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Pet specialists offer breakthrough for animal cancer patients

PORTLAND (WGME) -- It's heartbreaking news that many pet owners will face, their dog or cat has cancer.  It's the number one disease-related killer for dogs and cats, claiming the lives of millions of pets each year.  But there is hope, as with humans more and more work is being done to treat pets with cancer.

Portland Veterinary Specialists on Warren Avenue treats hundreds of pets with cancer.  One of them, Biggins, a Rottweiler Rescue dog with Lymphoma.

"He's very high energy, very loving, very velcro-dog loves to be around people loves to chase balls," said Robbie LeBlanc, his owner.

LeBlanc says he's a member of the family, and why they travel from New Gloucester to Portland every week for him to get treatment since they found a mass in his chest.

"He stopped eating for a few days so I brought him into our local vet and they did an ultrasound of his intestines and they also x-rayed his chest and they found a mass between his lungs," said LeBlanc.

Veterinary Oncologist Dr.Jeff Philibert says Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers he treats in dogs.  He has been treating pets with cancer for almost 20 years, the past two years at Portland Veterinary Specialists, a specialty clinic more and more owners are turning to.

"Animals have had cancer for as long as people have had cancer but I think the thing that has changed is two fold, one the role animals play in people's lives and the human-animal bond has changed dramatically in the last 20 years even," said Dr. Philibert.

Dr. Philibert says 80 % of dogs over 8 years old will develop cancer and 50 % will die from the disease, however there is now more options than ever for owners.

He says the Portland Veterinary Specialists treats hundreds of dogs and cats using the same methods as humans with cancer, from surgery to chemotherapy. 

Dr. Philibert says Rottweiler "Biggins" is on a protocal for lymphoma involving both injectable and orally delivered chemotherapy, given in a rotating cycle.
His owners say they noticed a difference right away.

"It was probably right after his first treatment he was acting normal again," said LeBlanc.  "Appetite back, energy well energy not too much affected, but he's always been acting like his self the whole treatment."

Dr. Philibert says if left untreated, dogs with lymphoma have a life expectancy of one month.  Biggins is now on three months and expected to have many more.

While chemotherapy has helped keep many pets around for longer, it is costly.

"Could range anywhere from someone spending for an average laborador size dog $5,000 - 10,000 range depending on what type of cancer is being treated, and what types of dyagnostics need to be done," said Dr. Philibert.

Many owners say it's worth the cost to keep their loved pets around longer.