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Dog survives bout with breast cancer

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Cancer is common in pets, but thanks to research, it's becoming increasingly beatable.

Bonnie Fogle first heard the words "breast cancer" in their vet's office back home in Toccoa. The doctor discovered a lump during her dog Godiva's yearly checkup. Bonnie lost her mom to breast cancer as a baby, so when the vet broke the news about her dog, she was devastated.

"My heart sank because I had had a sister who had mastectomy and went through chemo and all of that, and I know they don't always survive.  So, I just thought I was going to lose her right then and there," Fogle said.

Fogle's vet referred them to the University of Georgia's Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Athens.

Godiva, who turned 12 in August, was enrolled in two different clinical trials. Doctors wanted her to test a new chemotherapy and an imaging agent that might detect cancer cells too small to see.

"I didn't know such a thing existed and when they explained it to me and gave me the information on it, I was, like, 'If this will help her, and maybe help others in the future, I am all for it,'" said Fogle.

UGA veterinary oncologist Dr. Corey Saba and her team needed to know if Godiva's tumors had spread beyond her mammary glands into her nearby lymph nodes.

The nodes felt and looked normal on an ultrasound, but to double-check, during the dog's surgery they looked again. This time, using an experimental imaging agent researchers from UGA, Georgia Tech and Emory University are studying, they detected cancer cells they didn't originally see. They took the affected lymph nodes out.    

"Godiva is definitely fortunate that she was in this trial because she had a bigger surgery than what she would have normally had," said Saba. "But she's also a very valuable piece of data moving forward with these trials, both in dogs and in people."

Saba says studying dogs with cancer may ultimately help people facing the same diseases.

Fogle likes the idea that Godiva might help uncover some answers, but most of all, she's grateful that she's still going strong.

"She's part of my family. I cherish every day," Fogle said.

Cancer is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, but it's often more aggressive.

If you have a pet, it's important to know the warning signs of cancer.

The ASPCA has listed these symptoms of cancer for pets:

Symptoms of cancer in cats may include:
•    Lumps (which are not always malignant, but are always worth having a veterinarian examine)
•    Swelling
•    Persistent sores or skin infections
•    Abnormal discharge from any part of the body
•    Bad breath
•    Listlessness, lethargy or other marked change in behavior
•    Weight loss
•    Sudden lameness
•    Diarrhea or vomiting
•    Scaly and/or red skin patches
•    Decreased or loss of appetite
•    Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
•    Change in behavior

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