San Luis Obispo ™s Relay For Life is going on today at Santa Rosa Park. In honor of this American Cancer Society fundraiser, I thought I would tell the story of Riley. Riley was an 8 year old Australian Shepherd with a vital career as an agility dog. One morning his œmother  called me. He seemed a little quiet and not real interested in his food – he was just laying around with his head on the floor. This was so out of character for Riley that I suggested he be seen right away. Riley ™s gums were very pale- an indicator of bleeding or shock. A few blood tests and an ultrasound later, he was diagnosed with an actively bleeding tumor in his spleen – hemangiosarcoma. He underwent emergency surgery to have his spleen removed and recovered beautifully. We knew that this tumor would return quickly (usually within 1-3 months) if we stopped treatments. Therefore, Riley underwent chemotherapy. He had treatments every 3 weeks and did quite well during therapy. Six months after his emergency episode, Riley joined me in the survivors lap at Relay For Life. Seven days later, his tumor recurred and was bleeding, and he was euthanized.

Cancer can be chronic and debilitating, or it can sneak up on you with great surprise. Riley ™s mom was lucky to have the time to spend with him after his diagnosis. Come join us today at Relay For Life – we are team Paws For the Cause – you can learn much more about cancer in people and animals!

by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP