+ Fight Pet Cancer
Colorado State University (CSU) Flint Animal Cancer Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the University program partners receiving funding through the Petco Foundation’s Pet Cancer Awareness campaign. Through this support, they are able to provide subsidized care to help pet parents afford the costs of advanced cancer surgeries and treatments. In the program’s first year, CSU was able to provide 33 veterinary oncology patients with subsidized care.
“Some cancers are easier and less expensive to treat than others,” says Susan Lana, DVM, ACVIM-Oncology, Clinical Oncology Service Chief, Flint Animal Cancer Center, at CSU. “But sometimes the only good treatment protocol involves complex surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of treatments, which can be expensive for the pet owner. All of the cancer cases we treat are complex in nature requiring advanced care that would not have been possible otherwise for most pet owners.”
"Lana says the best part of the program is saving lives. "
Lana says the best part of the program is saving lives. Each case presents opportunities for her team to help each patient with specialized care, while increasing their knowledge about cancer that can be used to benefit future patients.
Here are a few of the patients treated by CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center since the program began.
“Superhero” dog battles several cancers
Tony DiTirro adopted Stoli, a six-year-old Weimaraner, from Mile High Weimaraner Rescue in Denver, Colorado, in 2008.
“Before I was lucky enough to have him in my life, he was a prison rehab dog,” says DiTirro. “His owner took him to work at the prison where inmates got to work with him and teach him commands. That is how I got a super-intelligent dog.”
Tony says Stoli “doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” but jokes that he is a bit of bed hog. “He loves to sleep in my bed, and every once in a while, he lets me sleep in it too,” says Tony.
At 13-years-old, Stoli suddenly was lethargic and vomiting, so his veterinarian ran some tests, and in the process, discovered he had an enlarged prostrate. DiTirro took him to CSU where he was diagnosed with prostatic carcinoma, which metastasized to his lungs and lymph nodes.
CSU provided a $5,000 Pet Treatment Grant to cover Stoli’s intensity modulated radiation therapy to stabilize and shrink the tumor. He’s also had several rounds of chemotherapy over an 18-month period, which has kept the cancer from spreading further.
While not in remission, Stoli’s cancer has been stable for the past several months. Stoli is moving at a slower pace these days, both physically and mentally. At 15, he’s experiencing some health problems commonly found in aging pets, like hearing loss and severe arthritis.
“Stoli has the mind of an elderly person,” says DiTirro. “He’s been on earth for a long time and if he wants to stop and smell the flowers, you just have to wait for him to do. I don’t mind; I think once you get to be 15, you deserve that.”
As a professional photographer, Tony dresses and photograph dogs, including Stoli, as superheroes in honor of the role they play in our lives. “Stoli is definitely my superhero,” says DiTirro.
Newly adopted dog diagnosed with brain tumor
Niki Tulk volunteers one day a week at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado. Last summer, she met and fell in love with Charlotte, a seven-year-old terrier/dachshund mix. “She wasn’t very animated,” says Tulk. “She was a quiet dog who loved to sleep and snuggle.”
In February 2017, however, Charlotte developed uncontrollable seizures. Her veterinarian referred her to CSU where a $5,000 Pet Treatment Grant helped cover an MRI that confirmed a brain tumor. Charlotte received three high doses of radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
“We didn’t know she was dealing with a brain tumor when we adopted her,” says Tulk. “Since the treatments, she’s been a different dog. She’s more playful and feisty, and is chasing balls and barking more. The grant saved Charlotte’s life.”
Niki Tulk says Charlotte is a therapy dog for her 13-year-old daughter, Corrina, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. Tulk says Corrina talks with the CSU vets all the time about Charlotte’s treatments, and ensures Charlotte has everything she needs at home to recover.
“Charlotte has helped our family in so many ways,” says Tulk. “She is much more than a family dog; she is our dog angel.”
Nose bleeds lead to aggressive cancer diagnosis
In 2003, Kathie and Chris Bluejacket of Colorado Springs, Colorado, adopted a Swedish Lapphund through Petfinder.com. “He was more than a year old and was starved and a little feisty,” Kathie recalls.
But Rusty gained weight in his new home, and over the years became a loving and affectionate dog. When Rusty turned 13-years-old, he started having serious nose bleeds. His veterinarian referred him to CSU where doctors diagnosed an aggressive nasal tumor located in the bone between the nasal cavity and the brain.
“The tumor was not operable, so there was no way to make it completely go away,” says Kathie.
Doctors at CSU recommended specialized high-dose radiation therapy to shrink the tumor and provided a $5,000 Pet Treatment Grant to help cover the costs. Rusty spent five days in ICU.
A month later, however, Rusty was still having nosebleeds. “I could see he didn’t feel well,” says Kathie. “He would go in the backyard and start digging a hole. It looked like he was digging his own grave.”
Local doctors followed by starting Rusty on chemotherapy and other medications that Kathie still administers daily. Within a few weeks, the bloody noses decreased significantly, and have since stopped altogether.
“Rusty is back to his silly and loving self,” says Kathie. “I know because he loves to go hiking with us, and during a recent hiking trip he kept up with my husband who is faster than me, but kept running back to me as if to say, ‘hurry up.’ He’s a very special dog, and it’s so great to have him doing well again.”
Each May, the Petco Foundation teams up with Blue Buffalo and Petco for the Pet Cancer Awareness campaign to fight pet cancer. Thanks to donations raised during this campaign, the Petco Foundation is able to partner with treatment centers like CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center to help pet parents afford the costs of pet cancer treatment.
If your pet has been diagnosed with pet cancer and you need assistance with the cost of care, please see our Pet Cancer Resource Guide featuring some of the organizations providing help thanks to the Pet Cancer Awareness campaign.
Get the warning signs of pet cancer.