Magic Bullet Fund
Fighting Canine Cancer One Dog at a Time

 Pet Talk
Radio interview with Jean Meyer, 2010
Katie K-9
Radio interview with host Katie K9 (KTK9), 2010
Pet Talk 
Radio interview with Jean Meyer, 2005
How to Help your Canine Pal Beat Cancer
by David J. Foster for Pet Care Corner (Northeast News Gleaner)
Q&A Interview with Laurie Kaplan, author of Help Your Dog Fight Cancer

Why do so many people chose euthanasia when an animal is diagnosed with cancer? Is it the cost or do they not know their options?

I hope my book will alert people that euthanasia is not the only option. Because of great advances in veterinary oncology over the past decade, effective treatment is available for many types of cancer in dogs and cats.

Caretakers should also know that they can play an important role in their dog's survival. Nutrition and supplementation are important factors in the fight against cancer. These at-home contributions support medical treatment or, when there is no medical treatment given, they embody supportive care or palliative care.

Yes, the costs can be daunting. However, steps can be taken to lower the costs. Drug dosages can be lowered or the scheduling of treatment can be expanded out.

Sometimes drugs can be purchased at a discount. Many veterinary clinics across the country offer financial assistance or discount programs for people who can't afford medical treatment for their pets. Some of these funds are setup specifically for cancer treatment.

The Magic Bullet Fund, founded in tribute to Bullet, is in development. The Perseus Foundation and I are preparing to launch a nationwide program to enable dogs with cancer to receive treatment when their caretakers can't afford the expense. We are currently designing the complex operations and recruiting a network of providers.

The Fund is now collecting donations and seed money that will put the Fund into motion by the end of the year ( but is not yet accepting applications for assistance.

How receptive are veterinarians when dealing with treatments for cancer?

Most veterinarians who I've encountered do diligently inform clients of all of the options available to them when their pet has a serious illness or disease such as cancer. Those who provide cancer treatment are, of course, most likely to promote treatment. Those who are not equipped to treat cancer may or may not fully inform the client, for the reasons I stated above.

There are only about 150 board certified veterinary oncologists in the U.S., and millions of dogs with cancer. Obviously, not all cancer dogs can be treated by an oncologist. Many general practice veterinarians now treat pets with cancer and expert consultation is available to them either through an oncologist that they use regularly or, for a small fee, through an organization called Oncura Partners (

According to your book, many cancers, like lymphoma, can be treated effectively.

About 80-90 percent of dogs with lymphoma go into remission on the first or second chemotherapy treatment. The average survival of these dogs is about a year, with 18 months as the outside goal. But this is only an average, a statistic.

A small percentage of these dogs are not able to tolerate treatment and expire soon after treatment begins. Others maintain remission much longer than the average range, sometimes for the rest of their natural lives, and eventually die from other causes - as did my precious Bullet.

Bullet was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 9. He when into remission from lymphoma after his first chemotherapy treatment and maintained that remission for nearly four and a half years. He died cancer free, of kidney failure at the age of 13 years and 8 months. This is a good lifespan for a Siberian Husky and I am thankful to have had that extra time with him in spite of cancer.

Some cancerous tumors, if discovered and removed along with surrounding tissue before they have metastasized (spread), are highly treatable. Other cancer, such as canine malignant melanoma (CMM) and hemangiosarcoma, have little or no record of being treated successfully, but at this moment there is a great deal of research being done that I believe will change this dismal prognosis in the near future.

Vaccine therapy, bone marrow transplants and other novel approaches are in the pipeline and hold very promising outlooks.

The key seems to be prevention, like spaying a female before she turns 18 months. What else can a dog owner do?
Spaying and neutering pets is number one. This is the best way to minimize the chance of mammary and testicular cancers developing.

Caretakers should also minimize their pets' exposure to chemicals in households cleaning products and to chemicals in lawn care products. These chemicals are believed to be the primary cause of lymphoma in dogs and the compound 2,4-D has been singled out by a study at Purdue Vet School as a leading cause of transitional cell carcinoma in Scottish Terriers.

What are the best foods for fighting cancer in canines? What foods should a canine eat while undergoing treatment?

The basic rules for the "cancer diet" come from research by veterinary oncologist Gregory Ogilvie in conjunction with Hill's Prescription Diets. The result of the research project was the production of a food called Hill's Prescription Diet for Dog, n/d. This is the only commercially produced dog food that's been shown to prolong the life of a dog with cancer.

I developed "Bullet's Cancer Diet" after consultations with a local holistic veterinarian and a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts Vet School. It adheres to the rules of low carbohydrates, high Omega N-3 fatty acids and moderate protein. It includes 75% meat, 25% vegetables and additives such as flax seed oil, cod liver oil, eggs and garlic. I included a color section in my book with a cook-book type guide to preparing Bullet's Cancer Diet and have receiving many letters from readers thanking me for doing so.

How do you prepare your animal and family when end is inevitable?

A realistic outlook is the best way to prepare. In fighting cancer, I believe we have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Decisions must be made about burial vs. cremation. A memorial service can be planned at home or at the dog's favorite park. I'm not sure there really is a way to be emotionally prepared.

The bond between a person and their pet is unique. Our pets are dependent on us from the day we adopt them until the day they die. They generally do not have any life outside of their life with us - we are their world! Those of us who have an appreciation of this and who see our pets as living being of value will always suffer when they die, regardless of the circumstances.

There are pet loss support groups at many veterinary hospitals, some shelters, and online. Those who are unable to integrate the loss should seek counseling. Many pet owners are beyond consolation years after the loss because, due to the stigma attached to mourning a lost pet, the loss has never been fully processed.
My Buddy, My Companion
by Lee Ward for The Independent
Q&A Interview with Laurie Kaplan, author of Help Your Dog Fight Cancer
It seems more and more, dogs (and people) die of cancer. Why is that or do you know?

An astounding number of dogs are dying from cancer. Fifty percent of dog will have some sort of cancer in their lifetime and 50 percent of dogs older than 10 years of age die from cancer.

However, it's difficult to compare the incidence of cancer in dogs with any historical statistics because the speciality of veterinary oncologist was initiated only recently (about 15 years ago).

In past years, treatment was uncommon and most dogs with cancer were simply euthanized when the cancer progressed to the stage of making the dog ill. As far as I know, no real data was catalogued concerning the number of canine cancer cases.

How do you decide if it's the right thing to do to pursue medical care?

I had Bullet in chemo the day after his diagnosis. At certain points during his treatment, he had side effects and at those points I always re-evaluated my decision. Sometimes I was close to terminating but he always rebounded before I made that decision.

Whether to pursue cancer treatment for a pet is a very personal decision. For many, there is no hesitation in making this decision - some people would never consider pursuing cancer treatment for a pet and other wouldn’t' consider not pursuing it.

Those on the fence - those who are unsure - are the people who need help deciding. There is a section of the book that discusses five factors to help them decide. Included are the age and health of your dog, quality of life, input from friends and family, gut instincts and financial considerations.

Another consideration is the temperament of the dog. For example, a fearful dog who is traumatized by a visit to the vet would not be a good candidate for radiation therapy because this type of treatment requires a sequence of treatments that obviously cannot be done at home.

A customized chemotherapy protocol that utilizes drugs that can given in pill form at home could be improvised. Surgery might be considered for a one-time procedure but surgical interventions for cancer are generally followed by chemo or radiation.

The decision to fight the caner is not made only once. When a caretaker decides to provide cancer treatment for their dog, the decision has to be made anew, again and again, particularly if the dog has side effects from treatment or treatment is not getting the hoped for results (i.e. remission).

What are the most important points to remember/guidelines to follow if your dog is diagnosed with cancer and you want to do everything you can to extend his/her life?

First and most important is an attitude check. Take a deep breath and get ready to wage war! You need to be ready to become a soldier for two reasons. (A) because our dogs are acutely tuned in to our emotional state and when a caretaker is depressed, afraid and weak, the dog may wonder what he's done wrong. (B) because managing a dog with cancer is not a simple task and turning into a basket case will not enable you to manage such things as giving medications, giving supplements, getting a noneating dog to eat, dealing with side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The above notwithstanding, remember to take time to give your dog all of the love and affection that you gave before s/he had cancer! Be careful not to get so caught up in treatment schedules, medications and diet preparation that you deprive your dog of your attention. Second, learn all you can and reach out for help! There's now a growing population of people who have taken their dogs through the cancer journey and are willing to serve as information resources for others. Support groups online provide a community of like-minded people for those stating out on the journey. Some of these groups are listed in the book and can also be accessed through the links page of the website,

Reach out also to the veterinary community, including a variety of practitioners in your cancer team. Include at least:

1) Your dog's primary care veterinarian, who knows your dog's medical history. Keep him/her in the loop throughout treatment.

2) A cancer specialist (oncologist or G.P. vet who has experience in providing the type of cancer treatment your dog needs).

3) A holistic vet - there are hundreds (at least) of supplements that claim to fight cancer. Many don't have any real basis for the claim and some interact negatively with others. Don't choose supplements willy-nilly. A holisitic vet can guide you.

4) A veterinary oncologist - if the treating vet (2 above) is not an oncologist, be sure s/he has an oncologist consultant to work with on your dog's case if/when side effects, lack of response to treatment, or atypical responses occur.

How is a dog's caretaker to deal with/respond to friends and family who think they're going overboard for their pet?

Respond by explaining to them - Even if you don't like dogs and you don't consider a dog's life worth saving, you should know that the recent surge in canine cancer treatment is advancing research and treatment for human cancer. And not through grant money or government funding. It's done out of the pockets of people who consider their dog's life worth saving.

And then by ignoring them and seeking others with whom to share the experience!

Does pet insurance help when you dog gets cancer and takes all the treatment available?

Speaking from personal experience, insurance helps tremendously!

There are a number of companies who offer medical insurance or medical discount plans for pets. Contact information is provided in the book and also on the website.  

Is there anything pet owners can do to help prevent cancer in pets?

Yes! The most important things for caretakers to do are:

1) Spay and neuter. Mammary cancer is the second most common type of cancer in dogs and is virtually avoidable simply by spaying a dog at a young age. Testicular cancer is not as common as mammary but is a threat, and neutering is the best precaution.

2) Don't use chemical-laden lawn care products. Organic, pet-safe products are more expensive but when your dog walks on your lawn and then licks his feet, he won't be ingesting carcinogens.

3) Take the same precautions with house-cleaning products, particularly floor and carpet cleaners.

4) Don't overvaccinate. New guidelines have been issued by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) - to account for the finding that most vaccines are effective far beyond the traditional annual period before revaccination.

5) Feed your dog the healthiest diet you can. There are many new, natural and/or organic pet-food products on the market now - or you can very easily prepare a very healthy home made diet for your dog! Bags and cans save us a little time and energy, but are they the best thing for your furry pal?

Are all the preventive medications like flea sprays bad for dogs in some way? Could poisons in flea sprays, for example, enable cancer?

The widely available products that help pets avoid fleas and ticks (and heartworms) are tested extensively before they're made available to the public. On the other hand, information is released periodically that one or another has been found to be detrimental to dog's health in some way. My philosophy is that less is more. It may be tempting to give your dog every protection and then some, but overdoing it only widens the window of opportunity to ill effects.

Is there anything else a pet owner battling cancer should know?

It's important for people to know: That cancer treatment is available. Euthanasia is not the only answer when a dog has cancer.

That they are not alone - millions have dogs with cancer and thousands are giving their dogs a chance to survive the cancer by providing treatment.

Chemotherapy for dogs is much less rigorous and toxic than the human version. People may be willing to nearly die in hope of a cure but they are not willing to see their dogs nearly die. Therefore, lower doses are given to decrease side effects and toxicity. This is not to say that dogs never get side effects from chemo, but they certainly do not suffer to the extent that people in chemo do.

That if I hadn't pursued treatment for Bullet, I would have missed out on a wonderful four-plus years with him, almost all of it in excellent quality of life. And Bullet/ He would have missed out on those same years of life, too, and I wanted to be able to give him those years. And we did get those extra years, that borrowed time, with the help of wonderful people like veterinarian Paolo Porzio (now in Guelph Canada) who gave Bullet chemotherapy and Dave Ruslander (now in Cary, N.C.), our veterinary oncologist consultant.

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Help Your Dog Fight Cancer