his tennis ball and my husband opened his mouth to see what was going on. Inside he had a huge black mass on the left side of his inner lip. It was hard and did not appear to be bothering him other than it was kind of oozing a bit. I took him to the vet right away thinking he had embedded something in there and it needed to be cleaned out. This time I went to a different vet, a Chinese veterinarian because my regular vet was on vacation.
They took one look at Sam's mouth and told me he had melanoma cancer, it was a tumor and most likely he had cancer internally as well. Dr. Tang explained that by the time the cancer enters the mouth like that, it's at a very serious and fatal stage. His prognosis was not good. The vet felt his lymph nodes and was quite sure that they were leaking fluid and he was cancerous there as well. I was shocked and could not believe what I was hearing. Dr. Tang explained that because of Sam's blood disease, he had been put on immune suppressant drugs to allow his cells to rebuild again, but this was a catch 22, because it opened him up to be vulnerable to other diseases... such as cancer. We had saved him from one disease, which most likely caused him to get another disease. Something that the specialist had never told us could happen.
They gave me our options - radiation therapy, surgery to remove the tumor, or injection shots that could slow it down. All of the above very, very expensive. We would have to go to a specialist again in a different area of Los Angeles and if he had the surgery it would most likely return. If he had the shots it would cost us a fortune and gave him only a 50/50 chance again, and if he had radiation, he would be sore and oozing a lot more than he already was and it would be hard on him. Knowing we had already tapped into savings to save him the first time, I knew we could not spend that kind of money again and it seemed pointless, at Sam's age, to make him suffer with treatments that could make him uncomfortable and also were not guaranteed to do anything for him. I told Dr. Tang we were going to try holistic means and he was impressed and surprised that we were willing to try that.
I went home and gave my husband the bad news and then immediately researched alternative methods to try on Sam. I found a great dog cancer forum and read about other people's trial and errors of what they had tried, some successful, some not and decided we had nothing to lose. I bought some immune system support pills made by Only Natural Pet, it had been given 4 and 5 stars by it's users. He started receiving those twice a day to start and within 10 days we saw a noticeable difference in Sam's energy level. He was like a puppy again. We steamed him fresh vegetables every day like spinach, carrots, green beans and cantaloupe. Anything safe that would build up his immunity system. We changed his food to Taste of the Wild, which is grain free food that has blueberries, green tea, ocean fish, raspberries, buffalo and yucca root in it, all the foods that are known as antioxidants and strengtheners. I squirt a capsule of pure fish oil onto his food, after mixing in his veggies every single morning. We did this religiously. I also bought some powder from my acupuncture doctor that they prescribe for sores in the mouth for people. I would mix that in with warm water and used a syringe to squirt it all over the tumor at least once a day. Then I would hold Sam's lip up for a few minutes, to give it a chance to soak in a bit.
About 2 months after we started the treatment, we noticed that his mouth was not sagging as much and when my husband finally took a look inside of it, sure enough the tumor had shrunk to half the size. A month after that, it was gone completely. It has now been 4 months since Sam's diagnosis and he is as energetic as ever. We don't know what is going on inside of him with his lymph nodes or what his future holds, but we do know that today, he is energetic, has a shiny coat, happy and no more tumor in his mouth or labored breathing. When we started this we had hoped to simply prolong Sam's life and keep him as comfortable as we could until the end, but now we feel much more hopeful that he will be around for a lot longer than we originally thought. If I had to do it all over again, or if this happens with another pet in the future, I would use exactly the same means and methods. I firmly believe in it!