Today we celebrate this beautiful boy, Barney!
Barney is a 10-year-old, much-loved Border Collie Cross who, after nineteen weeks of chemotherapy treatment, has completed his final session and is in remission!*
We launched our Oncology Service back in October, so Barney was one of our first-ever cancer patients and the first to finish his course of chemotherapy at The Ralph.
What’s Barney’s story?
Towards the end of last year, Barney’s carers began to notice swollen lymph nodes (glands) beneath his lower jaw. Sadly, tests at his primary care vet practice confirmed that he had multicentric lymphoma.
You’ve probably heard of lymphoma: a malignant cancer of the lymphocytes which are a type of cell found in the lymph nodes. It is actually one of the most common types of cancer in dogs. Lymphocytes can also be found in the blood, spleen, liver and other organs, so “multicentric” lymphoma means cells in these places are affected too.
What happens after the diagnosis?
Barney was referred to The Ralph’s Oncology Service for full assessment and management of his lymphoma. Our Oncologist, Stefano, carried out a full examination and discussed the best course of action with Barney’s carers, as well as points to be considered moving forward, which included:
- What the diagnosis means: definition, disease behaviour and staging
- Treatment options including different chemotherapy protocols and survival times
- Potential problems: side effects of chemotherapy, which can depend on the breed. Collies like Barney, for example, can be more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. Stefano will also discuss chemosafety at home (how to deal with the pet’s waste safely and correctly).
Barney’s carers opted to get going with the chemotherapy as soon as possible.
So, how does chemotherapy in dogs work?
It actually works very similarly to human chemotherapy. Essentially, a combination of drugs – which target and attack cancer cells – is administered to a patient over a period of time. The main difference to human oncology is the quantity of drugs and intervals between administering them. This results in our pets experiencing minimal side effects.
Stefano selects a chemotherapy protocol for each individual patient based on the type of cancer, the dog’s lifestyle and general health. For example, Barney underwent a finite 19-week CHOP protocol (an abbreviation for the combination of drugs used).
Before each weekly chemo session, Stefano would check in with the carers to see how Barney was doing and whether they had noticed any changes in Barney’s behaviour, appetite or possible side effects. This decides whether any doses need adjusting to optimise quality of life.
The selected combination of chemotherapy drugs is then administered intravenously (injected into the veins through a cannula), and some medication can be taken orally too. Luckily, Barney tended to stay in relatively good health throughout the course of his treatment other than a little nausea here and there. His carers were able to drop him off and collect him on the same day.
With Barney’s protocol (CHOP-19), if the patient is in complete remission at week 19 (meaning there is no sign of cancer*), all therapy stops and is replaced by regular monthly check-ups to evaluate progress. So, that’s where we are with Barney; we’ll be seeing him for a check-up next month!
*Although Barney has completed his course of chemotherapy and there is now no sign of cancer, due to the type of cancer he’s got, it is unlikely to have been cured and the cancer is likely to return at some point. For now, we are delighted with Barney’s improvement and continue to work with his family to monitor his progress.
Want to find out more about our Oncology Service?