Chemo prolongs Eagle Co. dog’s life |

Chemo prolongs Eagle Co. dog’s life

Preston Utley/Vail DailyTwelve Gauge, a 10-year-old black Lab, rests while he receives chemotherapy Thursday at the Gypsum Animal Hospital in Gypsum.

GYPSUM, Colorado ” Mary Palmtag buried her head into the side of her dog, Twelve Gauge.

“Good boy,” she said softly, petting the black Lab, who blankly stared from the table where he lay.

The veterinarian, Steve Sheldon, inserted an IV into Twelve Gauge’s front leg. Sheldon and his assistant put on their gowns and surgical masks. The vet injected the cancer drug, Adriamycin, into the IV, and it flowed orange into Twelve Gauge’s body.

“Without chemotherapy, he would live another three months,” said Sheldon, of Gypsum Animal Hospital. “With chemotherapy, we hope to get him one-and-a-half to two years.”

This was Twelve Gauge’s third chemotherapy session. He’ll have to have three more before he’s done.

Palmtag found Twelve Gauge’s tumor about a week before Christmas. It was about the size of a walnut, just outside his left eye. By the time it was diagnosed as bone cancer less than a month later, the tumor had tripled in size, Palmtag said.

“It was so scary,” Palmtag said.

Cancer is common among pets. Cancer is the cause of almost half of deaths of pets over 10 years of age, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Dogs get cancer at about the same rate as humans, according to the foundation.

Sheldon says he sees quite a few cancer cases in his practice. In his six months in Gypsum, he’s treated three different pets with chemo, he said.

Palmtag decided quickly that Twelve Gauge should have surgery to remove the tumor, she said.

Without the surgery, he would have a few months to live, and the tumor would have made it increasingly difficult for him eat, doctors told her.

While other cancer surgeries in dogs can lead to amputations, that wouldn’t have to happen in Twelve Gauge’s case.

“We just think the world of him. Cost is not an issue,” Palmtag said, adding that she considers Twelve Gauge part of her family.

Twelve Gauge, who is 10 years old, had surgery at the veterinary hospital at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The surgery went well, and Twelve Gauge started his chemo, getting treatment once every three weeks.

Palmtag said Twelve Gauge hasn’t gotten sick after the treatments, although he’s seemed a little sluggish for a few days after each round.

“(Dogs) just seem to tolerate (chemotherapy) so much better than people do,” Sheldon said.

Dogs generally don’t lose their fur, but they can lose their eyelashes during the treatment, Sheldon said.

The each treatment costs $400, and the cancer surgery can cost around $2,000, Sheldon said.

Sheldon said he advises his patients to pay their mortgage and feed their children first when they’re weighing whether to spend lots of money to try to prolong the lives of their pets.

“That’s a factor that we deal with every day in veterinary medicine,” Sheldon said.

If pet owners choose not to pursue surgery and chemotherapy, there are other drugs that can be tried in its place, Sheldon said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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