Melanoma in dogs

ECD109FBC2E8A25E78CB00CCD231C528Taylah was one of the first Australian dogs ever to receive a US cancer vaccine .

Taylah is a beautiful, gentle Golden Retriever. She is the type of dog that would lie in your lap and be patted all day but be just as happy to go for a romp in the ocean and run on the sand. As a 12 year old dog she was starting to slow down but it was her awful bad breath that brought her owners, Michael and Zoe to come and see us.

Halitosis or bad breath can have many causes. Bad teeth or unhealthy gums being the most common. Occasionally we see abscesses, bones or sticks wedged in the palate or between teeth. Sometimes it’s just a case of the dog raiding the kitty litter and eating unmentionables or licking their own bottom and anal glands! Unfortunately as animals get older the list also contains some more sinister causes such as tumours or waste products from kidney disease or internal problems.

In Taylah’s case she had a lump under her tongue that was a melanoma. Most people think of melanomas as skin cancers that occur in people when they get sun burnt. In animals, they do occur on the skin, but more commonly occur in the mouth. They may be pink or black and sun exposure has no effect on their development. The smell came from food material getting caught around its base and infections created by Taylah accidentally biting on it. This picture shows a lump similar to the one seen in Taylah.

Taylah’s lump was surgically removed and her chest and lymph nodes were checked for spread. Fortunately her lungs were clear but lymph nodes did show some spread of the cancer. It was a rapidly growing cancer and things were not looking good for Taylah. Surgery and radiation therapy would not be enough to keep this cancer at bay. Time was running out for Taylah.

Recent research in the United States spoke of a vaccination effective against melanoma. Through Vet HQ’s association with a number of specialist hospitals we managed to find a specialist Oncologist (cancer specialist) who was willing to try and access the drug and import it into Australia. There was a lot of red tape involved in importing a new drug into Australia and just when we had all but given up, permission was granted for importation.

Taylah was one of the first dogs in Australia to receive this treatment and almost a year later she is still with us, wagging her tail and enjoying the occasional swim. The vaccination is given monthly for 3-4 doses then boosted every 6 months. It acts to encourage the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer and expel it from the system. It has removed the cancer from her lymph nodes and has given Michael and Zoe much more time with their precious friend.

The moral to the story is that research and medical treatments are evolving and changing all the time. We try and keep up to date with all the latest changes in Veterinary medicine by attending conferences and workshops. Veterinary specialists exist in all fields (cancer, surgery, eyes, skin behaviour and medicine) and their input into complicated cases is sometimes required. Please contact us at Vet HQ if you would like to discuss your pet’s medical condition.

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