Rocket and his pot belly

Rocket the Jack Russell is a sweet little guy. Last year, his owners noticed he was drinking more than he used to and growing a bit of a pot belly. When he came in we could feel that his liver was bigger than usual. We did some blood tests which confirmed his liver cells were not happy.

Next he had an ultrasound to look at his liver and thankfully we didn’t find any masses – though his liver was very large. We did notice at the same time that his adrenal glands were also enlarged.

We suspected a hormonal disorder called hyperadrenocorticism (aka Cushing’s disease). This is a common disorder in older dogs where the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, which has wide ranging effects on the body, including making the liver swell with too much fat and sugar, and significantly impairing the immune system.

We did one more hormonal blood test to confirm the diagnosis and sure enough he had Cushing’s disease.

The treatment is twice daily medication to reduce the amount of cortisol in the system, which he started.

The treatment was working well and he was feeling much better, however, a few months after his diagnosis, during a routine check up, Dr. Lisa noticed his lymph nodes had become enlarged. She performed a fine needle biopsy of the nodes and unfortunately a diagnosis of multicentric lymphoma was revealed.

Multicentric lymphoma is a common cancer of dogs, for which the treatment of choice is chemotherapy. Happily, dogs cope much better with chemotherapy than humans do, and although side effects are possible, we find they are quite rare in our pets!

Rocket’s owners love him so much they decided to give the chemo a go and see if it helped him.

What this entails is a weekly blood test, then a weekly intravenous injection with the chemotherapy medication. The chemotherapy agents are rotated week to week in an attempt to attack the cancer from all angles. The chemo protocol differs depending on which type of cancer the patient has, and for multicentric lymphoma we usually use a 19 or 25 week long protocol.

The specific type of lymphoma Rocket had required the 25 week protocol.

Every week he has been coming to see us for his treatments with a waggy tail! He enjoyed plenty of cuddles and treats with the vets and nurses during this time.

This week on Wednesday was his last week in the protocol, and he had repeat x-rays and ultrasounds to screen him for any evidence of remaining cancer. We are ecstatic to say we found no signs of any remaining cancer! This means he is in full remission!

He will continue to be treated for his Cushing’s disease, and otherwise go back to being a normal little dog. His story is quite remarkable; without his dedicated owners pursuing the treatment for his Cushing’s and lymphoma he likely wouldn’t be around today to wag his tail.

Here he is with Dr. Lara who performed most of his chemo treatments. Well done Rocket you little cancer-fighting legend!

Rocket the Jack Russell being held at Torquay Animal House Vet Clinic