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Thank you to Ron for putting this on his web site.  I can’t say enough about Natasha’s site and how it helped me with a course of action in treating our baby, Misty.  I wanted to write and let others know what I have done during the last 16 months since Misty was diagnosed with Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC). 

 

We adopted Misty in July of 1996 and our vet put her at around 4-5 months, so she is almost 11years old.  We are also not sure what breed she is, but our vet thought mostly Spitz, Sheltie and Border Collie.  (We call her our Heinz 57, because we think she has so many different breeds in her!)

Diagnosis

In Oct. of 2005 when Misty was about 9 ? years I saw some blood in her urine while walking her and called the nearest vet (we had just moved from another state and I didn’t have a vet yet) thinking it was just a bladder infection. They took a urine sample, did an X-ray (suspected TCC) and took a biopsy.  After waiting over a week they finally called me to tell me she did have transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).  She also had 2 small fatty tumors before she was diagnosed with TCC, but has since developed many more of different sizes throughout her body.  They have all been benign.

Misty

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Living with TCC
February 2007
(16 months with TCC)

Treatment

Misty started taking 5mg of Piroxicam once a day, which we still give her and I give it to her right after she eats dinner, dipped in some peanut butter.  The vet also suggested I give her Baytril for 7 days and then stop for 3 weeks and to do this every month to prevent any infections.  Over the next few weeks I also saw three different vets in this office and was told by one she would not live more than 3 months, another said 3-6 months and the last one said if lucky, maybe a year.  Surgery was not an option because of the location of the tumor.  I then asked about building up her immune system with diet and herbs and that’s when they referred me to a holistic vet.  We started acupuncture. X-rays did show arthritis in her hind legs, which I knew she had because when we lived up North in the cold weather she would have trouble getting off the floor. I have heard of acupuncture helping with arthritis and figured it couldn’t hurt and maybe it could help the cancer. I also started her on Cosamin DS for her arthritis, the human capsule twice a day and because of Ron’s wonderful write- up on Natasha, I started her on 1 tbsp. of flax oil with Lignans by Barleans with a ? cup of low fat cottage cheese, once a day.  The holistic vet put her on a diet of Cowboy Cookout by Merrick.  Because she is a wonderful eater-she lives to eat- and the can food is expensive, I give her 1/3 can mixed with about ? cup of dry food twice a day.  She has not lost any weight, and has in fact gained a few pounds, so we are trying to cut her down a little.  She was weighing around 37 pounds, but recently she’s been around 39 pounds.  He also doesn’t want her to have any chicken, fish, eggs, corn meal, rice, wheat or flour.  He truly believes in the Chinese method.  She is also on some Chinese herbs-Suo Quan Wan (for urinary leakage), Max Formula, and Zhi Bai Di Huang.  I also use Proin 50mg (I give her ? tab in the morning and afternoon, and a whole tab. at bedtime) for her incontinence, Pepcid AC 10mg once a day and I give it to her at least an hour before she eats.  I buy the generic form of the Pepcid and it’s needed because Piroxicam interferes with stomach acids, and Piroxicam 5mg, once a day-given to her soon after she eats her dinner. I was giving her Baytril at bedtime for 7 days once a month until recently, but now she is on Amoxicillin twice a day – see below.  I give Misty her pills either in a small piece of cheese, or a little roast beef and I dip her Piroxicam in peanut butter.  I mix her Amoxicillin and herbs in with her food and feed her twice a day.

Urine Cultures, Blood Work and Ultrasounds

Since Piroxicam can affect kidney function we had been doing blood tests for kidney function, but it had shown no change.  I was checking her urine once every 3 weeks and but stopped after a while, since I saw an Internal Medicine Veterinarian who said it was probably a waste of money to have blood work and urine so often.  In Misty’s case, it is very important to get the urine from a clean catch.  One vet I took her to wanted his tech. to insert a needle into the bladder and get a clean sample.  This is a better way to test the urine, but the tech had never done this on a dog with TCC and because of the location of the cancer, it is risky, very tight, and if she missed, it could have caused a complication that could have killed her.  We are aware that when you take a clean catch there will be some blood and it not as accurate.  But it is safer than the alternative. After many months, one of the vets I took Misty to see suggested an ultrasound.  It did give us a guideline as far as exactly where the tumor was located and how much cancer was in the bladder. (It occupies about 1/3 the volume of the bladder.) We have since repeated the ultrasounds 2 other times, with no growth.  This past summer in my quest to find a good vet I took Misty to an Internal Medicine specialist who did and a chest and abdomen ultrasound which showed no cancer in those areas- this was very, very expensive and didn’t tell me what the cost would be before doing these tests (the total was over $500 for one hour!)  I guess I should have asked about the cost before the tests were done.  They also suggested doing Chemotherapy.  But at this point I felt I had built up her immune system so much, it just didn’t make sense to me to destroy all the good we had done for so many months, just to “maybe” give her a few extra months.

October - December 2006

She was doing fine until this past Oct. when a series of events took place.  First she slipped on the grass chasing an armadillo and hurt her shoulder.  She started limping and then started yelping when she would lie down. This injury lasted for about two months. The vet took an X-ray of her shoulder, but it was negative.  Then she had a ruptured anal gland.  The vet put her on Clavamox for 10 days and she healed, but just didn’t seem like she had much energy.  She seemed very tired and quiet so he put her back on the Baytril for another week.  A week later she had some kind of episode where she started howling, running around the house and then falling over on her side a few times.  I wasn’t with her at the time, but my daughter was home with her. By the time I came home Misty was fine, wagging her tail.  I took her to the vet and he said it sounded like an epileptic attack (she had never had one before), or that it was related to her shoulder and she just went crazy from the pain. (The holistic vet also said although it sounded like an epileptic attack, but it could have past a blood clot since there was a lot of blood everywhere.)   The regular vet put her on Tramadol twice a day.  She became very lethargic and had very little control of her bladder, but he said to keep her on it and she would adjust to it.  She was not getting any better, so after a week on the Tramadol I took her off of it. I went back to the Baytril after a few weeks. I usually watch for signs of quietness, bleeding a little more when she urinates and not being able to hold her bladder as long as signs she needs an antibiotic like Baytril.  After a few days of taking the Baytril, she gets better.   But this time she was getting lethargic again and she could not hold her bladder at all, going about every 1/2 hour.  She was also bumping into things and we noticed she had lost most of her vision on her left side.  I took her to another vet- the vet I usually see wasn't in the office.  This vet increased her Baytril and took some urine for a culture and sensitivity test.  This test had never been done before! The results showed she had an infection called Enterococcus species and that Baytril was not one of drugs that would cure this. The holistic vet feels she might have had a kidney infection.  Because we cannot get a good urine sample with all the blood, it is hard to know for sure. We then switched her to Amoxicillin.  It took about a week for her to get better, but her recovery was remarkable.  She was running around again, barking at the cats, chasing the armadillo and the sparkle was back in her eyes.  She has regained some of her vision on the lower left side, but still does not have much upper vision on that side.  She probably had a stroke that caused her vision loss, or the cancer has spread.  But she seems to be getting around ok.  She does have some up and down days, but overall appears happy.

Internet Sites

There is not a lot of information about what owners have done with their dogs that had TCC on the Internet.  There was a wonderful site that I found very helpful.  It was written by someone named Sydney who did research at Washington University in the Biochemistry Department, who had a dog named Rennie.  I think Rennie was a Samoyed and looked a lot like Misty.  They had written that because TCC damages the epithelial cells lining the bladder, TCC makes the dog particularly susceptible to frequent bladder infections.  They stressed how important it was to have the correct antibiotic.  If the infection is not treated with an effective antibiotic, the dog may become listless, uninterested in playing, and even exhibit signs of pain such as emitting a sharp whimper when trying to move.  For Rennie, improvement was dramatic up to the last month of her life.  They felt aggressive treatment with the correct antibiotic was essential to maintaining Rennie’s comfort and quality of life.   I was going to contact them because this was exactly what Misty had gone through, but when I went back to the site after the first of the year it wasn’t available anymore.  If anyone has any information on this person and how to get in touch with Rennie’s owner, I would greatly appreciate letting me know.

On Rennie’s site they also said that continuous antibiotic treatment should be avoided in order to minimize selecting for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Urine cultures and antibiotic sensitivity testing must be done and it takes about 4-5 days to get the results.  I now plan to test her urine about every three weeks or so, and watch Misty’s behavior for signs of infection.  Misty is still on the Amoxicillin and I am concerned about leaving her on this for so long (it has been 2 months now) as I know that dogs can become resistant to the drug.  But the holistic vet feels that she is doing so well, that we should keep her on for a few more weeks.  I have learned from Rennie that you should discuss the issue of antibiotic therapy, and drug resistance with your vet and not to let your concerns be dismissed lightly.  I went into the vet’s office saying she needs to be on a different antibiotic.  This one is not working anymore.  Your vet may not be sufficiently familiar with kinds of bacterial resistance, which can emerge over six to nine months of antibiotic therapy.

Natasha’s Cancer Fight Newsletter site talks a lot about the importance of Flax Oil and diet.  There is a wealth of information and it helped me to seek alternatives.  Although TCC is very different than the cancer Natasha had, I feel we can still learn from other kinds of cancers. I also feel the flax oil with cottage cheese has helped Misty’s immune system, not to mention how beautiful her fur looks.
 

I also want to mention the Canine Bladder Cancer message board where a lot of owners have written about their dogs and what they have done.  It has a lot of messages and it is nice to talk with others who are going through similar problems.   

 

Another site that I found was about a pit bull named Cooper.  It has some information about TCC and what they did for Cooper.

 
Purdue University did a study of Dogs with TCC that was last updated in 2005.  Information about this study and TCC can be found at: http://www.vet.purdue.edu/pcop/CanineUrinaryBladderCancer.pdf

Alternatives

We feel it is important to think out of the box and to seek alternatives when dealing with TCC.  Using Chinese herbs can be beneficial.  These can work well for the specific needs of the dog, but it is important to not do a “shotgun” approach of adding a variety of other nutrients or antioxidants to the herbal treatment without having your dog evaluated by a veterinarian who understands the holistic approach to therapy.  Every dog reacts differently to herbal treatment and, from what I’ve read, the cancers and, or infections seem to progress differently in each dog.  We have read and heard that by only using Piroxicam without any other alternative treatments, the TCC might go into remission.  We didn’t think we would be as lucky with Misty, and I truly believe she would not still be with us if not for the acupunctures, herbs and flax oil. When she was first diagnosed we were hoping she would live a year, and here she is going on 16 months since she was first diagnosed.  I do have to tell you this has been very expensive and it does take a lot of commitment. Her herbs alone were running us about $300 every six weeks.  We have just switched over to using powder instead of pills for her herbs, but it is about $150 every six weeks.  We are averaging about $300 a month now between foods, cultures, herbs, meds, vet visits and acupuncture visits.  I did find a lab that will sell me her Piroxicam at a reduced price, so that helps some with the cost.

We try not to leave her for more than a few hours without letting her out.  She has to go out every 2-3 hours during the daytime and our walks take a long time because she squats a very long time, even after she’s finished.  We have just started to put a diaper on her at night in case she has a mistake, but most nights she is dry in the morning.  We use a brand like Depends and just cut one half down the center with a circular cutout for her tail and cross the elastic straps over her back for tension.  We were cutting a hole for her tail without the cut half way down the middle, but because she has such a big fluffy tail, (although she is losing a lot of her hair on the tip of her tail and seems very sensitive) we had a hard time putting her tail through the hole. I also use unscented baby wipes to wipe the occasional blood after she urinates.

Because we started everything at once we can’t tell what has worked and what doesn’t. I do know that after receiving her acupuncture in about 3 days she is perky and the sparkle and energy level is back for a few weeks. We go about every 3 weeks for her acupuncture.  We also feel strongly that the flax oil with cottage cheese, as well as her herbs has helped her too.  We go for short daily walks twice a day to keep her moving.  Also, since we didn’t have an established relationship with a vet in the area we have seen several vets over the last year. Looking back this might have actually helped Misty since we have been given many different views on what to do; of course it has also caused us to be uncertain about what to do next. We were also disappointed that the veterinarians we saw could not provide any research relating to options for treatment and probabilities of success.  Their approach to treatment was “cookbook.” We feel we were teaching some of the vets what they should have already known.  One vet turned to me and said, “Maybe I should be asking you what to do!”  Even our holistic vet could not provide probabilities of increasing her like span, stating the Chinese have been using herbs for 5000 years, so it must be good.

At this point and time we don’t want to change anything.  I can tell you that it is very important to build the immune system, and to watch for infections.  It appears that if you can control the cancer the most likely cause of death or concern for putting a dog to sleep is related to infections.  At one time Misty’s was so weak that we had to help her get up to walk outside to urinate and it was the infection, not the cancer that was the problem.  If we did not treat her with the correct antibiotic following cultures and sensitivities she would have died.  We feel she has done so well that we will continue to do what we can for her and try to keep her as comfortable and pain free as possible.  Something is working and we are glad to still have Misty in our lives.

Susie, Jim, Marni, Aaron and Misty
 
Please feel free to contact me at: fourpawzx3@yahoo.com

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Misty & Marni - February 2007

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This page was last updated on February 22, 2007

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