Oral Chemotherapy Helping Dog With Leukemia

Scruffles is being treated for leukemia at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
Scruffles is being treated for leukemia at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Scruffles, a 9-year-old female Shetland sheepdog, was referred to the UC Davis veterinary hospital after her white blood cell count continued to increase. The Oncology Service performed complete blood count tests to gain a better understanding of Scruffles’ condition, as well as a test called flow cytometry, which helped determine if Scruffles was dealing with a cancer of her bone marrow (leukemia).

Bone marrow is responsible for producing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the body. As in humans, there are four classifications of leukemia: acute lymphoid leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphoid leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia. Acute leukemias involve very large immature cells from the bone marrow where dogs tend to be very sick and is associated with a worse prognosis. Chronic leukemias are associated with production of increased numbers of normal mature cells, and typically tend to have a longer disease course and a better prognosis than the acute form. Unfortunately, there is less information known about the myeloid form of the disease, and information in dogs for both treatment and prognosis is limited to just a few case reports. The lymphoid form can respond well to treatment and dogs can have a good long-term prognosis. Treatment options generally include a steroid and an oral chemotherapy.

Scruffles with ball in yardScruffles was suspected to have chronic myeloid leukemia, and oncologists continued to monitor her blood count for several months, knowing that she may need to be treated for the leukemia in the near future. After about eight months of monitoring, Scruffles needed to start her first treatment, which consisted of an oral chemotherapy drug given at home.

Scruffles has been on the oral chemotherapy for seven months and continues to do well.

Thankfully, her family qualified for financial assistance through a generous grant from the Blue Buffalo Foundation’s support of the Petco Foundation pet cancer treatment program at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. The grant helps support treatments for domestic companion animals suffering from cancer. The project is designed to support pet parents of modest means or pet parents whose pets provide a service to others.

“The oncologists immediately gave us the application to receive the Petco funding for her care, and we believe it saved her life,” reported Scruffles’ owners. “She has been on chemotherapy since March, and she is doing awesome!”

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