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Reno: 3-Years Thriving with Canine Osteosarcoma and Lung Mets

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.

VCA L.A. Oncology Vet Patient Reno

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.

The vet thought I had injured it getting into my usual mischief, but when cortisone and other meds didn’t help, he decided to take an x-ray and then a biopsy.

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

I’ve managed to milk this thing as much as I can. My caretakers now buy raw hamburger or share their cooked (and boned) chicken thighs with me just so they can hide my pills inside.

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!

26 thoughts on “Reno: 3-Years Thriving with Canine Osteosarcoma and Lung Mets”

  1. My 6 and a half year old dobie was diagnosed back in September and had his leg amputated in October. He’s been livin’ large ever since. I have just found another mass near his ribs recently and noticed hes been coughing more often. Classic signs of mets. I’ve been crying over it for a few days but I am so thankful I found this post. Gives me hope for Rocco.

    Reply
  2. My 10 yr old female Dalmatian was just diagnosed with the osteosarcoma but its not on a limb its right on her rib cage near where here front leg joins the torso..I noticed it right away and im taking her to the Animal Cancer Care Clinic here in Ft Lauderdale. Im hoping they will be able to help her and hopefully give me at least another year with her. shes all i have…Any helpful insights or things i should or shouldnt do would be appreciated. Im going to look into the hollistic thing and the mushrooms and bovine colostrum…exactly what is that last item? Ive never heard of it…Thanks

    Reply
    • Robert we’re sorry to hear about your pup. Sounds like she’ll get great care from the clinic, so try not to worry. Our biggest suggestion is to hop over to our Discussion Forums where a lot of great members can help you with any questions you have. Also check out Jerry’s Required Reading List. Oh, and please don’t get into any supplements until your oncologist approves of them. Some supplements may interfere with treatments. Best wishes to you both, please keep us posted in the Forums.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for the quick reply. Im eagerly awaiting an appt to take her to the clinic today. I will keep you posted. If i hadnt noticed the bump id would of never known…shes acting perfecly normal for the most part which is great i guess

  3. At what age was Reno diagnosed in 2007? Am I reading this right? He lived 5 years after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma? If so, this is remarkable… wondering if he died from the cancer or old age…What a lovely boy he was and so fortunate to have such dedicated owners.

    Reply
    • We believe Reno was at least 8 y.o. at diagnosis. Search the forums and blogs and you will find many success stories of senior dogs and long survival. Of course, every dog is different. But Eisen and Nova are just a couple other amazing examples!

      Reply
  4. My Malamute King was just diagnosed with a bone tumor in his front left shoulder. Being that he will be 8 in two months and 100 lbs I had completely ruled out amputation. I wanted to see how other Malamutes did as tripawds. After reading this inspirational story I am starting to open my mind to it. My bond with my Mal is the strongest I’ve had with any dog. Though he’s in pain he still gets up to follow me to whichever room I move to, even if I’m just getting up for five minutes and coming back. I am not ready to give up hope! Rest in peace Reno, and thank you for giving me hope for King! <3

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear about King, but thanks for the comments. Please drop by the forums for plenty of tips and support from members, and examples of many other large dogs who have done quite well on three legs!

      Reply
  5. I am a Malamute too and just had my rear leg amputated at CSU on May 25. I start chemo next week. Your story has inspired me and my mommy! Thank you!!!! Sophie

    Reply
  6. Hi Reno!
    What a great story. I am so happy to hear of you doing so well.
    Our Maggie has passed her 15 month ampuversary and is still going strong too. Keep getting spoiled, as our Maggie has a “get out of jail free card” for life :).

    Kathy (Maggie’s Mom)

    Reply
  7. That is very encouraging.
    My parents’ dog, Polly is one year post diagnosis.
    There has not been any metatisis to the lungs as we know currently but of course it seems inevitable. Does anyone know if the Leukeran can or should be used prophylactically.

    Would you give me more info about mushrooms?

    Carol (TN)

    Reply
    • carol4 I just got off the phone with Stephanie who helped take care of Reno at Dianne’s vet where Reno had his chemo. she said that Leukeran is used as a maintaince chemo pill, how many pills the dog takes depends on the weight of your dog at least that was my understanding. evidently they at first use a stronger chemo. don’t quote me I am ignorant in this area.I am a disabled Marine and my service dog Annie who is a Mastiff mix has bone cancer and will have her right front leg amputated this wed. the VA will pay for that sergury but they might not pay for the chemo. frightening situation to let my girl die because of lack of funds. I will never forgive myself. I hope you are in a different $ situation, life is so precious and what is money compared to life. Good luck! GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR 4 LEEGED BUDDY! Bill Elliott

      Reply
      • Bill, i’m sorry to hear about Annie. Please know that we are here to offer a place to lean on when you both go through this journey. Feel free to jump into our Discussion Forums and tell us more about Annie. Good luck and please keep us posted, may Annie live a long, healthy life after amputation.

  8. My pawrents and I are so glad to hear how well Reno has done and the new treatments especially considering I am also a Malamute. Woo Woo Woo! Tundra

    Reply
  9. Yo Reno! You da Rock! Thanks for sharing your story–you are truly inspawrational. Keep on keepin’ on big guy.
    Reno, you my man! Er, dawg!

    Three paws up from Travis Ray and the Oaktown Pack!

    p.s. Hey, I was wondering, is that metronomic protocol just for K9’s or do they have it for peeps too?

    Reply
    • Travis, tell your Momma that I do believe it’s been around for people for a very long time. Usually, we dawgs are the first ones to make history with cool stuff like this, then the humans get to try it after we do. We’re superstars that way!

      Reply
  10. Reno! Keep up the great work, buddy!! I hope the prognoses continues to be good! Our good boy, Benny, fought the same battle for 14 months, but his lung mets were not stopped by chemo, and they finally took his life a few months ago. We were never told about Leukeran, but it sounds promising!

    I hope you keep on “milking this thing” for a long, long time! 😀

    Reply
  11. Reno ~ you ARE amazing! Thank you for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to all of us!! You ARE a miraclel dog!!!It gives me hope that my Siberian Husky who is beating the odds from osteosarcoma for 15 months may continue to be our miracle dog! We found out at 12 months that the cancer is now in his lungs… Reno is living proof that anything is possible! Reno is living proof that our loving dogs can live on and on… Thank you again for your amazing story xoxo

    Indy’s mom

    Reply
  12. Inspiring! I guess the heck! WOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! You go big guy! You ROCK! Thanks for sharing your story! Oh and can you come hang out with me in Maine? I think you’d fit right in with all the snow we are having today!

    Keep on making those pawrents dote on you! 🙂

    Maggie from Maine(and my secretary named Tracy)

    Reply

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