Every day, Cindy Fleischner lines up her crew of cuddly canines for breakfast. As the four other dogs eat, Cindy pulls Katy, her 12-year-old shepherd mix, aside for a peanut butter treat.
Katy is battling lymphoma, and this treat hides her daily dose of chemotherapy drugs. “The other dogs are jealous,” says Fleischner. “But they don’t know the battle she is fighting.”
Katy is not alone in this war. Canine cancer is one of the leading causes of dog deaths. Of the more than 100 million dogs in North America, about two in four will develop cancer, and one in four will die from some form of this dreaded disease. In some purebred dogs, such as golden retrievers, the percentages are even higher.
Adopted from the Denver Dumb Friends League, Katy was no stranger to hospitals. As a licensed therapy dog, she spent many hours at a local hospital, bringing comfort and joy to patients.
However, Fleischner began to notice that Katy — a normally sweet dog — became distracted. “I knew something was not right,” she says.
A physical examination found a growing mass on Katy’s throat. Further testing and surgery would determine that the lump was thyroid cancer.
“Obviously, I was sad,” says Fleischner. “And the whole process of determining the best course of action was so confusing, just making a bad situation even worse.”
After surgery, Katy underwent radiation therapy for the thyroid tumor at Colorado State University. She was able to win this battle, but her war against cancer wasn’t over yet.
Katy was again diagnosed, this time with a lymphoma, requiring more treatments and time with a cancer specialist. Eventually, these treatments saved her life.
Fleischner knows she’s lucky. In her metropolitan area, she had the choice of visiting a veterinary teaching hospital or a specialty center with a veterinary oncologist.