By Sara B. Hansen
Courtney Lenhart was shocked and devastated when her female English Bulldog Frank was first diagnosed with canine cancer.
Learning her dog had a cancerous mass at the base of her heart was a blow. She took Frank to two veterinarians before she was referred to Dr. Jarred Lyons, a board certified veterinary radiation oncologist who works at the Radiation Oncology Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, Calif.
Lyons gave Lenhart several treatment options for Frank and she opted for stereotatic radiosurgery — radiation treatments that target the canine cancer cells with high-dose radiation while mostly avoiding the healthy cells. “We can give the dog a month of radiation in two or three doses,” Lyons said.
In addition to having fewer treatments, the dogs also experience fewer to no side effects, Lyons said.
Frank handled the treatment well, Lenhart said. “She has been happy and energetic throughout her entire treatment. Her appetite and energy level never waned.
“She was coughing quite a lot before starting her treatment, but now it is rare to hear her cough much at all. She is the same healthy, happy puppy dog I raised her to be!”
Bobby and Lauren Mitchell had a similar experience with their dog Scrappy, a Labrador/Shepherd mix, who was diagnosed with nasal carcinoma when he was 10. They opted for stereotactic radiosurgery because Scrappy would have fewer treatments and likely experience fewer side effects. Scrappy’s now 13 and hasn’t experienced any regrowth from the cancer.
“Scrappy is our baby and we are so glad we gave him the chance to live out the rest of his doggy days,” Lauren Mitchell said.
Lyons is one of 76 veterinary radiation oncologists in the United States and one of 10 who practices stereotactic radiosurgery on dogs. He started offering the treatments on animals using a human facility after hours. He now has added a machine at his practice.
There are only a handful of similar clinics in the U.S., including one at the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Dr. James T. Custis at the Flint Animal Cancer Center said not all cancer cases are amenable to stereotactic radiation therapy, but when they are the number of radiation treatments can be cut from 10-15 to one to five to achieve similar resorts. “With precision and accuracy, we are achieving similar results in a shorter period of time with similar or fewer side effects.”
For Lyons, the goal is providing the best treatment option for the patient. “I want to make sure that we are considering the quality of life, not just the quantity. We want to make it a good experience so the animal doesn’t know they are being treated for cancer.”
Want to read more?
Dr. Jarred Lyons has published “Survivor: The Dog Days of Cancer,” the story of Eddie, a long-eared furry friend who has been diagnosed with a shoulder tumor, and his experiences through the world of veterinary cancer. Julia, his owner, has recently lost her father to pancreatic cancer, and must now come to terms with life events that she could not control. David wants to be there for Julia, only how do you help a wife that insulates herself from the ones who want to help her the most? Past and present are interlaced through the world of human and veterinary cancer in a story about survivors; relationships between self absorbed mothers, heartbroken daughters, well-intentioned husbands and grieving wives.
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She decided to create her own dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. She grew up with family dogs and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She currently shares her heart and home with Sydney, an Australian Shepherd-Corgi mix. You can reach Sara @ firstname.lastname@example.org.