Be an advocate in
your dog’s treatment
Give your dog’s treatment team all the help you can. Your vet, canine cancer specialist, or the hospital oncology department, see many patients and won’t remember your dog’s treatment status from week to week. They can evaluate how a dog looks at the time of each appointment and can check his lymph nodes, spleen, blood, and measure other values. But they don’t see your dog at home, and your dog can’t talk to them. The most important time is the 167 hours each week that your dog is at home with you, not the hour your dog is "in treatment." The caregivers need to know how those 167 hours were spent, and you are the person who has to provide this data.
In the early days of Berry’s treatment, we kept a diary of medications given, side effects, eating and elimination behavior, and general demeanor. This provided good data to Berry’s caregivers and documented for us that, little by little, his health and quality of life were improving. We then prepared and saved in our computer a form that we revise for each visit to VHUP.
The form (which is updated for each visit) lists Berry’s general health since his last visit, anticipated drug treatment for that week, and any questions we had. It also includes notations about Berry’s other, existing conditions to ensure that they aren’t repeatedly reevaluated by new veterinary students who work with him. For example, we give one copy to the fourth year student who is frequently assigned to take Berry’s recent history in the waiting room and keep one with us. This helps ensure that all the information is transmitted to everyone who sees Berry each week. It also helps us to formulate our questions in advance, to remember to ask them, and to be sure to get a clear answer to each one. We keep these records, along with Berry’s discharges and bills, in a notebook that we try to take with us to each appointment.