What's killing our dogs? - A dog's tale of Splenic Hemangiosarcoma
Splenic Hemangiosarcoma-The silent killer of all canine cancers.
Cancer accounts for almost half the deaths of dogs over 10 years old. This is a deeply personal account of Splenic Hemangiosarcoma (Spleen Cancer), an informative look at some facts, warnings, tests, the devastation it leaves in it's wake, and possible causes into the "Silent Killer" of the canine world. A "MUST READ" for all dog owners!
A Dark Day for our "Black Knight"
It was 9:23 in the morning on April 3, 2013. I was on my way back to work from break when my cell phone rang.I felt a sinking in the pit of stomach. As I answered, I could hear Diana’s desperate tears through the airwaves. “You need to come home. I can’t get Rocky to move. He won’t even pick up his head. Something is very wrong. I called the vet’s office and they can’t get him in until 4 o’clock today. I’m afraid he won’t make it. Come home, please.”
Home was a 40 minute drive away and I was terrified that I wouldn't make it in time.Tears streamed down my face as I thought to myself, “If I can get him to the vet’s office, we can save him”.I pulled into the driveway, dust flying and the car skidding to a stop. I ran inside to find Diana and our 6 year grandson, Emanuel, laying at Rocky’s side on the living room floor. Both of them talking to Rocky as the tears rolled down their cheeks. Rocky just laid there. He struggled to barely raise his head to look at me before dropping his head back down to the floor. I could see it in his eyes that he was scared, confused, & trying to hold on. This 126 pound loving, fearless Rottweiler was weak & didn't understand what was wrong with him.
I told Diana to call the vet’s office & tell them we were bringing him now. Emanuel & I struggled to get Rocky to the car. He tried his best to walk. He wobbled & dropped several times. As I got him into the back seat, I told Emanuel to get in and buckle up. Diana got in the car & as I drove, I prayed with all my heart. Something inside me knew, this was very bad.
We pulled into the vet’s office and I ran inside to tell them that I needed help. They gave me a towel to put under him for us to give him support to walk in so he wouldn't fall. He struggled a bit, but we made it into the room. I thought to myself, “He’ll be okay now. We’re here. They can fix whatever is wrong, give him some medicine and Rocky will be good as new in no time”.
The doctor came in and began examining him. She asked us when it had started and what were his symptoms. “It first started about 3 or 4 days ago. He started laying around more than usual, drinking a lot, wouldn’t eat now and then. Then this morning, he was laying on the bathroom tile instead of his bed. His abdomen seemed distended.
A couple of days ago, he fell walking. We thought it was his knee that he had ACL surgery on and thought maybe had exacerbated the old injury. He won’t take his medicine either. Then last night, he started heaving like he had to vomit so we helped him up to get him outside and he fell again doing a face splat in front of the door. When we helped him back to his feet and outside, he stepped off the first step and just layed down. He looked back at us with saddest eyes.
This morning, his breathing had become erratic. We've been trying to get an appointment to bring him in but you are so booked up. ” The vet looked at his gums as Rocky rumbled the “Rottie Rumble”. She said he was very anemic, and asked if we could hold him while she examined his belly. She was “uncomfortable” with his “growling”. We tried to explain to her that he wasn't growling. It was typical of Rottweilers to “talk” or, “rumble”. Still, we held him close. She felt his belly and then came the bad news.
The vet stood up and explained that Rocky had a Splenic Hemangiosarcoma. His abdomen was distended and he was terribly anemic because the tumor had ruptured and Rocky was bleeding out internally. She told us it was a genetic trait for this breed. Cancer was predominant for them. Our options were bleak and few.
We could opt for surgery but, she doubted he would make it due to his weakened state as a result of the blood loss and his age of 12 ½ years. If he made through the surgery, he would have a very long and painful recovery with a lot of risk for infection and a lot of pain. In most cases, when it has come to the point of the tumor rupturing, the cancer has spread to other vital organs of the body such as the liver, heart, and lungs, and sometimes the brain. Even after surgery, in most of the best cases the patient lives only painfully for 3 months, at most.
The three of us looked at each other realizing our worst fears had come to tear our hearts out. Our final remaining option was to euthanize Rocky and spare him from his suffering. The vet left the room for us to make a decision. We knew what we had to do, but it ripped our hearts apart. We had raised Rocky since he was 8 weeks old. Now, over 12 years later, we were having to make a decision to say goodbye.
As the vet came in to give him the shot, we all three laid there with Rocky holding him, petting him, telling him that he was the best dog, we loved him and will always remember him. As I watched the vet administer the first shot of a series of two, a voice inside me screamed “No! Wait! Please don’t!”. I wanted to dive across Rocky knocking that needle out her hand. But I knew, we were doing the right thing. Rocky looked up, and gave Diana and I his last kiss and went to sleep seconds later.
The horrible events of that day, changed the course of life in our household. Days later, I went searching to find information on this “silent killer” that caused this. Upon doing so, I stumbled upon a wonderful group on Facebook that has helped us heal, understand, cope, and share with others our tragic story. They can be found at, Spleen Tumor in Dogs - Awareness Raising Group for Dog Owners
If you have the unfortunate time when you and your family are, or have already went, through the terrible events that we did on that fateful day, I strongly encourage you to join. There, I learned so much, shared, and received an outpouring of support from people I didn't know, yet we all shared a common bond. We lost that wonderful furry family member of ours to Hemangiosarcoma (Cancer).
One of the things that we had such a hard time understanding and coping with was, the suddenness of it all. But after doing the research, it is A - typical of the disease. When we look back now, we see that he wouldn’t eat for day or two and lay around. We would start to get alarmed and then he would spring back to himself like nothing ever happened. So, we would dismiss it to old age and his knee bothering him.
There are very few warning signs. Unfortunately, by the time you see warnings...(if you see warnings), its too late. Rocky had his annual exam just a year prior to this and passed with flying colors. His doctor felt his abdomen and everything. Rocky was a healthy, active, happy spoiled rotten Rottweiler. But yet, in matter of a year later, it was over.
It Happened So Sudden!
The silent killer strikes
Pet owners that have went through this devastating ordeal with their furry family member say, “ it happened so fast”, “he/she was just fine yesterday”, “my dog was playing and happy less than 24 hours ago”. I read them constantly. Its’ seemingly sudden appearance makes the grief and confusion so much worse. One would think that a disease so devastating would create very well known knowledge base in the arena of pet owners. Yet sadly enough, unless you've lived through it, you don’t hear much, if anything at all. But once it has touched your life, it etches a permanent mark in your brain and a gaping hole in your heart.
After reading countless stories from the pet owners that have lost their pets to this cancer, we all have some similar warning signs that when we reflect back onto the days or weeks prior to the passing of our beloved pet, we now notice. Some of those include extreme thirst, no interest in food of any kind, lying around more than usual (almost lethargic), & acting a little “wobbly”. Frequently, the pet owner would get alarmed, only to have the pet spring back to their normal selves the next day or two.
What is the spleen and what does it do?
The Spleen is an abdominal organ found near the stomach. It contains two types of tissues. Red pulp and white pulp. The primary job of the spleen (the red pulp) is to filter the blood by removing the old blood cells, and removing the good stuff like proteins and iron.
The Spleen also acts as a “factory” that stores blood cells for sudden burst of activity. In the white pulp, the Spleen contains large numbers of cells called, lymphocytes and macrophages. These are part of the immune system which spots foreign and potentially harmful infectious microorganisms. In a normal healthy Spleen, these cells would destroy the harmful threats and help to create an immunity from future threats.
When the Spleen has contracted a tumor, it prevents the normal function of the Spleen and the tumor can grow quite large without detection. Eventually, the tumor erupts and dog bleeds out internally very quickly in a matter of hours. This was the case with Rocky. Splenic Tumors can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Often, they spread to other internal organs such as the liver, lungs, heart, brain, and kidneys.
Six Most Common Forms of Cancer
According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine located in Ithaca, New York
Cancer is the number one concern for pet owners. There are six most common forms of cancer in pets. They are:
- Connective Tissue
Connective Tissue is the category in which Splenic Hemangiosarcoma falls under. However, let me be clear that a Connective Tissue cancer is not limited to the spleen.The reason a particular pet might develop cancer is not entirely crystal clear. But experts claim that Spleen Cancer is more predominant in the older (8 years and up), larger breeds. It is very aggressive and known as the “Silent Killer”, because there are virtually no warning signs.According to the VCA Animal Hospitals:
“Splenic Hemangiosarcoma is a result of non-lethal genetic damage to the cells, with external contributory factors such as radiation, chemicals, hormones, and infections. It is a cancer of the endothelial cells - cells which line the blood vessels.”
Is this news to you?
Did you know about Splenic Hemangiosarcoma before today?
5 Known Carcinogens (cancer causing agents)
The Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research, which operates through Cornell University College School of Veterinary Medicine states:
There are five known carcinogens which factor into the development of various cancers. Carcinogens are what is known as cancer causing agents. These carcinogenic agents are:
- Second-Hand smoke
- Radiation exposure
- Some viruses
Other Known Carcinogens Found In Dog Foods
Recently, I have been asked about other known Carcinogens found in dog food. During the course of research for this article, I found it necessary to seek these out. While I did not initially include this list in the original publishing of this article because it "opens another jar of worms", it has peeked the interest of a few readers and thus my decision to include it . I hope you find this list to be informative and helpful. Please utilize the information that you find in this article as a whole when you come to your conclusions as I have.
Popular Chemical Preservatives Used in Dog Foods:
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) - Antioxidant and preservative in food
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) - Antioxidant additive in such diverse products as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber, electrical transformer oil and embalming fluid
- Ethoxyquin - Pesticide, component for manufacturing rubber and a hardening agent
- Propylene glycol - The key component in antifreeze
- Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) - Stabilizer for certain explosive compounds, additive to make varnishes, lacquers, and other resins
- Propyl gallate - Utilized as a female hormone-like compound
- Mixed Tocopherols - "RED WARNING FLAG" This is just blanket definition on an ingredient list that is used to deceive the consumer into thinking, "there's nothing bad in here you should worry about!" LIE, LIE, LIE!
Top 3 Problematic Food Dyes Found in Dog Foods:
- Yellow #5 (Tartrazine)
- Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine)
- FD&C Red No. 40
Fillers and Emulsifiers Used in Dog Food:
Arsenic - Frequently found in the processing of brewers brown rice
L-alanine - Non-essential amino acid used as supplement in heavy grain-based foods
Carrageenan - A seaweed extract that provides no nutritional benefit to the pet. It's only purpose is to keep the pet food together as a thickener. Carrageenan is a gel-like substance that coats the stomach.
10 Warning Signs of Cancer
While many cancers grow relatively undetected initially, there are key subtle warnings you should be on the look out for. Take your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital for examination should you begin to notice these following 10 signs noted by the Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research.
- Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Offensive odor
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
- Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
- Persistent lameness or stiffness
- Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Diagnosis and Testing
Can we detect Spleen Cancer with proper diagnostic testing?
Diagnosing canine cancer of any kind can be a task. Some cancers simply aren't a sign hanging around your dog's neck saying, "I'M A CANCEROUS TICKING TIME BOMB! "Spleen Cancer is one of those tricky, sneaky silent ones, even more so than others. It is elusive without continual preventative testing which can be costly, to say the very least. A key is to remember is that knowledge is a valuable tool for prevention.
According to The National Canine Cancer Foundation, Splenic Hemangiosarcoma is responsible for a heartbreaking 45-51% of all tumors found in dogs. These type of tumors are the most commonly diagnosed, and the deadliest. The typical time-frame between diagnosis of the tumor & the death of the dog is between 6-8 weeks. The top nine breeds predisposed to this cancer are (but not limited to):
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Flat Coated Retrievers
- Skye Terriers
Currently, there are active research studies being conducted for the development and detection of spleen cancer - as well as other canine cancers. Preventive early annual and semi-annual testing you can seriously consider for your dog are as follows:
- VDI-TKcanine+ Blood Test: measures an enzyme in the dogs blood called Thymidine (TK for short). TK is released into the bloodstream by cells that are undergoing unusually rapid cell division, which is a typical trademark for cancer.
- Chest Xrays
- Ultra Sound: Splenic Tumors can grow quite large and often will not show up on a general x-ray.
- Physical Examination for unusual lumps & bumps
- Check gums for paleness
- Routine blood tests checking the function of the liver, kidneys, spleen and heart.
If your dog ever has the misfortune of a Splenic Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis, you will need to discuss options with your veterinarian and do a lot of soul searching. The overall prognosis will vary from case to case. However, a Splenectomy is a must for any hopes of survival no matter how bleak the chances may be. This is a surgical procedure to remove the Spleen and ultimately, the tumor.
Prior to surgery, further diagnostic testing such as ultrasound, CAT/MRI Scans, and blood testing will be performed in order to establish if the patient is a good candidate for surgery. Many important factors are considered such as age, anemia, otherwise good health, tumor eruption, and whether or not the tumor has spread to other areas of the internal organs.
Median survival for dogs treated with surgery alone is sadly 90 days. With addition of Chemotherapy, that survival rate is an approximate mere 180 days. As my vet recently put it, Chemotherapy for dogs is not like it is for humans. With dogs, it is to make them more comfortable without as many side effects as with humans. With humans, it is to keep us living longer because we don't have a choice to end our misery.
There have been cases of survival if the tumor is not malignant. However, in many cases, the tumor returns to start the tumultuous cycle all over again. Patients with non-ruptured spleens are known to have better chances of survival.
How is a Canine Splenectomy performed?
Crimes Against Humanity
Should biotech and pet food companies be charged with violations under the crimes against humanity laws as a direct result of their intentional acts to actively poison pet foods with carcinogenic ingr
Hereditary Genetics or Genetic Tampering?
Canine Cancer On the Rise - Why, and is there a connection between humans and our pets?
The question of why cancer is on the rise remains. I will attempt to give you my synopsis as to the why. I'll admit that I am no expert in the field of veterinary medicine, cancer research, nor biology. However, I believe in thing called, “common sense” and a thirst for knowledge.
I believe that I can draw some light on why based on; my past experiences, listening to those of countless others with the same encounters, a series of basic common denominators and a ever-building knowledge base of the biochemical industry and the powerful influences in today’s world of food supply - both human and pet.
We wish to present some facts and theories for you to ponder about dog foods, GMO grains (Genetically Modified Organisms), a few common denominators, and ideas to perhaps prevent and make a difference in the overall health of your dog. Please remember to always keep an open mind and above all, question for yourself the things you read and are told.
Experts claim the causes of spleen cancer are largely unknown, but contend there are some hereditary/genetic factors involved. I can believe this theory but, not in its entirety. As we all know, cancer is on the rise on a global scale. And not just with canines! This type of widespread rise cannot be simply chalked up to hereditary coincidence.
Our choices as a modern society have a serious impact on our pets - as wells as humans, the environment, and the wildlife that we co-exist with on this planet. As I have stated before, I've read too many heartbreaking stories of dogs that have fell victim to this. We find ourselves asking the question, what is the common denominator?
Are the vaccines, medications, water, environment, food, genetics, breed, or age to blame? Sure, all of these can greatly affect biological and ecological function. But are they the sole cause? Rocky is not the only dog we have to show signs in the final stages of their cancer. We have an American Staffordshire Terrier that is LOADED with lumps, bumps, and growths. We also have a St. Bernard that has developed two lumps in this past year.
The fact of the matter is, dogs as young as one year old contract the disease. Large breeds as well as the miniature dogs contract it. Dogs that don’t take any medications, along with dogs that take many. Country dogs, city dogs. City water, well water, and even bottled water. It just hasn’t mattered. Splenic hemangiosarcoma has touched them all.
We are left with one other possibility. The food. Yes, the brand and type of food varies. But when you start looking at the labels, the ingredients start to blend the common denominators in a deadly mixing bowl of carcinogens and toxins like an evil witch’s brew. “You are what you eat” plays a major role in our health. The same goes for our pets. Sometime, pick up the package of dog food that you are about to feed your dog, and read the label carefully. Then, go put that paper weight computer of yours to good use and do some time well spent research on the ingredients you see listed. Then, dig even deeper.
Who makes the decisions as to what gets put on your pet’s food label? What are all those ingredients that you can't even begin to pronounce? Is it man made or all natural? What is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)? I don’t see that listed and is it in my dog’s food?
The answers you find to these questions will terrify you. Who calls the shots with regards to your pet's food? Let us start there. The four regulating bodies in the pet food industry that govern what is acceptable or illegal, and which dictate what must be on the label are as follows:
- American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) - Not to be confused with a regulatory authority nor a government agency. Their job is to establish guidelines and definitions for animal feed.
- FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) - A branch of the FDA that regulates dog food ingredients.
- Pet Food Institute (PFI) - Represents 98% of the pet food industry that is produced in the U.S
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Their job is to regulate pet food labeling and pet food ingredients.
For a more detailed look into the definitions aforementioned and their job functions, I invite you to visit a very informative website called www.dogfoodscoop.com . The website has some very good useful information on both the dog food industry regulation parties, but also rating many brands of dog foods. Another dog food research site is the www.DogFoodAdvisor.com .
One would think that having those regulatory agencies in place would assure safe ingredients in our pet’s food. But one must remember that it's a business where the “bottom line” is their number one concern. The “Bottom Line” equals poor low grade ingredients, ingredients made in China, and the use of genetically engineered ingredients such as GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) corn, wheat, soy, & sugar beet to name a few. The University Of Kentucky College of Agriculture States:
“Bt (Maize)Corn is a type of genetically modified organism, termed GMO. A GMO is a plant or animal that has been genetically modified through the addition of a small amount of genetic material from other organisms through molecular techniques. Currently, the GMOs on the market today have been given genetic traits to provide protection from pests, tolerance to pesticides, or improve its quality. Examples of GMO field crops include Bt-potatoes, Bt-corn, Bt-sweet corn, Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready Corn, and Liberty Link corn. ”
Under current laws and regulations in the U.S., if the manufacturer did not create the ingredient, they aren’t required to list it on the ingredient label. For instance, if they are using GMO corn that they didn’t grow, (which accounts for 88% of all corn), they do not have to divulge the fact that the ingredient is GMO.
The biotech industry responsible for the birth of the GMO crops is none other than Monsanto (now owned by Bayer Corporation), one of the “Big 6” leading Herbicide and Pesticide manufacturers.
Remember the list of known carcinogens mentioned earlier? Genetically modified creations such as corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, papaya, sugar beets, cotton, zucchini and summer squash have continuously demonstrated; tumors, cancers, deformities, mutations, and even death laboratory testing.
Research has proven that the deadly concoction used in these GMO seeds known as Bt Toxin, is not digested in the digestive tract of humans or animals. Rather, its presence not only remains but is also known to transfer to the fetus via the umbilical cord through to the embryo. Thus, “genetically transferred” to a new generation. Yet, they continue to create these evil seeds of death.
GMO grains are continually used in pet foods due their inexpensive availability to pet food manufactures - among many other known carcinogens. But we choose to believe the “honesty” in the packaging that we read. We don’t use the voice of reason and question what we see.
I was born and raised on a farm. Its common sense that if a chicken eats GMO corn, that the chicken becomes a part of that GMO. Thus, its meat and organs. “You are what you eat”! You may buy dog food that boasts, “grain-free”. But does it have chicken, beef, turkey, duck, venison salmon or lamb that is GMO grain fed and are those so-called “meat by-products” in that food? Even farm-raised salmon is a GMO product now and readily available.
It is frustrating beyond compare when trying to feed our pets and protect them as well as they protect us. Many have went to feeding their dogs a RAW diet. Is it any better? I believe that it has its perks. But remember, where did that meat ingredient come from? What was it fed?
In 2009, research was conducted by De Vendomois JS, Roullier F, Cellier D, Seralini GE entitled “ A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health”. They stated as follows:
“Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded”.
I can’t tell you what brand to feed or whether a RAW diet is for you. I can’t tell you for sure that GMO grains, or other carcinogenic ingredients in our pet’s food are the source of our canine cancers. However, the food seems overwhelmingly the common denominator. Where I come from, if it walk likes a duck and quacks like a duck...then it’s a duck!
Since Rocky’s death, we started feeding our dogs a completely grain-free diet and continually monitor other ingredients in their food. Whether or not this will give my dogs a better fighting chance, I can’t positively say. I can, however, tell you this much...
On April 3rd, I lost my best friend. My “other child”. He kept me safe from harm day or night, rain, snow or shine. He kissed away my fears, kept my socks warm, greeted me everyday with a warm loving heart, made me laugh, hogged the bed and blankets, got under my skin, and not-so-patiently fished with me. He looked into my soul with his big brown eyes and stole my heart away. He trusted in me that I would keep him safe and make the right decisions. On that day, I couldn’t help but feel like had failed him.
I vowed to learn and share all I could about his cancer in hopes that maybe one day it would prevent another dog from dying needlessly from this cancer. There is a wealth of information out there about canine cancers of ALL kinds, pet food ingredients and their effects, along with Genetically Modified Organisms. But if you don’t know it exists, you won’t even look. I’m here to tell you that these things are here. They’re real. They kill. Please...act on it. Do your research. Don’t give in to frustrated hopelessness. Don’t take “I don’t know” for answer. Your pet is an extension of your family. They are a part of YOU.
Campaigning To Keep Us In The Dark
Leveraging the consumer health for corporate profits
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) states that the I-522 bill in Washington State, and the Proposition 37 in California that would require foods containing Genetically Engineered ingredients be labeled as such was defeated by a narrow margin. According to the CFS:
" big food and chemical companies dumped millions of dollars into defeating the initiative, with a carefully coordinated smear campaign to mislead voters. These out of state companies poured a state-record $22 million dollars into the “No” campaign in Washington, and a shocking $45 million into the “No” campaign in California last year."
So, my question to you is this...If the Genetically Engineered Foods are so great for us, than why is it food and chemical companies feel the need to pour out a total of $67 MILLION DOLLARS to convince us that it doesn't need to be labeled?
Please, take some time to educate yourself. Don't take my word for it. You can start here. Watch this highly accredited documentary.