The Story of Bear - Canine Osteosarcoma

Bear came into our home when he was 9 months old.   We were moving into a new home and noticed a beautiful husky puppy in our neighbor’s yard.   Every day we would observe him sitting alone in a yard, sometimes even overnight, tied on a short line with no refuge from the sun and often with a tipped over water bowl by his side.   Our family was very disturbed to see this young dog being treated so unfairly.   We soon noticed that other neighbors were sharing the same experience.  Without discussion or an organized plan, we soon found we were all doing things to help the puppy e.g.: Moving him to the shade; taking him for a walk; making sure his water bowl was always full.   It became time to approach the neighbors and share with them our concerns.  The neighbors were a young couple with a new baby.   The relationship between the couple was ending.  The young mother was overwhelmed with being a single parent, let alone taking care of a high energy Husky.   The couple offered to sell the puppy for $300.00.   The other neighbors turned to our family and asked if we would take him into our home.  We had just lost our dog and had not considered getting another family pet, but we just knew we needed to give him a loving home.  

Bear was extremely high energy puppy and smart.  Being a high energy dog, we wanted to give Bear things to do; after all he is working bread.   We trained in agility, and eventually included search and rescue work, and dog sledding.  Bear continued with his training routines in all of these areas up until the day of his accident with our other dog.

 May 14th, 2010 - It was a warm May evening; Bear was out in the yard playing with his brother Boomer, an Old English Sheepdog.  The two of them were wrestling and we heard a horrifying scream from Bear.   He appeared to hurt his front right leg.  We brought him into the veterinary clinic and had an X-ray done on the leg.   The leg appeared broken but in an area where a specialist would need to do the repair.   We called the recommended specialist and brought Bear to the appointment.   It was within moments of viewing he X-ray that the specialists suspected Bear had osteosarcoma.  We were in shock.  We were given the specifics of the disease, expected prognosis, costs, and treatment course.  Bear would need to undergo surgery and have the leg amputated.  We would have specific post-surgical care instructions which included keeping him fairly contained for 2 weeks post operation in order for him to heal.   Chemotherapy would be the recommended course, if we chose to battle the osteosarcoma beyond surgery.   We chose to do the follow up chemotherapy once we learned the cancer had not spread to other areas.  We were informed that Bear had an excellent chance of living another 12 months with the treatment.   We read all the information about osteosarcoma on the Internet.   Some of it was helpful and reassuring but we eventually stopped looking at the sites.   We ultimately decided that getting our information from the veterinary oncologist at VCC was the best decision for us because it was current, reliable, and we could ask questions.  

 Bear's treatment course at VCC - Bear was started on the recommended protocol for treatment of canine osteosarcoma.  His blood work was taken at each visit to ensure he could tolerate the treatment.   He did fine throughout the entire course of chemotherapy except we noticed he became nauseous on the 3rd day after treatment, for 24 hours.   We were able to successfully treat the nausea by giving him an anti-nausea pill for a few days following a treatment.  His quality of life and energy all remained at an excellent level throughout this care.  

 Once the course of chemotherapy treatment was completed Bear was placed on maintenance chemotherapy. Bear continued to progress until July, 2011 when 2 small tumors were noted, 1 on each lung.   He looked great so once again we were surprised by the news that the cancer had returned.  Our choices were to do nothing or actively treat the tumors with chemotherapy.   We chose to do the chemotherapy and the tumors disappeared within 2 treatments!  Bear continued the full course of chemotherapy and he was winning the battle. 

A new clinical trial becomes available - Bear completed his second course of chemotherapy and we needed to think about maintenance Therapy.  Bear's VCC oncologist, Dr. Post shared with us information about a clinical trial that was being conducted and it looked promising.  We agreed to try Bear on the drugs being used in the clinical trial, Palladia and Metacam.  He was able to remain on the Palladia another 4 months but recently we observed another nose bleed.  Once again he is off all medication and we plan to have a discussion with Dr. Post to review next steps.   At this point his chest X-rays are negative for cancer and he continues to love life.   Bear and his brother Boomer still romp in the yard and cuddle with the family in the evenings.  Bear still has the desire to find people and tags along for training where the team provides him a special search and rescue exercises.  I do wonder what he thinks when the same people need for him to rescue them over and over again week after week. 

My experience at VCC has been a positive one.  If I call with a medical concern I can always depend on a follow up response.   If Bear is having an issue I find the communication between the veterinary oncologists is excellent.  Every doctor will review Bear's record and know the issues and recommended course of care.   I even had one of the oncologist call me as a follow up to ensure all was well.  VCC is on the cutting edge with oncology care for canines and includes clinical trials in the fight against cancer for your pet.   Lastly, I would like to mention how closely VCC works with our local veterinarian, faxing and sharing all relevant medical information.  I even had occasions where the local veterinarian was invited to call VCC while we were at an appointment to allow our local veterinarian to be able to speak to the veterinary oncologist first hand.   I can only describe that as top rate quality of care and service.

My experience to anyone who hears those terrifying words "your pet has cancer".  Do not give up hope.  Make an appointment immediately with VCC and explore what options are available for you and your pet.    



 Watch Channel 12 Pet Talk - featuring Dr. Gerald Post, Carol Ferrucci and Bear


















Watch Bear running though the snow - you can't keep a good dog down.


Bear Enjoying A Day Made Just for Him