Donnie is a Vince the Vet Superpet!
And his remarkable recovery from cancer shows what the body is capable of when given the right stimulation and support.
A Troublesome Cough
In November 2014 Donnie developed a dry, hacking cough.
An outbreak of Infectious Tracheobronchitis ('Kennel Cough') was doing the rounds, and so antibiotics, codeine and paracetamol were prescribed by a local vet. Over the next few months however, Donnie's cough got progressively worse.
X-rays were scheduled and in March 2015 they revealed a large grapefruit sized mass in one lung, a tangerine sized growth in the other and multiple tumours in the liver and spleen. The cancer was so advanced Donnie was given only months to live. Kris and Zoe asked the oncology ward at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital, Liverpool University about changing Donnie's diet to help keep his strength up, but were advised to continue with dog biscuits.
The Importance of Nutrition
Knowing the importance of diet, Kris and Zoe searched the 'Net', found Vince the Vet and booked a holistic consultation for Donnie.
A thorough medical history review was conducted and a home visit arranged to gather as much information as possible about Donnie and his background.
Following this a combination of dietary changes, Vince the Vet supplements and homeopathic remedies were prescribed to provide as much nutritional support to the immune system as possible, to aid it's fight against cancer.
The outlook at this stage was grave however, and Kris and Zoe were under no illusion that any prospect of a recovery was slim. This was borne out a few weeks later, when in April 2015 Donnie's breathing took a marked turn for the worse and his abdomen began to fill with fluid.
Hours Away From The Dreaded Decision
On 12th April Donnie was seen as an emergency at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital, when the fluid in his abdomen reached a critical point. Things were so bad Kris and Zoe feared they would have to let him go.
In a last ditch attempt to save the day, chemotherapy was started. Donnie's holistic treatment was also changed to help him cope with the side effects of the drugs used.
Thankfully, little by little over the next 2 weeks the fluid in Donnie's abdomen subsided and he became much brighter. So much so that Kris and Zoe reported:
‘The Don - he's as good as he was last year. His cough is virtually non existent - just a slight throat clear, average once a day, but no real wheezing. Always out in front on walks, jumping in the pond at Zo's parents against our wishes, chewing their gate, humping bedding, jumping on Morrison, spinning round on the settee, and licking dirties in the dishwasher as soon as we're not looking!
With that he's polishing off 4 or 5 meals a day. Just had 3/4 tsp of Fighting Fit (now renamed as Immunity) in his first feast of the day. We'll hopefully increase to 4 teaspoons a day then start introducing the other supplements. Just measured his belly and he's lost 5 inches off it since we last met a week ago.'
An Unexpected Test
Over the next month Donnie's remarkable progress continued on chemotherapy, supported by a freshly cooked, home prepared diet, Vince the Vet supplements and homeopathic remedies.
Despite this Kris and Zoe were warned on 5th April 2015:
'It is difficult to predict prognosis and the response of Donnie considering the unusual presentation and difficulties in the interpretation of the immunohistochemistry. Hepatic lymphoma tends to behave more aggressively than other forms and response to the chemotherapy is usually short lived.'
Small Animal Teaching Hospital, University of Liverpool.
An email from Kris shortly after this painted a very different picture:
‘Difficult not to mention that yesterday we tested Donnie - mainly because we got lost! Ended up on a 5 ½ mile fast paced walk which took 1¾ hours. Our shoulders were aching as he was constantly pulling to go faster, and as soon as we got back home he ran to the back door with Morrison to play ball.
Thought it might hit him a couple of hours later, but we took them on a short walk after dinner and he was spinning round and chasing his tail before we went out. We’re aching today but he seems fine! We’re so pleased that we’ve been able to give him this temporary reprieve after how quickly he went downhill.’
The Cancer is Gone!
On the 12th June 2015 - a day that's hard to forget - an email arrived after follow up scans at Liverpool's Small Animal Teaching Hospital showed no sign of the T-cell lymphoma that had riddled Donnie's lungs, liver and spleen:
Well to cut a long story short the cancer has gone.
We couldn't believe it either - along with the radiologist who didn't think it could be the same dog looking at the scan from 3 months ago.
There was a 4 cm and 10 cm(!) tumour in each of his lungs, which they say have now cleared, just scar tissue remains where it was. They had also found nodules in his spleen that have now gone, alongside any others that were present in his lungs. His liver still looks abnormal, but they say this will partly be due to having tumours, but none are visible at present.
We know it will come back, and that scans can't pick everything up (only growths around 5 mm and larger on the CT scan) so it's probably still lurking. This is now where that fork appears in the journey...
We asked about stopping chemotherapy straight away, but they stressed at this stage that it could come back aggressively, so it's important to carry on with the lomustine whilst his liver enzymes are low enough (below 300) and they're currently around 250. The longer they can keep going (which she feels will be another 1 or 2 sessions) the longer it is before patients need to come back. There are also other drugs that can be used as mentioned before. I know your feelings on this and it needs consideration from us.
Long Live The Don!
Thanks for all your help so far from all of us, pretty unbelievable!'
Kris & Zoe
Donnie’s recovery was without doubt astonishing.
Particularly given the size and the number of tumours present in the lungs, liver and spleen when treatment began, and that he was now in remission in less than 12 weeks.
All of which raised important questions.
What lay ahead for example, given the ominous warning by Small Animal Teaching Hospital that any improvement would likely be short-lived?
And what what part did the home cooked diet, Vince the Vet supplements and homeopathic remedies play in such a dramatic turnaround?
Given how well Donnie had sailed through chemotherapy, with little sign of the unpleasant side-effects often associated with this kind of treatment, Kris and Zoe needed no convincing of the value of continuing with his holistic support, and the important role it had to play going forward.
A Raw Diet and More Milestones
Small Animal Teaching Hospital persevered with chemotherapy in line with their protocol, until October 2015.
Zoe and Kris continued a home prepared diet supplemented by Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed (now superceded by Vitality) and Fighting Fit (now replaced by Immunity) along with the prescribed homeopathic remedies.
As soon as Donnie was off all drugs and been given the all clear by the vets at Liverpool, he was switched from cooked food to Vince the Vet Raw to further enhance his diet and support the immune system. Donnie took to his new food like a duck to water! (Or the swans he loved barking at on the canal!)
The milestones continued....
On 15th January 2016:
'Report from Kris and Zoe on The Don':
WHOOP WHOOP STILL CANCER FREE!!!!!!!!!!
They sent the bloods away on Tuesday to be tested and rang tonight with the results. I really shouldn't be so confident when they ring but he's so well in himself in a very annoying way, I sort of expect it now, oops! So now we know there is no trace of cancer in his blood either.
Booked back in for 5 weeks... finally increased from 4!'
And on 17th March 2016
' All clear again!
CT scan showed clear, bloods clear and just had aspirate samples from the liver and spleen back as clear!
Slightly high cholesterol though and slightly low white bloods but they said the latter was consistent with his previous results so not overly worried.
I really need to send you a video of him running around at work.
To think we took him there over a year ago because he only had few weeks to live!"
Kris and Zoe
Donnie's Back and Still Scanning Cancer Free
Towards the end of 2016 Donnie began to stiffen up after having more exercise than usual or playing vigorously with his ball. On physical examination there was a clear sensitivity to downward pressure along his spine. Spondylosis (spinal arthritis) was discussed and additional homeopathic remedies were prescribed alongside those he was still taking to support the immune system. Vince the Vet Superfood Joints was also added to Donnie's raw food diet to aid flexibility and mobility.
This did the trick until 28th January 2017 when the was a sudden turn for the worse:
'... we're really concerned about Donnie tonight. Wondering whether to take him to the dreaded emergency vets tomorrow. Hoping rest tonight and tomorrow would help, but not sure as it looks muscular and not spinal. He went to Zo's parents for a few hours - no ball. He is limping like the attached video, doesn't seem to be in pain if we touch down his spine or legs though, but all 4 are shaky, especially his back ones and as you can tell he's very weak. I've taken a few short clips so they'll come through on email.
Any advice would be appreciated, really concerned for him.
We advised that Donnie be seen by the local vet the next morning and if there was any doubt about what was going on to contact the Small Animal Hospital.
Four days later, the following update arrived:
To cut a long story short we've finally been seen at Liverpool this afternoon.
They haven't ruled out lymphoma and a few things it could be, but have mainly been suggesting a slipped disc. They say he's borderline between cage rest for 4-6 weeks before building up very gently, or having an op with all the recuperation that goes into that, but would advise the latter to stop it getting worse further down the line.
He's in overnight, they're discussing with oncology whether to scan for everything now or keep his March appointment for the cancer checkup separately and also whether to do a CT or MRI.
So there we go!...
The following day:
Thanks for your speedy response yesterday, as ever very much appreciated!
They gave him a CT then MRI today, he is still cancer free!!
Next checkup for that is 3 months.
They have found a small part of a disc has chipped off and is putting pressure on his spine (they will email you notes and a couple of pics). The usual course of action to take would be to operate and they'd probably still recommend this, however she mentioned our thoughts before we got round to it, that coupled with the chances of lymphoma lessening his life expectancy it does come into the equation. We've booked him back in for 3 weeks therefore, to assess how he's getting on, with pain killers to keep him comfortable and complete bed / crate rest in the meantime - no stairs etc and only 5 minute walks to toilet.
From his history it has probably been happening for some time, but something on Saturday may have jolted it. It's in the middle which is pretty much where you were feeling his discomfort. The hope is with complete rest it may improve to a less severe state, and monitor from there. Possibly have physio and hydrotherapy without the operation, but the next 3 weeks will tell. If there's anything you would suggest in the meantime please let us know.
After much deliberation Zoe and Kris made the extremely difficult decision to go ahead with spinal surgery on 28th February 2017.
The compression of Donnie's spinal cord by spurs of bone arising from the vertebral column was already affecting his back legs, and meant that if Donnie were to have a fall or overexert himself there was a risk this would cause sudden and potentially severe nerve damage.
The good news is that the surgery went well and the Small Animal Teaching Hospital have been giving all Donnie's homeopathic remedies as requested - the ones to support his immune system and others to aid recovery from the operation.
Donnie has beaten the odds once before to live a life that at one time looked impossible.
And we're hoping that with all the support he's getting from everyone, he'll do the same again.
Maximum Nutritional Support For The Immune System
Cancer currently affects approximately 1 in 4 dogs and 1 in 5 cats at some point in their lives.
Whenever tumours occur, it reflects a breakdown in the immune system's ability to detect and destroy cancerous cells effectively.
An important part of supporting the health and well-being of affected pets therefore, is to provide as much nutritional support to the immune system as possible, through a combination of dietary changes, natural supplements and homeopathic remedies.
Ideally this regime is best tailored to suit the individual needs and circumstances of each pet.
In general however, a combination of one or more of the following often proves helpful in improving the quality of life of pets requiring immune system support:
A Vince the Vet Superfood Raw or a freshly cooked, home-prepared diet, supplemented by:
- salmon oil (from wild caught fish not farmed and from a reputable supplier - Icelandic or Alaskan)
- pure, organic, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil
- live goat's milk yoghurt (if dairy intolerant)
- a small serving of minced, fresh green tripe once or twice weekly
And whenever possible:
- individualised homeopathic remedies
Donnie (left) and Morrison (middle) with their new housemate Mia, eagerly waiting for their raw food and supplements!
Donnie has been doing well on the hydrotherapy treadmill and physio. We're able to push him to do a lot more now... obviously all treat based!
The harness was ditched a couple of days ago, but he still needs to wear socks when on tarmac as he drags his feet badly. He's attempted to cock his leg a couple of times and scratch his ear - both unsuccessfully, but at least he's trying.
We've been able to drive him to the park the last couple of days for a 5 minute sniff as he's getting strong enough. He is still falling over a lot, but can steady himself as well.
We've been told we can start doing his physio on an air bed tomorrow and increase his 5 minute walks. He's also a lot brighter in himself - just picked up a tennis ball for the first time and dropped it at my feet. cheeky! Not just yet though buddy!
It's quite amazing the difference in him over the last week or so. Still a long, long way to go, and still dedicating ourselves to his needs but confident we'll get there! Here's some pics of him enjoying his physio and sniff in the park today.
Sorry, I have been meaning to email you to let you know we got Don's results back last week. All his bloods came back fine and so they want to see us again in another 6 months (all being well). They said if those also come back fine, they will probably not need to see him again for 8months or a year!
Really fantastic news!
It’s now been nealy 3 years since our first visit to Liverpool to find out he had a few months to live - then taking him back as an emergency on the Sunday thinking they would put him to sleep there and then. Just look at him now! Amazing!!
Donnie is doing great since the spinal surgery too. Sstill not walking perfectly but I think that’s mainly because he’s, well, he’s Donnie isn’t he! Lol lazy bones! If he doesn’t need to, he won’t haha!
Have attached a couple of pics for you, one from last night of him being a tinker and stealing a cardboard box and the the other’s of fun in the snow today!
Donnie is still in excellent health and cancer free!
According to Liverpool University Small Animal Hospital, this places him in a category of less than 5% for dogs living as long as this following the diagnosis of an aggressive and widespread T-cell lymphoma
What a testament Donnie is to the power of the body to heal when given the right stimulation and support... and the dedication of Kris and Zoe, coupled with the indomitable spirit of this incredible dog!