Cancer in Dogs – A Retrospective of our Beloved Samoyed Ramius’s Battle with Cancer
In This Entry – Chemotherapy
Thank you for reading our continuing series about cancer in dogs, and our beloved Samoyed Ramius’s long journey with the disease, which started in the summer of 2014 and lasted until he passed away in January, 2016.
Hope you’ve been enjoying our series so far. When we last left you in Part V, we discussed Ramius’s Radiation Treatments. Today I want to talk about his chemotherapy sessions. Chemotherapy is a very scary word right? You don’t want to hear that your pet (or you) will have to go through something like that.
But if you’ve been reading along in the series, you already know we knew this would be the next step. After Ramius had successfully completed his 20 (yes 20!) radiation treatments, chemotherapy was to follow.
One of the big questions you’ll probably have if your Samoyed, or whatever kind of dog you have, is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo chemotherapy will probably involve the side effects. We probably all know about the side effects chemo has in humans, and we wonder how, or if, it will affect our pooch.
Now again, I’m not a veterinarian, so be sure to discuss this topic with your vet when talking about whether chemotherapy is appropriate for your fur baby. But generally speaking, and certainly for us, the side effects for Ramius were very minor.
There was no hair loss or anything like that. He seemed to handle each of the 4 treatments very well, and maintained a good quality of life throughout the sessions. And of course, that’s very important right? We want our pet to have the best quality of life possible as they endure these medical procedures.
The only sort of side effect Ramius experienced is a bit of a disturbance with his gastrointestinal track. It would seem like a few days after each treatment he’d have a touch of diarrhea and was a touch sluggish. But within a day or two of onset, that cleared back up. All in all, it really was no big deal.
So the point is, don’t let the potential side effects of chemotherapy for your dog worry you. They’re generally very mild, so just be sure to discuss them with the veterinary cancer specialist. Also, you can also check out this article for more information about chemotherapy in pets.
Chemo vs. Radiation
If you’ve been reading our series, you know that for Ramius’s radiation treatments, there were a total of 20 and they happened every single day (other than weekends). His chemotherapy was very different. Ramius only needed a total of 4 chemotherapy treatments and they happened every few weeks or so.
For both radiation and chemotherapy, Ramius went to MetVed Chicago. His radiation specialist was Dr. Jayme Looper, but for chemo, it was Dr. Jacquelyn Smith. You may remember it was Dr. Smith who gave us our initial consult about Ramius so we were happy to be in her hands.
Ramius’s chemotherapy was given intravenously which is obviously another difference between that and radiation. However, like radiation, the treatments didn’t take very long. They were a bit longer, but generally, we’d wait for Ramius in the waiting room just like with his radiation. It saved us making so many trips back and forth to the vet’s office. Plus, we wanted Ramius to see our familiar faces when he came out of the room to ease his stress.
Unlike radiation, chemotherapy is administered without anesthesia, so Ramius wouldn’t exit the room woozy. He was pretty much just the same way he was when he went in.
Since chemotherapy was given intravenously, your pup will probably have a little bandage on one of his legs for a few days. Here’s a picture of Ramius with his green bandage. You can tell by the ever present smile on his face that he was in no pain.
Cost of Chemo – Protect Yourself!
As readers of this retrospective series, and this blog, know well, I’m a big proponent of getting health insurance for your pet. To me, it’s as much of a no-brainer as getting health insurance for yourself and your family. You wouldn’t want your children to go without health insurance right? Same goes for your fur baby.
If you ever get the terrible news that your dog has a horrible disease like cancer, it’s devastating. Your first instinct will probably be to do everything you can to help them. That was certainly my first instinct. But financially, it can be very difficult for a lot of people, and nearly impossible without good pet health insurance.
I was just looking up some old invoices of Ramius’s chemotherapy (what a fun way to spend a morning right?), and each invoice was right around $750. Now, he had 4 treatments total, so there’s $3K right there.
Fortunately, we had Healthy Paws Pet Insurance to protect Ramius and Sacha. So of that $3K bill, they paid 90% of it. That’s $2,700 folks. And the checks get sent right to you, the pet parent, not the veterinary office. And those checks arrive promptly, usually within a week after you submit your claim form online.
And mind you, that’s just the cost of chemotherapy! It doesn’t include all of Ramius’s other treatments for radiation, surgeries, insulin (he was diabetic), physical therapy (we’ll talk more about that next time) or pain medications. We’ve never added up how much it would’ve cost us if we had to pay for Ramius’s medical care completely out of pocket; frankly we’ve been too scared. But it had to be somewhere around $50,000 or $60,000.
I don’t care how financially sound you are, that’s a lot of money!
I urge all of you with dogs or cats to please consider getting Healthy Paws Pet Insurance for your pet. If you’ve haven’t seen it, I’ve written a thorough review of Healthy Paws which you can read by clicking on the link below.
Ramius’s 4 chemotherapy sessions happened once about every 3 weeks or so. So even though it was just 4 treatments, it took about 3 months to get them completed.
But that was it. After Ramius’s surgeries, radiation, and finally chemotherapy, that concluded his treatment. For now. The next step was to wait a few months so he could be tested again to see if his cancer was finally eradicated. But until that time, these procedures had left Ramius with much less mobility and it was hard for him to walk.
If you’ve been enjoying our series, please share it with any pet owners you know. Especially any pet parents that are dealing with a fur baby battling cancer.
And if you have, or have had, a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. Remember, you’re not alone. We’ll be sure to get back to you.
Thank you for reading!