Owners Of Seriously Ill Pets Turn To ‘U’

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When a vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Camilla McGraw’s Golden Retriever, she took Monty to the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota. The news wasn’t good. 

“He had an extremely aggressive form of Stage 5 lymphoma,” said McGraw. “Extremely aggressive. We were told we might not make it to a month, and here we are — January.”

On Facebook, Monty’s human friends have followed his progress.  He has had chemotherapy, acupuncture and a diet makeover.

On Sunday, McGraw will make a road trip south for a possible cure. North Carolina State’s College of Veterinary Medicine is the first veterinary program in the nation to offer canine bone marrow transplants in a clinical setting. Monty won’t receive another dog’s marrow, but his own. 

“They basically take all the good stuff out of him, spin it in this machine,” explained McGraw. “Then they put it back into him.” 

The bone marrow transplant will cost about $12,000. Monty’s chemo treatments and other University of Minnesota treatment rang up at $3,000. It’s a lot of money to spend on a pet, but McGraw and her husband consider Monty a member of the family.

“Christmas wasn’t as big this year,” said McGraw with a laugh. “But he’s family. He’s our first baby.”

Dr. Claire Cannon is an oncology resident in the University of Minnesota’s program.  She cared for Mark Dayton’s dog Dakota who died on Wednesday.  She feels her job is all about telling people what’s possible.

“My role is to give them options and allow them to make a decision that they’re happy with,” she said. 

There are better diagnostic tools now and many of the same treatments humans get — chemotherapy, radiation and targeted molecular therapies. 

“A lot of people are not aware of the options that are out there, and some cancers are very treatable and some are more aggressive,” Cannon said.

Cannon’s colleague Dr. Jaime Modiano heads up the University’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Program.

“I work with dogs and cancer all day, every day,” he said.

When standard care options aren’t a good choice, Modiano encourages people to take part in clinical trials.

“You would be amazed,” he said. “About probably 70 or 80 percent of people look at those options and decide they want to participate and do something.”

 That decision offers hope for their pets as well as promise for pets and humans.

“Even if their dog doesn’t do well, they know that their dog will eventually help other dogs and help other people,” said Modiano. “I think that’s a great motivator.”

Clinical trials often offer free or subsidized care for sick pets.  The U is currently looking for 80 dogs with brain cancer to take part in a trial. Modiano doesn’t want anyone to give up on their dog without first checking on research opportunities at the University. Modiano believes “the last thing they should ever lose is hope.”

Paula Engelking, Producer
Contact Paula

WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports

  • Dawn

    I know a lot of people would think it’s crazy to spend that much on a dog, but I know I would if faced with losing ours. We also have a son, but our dog was our first baby. He is our son’s best friend, and ours too. I am so glad that there is a local resource for such advanced care.

  • mike

    My dog Buddy was diagnosed with lympoma. He went through chemo and radiation at age 12 (he was a rescue dog we got 3 years ago). He passed away about 6 months after the original diagnosis. It was expensive treatment and he always bounced back from whatever was done and his quality of life until the very end was good. I’ll be paying those bills for quite a while, and don’t regret it for a moment. He was worth it and deserved nothing less.

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  • Nici Hilbert Slater

    I lost my 7.5 year golden to cancer. I’m very interested in your story and would love to follow Monty on FB. Good luck Monty!

  • Amy

    My Twiggy helped research bladder cancer. Her outcome wasn’t all that great but she got good care and she was loved on by a large working group. She never showed the least bit of fear when I took her for treatment, and her final moments were peaceful and dignified. Some of her cells live on to help other dogs get well.

  • Kathryn Danese Pucillo

    Keep up the good work our pets are part of our families and we want to do all we can for them-they ask little but, give much. Miss our Junior our male corgi that had to be put down after a good fight to win. He just did not deserve this blow in life he was our boy, LOVE and miss him so.

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