The word we all fear hearing from our veterinarian
by Karen Leshkivich, DVM

Cancer--the very word seems ominous.  Cancer is becoming more prevalent in bloodhounds, just as it is in people.  This may be a consequence of longer lives or the contamination of our environment.  I have lost several bloodhounds over the years to cancer, and it once again has reared its ugly head in my hounds.  Since it is on my mind, I thought I might be able to quell some fears and offer some information and hope for others who have encountered it.

Cancer is generally a term used for malignant neoplasia (tumors), but some may refer to any tumor as cancer.  Tumors can be benign (i.e. not likely to spread or cause disease) or they can be malignant (will recur or spread and do cause disease or death).  If you have been told that your hound has cancer, ask exactly what it is and what are the options for treatment.  Many types of tumors can be treated and/or cured, and likewise, many forms of cancer can be treated.  There are many forms of chemotherapy available now.  Dogs do not have the same reaction to chemotherapy as we do--they will not go bald or be nauseous for weeks.  There are side effect to various chemotherapy's used in dogs, and these can often be avoided and treated.  Chemotherapy can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the drug and protocol (number of treatments, combinations of drugs, etc.).  There are even forms of immunotherapy available to try to stimulate the hound's own body to fight the cancer. There are forms of gene therapy for canine cancer on the horizon.  Radiation treatment is also available, although you may have to travel to a facility that offers it.  For many forms of cancer, surgery is a form of treatment or cure.  Many veterinarians who are not comfortable with chemotherapy, do not refer cases, or may not be aware of currently available forms of therapy.  Ask about all your options and get a second opinion if necessary.

With any tumor, lump or bump, I always recommend a biopsy.  A biopsy provides a great deal of information that can help you make a decision for your hound's health.  Not only does a biopsy tell us what it is, it also tells us if the whole thing was removed or if there is evidence that tumor cells have spread into blood vessels on the way to other areas of the body.  This all helps in determining what, if any, additional treatment would be recommended, and what is the prognosis.  Prognosis includes the chances that it will recur or spread, how long will your hound live, and what quality of life will your hound have in the remaining time.  For some people, more time with their hound means a few months, for others it may mean a few years.  A decision to pursue further treatment is an independent and personal decision, and each case is different.  Just have as much information as possible to make an educated decision.

The most common types of cancer seen in dogs are lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.  I have summarized a variety of tumors and cancers in a table to be used as just a general reference, not to be taken as a reference guide.  Many tumors and cancers can have a good outcome if caught early enough.  Check your hound from head to toe frequently.  Even subtle things can mean there is a problem.  Things like bad breath (worse than the usual doggie breath), thicker than normal drool, a cough, decreased appetite, drinking more water, and any lump, bump or skin color change could be the beginning of a problem.  Know your hound so that you can detect something that is not normal for him or her.  Every tumor, lump, bump or cancer should be checked out by your veterinarian.  When you hear the word "cancer", don't automatically think that it is the end.  Many forms of cancer and tumors can be treated; some can even be cured.  Get as much information as you can, and make an educated decision that is right for you and your hound.  Bloodhounds are special, and they deserve all we can do to make them comfortable, happy and healthy.
Tumor/cancer Treatment Prognosis
Adenocarcinoma Surgery +/-chemo Depends on location:
Fibrosarcoma Surgery Depends on location-guarded
Hemangioma Surgery Good
Hemangiosarcoma Surgery +/-chemo Guarded, can live months to years
Hepatoma (liver tumor) Surgery Good
Leukemia Chemo Guarded to good
Lipoma +/-Surgery Good
Lymphoma Chemo Guarded to good
Melanoma Surgery Good
Malignant Melanoma Surgery +/-chemo +/-radiation Depends on location:
mouth-85% already spread
foot-poor, already spread
Osteosarcoma Surgery, chemo Poor
Pituitary Adenoma Chemo +/-radiation Good to guarded, size dependant
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Surgery +/-chemo Depends on location:
mouth-guarded to poor
Thyroid Carcinoma Surgery +/-chemo Guarded to poor