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Experiences of diabetic pets who have dealt with cancer.

  • In June of 1999, Jackson, my 9 yr. old male Irish Setter was diagnosed with diabetes. It took us months to get his diabetes regulated but we did manage to do so. In November of 1999, Jackson developed cataracts which resulted in blindness but as with the diabetes diagnosis, Jackson just "went with it" - he didn't fight it just found ways to live with his blindness.

    In May 2000, fate hit us again. He had a grapefruit sized tumor removed from his abdominal area which was diagnosed as hemangiosarcoma. My immediate reaction was no chemo & I was stealing myself for the fact that Jackson probably only had weeks to live. But Maria from this group & a few other people convinced me that I shouldn't say no to chemo because of Jackson's diabetes which was my reason for not proceeding with it. I was not at all familiar with chemo & dogs & pictured Jackson losing his hair, vomiting, loosing weight, etc.

    Between talking to people on this list whose pets have diabetes & then are diagnosed with cancer & have opted for chemo, my vet & I decided to do one treatment (IV drip of adriamycin (doxorubicin) and 4 tablets of cytoxan). If this treatment didn't make Jackson sick, we would then proceed with the remaining 5 treatments.

    Jackson went though his chemo with no side effects at all. His glucose numbers didn't change significantly, no diarrhea, appetite loss, vomiting, hair loss, low white blood cell count. He came through it beautifully. If Maria hadn't convinced me to at least try one treatment I probably would have lost Jackson during the summer. As it so happened, he stayed until after the holidays still a very, very happy boy.

    The reason I'm telling his story is 2 fold: 

    1) Jackson's death was NOT due to diabetes - he died due to hemangiosarcoma

    2) should your diabetic pet be diagnosed with cancer & everything points to possibly trying chemo (age, whether cancer has metastasized, overall general health, stabilization of diabetes), please try at least one treatment to see how your pet handles the treatment. Don't just say no because of the diabetes. If the treatment doesn't go well, you can always stop but at least you tried. But if your pet handles it well like Jackson & Kyra, you may have bought many more months together.

    Do remember, though, that this all come down to being a personal decision. What is right for me may not be right for someone else. Please feel free to contact me if your diabetic pet has been diagnosed with cancer & you would like some questions answered. -- Contributed by Leslie and Jackson; February 2001


  • Barney undergoes surgery for liver cancer
    Our cat Barney is 17 years old and has been diabetic for over 3-1/2 years. During a routine exam, the vet felt a mass in his abdomen. X-rays and ultrasound revealed a large mass on his liver - a mass so large it was pushing on other organs. Without surgery, Barney's prognosis was grim. Although it would require major surgery, the vet thought Barney was strong enough and recommended we have the mass removed. After discussing the risks, recovery time, post-operative care, and the possible outcomes, we went ahead with the surgery. The tumor, part of his liver, and his gall bladder were removed.  Barney recovered very quickly from the surgery and his diabetes did not present him or the vets with any problems. He did so well that the vet let him come home the next day. The first few days after surgery Barney required a lot of observation - mostly to be sure he was eating. We decreased his insulin dose a little to compensate for his decreased appetite. After 2-3 weeks he was almost completely back to normal and we didn't have to worry about him so much. One benefit of the surgery is that he isn't vomiting as much as he was before, and that has to help keep his bgs stable. The pathologist examined the tumor and diagnosed a serious and invasive form of liver cancer. Unfortunately chemotherapy is not successful in treating this type of cancer. But the vets are confident that they removed all obvious cancer tissue and hopefully this will allow Barney to live a few more years in comfort.  -- Contributed by Donna and Barney; November 2000

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Updated October 2000
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