Small Survivors

SPECIAL REPORT: Small Survivors


Let’s admit it, pets are considered part of the family. We invest so much time and energy into their lives…whether it be their favorite treats or a cute new sweater. And so whenever tragedy strikes, like cancer, we still do everything in our power to make them comfortable.

“She didn’t do anything except make us happy,” said Julia Harpole, talking about her dog, Shelby. Harpole sat and reflected on the happy memories her Belgian sheepdog brought to her family… but it wasn’t always easy. “The next morning I noticed a lump on her leg so we went to the vet and the vet said it was bone cancer,” said Harpole.

Devastating news, but letting the family’s furry friend die wasn’t an option. Harpole sought out an oncologist and Shelby began chemotherapy twice a week, every week. “She looked liked she was dead lying there so that was really hard,” said Harpole as she described Shelby during treatment.

Now, it’s makelike hitting replay. Harpole’s other dog, Hannah, was diagnosed with lymphoma just 3 or 4 months ago. Months of money put into the medical care of their pets, some might call it crazy, but the Harpoles believe even just a few extra days of slobbery kisses makes it worth it. Harpole said, “for all the joy they have given me throughout their lives and that’s all well with a few exceptions, with a few exceptions it’s all been joyful, I just feel like I have to do my best for them.”

That’s why they drive to Tyler every week to see Dr. Laura Cauthen. They aren’t alone in this, there are around 80 million dogs in the U.S., and of that, 20 million die of cancer. On average Americans cash out about 1$5 billion in medical care for their pets each year. “If we can buy them some time with good quality of life with chemotherapy, we do that,” said Dr. Cauthen. She went on to say cancer treatment is so different for dogs as it is for humans. “While we do use chemotherapy, we use it a little bit more conservatively. We try to maintain the dog’s appetite, try to minimize any side effects, and just try to buy them as much time as possible with a good quality of life,” said Cauthen.

While pets may not lose their hair during treatment, it can still be painful… making acupuncture another avenue of treatment. Harpole’s dog, Shelby did acupuncture during cancer treatment. She said, “we knew it was hurting her and in the midst of that she also had acupuncture to help with any residual pains and she ended up living another year.”

“It stimulates the body to come back into balance,” said Dr. Brian Reeves who has been doing pet acupuncture and chiropractic since the 80s.
“I had had some acupuncture myself, some chiropractic work on my own body and I had good results with it. I thought well, maybe it will work on animals,” said Reeves.

Relieving pain for cancer patients, and older dogs as well, making man’s best friend more at ease. “It’s easy to do and is fairly quick to do, you can come in for a nine-minute treatment and then you’re done and gone,” said Dr. Reeves.

Reeves went on to say, “a lot of people are trying to eat healthily, do healthy and so forth, and that translates over into how they want to care for their animals.” “Natural does not have side effects, natural does work, natural does heal the problem instead of just covering the symptoms,” said Pam Bombyk, owner of Life for Pets in Tyler.

Bombyk’s store is a natural pet store with food, treats, shampoos, and a homeopathic line. “There are people giving their dogs two insulin shots a day for diabetes, digestive issues, skin issues, joint issues, you name it, the dogs have it and cancer is an epidemic with dogs,” said Bombyk.

Ever heard the saying, you are what you eat? Well, Bombyk believes this applies to our animals too. “Be proactive and try to be as healthy with your dog on the front end as you can, so you don’t encounter all those expensive problems on the other end,” said Bombyk.

“Veterinary medicine is evolving and fast, very fast, just like technology in general. So there are lots available to look at and see if its something that could fit your bill,” said Dr. Reeves. “We need to consider all options, holistic options with traditional medicine, and all those things together can help for overall wellness in health and well-being,” said Dr. Cauthen.

Whether it’s chemotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, or going natural… it’s something Harpole truly believes all dogs would wag their tail in agreement for. “I think that it’s worth it, I think that they probably think it’s worth it because they get to curl up with you one more night and know that you’re there and that they’re happy,” said Harpole.

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