Thursday, September 6, 2012

Conan's Canine Lymphoma: Chemo Day 2 and Unsolicited Advice

IMG_8967What a week it's been in cancer world! Conan had to be sedated for his first chemotherapy treatment last week because he wouldn't hold still enough for the vet to insert the IV catheter (and who could blame him? The mere thought of an IV makes me queasy!) But apparently they really doped him up because my boy was a total zombie last Thursday night and refused to eat or exercise for two days, until Saturday night. But then, all of a sudden, he was perfectly fine -- great, in fact! So today when I dropped Conan off for his second treatment, an IV of cyclophosphamide, I asked that they try to use a lower dose of sedative. We'll see if they actually listen to me! (For what we're paying the vet office, you'd think they'd listen to my every whim. Ah, if only...)

After doing some research, we quickly decided it would be wise to switch Conan to a home-cooked "cancer diet" -- high protein and good fat, low carbs and sugar -- and I prepared his first batch of food last weekend. Making his food has been quite an adventure. Let's just say liver and I DO NOT get along. At all. When Jarrod gets back from Afghanistan, he will be taking over liver duties immediately. I have to admit, cooking Conan's food is a lot more time-consuming than I thought, and one batch (and an hour and a half in the kitchen) is only good for three days' worth of food. But I know when Jarrod is home it'll be much quicker to prepare Conan's meals, and honestly the work is all worth it when Conan starts chowing down. I've never seen him eat a meal with such gusto. He loves his food, which is full of beef, liver, cottage cheese, oatmeal, veggies, and little extras that I add on like blueberries, garlic and egg whites. This week I'm going to open up a can of one of his all-time favorite foods -- pumpkin. It probably has more carbs than we necessarily want to give him, but he certainly deserves a treat one in a while. And I'm sure the fiber will be good for him.

Some pet owners (not many vets, though) advocate raw feeding in general and particularly as a cancer diet. One of my good friends feeds her German shepherd a raw diet and I've actually gone with her to Chinatown to buy a pig head and all kinds of delicious/disgusting organs for her dog. Jarrod and I considered trying the raw diet at the get-go but decided to start off with home-cooked meals. Truth be told, I really thought Conan would turn his nose up at raw meat. But no -- he loves it! I've given him a few small pieces of raw steak when preparing his meals this week and he gobbled it down! Perhaps a raw diet is in Conan's future.

So, since Conan is looking and feeling great and my picky eater is scarfing down more than I've ever seen him eat before, it kinda took me by surprise when someone essentially told me that we were doing the wrong thing by prolonging Conan's imminent demise through chemotherapy -- and suggested that we go out and get ourselves a puppy so we won't be so heartbroken when our beloved boy dies. Nevermind the fact that Conan is likely nowhere near dying, that his cancer is in a very early stage, that canine chemotherapy is not as harsh as human chemo, that he's only 6 years old (as of yesterday), and that it's not really anybody else's business what we "put him through." But I wasn't really in a position to argue with this undoubtedly well-intentioned advice-giver, and I just had to swallow my words.

Unless they're expressing sympathy, I really don't care what anyone else thinks about Conan's cancer -- Jarrod and I have done our research and we're confident that we've made the right decision for Conan, though we definitely didn't make it lightly. Sure I've had the occasional doubt, but there's no right answer in these kinds of situations; you just have to get your facts straight and then go with your gut.


  1. He sure is a beauty! I had a rottweiler long time ago named Conan.

  2. Don't listen to those people! You are Conan's mom and dad and have his best interest in mind when making these tough decisions. I think it's amazing what medical advances the vet world has come up with and wish you all the very best. I would definitely have made the same decision...we have a two year old black lab, Henry, who is our child.

  3. Is the diet you're feeding Conan sort of based on the recipe for Hill's Canine n/d? I have a 10-year-old boxer, Dom, who was diagnosed with stage IIIa lymphoma last week! Right now we're waiting to hear back from his oncologist to see whether it's T-cell or B-cell, and hopefully he'll have his first chemo treatment this week (we're also doing the Wisconsin method). I'd love to hear more about Conan's diet and the amounts used, or a link if you found it online.

    1. Heather, I'm so sorry about your Dom! The diet we're feeding Conan is based on the same premise as the Science Diet n/d -- carbs and sugars are bad, protein and omega-3s are good. The recipe is from the book "The Dog Cancer Survival Guide," which I have checked out from the library, but I also came cross the recipe online here: (The actual recipe starts on page 43.)

      Right now I'm using the base mixture with beef, because I like that it doesn't have to be cooked through. There are two small differnces between the book and the online recipe that I noticed -- the book calls for 8 turkey/chicken necks OR calcium citrate tablets, not both (I'm using the tablets at the moment); the other is that the book suggests 1 to 1/2 cups oatmeal or brown rice (a more easy measurement than pounds), but it's optional.

      As for add-ins, I add a crushed up dog vitamin to his food once a day and I've mixed in garlic and blueberries according to the recipe. For diet-friendly snacks he's gotten cooked egg whites with a little raw yolk, canned pumpkin, and some beef pieces (raw or cooked). But I've not totally cut out carbs/fun treats from his diet either.

      I plan to do a blog post about cooking Conan's food eventually, once we've gotten into the groove of things and research more on other homemade diets and potential supplements to add to the food. Hope this helps, and good luck with the chemo treatment! (Keep me posted -- I'd love to know how Dom is getting along!)

  4. yes, continue with what you are doing, it is your dog no one elses! the way i feel when people criticize me or my dog is so strong, i cant even imagine how it will be with human children! good luck with everything, praying for you guys...and Conan!!!

  5. Thanks so much for the info!! Dom's first chemo treatment is tomorrow (vincristine, but no aspariginase, and we'll go home with prednisone), so fingers crossed all goes well. I've also been reading a book--I stumbled on her website,, and then bought the book after reading her dog was in remission from lymphoma for over four years before passing away from heart/kidney issues. At times she fed him a raw diet, but then cooked the meat other times. I don't know if she lists the full recipe on her website, but let me know if you'd like me to send it to you. She also said no carbs because they're bad, but I just don't think I (or Dom) can do that all the time, especially since we also have an eight-year-old boxer who will still be eating carbs. I think we'll just switch things up and see what works best. Thanks again!


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