Shortly after Alice, our beloved Border Collie, passed away, we found out that the type of cancer Alice had succumbed to –hemangiosarcoma – in fact, it is one of the most aggressive and incurable types of canine cancer. The survival chances beyond one year are less than 10% and survival times are very dependent on size of the tumor.
In hindsight, had we known more about the disease, the likelihood that Alice would have survived her cancer longer would had been much greater as early detection is cruel. We simply lacked basic knowledge about the illness, its symptoms and available detection methods like ultra-sound. It was a devastating insight for us and even harder to take knowing that with our AWARENESS, the outcome could have been so different. We were filled with gnawing guilt and deepest sorrow.
We received literally hundreds of reactions to Alice’s death and condolence letters from all over the world. Dog owners from all corners of the world told me THEIR dog’s heart-breaking hemangiosarcoma story. I was - to say the least - surprised and appalled at the same time: There were so many other dog owners who had to go through the same destiny with their beloved dogs, and who had to face this fatal diagnosis equally ignorant and unprepared as me. This can’t be right! I was outraged!
So I decided I had to do something helpful and set up the Alice-Ribbon-Project, in memory of our beloved Border Collie Alice, and to give her premature death a sense: Help others!
The aim of the present Alice-Ribbon guidelines and toolkit is not to draw an over-pessimistic picture but to help to increase canine cancer awareness among dog owners all over the world, to inform them about prevention, periodic follow-ups at the vet, screening, symptoms and treatments in order to help dogs to survive this cruel disease.
Having had to learn the hard way when we were confronted with grave decisions to be taken about Alice’s end-of-life care, I also wish to present a number of resources, and list and comment on the different options in this field to allow our best friends and protégés to have quality of life during the final stage of their lives.
I hope to help ensure that our dogs get the best possible care – before the illness, during and when entering the final life stage. I would like to provide dog owners with the depth of information necessary to be able to work as a fully integrated member of the medical healthcare team to offer the best-quality medical care for our dogs.
Conversations about fatal diagnosis, grief and end-of-life care with emotionally and technically overwhelmed dog owners are certainly not easy tasks for veterinary and healthcare staff; client communication skills might not be on the agenda of the university curriculum – not yet. There are many interesting resources available online for healthcare professionals to improve communication skills and thus make them and their clients more comfortable in these very sensitive situations. On the Alice-Ribbon homepage professionals will find a toolkit by AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association). Interesting not only for professionals!
Only together (healthcare team and dog owners)
we can make a difference for our dogs!
After the fatal diagnosis, I felt completely at loss, helpless, ignorant. The only way to fast gather information was the internet. But I didn’t feel safe: The problem with finding information online is that many resources are either outdated or not credible, or even contradictory. This is why I decided to set up an information pool, a compendium of all aspects around canine cancer, examined and appraised by experts, so we can rely on it.
Although the World Wide Web is a great resource – including this site -, it should never replace the information you receive from your veterinarian.
I’m not a veterinarian, nor do I have any medical background whatsoever. Therefore, I have teamed up with the Animal Oncology and Imaging (AOI) Center Hünenberg Switzerland in order to make sure that the information I have gathered and present on this homepage is medically sound and justifiable. I’d specially like to thank Dr. B. Kaser-Hotz and Dr. I. Flickinger for their assistance and guidance, without which the realisation of this homepage would not have been feasible.
Wherever I cite interesting information found on the net I’ll provide the link, for the reader to engage in more in-depth study.
First and foremost, we recommend that all pet owners consult their veterinarian. The information contained herein is meant to be a resource and an aid to further research, to provide enough information to help you to ask the right questions – but it is not exhaustive. Nor does it constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the AOI Center Hünenberg. Please do your own due judgment in researching these sources and making the best choice for your pet(s).