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‘Paws’ for thought - Bob's story
6 May 2015
Bob is a lovely, people-friendly Labrador who at 9 years of age is now entering his senior years. His owners became very worried recently when Bob lost his typical Labrador’s enthusiasm for food and also became quite lethargic.
He was also very reluctant to walk and had developed some very sore looking areas on the pads of all four paws. Bob’s home vets took a blood sample and quickly realised that he had a serious problem.
Bob was referred to Willows to see oncology Specialist, James Elliott. James explained that all the different types of cells in Bob’s blood were low in numbers. He was anaemic (his red blood cell count was reduced), he had low 'infection-fighting' white blood cell numbers and he also had low levels of what are called platelets – small cells in the bloodstream that help the blood to clot when required.
There were also some abnormal cells in his circulation, suggesting that Bob might well have leukaemia. A special blood test (called ‘flow cytometry’) was then performed, using a special analyser. Unfortunately, this revealed very bad news for Bob; he had an aggressive type of cancer called ‘acute lymphoblastic leukaemia’ (otherwise known as ALL) which affects the bone marrow (the spongy part inside the bones). The bone marrow usually produces all of the normal blood cells, but in Bob’s case the cancer cells in the marrow were stopping the normal ones from being produced. The cancerous cells were also spilling out into the bloodstream, which is why James could detect them in Bob’s blood tests.
It was not entirely clear why Bob had developed the sores on his feet, but it seemed most likely to cancer Specialist James and Willows’ dermatology Specialist Jon Hardy, that it would be related to the leukaemia – the cancer was believed to be causing a problem called vasculitis, resulting in a reduced blood supply to Bob’s paws. Bob’s owners bought some special boots from Germany which helped protect his very sore feet whilst his treatment got underway.
One of the sores on Bob's paw
Bob wearing his special boots from Germany which helped protect his very sore feet
Bob was started on an aggressive course of chemotherapy, using multiple chemotherapy drugs, and happily he coped with the treatment very well indeed. Although he developed some muscle wastage and tiredness (caused by his anaemia and high dose steroids), as Bob’s anaemia improved, the steroid dosage was reduced and he started to feel better. Just to make things a little more complicated, however, Bob also developed a problem called ‘immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia’ (IMHA) early in his course of treatment. This was quickly identified by blood tests performed in Willows’ laboratory by our Specialists and, fortunately, the treatment that Bob was already receiving took care of this condition, too.
Bob has responded extremely well to his treatment, and it is now 3 months since his diagnosis. He is coping exceptionally well, only showing mild side effects, and he is able to receive his treatment on a day out-patient basis, so he can go back with his owners afterwards and enjoy his home comforts.
Due to the experience and expertise of our Specialists and the dedication of his caring owners, Bob has an excellent quality of life and his sore paws are almost completely better now. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Bob’s treatment will be curative, but his owners are very happy with Bob’s quality of life and to have him back to his old playful self.
For further information about cancer diagnosis and treatment in dogs please see our Oncology Information Sheets.