Can I Donate My Dog’s Body to Cancer Research? (Part I)

This was the question I sought out to answer a few months ago. 

The simple answer is, yes. 

The complicated, much more accurate, answer is, maybe. 

Let’s start with a little background. Having an interest in veterinary medicine since I was a little kid, I’ve always wondered if you could donate an animal’s body to science the way humans can donate their bodies. 

This interest increase when Toby got sick and then really intensified after attending the Paws for a Cure Summit last month in DC. The Summit brought together canine and pediatric oncologists among others to talk about ways to work together and advance comparative medicine research to work toward better therapies for both parties involved. 

It made me wonder if studying Toby’s tissues, lymphnodes or body could help make a difference in any way. It would make a crappy (technical term) a little less crappier (another technical term). 

For the past month I’ve been calling and emailing veterinary schools, oncologists, researchers and veterinarians in search of a program or someone willing to work with me on this. Most times when I called or emailed, they didn’t know what to do with me when I was explaining why I was calling. One larger, well known veterinary hospital, although very nice about it, transferred me around to four different people before finding the appropriate person who could help. 

Here are some of the problems I ran into: 

– they do accept tissue sample/bodies for research, but they have to be patients of that veterinary teaching hospital before they can take the body. 

– he’s had chemo/treatment so they can’t study him.

– euthanasia has to be performed at the veterinary hospital because they need to collect the tissue sample between 15 and 30 minutes after euthanasia. 

– they just don’t do that. 

Here are the positives: 

– Through the help of the people I met at the Paws for a Cure Summit, I was connected with the head of the lymphoma research project at Cornell Univeristy. They do have a program where they study tissue and even have a tissue sample kit that they can send my oncologist if he’s willing to extract it after Toby passes. 

They also offer euthanasia and the tissue collection right at Cornell. If someone does this, the school also pays for the euthanasia.  

– Virginia Tech has a tissue bank where tissue samples from Toby could be studied. However, in that case, too, the euthanasia has to be done at Virginia Tech because of the time sensitivity. 

Like, Cornell, if you choose this option they pick up the bill. 

– There is something called the Pet Organ Donation Network. The concept is pretty awesome, and I encourage you to read about it on their website. The problems, is that it all has to take place in Kansas City at one of two participating veterinary offices. 

My irrational, freaked out, upset reaction with all of this has been, “really?!? Why is this all so hard to do?!!!!!” 

But, the calm and level-headed reaction has been, “I totally get this isn’t normal, and all of these people are trying their best.” 

I known this idea might turn some people off. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is something I feel very strongly about, and would like to do when the time comes.  

There are, however, a number of things that could go wrong with this plan because it hinges a lot on timing – unfortunately the timing of Toby’s cancer. 

This next paragraph may be a little upsetting for some, but it’s the reality of what I’m dealing with, so feel free to stop reading here if you want. If you want to continue reading, jump to below the photo. 

If Toby starts to go down hill slowly, and we can plan euthanasia, and he is able to drive in a car for a distance, having it done at Cornell, or even Virginia Tech, might not be too far fetched. If my oncologist can work with Cornell to collect the sample they need and we don’t have to drive up there, even better. 

However, if Toby suddenly goes downhill quickly and it’s an emergency situation, or we are not near his oncologist, or if his oncologist is not there, it can’t happen. 

It also relies on the oncologist, or Toby’s regular vet, being willing to take the sample and Cornell being able to get them the kit in time. I’m waiting to hear back about the kit from Cornell and I’ll be talking to his oncologist Friday about this. 

Needless to say, this has not been as simple as I thought it would be. 

2 thoughts on “Can I Donate My Dog’s Body to Cancer Research? (Part I)

  1. Michelle,

    You are beyond amazing for your paradigm on the bigger picture of the life of Toby. Thank you for taking these steps now for all of the puppers (and their families) who will be going through this in the future ❤️ None of us can imagine the contradictory line of thought for your next steps, but please know I am sending you love and strength for what you feel is right . Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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