Phoebe’s Story

Thanks to Our Pet Cancer Awareness Campaign, This Active Basset Hound Recovered After a Slow Year of Surgeries and Treatment for Cancers.

PCA + Phoebe

Karen Less refers to Phoebe, her 11-year-old Basset Hound, as her “only child.”

In 2006, she and her husband, Dale, adopted Phoebe when she was a year old from the Carolina Basset Hound Rescue in North Carolina. It was Phoebe’s third adoption.

“Her other adopters found her too energetic,” says Karen. “I guess they were expecting a couch potato. But my husband and I have both been triathletes, so having an active dog was no problem for us.”

"“They told me it was the most bizarre blood test they had ever seen,” recalls Karen. “They honestly didn’t know what was wrong, but suspected she might have leukemia or lymphoma.”"

In March 2016, a few weeks after the couple moved to Sevierville, Tennessee, Phoebe got sluggish, stopped eating, and started throwing up one night. The couple worried the move had stressed her. But they soon realized her symptoms were too severe, and something was terribly wrong. They took Phoebe to the Sevier County Animal Clinic where doctors ran a blood test.

“They told me it was the most bizarre blood test they had ever seen,” recalls Karen. “They honestly didn’t know what was wrong, but suspected she might have leukemia or lymphoma.”

The clinic referred Phoebe to the University of Tennessee (UT) Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where an ultrasound revealed three of the four major blood vessels in the spleen were completely blocked.

“The spleen was necrotic and could rupture at any time,” says Karen.

Cancer diagnosis followed by more bad news for family

The next day, surgeons at UT removed Phoebe’s spleen and biopsied the liver “because it looked suspicious,” Karen says.

A week later, the biopsy revealed Phoebe had a slow-growing liver cancer. Doctors scheduled her second surgery 12 weeks later to give her time to recover from her spleen surgery. They removed the cancerous liver lobe in June 2016.

This same month, Karen noticed lumps growing under Phoebe’s skin. “Basset Hounds are notorious for getting these sebaceous cysts because of their oily skin,” she says. “She had several removed when she was four-years-old, and there were no issues.”

But these lumps continued growing. By December, the UT doctors recommended another surgery to remove the lumps and biopsy them. While Phoebe was in her third surgery, Dale was getting the news he had lost his job. A week later, the biopsies revealed one of Phoebe’s lumps was a High-Grade Mast Cell 2 Tumor – a different kind of cancer from the liver cancer.

Phoebe needed a fourth surgery to take out a larger margin around the tumor, and remove a lymph node that had become cancerous. The couple worried how to pay for it all.

New cancer results in another surgery and chemotherapy

The UT doctors told Karen and Dale about a cancer treatment fund for pet owners needing help that was available from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Foundation. The $2,645.58 grant covered the fourth surgery and evaluation in December 2016.

“At the time, it was a real struggle for us to pay for this additional surgery,” says Karen. “We were so grateful to have this resource available that we decided to pay for the eight rounds of chemotherapy ourselves. We wanted to make sure grant monies could be available for others who might need help too.”

It’s been almost a year since Phoebe’s first surgery, and so far, there is no evidence of any more cancer.

“She’s resumed her normal activities, and her appetite is voracious again,” says Karen. “Everything is back to how things used to be before we moved to Tennessee and our lives got crazy with cancer. It’s been a tough year, but we’re grateful for the help that saved our little girl.”

Story Update: With heavy hearts we share the news that Phoebe has passed away.

Join the fight

Together with Blue Buffalo, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $13 million in pet cancer research and 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 for a list of organizations that may be able to provide assistance.

Join the fight against pet cancer. Make a donation today.