Recently, I was deeply moved by a human interest story posted in The National, titled "Can we establish a cancer hospital for our animals" reported by columnist Rym Ghazai from the United Arab Emirates. It was a touching feature about a seven-year-old girl named Noura and detailed how her bout with cancer put her in contact with a tabby kitten called Tuna.
Noura & Tabby
Ghazai reported that every weekend, little Tuna is visited by Noura, who sits with her for hours on end talking about her life and how she endures her illness. At first blush, any passer-by would perceive their interactions as a little girl and a pet enjoying each other’s company. However, on closer examination, one can begin to see how the disease is taking its toll on both of them.
You see . . . Tuna is also stricken with cancer. And while it's a different form than Noura’s, both are hard-hit by the most “relentless vicious kind” of cancer.
Even though Noura's parents have been warned about their daughter being around animals that could affect her immune system, Noura’s mom has seen the positive affects Tuna is providing her daughter. This has become obvious in how Noura communicates her fears and hopes to the cat, much more than she does to her family.
"We are not going to let cancer win, OK?" Noura tells Tuna, remembering the refrain of her mother’s that’s been repeated over and over again, particularly when days are tough.
While Noura is getting the best treatment available according to the report, this story stuck with me because our pets are not provided the same type of care in many parts of the world — the UAE just being one nation that lacks adequate services.
Pot for Pets
In a previous post, I documented how medical marijuana can help treat our pets who suffer from cancer. In 2016, with medical marijuana legal in 23 states, and recreational use permitted in four states, the cannabis industry has gone mainstream. To that mix, a number of companies are now producing edible products for our pets.
Biscuits and cannabis compounds are entering the market for ailing and elderly dogs for some of the same reasons they were introduced to America’s aging seniors. These are edible products that serve as a natural pain reliever, similar to other anti-inflammatory supplements we've been introduced to.
The Veterinary Cancer Center
However, marijuana is only one solution for pain treatments. It does not address how to prevent the spread of the disease. In Norwalk, Connecticut, the Veterinary Cancer Center is a specialized practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of caner in animals.
In almost every case, they handle patients, which have been referred to them by a family veterinarian seeking expert outside counsel and support. Their approach is to work with the pet owner’s current vet to form a team of medical experts. Their goal is to extend the quality and length of our pets’ lives.
The VCC is the type of facility Ghazai had hoped could be built in the UAE. Presently, pet owners need to travel to centers in the United States and Europe to get this level of advanced care.
Radiation treatments for our pets is relatively new. In a promising development for pet cancer patients in the Northeast, Animal Specialty Center (ASC) introduced its new TrueBeam™ Radiotherapy system to leading veterinary professionals.
VCA Animal Hospitals operate more than 650 small animal veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.
The hospitals are staffed by more than 4,500 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians to provide pets the very best in medical care, of which over 500 are board-certified specialists who are experts in areas such as Oncology, Cardiology, Emergency & Critical Care, and Surgery for animals. treatments when pets are ill.
For more information about these facilities, please visit their website here, and/or follow on Twitter @vcapethealth.
Hope for Noura & Tuna?
So, while the expense of cancer treatment is high, particularly if pet owners and their pets need to travel to the United States, it is encouraging to learn there are now advanced treatment centers that can attend to dogs and cats afflicted by cancer. Perhaps one day, Noura’s Tuna can eventually find her way to one of these facilities?
As members of our family, pets should have the same consideration and care as our children. The only remaining goal is to reduce the excessive costs, which come part-and-parcel with this high-level form of treatment.
In “Should Pet Owners Have Medicare For Their Pets?” I touched on this important topic back in 2016 — but I’m fully cognizant insurance of this type is a highly debatable issue for humans, let alone our pets. So, please comment below if you have learned about any economical pet health care treatments and/or health insurance plans that have assisted pets with cancer? With advancements becoming more and more mainstream, hopefully in time, these costs will come down. But to reach that goal, it's incumbent upon pet owners to appeal to their state governments, medical facilities and pharmaceutical companies to help make this a reality.