Like most pet owners, I really love our three dogs. They are very important members of our family. And just as it is with our children, we get upset when they – the pets – have an upset with one another. Such was the case one day in September of 2005; my two beloved Chow Chows had a vicious run-in with one another over a Milk Bone. The older Chow, Chewie, took the brunt of it. Her mouth was bleeding, and it was the next day before she calmed down enough for me to be able to get a good look at her injury. I felt so badly when I saw that one of her back molars was hanging loose in its socket.
I took Chewie to her veterinarian, who agreed that the tooth would have to come out. As poor Chewie was prepped for surgery that morning, the vet asked if I wanted to be called should there be any unforeseen issues. “Just treat her as you would if she were your dog,” I replied. What could go wrong? Then I headed out for my own office to see my own patients.
When it came time to pick Chewie up on my way home, the vet had bad news for me. Something unforeseen had indeed happened. While Chewie’s mouth was relaxed and open, they had noticed a lesion on her tongue. You see, Chewie’s very ladylike about panting, so we’d never noticed anything. Later, when we scrutinized an old photo of Chewie for a few minutes, we did see that the small round change in color had been there.
Because I had given him permission to use his own best judgment that day, the vet scraped the suspicious lesion on Chewie’s tongue to get a tissue sample ( a surgical biopsy), and awaited my permission to send it out to the lab. Our precious Chewie was in sorry shape that night. Her mouth must have been very sore, because she didn’t eat for days, no matter how we coaxed and coddled her with pureed versions of her favorite foods.
The biopsy of the suspicious lesion was indeed positive for melanoma. The vet explained that because Chows have purple-pigmented tongues, melanomas in that area are not uncommon for the breed. He then suggested a surgical resection that would include an area around the tumor. That would mean literally cutting off a very large portion of Chewie’s tongue. My heart sank. Dogs do so much more than lap up food and water with their tongues; they also express their joy, love and affection with them!
Had I been given the option, I would not have even approved disturbing the lesion for the biopsy. I would have just assumed the worst, and treated my sweet pet conservatively. After all, who knows how long that lesion had been there, how aggressively it was progressing or whether it was progressing at all? Why rip it open and put her through the agony?
There was no big decision to be made. We already knew what we wanted for our dog…
We decided against putting Chewie through more pain for a procedure that might ultimately make her unable to enjoy the time we had left with her. I started her on Poly-MVA right away, along with other nutrients to help her immune system keep her melanoma at bay. That was over a year and a half ago.
Our Japanese friend Chizuko takes good care of our dogs when we work and travel, and she follows Chewie’s anti-cancer regimen, too. I get a kick out of how she refers to the Poly-MVA as the “soy sauce for the Chew Chew”. She can’t remember (or pronounce) the name of the liquid dietary supplement that’s been helping Chewie, so the nickname helps us communicate about it with a chuckle and a smile.
We sneak the “soy sauce” in Chewie’s food twice a day. And let me tell you, feeding a Chow is just like feeding a cat; they’re very fickle and very fussy. Just a half teaspoon at each meal has been enough for our 46-pound-runt-of-the-litter. (The first month, I gave her a “loading dose” by giving her four small meals a day, each with ½ teaspoon of “Poly” for a grand total of 2 teaspoonfuls a day in order to get her blood level of Poly-MVA up.)
Chewie was ten years old when her melanoma was diagnosed. A veterinarian friend across the state informs me that he’s yet to see a Chow Chow live longer than twelve years. Our soon to be twelve-year-old Chewie, whose tongue lesion does not appear to have changed since the day it was discovered, is still full of life and still bringing joy into our lives and recently passed away of normal age related causes!