When people get the bad news that their canine bone cancer hero has lung metastasis, we like to tell them about Reno, an amazing Malamute we met when we spent time with Dr. Chretin at the VCA Specialty Animal Hospital in West Los Angeles.
Reno is not only amazing because he’s 12 years old, and a three year bone cancer survivor, but he’s also super amazing because . . .
Reno has lived with lung metastasis for two years!
This pawesome pup wants everyone to know that despite a dog’s age, or his size, or even the fact that he might have lung mets, sometimes miracles do happen, and the statistics get tossed out the window. Without further ado, here’s Reno’s story in his own words.
My Canine Bone Cancer Story
“My name is Reno. On July 5, 2010 I was 12 years old; for a malamute like me that’s over 65 years old, but I look fantastic for my age and am as spry as any pup one third my age.
I’ve decided that the time has come to share my story, the saga of my journey with cancer to encourage all species that it’s important to fight to beat the odds, even if it’s just for an extra year or more to lie in the sun and get your caretakers to massage your ears and scratch your back.
I have now lived longer than any other dog with this condition, over three years since my diagnosis when most live two to six months or a year at most.
The Bad News: Osteosarcoma
It all began with a pain in my back leg in early fall of 2007, which first made me just hobble a bit. I didn’t want to be a wuss, so I just adjusted as the pain got worse, until I was walking on three legs, letting the sore leg dangle because any weight sent sharp pain shooting up the bone.
It was October when the bad news came back: osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor that spreads to the lungs, the bad luck special disease of big dog breeds like me.
And the bad news just kept coming; taking off the leg would only give me another couple of months; chemotherapy offered no real promises, a few more months, but maybe longer with some new methods. Most humans choose to give up at this point, “put them down,” as the euphemism goes, but we’re all fighter’s in our family and always choose to take a shot, even if it’s a long shot.
My Recovery and Treatment
So began the next phase of my life. First, the affected leg had to go. It’s not as bad as it sounds; it was great to wake up and have the pain gone for good. Since I was already used to walking on three legs, everyone was amazed that I just popped up and was ready to go home.
There still was some adjustment; the extra weight on the only back leg causes some muscle strain, so I have to keep getting leaner and need to rely on aspirin and such, but it also has its advantages. It’s easy now to pee on absolutely anything I want to, no leg to balance up in the air, just a straight shot. Pooping is a bit trickier, but I’ve managed that quite well too since squatting for a long time is kind of hard. I sort of hop squat when I poop, which spreads it around a bit, but that’s no big deal to me, since I don’t have to pick it up.
I can still run and chase the other dogs, go up and down stairs, and can drag anyone down the street at a good romp when they take me for a walk.
Lung Mets Can’t Stop Me!
Chemotherapy is a big story all to itself. First came the big whamee, the megadoses of chemotherapy, five doses over 10 weeks of Doxorubicin (adriamycin). I feel bad for the human species; chemotherapy does some pretty harsh things to you. It’s not as hard on my species, though it’s no picnic.
I didn’t feel particularly sick, but I wasn’t my energetic self, and my caretakers were careful because my immune system might be a little weakened temporarily. So they gave me my own bachelor pad, a room with the floor converted into one huge dog bed. It was especially important when my fur started to thin out. My once thick double coat I had every winter became wispy and light, too thin for the outside dog house and the cement I used to love sleeping on to keep cool. I never got bald, but I looked ancient for awhile, my beautiful top coat with all the black markings gone and just a grayish white fluff left behind.
But, you know, unlike humans, none of my dog pals even noticed my hair or my missing leg, and my caretakers pampered me to the max. And when the chemo was over, before long all my hair, including my gorgeous black and white mask, grew back.
That should have been the end of the story, but three months later we got more bad news, a couple of tiny spots were found in my lungs; the chemo hadn’t stopped the metastasis, the news every cancer patient of every species dreads.
Metronomic Therapy Works for Me
But my doctor offered hope, a new experimental treatment, a low dose chemo given at home every other day, along with doxycycline (to inhibit formation of blood vessels that would feed any tumors), was promising for a small percentage.
We started the regimen, and it seemed to be keeping everything in check, but the side effect of a bloody bladder infection was too much for me. There are times when fortune comes your way disguised a misery; this was one of those times.
Because of the side effects, the doctor and my caretakers decided to try a different drug, Leukeran, because it has no side effects and “theoretically” should work the same, but hadn’t been tested that way.
To everyone’s happy surprise, it worked even better, and on my last x-ray, the very small spots on my lungs have shrunk beyond visibility.
One last thing about treatment, we also saw a homeopathic vet, who put me on herbals, mushrooms, and bovine colostrum. We can’t tell what is contributing to my improving health, but are happy for all the alternatives.
Thriving Today and Loving Life with My Pack
When I’m bored, I like to jerk them around a bit and can eat the meat and spit out the pills.
This makes them work a little harder to please me, adding a coating of cat food gravy, peanut butter, or mayonnaise to whatever they’re offering. I don’t know how much longer I have, but I feel fine and life is good.
If you would like more information on my treatment, or just about me, my secretary (I let her think she is my owner) will be happy to answer any questions and provide any information you need. You can contact her through Tripawds. She calls herself Diane; I call her whenever I need something.
Many thanks to Reno’s Mom Diane for contributing his inspiring story to us.
UPDATE: Sadly, Reno earned his angel wings in March, 2012.
But what an amazing life this boy had. He will always be our inspawration!