Canine cancer used to be a relatively uncommon occurrence. Growing up, and then in my early years as a adult dog owner, I did not know a single dog owner whose dog had been diagnosed with cancer. This year, two of my friends both lost their dogs to cancer. Neither went without a fight; they sought to save the lives of their best friends. Individually, they turned to a variety of treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, vitamin and herbal support systems and even energy rebalancing through Reiki treatments.
In more recent years, as our beloved dogs live longer, canine cancer has become a leading cause of death in older dogs. It is estimated that more than half of dogs older than ten years of age will be diagnosed with cancer.1 Overall, roughly one-third of all dogs will be diagnosed with cancer, and some of them will still be in the early years of their lives.2
As a dog owner, the thought that one of my dogs might develop cancer is terrifying. I watched my adoptive mother die from cancer. One of my best friends continues to fight recurring rounds of cancer. As humans, they have advantage – perhaps dubious – of intellectually understanding why they feel sick from the disease as well as from the radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Our dogs do not have this understanding. They just instinctively understand that they aren’t feeling as well. As their owners, guardians, or pet parents, whether they receive treatment for cancer is our decision.
Canine cancer research has made significant advances in recent years, in part thanks to grass-root organizations such as the National Canine Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization. The NCCF raises money and directly approves grants for canine cancer research.
What I find unique is that the NCCF screens requests for cancer research grants and funds the grants according to their ability to do so. However, like any other charitable organization, their immediate ability to fund worthy research studies is limited. Rather than denying requests beyond their immediate ability to fund, the NCCF lists (right on their website) approved research projects that are in need of additional funding in order for the research to occur.
This approach appeals to me. I personally prefer to donate to organizations where I feel like my contribution is making a meaningful difference. It also allows interested individuals to choose to fund research that might have a personal impact to them because of the cancer that their dog was diagnosed with.
As I look at the projects needing funding this very day, I see projects involving hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels); lymphoma (lymphoid cancers); and a project to inhibit angiogenesis (the blood vessels that feed cancer tumors). These are not fly-by-night folks with wild research projects; these are highly acclaimed researchers at well-known universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State University, University of Minnesota and the University of California.
Individuals can choose to simply donate to a study of choice, or to the NCCF as an organization. Another option is to become a CORE member, which requires a commitment of at least $10 a month for a twelve-month period. CORE members receive a Pink Paw Magnet, Pink Paw Pin, a membership T-Shirt, certificate of membership and are listed as CORE members on the website.
For those who want to become more involved, the foundation now has several chapters throughout the United States. Each chapter holds at least two fundraising events a year, although many have more than two events. If a chapter is not in your area, you have the unique opportunity to help create and lead a new chapter. The NCCF actively is seeking to grow and offers a FAQ on creating chapters directly on their website.
Although I was dismayed when I first learned about the high rate of canine cancer, I see hope through grass-roots efforts such as the National Canine Cancer Foundation.
1 http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/dogs-and-cancer-get-the-facts, retrieved December 31, 2010
2 http://www.wearethecure.org/, retrieved December 31, 2010