When I wrote our last post about Toby’s lymphoma returning, I apparently didn’t understand everything very well. The key thing I didn’t totally grasp was that unlike last time when Toby was taken off the chemo, this time, he will be on it for as long as it is working for him/he is tolerating it.
When the lymphoma resurfaces, which it in more than 90 percent of cases it does, it comes back stronger because the cells have mutated, so to keep him in clinical remission, the chemo treatment has to become a part of the dog’s regular life. There is some really good information about this on a Colorado State University web page that talks about chemotherapy for dogs.
The first time around we used Doxorubicin to treat Toby. From my understanding, this is the strongest drug and can cause the most side effects. Thankfully, Toby didn’t have any. We cannot however, go back to this long-term, because this drug has a lifetime limit, before it can potentially cause heart damage.
Like last time, we were given three different options for Toby’s treatment. I decided to go with the middle of the road option – chemotherapy in the form of a Lomustine pill given at the vet’s office every three weeks. Part of what made this choice so easy was that unlike last time, Toby is feeling much better and there was a concern about him staying still enough to give the drugs through an IV. At his last chemo treatment in July it took four of them to hold him still while giving him the Doxorubicin.
His first treatment this time around was yesterday. As part of the exam, they checked his lymphnodes, and they were all at a normal level. This was wonderful news! The goal is to keep them that way.
Unlike last time, Toby had a ton of energy when we left the oncologist’s office. It was later once we got home that he started to get sleepy and very tired. My best guess was the chemo was releasing into his system. So far his only side effects have been being super hungry, drinking a lot more water and having to go out more.
In addition to the Lomustine, Toby is also taking prednisone right now, and must be on SAM-e for as long as he is on the chemo treatment. This is because the Lomustine could impact his liver enzymes, so he takes it daily as a preventative. Also a preventative, is an antibiotic. The chemo impacts his immune system, so the doctor put him on the antibiotic right now so that we don’t have any additional problems.
Toby is not complaining about this at all. The reason? He is terrible to give a pill to, so we always give it to him in a little liverwurst. He’s totally enjoying this daily “treat.”
I’m so thankful that there are these options for Toby. I’m not sure how long it will keep him healthy, but I’m so thankful there there are at least options to try, and that he seems to be responding well to them without many side effects. I know that not every dog and owner are so lucky, or have these options available to when they get a cancer diagnosis.