MythBusters: Veterinary Chemotherapy Edition

MythBusters: Veterinary Chemotherapy Edition

Cancer is a scary concept, whether a two- or four-legged family member is affected. When a furry loved one is diagnosed with cancer, many pet owners try to relate the potential treatment to their knowledge of human cancer treatments. But, comparing veterinary chemotherapy to human chemotherapy has resulted in many myths that still remain today, despite incredible oncology advancements. To dispel these falsehoods, we’re tackling five frequently encountered veterinary chemotherapy myths. 

Myth #1: My pet will lose all their fur while undergoing chemotherapy

Truth: While certain dog breeds, and some cats, experience fur loss during chemotherapy, it is relatively uncommon. Non-shedding dog breeds like poodles are more prone to losing their fur, but their hair will usually regrow after chemotherapy has ended. However, pets receiving chemotherapy can lose their guard hairs and whiskers, their skin and fur may change color, and fur regrowth after shaving for an intravenous (IV) catheter can be slow. 

Myth #2: Chemotherapy drugs will create horrible side effects in my pet

Truth: When owners are presented with their pet’s chemotherapy treatment plan, they often fear horrible, debilitating side effects, like those seen in people. However, veterinary chemotherapy differs greatly from human chemotherapy. Because pet chemotherapy doses are significantly lower than human doses, and generally more spread out, veterinary chemotherapy typically causes few, or only mild, side effects. Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, and can also affect the rapidly dividing cells in the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow, yet the overall toxicity rate is low in veterinary chemotherapy patients, with approximately 80% having no side effects, and only 15% to 20% experiencing mild to moderate side effects that last a few days. Side effects are less common in cats than dogs.

Serious complications, such as severe inappetence, dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea, occur in less than 5% of veterinary chemotherapy patients. With a dose reduction and prophylactic medications, most of these patients can successfully receive that same drug again.

Myth #3: Chemotherapy is only administered intravenously

Truth: During your pet’s chemotherapy treatment, we will schedule routine follow-up appointments to check their health and treatment response, which may include blood work, X-rays, ultrasound, and additional diagnostic testing. While your furry pal will need to visit Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center for medical progress appointments, you may not need to visit for your pet’s chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy is commonly administered intravenously, but alternatives, such as subcutaneous, intramuscular, or oral options, are also available. If your pet’s chemotherapy treatment comes in an oral form, you can administer the treatment at home, with regular follow-up visits to monitor progress. However, you must carefully follow all instructions, such as administration frequency, administration with or without food, and whether other medications are contraindicated with the chemotherapy agent. In addition, you must never open or crush the chemotherapy pills or tablets, always wear Latex gloves when handling the pills, and always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any chemotherapy agent.

Myth #4: Chemotherapy for my pet is too expensive

Truth: While it’s true that cancer treatment and other advanced veterinary care can be expensive, chemotherapy, and other treatment options, can be reasonable. Our team is dedicated to finding financially acceptable treatment options for your family, and we will carefully outline the costs of diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing follow-up care, to help you choose a financially feasible option. Additionally, clinical research trials and angel funds may help offset the costs for qualifying patients. 

Myth #5: Chemotherapy is the only cancer treatment available for pets

Truth: Although your mind may go straight to chemotherapy as the only cancer-treatment option for your pet, numerous other treatment methods are available. After your pet’s diagnosis, Dr. Parsons-Doherty will create a treatment plan designed to grant a good quality of life as long as possible for your cherished companion. Often, this plan will incorporate multiple modalities; for example, a tumor may be surgically excised, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to destroy any lingering cancer cells. Many factors determine your pet’s treatment protocol, and chemotherapy alone may not grant the best possible prognosis. New cancer treatments are available, with many more on the horizon, and a combination of these new treatments may be an excellent option for your pet.

When you have questions regarding your beloved companion’s chemotherapy, or other cancer-treatment options, avoid listening to myths and misconceptions. Instead, turn to your trusted Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team for advice and support. We’re always here for you and your furry loved one—call us.

Is Your Pet’s Lump Cause for Concern? Signs of 5 Common Cancers in Pets

Is Your Pet’s Lump Cause for Concern? Signs of 5 Common Cancers in Pets

A cancer diagnosis is never easy, but the dedicated team at Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center is devoted to ensuring your beloved companion has the best prognosis possible, with the most advanced diagnostic tools and treatment available. Although we see a wide range of cancers in pets, here are five that most commonly affect our furry family members. 

#1: Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in dogs, with a higher prevalence in large- and giant-breed dogs such as Irish wolfhounds and Great Danes, but is less common in cats. Osteosarcoma typically occurs in the long bones, such as the ribs or the leg bones, although any bone in the body can be affected. This cancer generally spreads rapidly, metastasizing to the lungs, lymph nodes, and other bones, and has a poor prognosis, despite our gold-standard treatment. If a limb is affected, amputation is recommended, along with chemotherapy to treat metastases. Unfortunately, by the time a pet owner notices osteosarcoma signs, which include swelling, pain, and lameness in the affected limb, microscopic metastases have likely spread throughout the body, making this dual treatment protocol a necessity. Sadly, fewer than 10% of dogs who undergo this two-pronged treatment live longer than three years. 

#2: Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cells, which line the outer layer of the skin and internal organs, can turn cancerous when damaged, such as through UV light exposure or tobacco smoke. Two forms of squamous cell carcinoma can affect pets—oral and skin (i.e., cutaneous). The oral form is locally aggressive, grows rapidly, and frequently invades the jawbone, leading to a poor prognosis. The cutaneous form rarely spreads beyond the original tumor site, but can travel to local lymph nodes and the lungs, and may reoccur in the same area after surgical removal. 

Oral squamous cell carcinoma signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Pain
  • Loose teeth
  • Ulcerated gums

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma typically affects white or light-colored pets who have the least amount of protection from harmful UV rays, and in cats, generally appears as reddened lesions on the ear tips, around the eyes, and on the temples. In dogs, squamous cell carcinoma tends to attack the nail beds. Both cancer forms are more common in cats than dogs, particularly in middle-aged to older cats. 

#3: Lymphoma

Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers found in pets, and can take a variety of forms. This cancer originates in the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell responsible for the body’s defenses, and can spread to attack the lymph nodes, organs, bone marrow, and any body part. Lymphoma is most common in middle-aged to older pets, but can sometimes affect young pets. Cats who have been diagnosed with feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus have an increased risk of developing lymphoma, while canine breeds, such as golden retrievers, boxers, Saint Bernards, Airedale terriers, Scottish terriers, and basset hounds appear the most affected. 

Lymphoma signs depend on the body area affected, and can include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Black, tarry stool

Some lymphoma forms respond well to treatment, and may go into remission, but many pets who continue to suffer from lymphoma can experience a good quality of life for some time while undergoing treatment. 

#4: Mast cell tumor

Mast cell tumors arise from a type of blood cell associated with allergic responses, and generally form on the skin, although they can pop up in the bone marrow, spleen, liver, and intestinal tract. These tumors can range in severity from low-grade, less aggressive masses, to high-grade, metastatic tumors. Low-grade tumors that are surgically removed with wide margins have the best prognosis for complete recovery. 

Mast cell tumors vary in appearance, and may be a raised lump under the skin, or become red, ulcerated, or swollen. They can remain stagnant for months, or may appear suddenly, and grow quickly. They may also fluctuate in size daily. Boxers, bulldogs, and Siamese cats are most at risk for mast cell tumor development.

#5: Mammary gland carcinoma

Mammary gland carcinomas are the most common tumors in unspayed female cats and dogs, and may go unnoticed for long periods. The lumps begin as a small nodule around the nipple or in the mammary chain, but can grow to large, painful, ulcerated tumors. In dogs, 50% of these tumors will be malignant, and 50% of malignant tumors will be fatal. Sadly, malignant mammary tumors in cats are 90% fatal. Spaying your pet before her first heat cycle greatly reduces her risk for mammary cancer development. 

Pets are like people, and can fall victim to many cancer forms. If you notice unusual lumps, or changes in appetite, activity, or behavior, contact your family veterinarian for a thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing.

If your beloved pet does receive a cancer diagnosis, our Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team is ready to help you through such a challenging time. A referral from your family veterinarian to a veterinary oncologist will grant your furry family member the best prognosis, and the most advanced treatment. Call us to discuss how we can help care for your cherished companion after their cancer diagnosis.

4 Summer Safety Tips for Pets with Cancer

4 Summer Safety Tips for Pets with Cancer

If summer is your favorite time of year, you likely want to enjoy many activities with your beloved companion, although if your pet has cancer, they may not be able to participate in as many events as you’d like. However, despite their terminal illness, your furry pal can still have a great time during summer, provided you take proper precautions to keep them safe, cool, and comfortable. Before heading out to soak in the summer sun, check out our four tips that will help your furry friend enjoy the season safely, despite their condition, or help them to avoid pet cancers.

#1: Use pet-friendly sunscreen for cats and dogs

Like people, pets can be affected by skin cancer. Although your pet’s fur coat acts as armor against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, white, light-colored, and thin-coated pets are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. The UV rays from prolonged sun exposure, whether outdoors or sunbathing in a window, can cause skin damage, sunburn, and increased risk of common skin cancers. 

If your yard lacks shade, or your white kitty enjoys lying in the windowsill all day, soaking up the rays, consider applying pet-friendly sunscreen to protect them against sun damage. Do not apply sunscreen formulated for people, which can contain ingredients toxic to pets, such as zinc oxide. 

If your pet enjoys the warm sunshine’s soothing rays, they should be monitored closely for signs of skin cancer, especially if they are light-colored. Common skin cancer types include melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer signs can range from lumps and bumps on your pet’s body, to small, round masses around the mouth, nose, toes, or paws, that can be black, brown, or pink. Any new mass—no matter how small—should be examined by your veterinarian or by a veterinary oncologist at Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center. If a bump changes shape, grows rapidly, or is accompanied by a non-healing sore, contact us for an appointment. We’ll take a sample to determine the mass type, and the best treatment course. 

#2: Monitor your pet’s breathing when outdoors

When romping outdoors with your furry pal, be cautious of overdoing it, especially when temperature and humidity levels rise. Excessive heat, paired with high humidity, can make it challenging for your best friend to breathe well, especially if their cancer has metastasized to their lungs. These small masses can restrict proper lung function, and sticky weather makes breathing more difficult than usual. For pets with flat faces (i.e., brachycephalic breeds), choose the coolest part of the day to exercise and play outdoors. Early morning is usually best for pets with breathing issues, regardless of the cause, as the temperature and humidity are at their lowest points. When outdoors, monitor your pet closely for an increased respiration rate or effort, and at the first sign of trouble, head inside, where it’s cool and comfortable. 

#3: Ensure your pet stays hydrated during the summer

Adequate hydration is critical in the summer to avoid heat exhaustion, or a potentially fatal heatstroke episode. However, if your beloved companion has an inoperable oral or nasal tumor, drinking and breathing may be difficult. Your pet’s mass may have been removed or debulked through surgery, but part of their jaw or tongue may be absent, making drinking more challenging. Encourage your pet to drink with drinking fountains, ice chips, or water flavored with a small amount of sodium-free chicken broth, and always provide fresh, cool water. Feeding your pet canned food with a high moisture content, or adding water to canned food to make a slurry or soup that your furry pal can lap up more easily, are also excellent ways to increase moisture intake.

#4: Avoid feeding your pet foods from your cookout

One of the summer season’s highlights is cooking everything on the grill, whether it’s meat, a vegetable, or fruit. The mouth-watering aromas when you’re grilling a thick, juicy steak will likely tempt your furry pal, but avoid sharing your barbecue dinner. Bones in ribs, steak, and chicken can pierce your pet’s intestinal tract, or lodge and cause a life-threatening obstruction, while fatty meats may lead to pancreatitis. If your best friend is already battling illness, prevent compounding the issue, and offer them only pet-friendly foods. Fresh veggies, small pieces of fruit, and chunks of lean meat can be more easily and safely digested than corn on the cob, or potato salad. Keep in mind that some cancer treatments may reduce your pet’s appetite, or make them nauseous, so tempting them with small portions of healthy human foods may encourage them to eat. However, don’t overdo it, as unfamiliar foods may cause vomiting or diarrhea. When in doubt about which foods are safe for your pet, call us for advice.

If your furry pal develops an unusual lump, bump, or non-healing sore after excessive sun exposure, contact us for an appointment, to determine the source of the issue.

7 Ways to Memorialize Your Beloved Pet

7 Ways to Memorialize Your Beloved Pet

Losing a pet is heartbreaking, whether or not you’ve had time to prepare for an eventual loss after a cancer diagnosis. You’ve cherished your beloved companion for years, and while their memory will always be in your heart, your mind may begin to forget the details of your bond. To ensure your best friend will have their permanent special spot in your heart and your mind, you may want a unique way to commemorate their memory. 

After your furry loved one receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, your thoughts likely automatically turn to aftercare, such as burying your pet at home, or cremating them. This decision will have bearing on your memorialization options. Depending on your pet’s cancer, you may not have much time to decide, or you may have months. Discuss with your family the following ways to remember your beloved companion, and which would mean the most to you.

#1: Engrave a stone to mark your pet’s grave

If you choose to bury your pet, or their ashes if cremated, you can create a gorgeous burial area where you can sit, and feel close to your furry loved one. A traditional headstone or grave marker, engraved with your pet’s nickname, a special saying, and a picture will make a perfectly unique memorial. There are many heartfelt sayings about the impact pets have on our lives that you may consider, or create your own special phrase that reminds you of your bond with your pet. Once the stone is placed, plant bright blooms around your pet’s gravesite, or create a memorial garden.

#2: Personalize an urn for your pet’s ashes

If you choose to have your pet cremated, a personalized urn can commemorate your beloved companion’s final resting place. A wide variety of urns—wooden, stone, or metal—are available. You can have an urn cast in your pet’s image, and engraved with a favorite picture, or opt for a simple, elegant look without added frills. Whatever you choose, your furry loved one’s urn will be a wonderful commemoration of your life together.

#3: Create a paw print of your pet

Paw prints are beautiful works of art that will remind you of your best friend. You can create your own clay paw print at home with a mold kit or, at Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center, we can design a copy of your pet’s paw after euthanasia, which allows us to redo the print if necessary, to ensure it looks perfect.

#4: Commission a painting of your pet

A painting is a beautiful way to commemorate your pet. Choose your favorite picture of your best friend, then search for an artist whose style you like. Some people prefer simple, clean drawings, while others like a splashy watercolor to depict their pet. The art style that matches your pet’s personality is an excellent memorial to their life. 

#5: Make a donation to an animal shelter in your pet’s name

What better way to celebrate your pet’s life than by saving another’s? If you rescued your furry pal from an animal shelter, donate toys, food, bedding, or other needed items to that shelter. You can also donate to a shelter, rescue, or “angel fund” organization dedicated to helping alleviate cancer treatment costs for pets, in your pet’s name.  

#6: Create a piece of jewelry from your pet’s ashes or fur

If your pet is cremated, you can commission a beautiful piece of jewelry containing your beloved companion’s ashes or fur. You can have a ring or necklace created, so you can always have a piece of your pet with you. A small sculpture with your pet’s ashes or fur is another wonderful way to commemorate your pet.

#7: Design a tattoo to commemorate your pet

While tattoos are not for everyone, they clearly show that your beloved companion was special. Think carefully about the design you would like, and whether you’d prefer a paw print, nose print, simple outline, or highly detailed picture of your best friend. 

If you’re struggling with the thought of saying good-bye to your beloved companion after a cancer diagnosis, talk to the Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team. We know how incredibly difficult it is to care for a pet with cancer, and we want to help.

Special Care for Special Pets: How to Care for a Disabled Pet

Special Care for Special Pets: How to Care for a Disabled Pet

Having another living creature rely solely on you for all her needs is a big responsibility, and a disabled pet can be a big challenge. Paired with managing cancer treatment, a missing limb, blindness, or deafness can prove a difficult burden for you and your pet to handle. But, a pet with a disability has as much love to share as one who has four legs, and can still return your adoring gaze. To help return your three-legged, deaf, or blind pal’s devotion, we’ve outlined a few ways to make caring for your special pet easier.

How to care for a pet with an amputated limb

Many pet owners cannot fathom their pet with only three legs, but almost all pets do as well with three legs as they do with four. There’s an adjustment phase after the amputation surgery, but pets don’t realize they’re missing a leg, and usually cope well. We often recommend limb amputation for cancers that attack the limbs or long bones, like osteosarcoma or nerve sheath tumors, as the amputation will completely remove the malignant growth, and the pain.

Fortunately, although you and your pet will likely need a little help adjusting to life without a leg, most pets learn to manage well. The following recommendations will help your pet transition to life as an amputee:

  • Use a rehabilitation therapist Help your pet build strength by working with a pet rehabilitation specialist. Different muscle groups will be used, as your pet learns to compensate for her missing limb, and rehab sessions can help her find a new center of balance, and to develop muscles.
  • Prevent weight gain — Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Ideally, your furry pal should be lean and trim, to avoid any extra pressure on the remaining limbs.
  • Implement a joint-health regimen — A wide variety of joint supplements are available for pets, to help maintain joint cartilage, and reduce inflammatory responses in overworked joints. We can recommend the product that would work best for your three-legged friend, based on her health condition.

Although sacrificing a limb seems drastic, amputation can save your pet’s life. Many pets get around well once they adjust to their missing limb, and go on to live a normal, comfortable life. 

How to care for a deaf pet

Pets often lose their hearing with age, but some pets, especially pure white dogs, are born deaf. Regardless of how deafness occurred, most deaf pets live a perfectly normal life, as long as their safety is properly considered. Since your pet will be unable to hear you call her name if danger is near, take the following steps to protect her:

  • Secure her environment — Always keep your pet in a secure environment, whether a fenced-in yard, or inside your home. Check your fence’s perimeter regularly for holes or breaks that would allow your pet to escape, or other animals to enter.
  • Keep her leashed — When walking your deaf dog, keep her on a leash or long lead, to grant her freedom to explore and sniff to her heart’s content, but still keep her safe and secure. Hand signals won’t work if your dog wanders out of eyesight, so keep your pet nearby with a leash.

Also, keep your deaf pet’s comfort and security in mind while you are at home. Avoid sneaking up on her while she’s sleeping, eating, or chewing on a high-value item. Deaf pets can be easily startled, if they don’t see you approaching, and may bite or scratch. Ensure your pet sees you before you approach her, to avoid scaring her, and causing a defensive reaction. Except for these few differences, your deaf pet will live a happy, normal life, and learn to follow your hand signals. 

How to care for a blind pet

A blind pet can be more challenging to care for than a deaf pet, as they tend to bump into furniture, or otherwise hurt themselves while attempting to navigate obstacles. If you have another pet in your home, your blind pet will likely pair up with her “seeing-eye” cat or dog for assistance. Consistency is key for blind pets, since they will learn the layout and patterns of your home and yard, which allows them to move more confidently. Avoid rearranging your furniture, and keep items picked up off the floor that could cause your pet to trip. Block access to stairs and potential danger zones, and use verbal cues to guide your pet. Proper management will help her live comfortably, despite her loss of sight.

How to care for yourself if your pet has a disability

If your beloved companion suffers from a cancer-related disability, you’re faced with two unpleasant conditions, which can be mentally and emotionally overwhelming. When caring for your disabled pet, ensure you also take care of yourself, and get help, so you can cope mentally, emotionally, and physically, and avoid becoming rundown and weary. Here are two ways to keep your spirits and strength up, when caring for your disabled pet:

  • Join a support group — People who live with disabled pets are an excellent resource. They can provide a plethora of tips and tricks on how to best care for your furry pal, and offer firsthand experience on daily life, in addition to showering you with empathy and encouragement. These groups may also have used equipment for sale that is designed to make caring for your disabled pet easier, as some pets will have lost their battle, and no longer need their wheelchairs, slings, ramps, or harnesses.
  • Evaluate your mental and emotional health — Taking care of a disabled pet with a terminal illness is incredibly difficult. The never-ending drain on your mental and emotional well-being can be exhausting, especially combined with the thought that your beloved companion is fading away from cancer. Although you love your pet dearly, and want to perform all the tasks necessary to keep her comfortable, reach out for aid. Simply leaving your pet in good hands, and not worrying about her care for a few hours’ break, can do wonders for your well-being.

When caring for your disabled pet, you can always turn to the Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team for assistance. Give us a call, so we can help support you, and your beloved companion.


5 Tips to Help You Choose a New Pet After Losing One

5 Tips to Help You Choose a New Pet After Losing One

After helping your pet every step of the way during her battle with cancer, we grieve with you when your beloved companion passes on. Facing such a huge loss is incredibly difficult, and people cope with the gaping hole in their lives and their hearts in a variety of ways. Some choose to bring home a new pet immediately, some vow to never love an animal again, and some bring home a pet of a drastically different species. If you still feel lost after saying goodbye to your beloved companion, our five tips will guide you on your path, as you consider a new pet.

#1: Take time to grieve

Avoid rushing into finding a new pet to fill the hole in your heart. Although a wagging tail, or a contented purr, can bring joy, you want to avoid a new pet who is only a band-aid. Honor your lost pet’s memory by allowing yourself plenty of time to grieve. Also, if you bring home a new pet too soon, you may constantly compare your new and previous pets, which is not fair to your new furry friend. By taking enough time to mourn properly, you will find a separate place in your heart for your new pet, rather than making her live up to the impossible task of replacing your lost pet.

#2: Understand there is no “right” time to bring home a new pet

If you take a public opinion poll on the “right” time to bring home a new pet, you will receive a great many answers. But, no response can tell you the right time for you and your family. Some people cannot bear to be without doggy kisses or feline trills to greet them at the door, while others feel that welcoming a new pet immediately is disrespectful. While you can consider other opinions, especially your family members’, no one can tell you the “right” time for a new pet. The decision can only be yours, and your decision is always right. 

#3: Consider your family’s feelings about bringing home a new pet

While you may feel ready to welcome a new pet, the rest of your household may not feel the same way. Since each person grieves differently, it may take some time before everyone is on the same page, so hold a family meeting, ensuring you discuss the following points:

  • Establish that everyone has had the opportunity to grieve properly.
  • Discuss each family member’s desire, or lack thereof, for a new pet.
  • Decide the characteristics you’d like in your new pet.
  • Discuss potential sources, such as an animal shelter, reputable breeder, or rescue group.

Listen intently to each family member’s opinion before making a group decision. A new addition can lead to resentment if everyone is not ready, or cannot come to an agreement.

#4: Volunteer at an animal shelter

Losing your pet can take a large chunk out of your life, and your heart. If you’re not quite ready to welcome home a new pet, volunteering at your local animal shelter is a wonderful way to care for pets who desperately need love and attention, and fill up on canine cuddles and feline purrs, while allowing yourself time to grieve.

If you can’t bring yourself to shower another pet with love for a while, that is completely normal. For many, seeing someone playing with a cat or dog is like pouring salt on an open wound. But, once you’re ready to enjoy a pet’s companionship again, your local shelter is a great place to start. 

#5: Decide if you want a similar pet, or one completely different

Deciding what sort of pet to welcome home may be your most difficult decision. You may be afraid that if you choose a similar pet, you’ll be constantly comparing the two, but you may not enjoy a radically different species. For example, you decide to branch out after losing your feline friend, and choose a snake, but once the snake is home, you realize you cannot cope with feeding it mice—catnip mice are your limit.

Do some soul-searching about the pet that will best fit your lifestyle, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Species — Do I want a furred, feathered, scaled, or slimy pet?
  • Personality — Do I want a pet to kiss and cuddle, or to admire, with little contact?
  • Purpose — Do I want a pet for a specific purpose, such as my protection, or to compete in sporting events, or simply for companionship?
  • Experience — Do I want the experience of caring for a new species, or should I stick with the familiar?
  • Readiness — Am I truly ready to open my heart to a new pet, and show her the love and attention she deserves?

Keep in mind there is no correct timeline for grieving a lost pet, and welcoming a new one home. You may choose to never have a new pet, which is completely fine. Or, you may empty out your local shelter the next day. Nothing can ever replace your lost pet, but there is always more room to love another one.

No matter how you choose to grieve and recover from your pet’s loss, the Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team is here for you. Give us a call if you have any questions about welcoming a new pet into your life. And, when you do, we would love to meet her.

Hidden Dangers in Your Home: 6 Top Toxins for Pets

Hidden Dangers in Your Home: 6 Top Toxins for Pets

Pets are inquisitive creatures, exploring the world with their noses, paws, and mouths, but that curiosity can literally kill the cat—or dog. While pets will obviously sniff out and gobble down something that smells tasty, such as raisin bread or chocolate, identifying items that we do not think would appeal to pets is more challenging. Bitter medications, household cleaners, and pesticides should not entice your pet, yet the ASPCA fields thousands of phone calls a year regarding potential poisoning from inedible items. When in doubt, keep any possible toxin well out of your furry pal’s reach to ensure her safety, and keep a close eye out for the following most common poisons.

#1: Human medications
Human medications encompass a wide range of drugs, including over-the-counter products, herbal supplements, vitamins, and prescription medications. Loving pet owners hate seeing their pets in pain or suffering from gastrointestinal distress, and may turn to items in their own medicine cabinet before they schedule a veterinary visit. But, many human medications are toxic for pets, especially if they are added to a veterinary-prescribed pain, anti-nausea, or appetite-stimulant medication. If your pet is already taking medication we’ve prescribed, doubling up on human medications will likely cause issues. For example, if we prescribed medication for your dog’s osteosarcoma pain, and you add aspirin at home, your pooch may suffer from gastric ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, seizures, or kidney or liver disease. 

Human-medication ingestion by pets can also be accidental, such as unattended pill bottles, or medication dropped on the floor. While many pets suffer from inappetence and nausea during chemotherapy treatment, appetite stimulants can pique their hunger enough that they will scarf up anything, including dropped pills. For your pet’s safety, keep her out of the room when you take your medications, and place all pill bottles out of reach.

#2: Food
While chocolate has its own category on the ASPCA’s list of most common toxins, we’ve lumped it in with all other foods. It’s still a frequent flyer on the common-toxin list, despite most pet owners understanding the dangers, because owners often are unsure of the dosage required to cause toxicity, and want to ensure their dog’s safety. Other foods that have the potential to cause vomiting, diarrhea, neurologic issues, kidney disease, or liver failure include:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Yeast
  • Alcohol
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Xylitol

While these items can be toxic, other foods, such as steak fat, bones, and high-fat items, can also be hazardous to your pet’s health, and can cause pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition. When tempting your pet to eat during chemotherapy treatments or hospice care, ensure the food you’re offering will not make her nauseous, and more sick.

#3: Veterinary products
Many pet medications are designed to be highly palatable, since getting medicine safely into a pet is often a challenge. Occasionally, a pet will sneak into her stash of chewable heartworm prevention, or sniff out other flavored medications. Other veterinary medication overdoses are through human error. For example, lack of communication between pet owners can result in a double dose of medication, if both owners medicate the pet unknowingly. If your pet mistakenly receives too much medication, particularly oral chemotherapy agents or pain medications, contact us immediately.

#4: Household items
Household items are often the least tasty group of toxins, but pets may fall victim to these poisons because of their close proximity. Paint, glue, and household cleaning products can pose a threat to your pet. Keep craft supplies out of your furry pal’s reach, and ensure cleaning products are pet-safe and stored appropriately. 

#5: Rodenticides and insecticides
Rat poison, slug bait, and bug sprays are common hazards that can seriously harm your pet. Ensure she cannot reach rodenticides and insecticides in your home, as they are as life-threatening to your pet as to rodents and insects. Ask a professional exterminator for help with pet-friendly pest-control options.

#6: Plants and garden products

Many plants can be toxic to your pet if ingested. Some are so hazardous—lilies for cats, for example—that mere contact with the pollen can lead to kidney failure. Before bringing plants into your home, or planning a bright, bloom-filled garden for you and your pet to enjoy, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants so you know what to avoid. Also, when coaxing beautiful displays from your plants, be wary of the fertilizer and mulch products, which may entice your pet into ingesting a toxic substance.

Before adding a supplement to your pet’s treatment plan, contact us. Some supplements, herbs, and vitamins can interact with your beloved companion’s medications.

5 Ways to Stay Active After Your Pet’s Cancer Diagnosis

5 Ways to Stay Active After Your Pet’s Cancer Diagnosis

After your pet receives a cancer diagnosis, spoiling her with daily McDonald’s hamburgers and lazy afternoons snuggling on the couch may be tempting. But, while these are wonderful ways to bond with your best friend, continue to show your love through regular activity. Many pets desire nothing more than time spent with their “person,” and daily exercise will help keep your pet strong, promote healthy muscle mass, and create a special time in your busy day to focus solely on your pet. While battling cancer, your pet may not feel quite up to snuff, and she may not bounce around with her typical delight when presented with a toy or leash. However, she will still be overjoyed to take part in her favorite activities. Naturally, you may be worried about doing too much if your pet is weak or feels ill, so follow these tips to ensure your furry friend enjoys her adventures to the fullest.

#1: Follow your pet’s lead during activities

Let your pet set the pace on your jaunts throughout the neighborhood or during play. If she can do no more than a slow plod, don’t push her to complete the five-mile loop from her younger days. If your pet appears uncomfortable and cannot tolerate intense hiking expeditions, listen to her, and avoid steep hills and stick to flat ground. 

When you are playing together at home, your dog may be unable to run as far during a game of fetch. Stick with gentle ball tosses, and limit play sessions to brief intervals, allowing her plenty of time to rest. 

Your kitty may not be able to jump as well as she used to, so keep that in mind when playing with her with feather wands or fishing pole toys. Most cats enjoy stalking and pouncing games, so you can likely entice your feline friend into a game of chase by dragging a feather wand along the floor, rather than flicking it high in the air. As with dogs, keep play sessions brief, with ample recovery time. 

#2: Monitor your pet closely when playing

While enjoying a game of fetch, a hike along a trail, a training session, an agility course, or a stalk-and-pounce activity, monitor your pet closely for signs of discomfort or tiring. Pets with bone cancers can become painful with too much activity on the affected limb, or chemotherapeutic medications can sap your pet’s energy or make her feel ill. Keep an eye out for the following signs that your pet is ready to call it quits:

  • Excessive panting
  • Limping
  • Lagging behind
  • Slowing down
  • Lack of interest in surroundings or activity
  • Whining, whimpering, or groaning

Many pets enjoy playing their favorite games with their owners, but cannot make a sound decision about when to quit. Be your furry pal’s advocate, and encourage her to rest and relax before she exceeds her limits. 

#3: Spend time doing your pet’s favorite activities

When your beloved pet receives a cancer diagnosis, you may be tempted to cram as many fun, fulfilling activities into the time you have left together, trying to complete a bucket list. But, if your dog was never a fan of crowded dog parks or car rides, avoid those adventures and choose activities your pet likes. She may enjoy a solitary hike in the woods more than a day at the dog park, or a walk around the neighborhood rather than a trip through the drive-thru for a snack that will make her nauseous. Most cats are homebodies and would prefer to stay home, rather than set out to experience new adventures, especially if they feel unwell. Instead, offer your kitty her most-loved foods, and participate in her favorite activities at home. 

#4: Help your pet as needed

As your pet grows older and her cancer progresses, her body may be unable to function as well. Her limbs may become weak and unable to fully support her weight, especially on slick floors. She may not be able to jump to reach her favorite perch or catch her ball. Support your pet by adding stairs or ramps so she does not need to jump, lay down carpet runners for traction, and purchase mobility aids to help her walk. Slings, toe grips, and limb braces can support your pet, and ensure she remains comfortable while she is active. 

#5: Ask us to help keep your pet comfortable

Despite all the changes you make at home to keep your pet comfortable while she goes about her favorite activities, you may feel that you could be doing more. Fortunately for your furry friend, we can team up to provide additional pain-relief options to ensure she remains happy during her daily routine. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, opioids, nerve-pain medication, supplements, holistic treatments, and prescription diets can be added to your pet’s management plan to help keep her comfortable so she can fully enjoy being active with you. 

If you notice your pet slowing down or not enjoying her favorite activities anymore, contact us.

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Pet’s Good Health

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Pet’s Good Health

As December comes to a close, you may be thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions and how you can improve in 2020. But, did you know that many of your resolutions can also benefit your pets? Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions you can make that will help you and your pet be your best selves in 2020.

#1: Exercise more with your dog

Your dog deserves a walk every day, and some high-energy dogs could use more than one walk per day. Walks provide dogs not only physical, but also mental exercise. With so many sights, sounds, and smells in the great outdoors, daily walks can fire up your dog’s brain cells after a long day inside. Also, although you may be on a mission, remember to let your dog stop and smell the roses, which can do wonders for his mind, and yours. 

#2: Feed pets a healthy, balanced, age-appropriate diet

Choose a high quality diet from a reputable pet-food company, and skip trendy boutique food. If you have questions about the best food for your pet, reach out to your family veterinarian or call us, and we will be happy to lead you through the confusing world of pet food. Never rely on advice from the cashier at the pet-food store.

Once you’ve chosen a diet, be careful not to overfeed your pet. About half the country’s pet population is overweight or obese, and the extra pounds can exacerbate joint pain, and lead to other major health problems, such as diabetes and cancer. 

#3: Focus on your pet’s health

We all want to be healthy, and diet and exercise are a good start. Also, maintain your pet’s heartworm prevention and be diligent about year-round flea and tick control. Make and keep your pet’s wellness appointments, consider investing in pet health insurance, and ensure your pet’s vaccines are up-to-date. If your pet is 7 or older now, keep in mind that senior pets should see their veterinarian twice yearly. Regular veterinary visits help your veterinarian identify changes in your pet’s health earlier, which means treatment can begin early in a disease process, improving a pet’s chances of recovery. 

#4: Screen for cancer and other diseases

Cancer is a leading cause of death among people and pets, and early diagnosis and intervention can mean the difference between life and death. Ask your veterinarian about these cancer screening techniques:

  • Fine needle aspirate — If you notice a new lump or bump on your furry friend, this is an affordable and non-invasive way to learn what’s inside the lump.
  • Rectal exam — This can help identify anal sac tumors before a pet shows other signs of illness.
  • Blood work — Changes in your pet’s regular blood work can indicate illness early, before your pet shows other signs.
  • Urinalysis — Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the most common tumor of the urogenital system in dogs, and a urinalysis can reveal a gene mutation associated with this cancer, potentially leading to a diagnosis months before the dog shows clinical signs of the disease.
  • X-rays — Radiographs, or X-rays, can reveal the presence of a tumor before other signs appear.

#5: Spay or neuter your pet

Decreasing the pet population is important, but spaying or neutering your pet helps reduce the risk of certain health problems, such as uterine infection, and mammary and testicular cancers. Talk with your primary care veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet to mitigate these risks.

#6: Quit smoking

Our pets breathe the same are we breathe, and they’re just as susceptible to health problems associated with secondhand smoke as our human family members. Not only are pets exposed to secondhand smoke when they breathe, but they also ingest it when they groom themselves. Researchers have found that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of developing nasal cancer, heart disease, allergic skin disease, and other health issues. An increased risk of lymphoma and oral squamous cell carcinoma has been found in cats exposed to secondhand smoke. 

#7: Ensure your pet has current identification

Current collar ID tags can make all the difference should your dog or cat get lost, but what if he sneaks out without his collar? If your pet is not microchipped, resolve to remedy that. A microchip is a permanent form of identification inserted under your pet’s skin that is your best defense if he gets lost, because when a pet is found, his microchip can be scanned for the owner’s contact information. Also, always ensure that your information in the microchip database is up-to-date.

#8: Be prepared for your pet

Have a pet first-aid kit accessible at home and in the car when traveling with your pet. Your kit should include: 

  • Gauze
  • Veterinary wrap
  • Plastic bags
  • Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol swabs
  • Styptic powder or cornstarch for small cuts or bleeding toenails 
  • Eyewash
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers 

#9: Train your dog

Start training and socialization when your dog is a puppy. All dogs should know simple commands, such as “Come,” “Sit,” or “Stay,” especially if they are mischievous. Obeying “Come!” can keep your dog from potentially dangerous situations, such as being hit by a car. Training also can help prevent behavior problems, because unsocialized dogs may become nervous or aggressive.

#10: Help other pets

The beginning of a new year is a great time to set a goal of helping not only your own dog or cat, but also the many unwanted and abandoned pets in shelters. Consider fostering a petsome dogs need to buy time in a foster home until they get forever homes. When shelters are full, pets who need help may be turned away, or worse, euthanized. If fostering a pet is not possible, consider donating time, money, or food to a shelter.

Happy holidays, and here’s to a wonderful 2020 with your furry friends.

Meet the Women Behind the Scrubs at Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center

The Pearland Animal Cancer and Referral Center team is second to none. With a passion and expertise for helping pets, each team member strives to give you and your pet her best. Our greatest honor is your trust in us to care for your beloved four-legged family members. Read on to learn more about the women who work so hard to make this practice great. 

Melissa Parsons-Doherty, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)

Dr. Parsons-Doherty was born and raised in Canada, where she received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) at the Atlantic Veterinary College, Prince Edward Island. After graduating from veterinary school, she moved south to the United States to train as a veterinary oncologist, completing a rotating internship in medicine and surgery at Garden State Veterinary Specialists, New Jersey, and an oncology internship at the University of Georgia. She then spent a few years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she completed her residency and became board-certified in medical oncology at Louisiana State University.

After completing her training, Dr. Parsons-Doherty returned to Canada to work and teach at Ontario Veterinary College’s Animal Cancer Center. Her experiences there were formative—she was amazed by the relationships her clients formed when facing their pets’ cancer diagnoses together, and she decided she wanted a practice of her own that would be dedicated to the client experience. Her ultimate goal was to create a practice where she could spend valuable time with people and their pets through the cancer process, providing help and support whenever needed. 

A warmer climate beckoned, so Dr. Parsons-Doherty packed up her family and moved to Houston, where she accomplished her vision—the first specialty Houston-area veterinary hospital dedicated to the care of dogs and cats with cancer.

Dr. Parsons-Doherty and her husband, Kevin, have been married for 22 wonderful years, and share their home with seven pets: two German shepherd dogs, Bryson and Cruiser, and five cats, who include Skippy and Little One, and three adorable kittens named Poppy, Holly, and Cherry.

Texas life suits Dr. Parsons-Doherty much better than the frigid north, and she says she will take being too hot over being too cold any day of the week! When the scrubs come off, you’ll find her listening to country music, taking in the newest romantic comedy, or noshing on seafood, her favorite food. She is still trying to master the ever-elusive work-life balance, but she enjoys getting crafty by decorating and sewing when she has “off” time.

When she daydreams, Dr. Parsons-Doherty sees herself far from Houston traffic, relaxing on a tropical island with the warm ocean breeze in her hair. 

Irene Garcia, LVT

Irene graduated from Vet Tech Institute of Houston and became a licensed veterinary technician in 2013. She wears two hats at the clinic—she’s in charge of our entire inventory, and she performs veterinary technician duties. 

Irene lives in Pearland with her husband, son, and a variety of four-legged family members. As a child, Irene was never allowed to have pets, so she’s making up for lost time in the pet department. Her morning roll call includes:

  • Ellie the cat, whose nickname is Belly
  • Cassius the Doberman pinscher, who is a very good boy
  • Marcie the German shepherd, whose heart belongs to Cassius
  • June the cat, who is lovingly called Juneba for her uncanny impression of a Roomba—she cleans up every crumb of dropped food

When she’s not taking care of her menagerie, you’ll find Irene sitting squarely on the fence, which makes her exceptionally easy to please. Her taste in music runs the gamut, she enjoys all movie genres except horror flicks, and she’ll try any kind of food. In fact, when her scrubs come off, you can often find Irene exploring the many excellent Houston-area restaurants.

Briana Radford, CVA

Briana, a certified veterinary assistant from Missouri City, Texas, has been in the veterinary medical profession for six years, but caring for animals has been in her blood since childhood, when she developed a passion for caring for stray animals. She is currently studying agriculture and animal science.  

Unlike her coworker Irene, Briana can easily pick music, movie, and food favorites. On her breaks, she can be found listening to ’90’s R&B music, eating Chinese food, and enjoying a clip or two of her favorite sci-fi movies. And, you can always find her wearing something in her favorite color—pink—every day.

Briana and her cherished son share their house with Ali, the European Doberman, and Achilles, the retriever mix. Her five-year plan includes two huge goals—finishing her degree, and becoming a first-time homeowner. When the scrubs come off, Briana might be found practicing one of her secret talents—playing the clarinet, or offering her skills as a freelance makeup artist. 

Amy Edgar, LVT

Amy Edgar is a licensed veterinary technician, born and raised in Houston, who was afflicted by the veterinary medicine bug in high school, when she got her first job at a small animal clinic. Amy comes by her love of animals honestly—her parents, who live nearby, and her sister, who lives in Fort Worth, are all huge animal lovers, too.  

When the scrubs come off, you can find Amy hanging out at her boyfriend’s cattle ranch in Hempstead, listening to country music. She claims four pets: Labrador retrievers, Ruger and Dude; a horse named Boon; and a pony, Rusty. 

If she could travel anywhere in the world, Amy would go to the tropicsas long as there is a Starbucksbut when she’s home snuggled up with her four-legged family members, she’s likely watching sports or comedies and dining on her favorite cuisine, Mexican food. 

Welcome to our clinic

Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about our staff. We are honored to call you our clients and friends, and we look forward to seeing you in our clinic when your pet needs us.