Ripley's Hidden Cancer

Google Maps location for Winmalee Vet Hospital

Winmalee Vet Hospital
Winmalee Village Centre, 14 Whitecross Road
NSW 2777

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02 4754 4333

Faulconbridge Vet Hospital
453 Great Western Hwy, access via Coomassie Ave
NSW 2776

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02 4751 6388

What your best mate may not be telling you – Dr Russel talks about Ripley.

This is the story about Ripley. She is one of those amazingly sweet-natured dogs. You know the type - big goofy grin on her face, tongue lolling comically from the side of her mouth and a tail that just won't sit still whenever she introduces herself. She is one of those dogs that typifies why we call dogs "man's best friend" and she is the apple of her owners eye.

Ripley's mum has a job which has seen her transferred all over the world. Although Dawn has never said this, I can imagine how much easier Ripley has made this continent-hopping lifestyle for her. Ripley has travelled from the USA to Germany and now to Australia with Dawn. She has been one of few constants for Dawn, and the connection between them was obvious to me the minute I met them.

The team at Pet Friends have had the privilege of caring for Ripley since her arrival in Australia about a year ago.

Recently, Dawn made the decision to have Ripley desexed (this had been something that had been difficult to arrange before now as a result of Ripley's adventurous, travelling lifestyle),

The day of Ripley's surgery arrived. It had been about 4 months since she had last been in for a vet visit, and as is our routine with any visit, Ripley was given a full and thorough physical examination.

Dogs can't talk and articulate any physical problems they're experiencing the way you and I can at a doctor's visit - so the importance of a thorough physical examination with every visit is something that all the vets at Pet Friends are meticulous about.

The truth of this was driven home to me once again as I carefully palpated Ripley's belly. Something was definitely not right. Closer inspection of her mouth showed the subtlest hint of paleness in her gums.

My heart sank- I had a bad feeling about this and hated having to raise my fears with Dawn- this was supposed to be a fairly routine visit….

As always we did thorough pre operative blood tests, and set up an intravenous transfusion – these steps make the anaesthetic as safe as possible.

Ripley had exploratory surgery that same day and we discovered a bleeding mass in her spleen almost 1kg in weight.

Amazingly the only vague symptom she had shown in the week or two leading up to her vet visit, was that she had eaten a few of her meals a little more slowly than usual.

I am constantly reminded in my job that dogs are pack animals. Showing signs of sickness or weakness in a pack environment is not a good idea- it is more likely to result in your being kicked out rather than being sympathised with by your pack-mates.

The result is that most dogs are programmed to give very little away- even when they are quite seriously ill (as in Ripley's case). 

This can make our jobs as veterinarians challenging. It also means that quiet often, by the time an owner realises that something is amiss with their dog or cat, things are often more advanced than is ideal.

The take-home message for me, is that if you suspect that there is something amiss with your best mate, there probably is…. 

In Ripley's case we were quite lucky in some respects. We removed a very dangerous tumour before it had had an opportunity to bleed to the point of life-threatening blood loss (this is how most patients with tumours of their spleens have their illness diagnosed- they normally arrive at the surgery collapsed with a belly full of blood- not a good point to discover the problem).

Ripley has recovered wonderfully from her surgery and was back home, eating and wagging her tail within 3 days of her surgery.

Sadly, Ripley's tumour has turned out to be malignant. While the surgery has staved off an impending life threatening bleed, our concern now, is the very real risk that there has been microscopic spread of the tumour to Ripley's other organs.

This is not something that Dawn or Ripley will be accepting without a fight. Ripley has been started on medical treatment which will hopefully significantly improve her outlook.

Chemotherapy in pets is totally different to chemotherapy in people. While the basic treatment is similar, the dose and duration for pets is much less, and pets usually cope with their treatment with very little distress or pain. Intelligent dogs like Ripley, with close bonds to their owners usually cope very well.

See the video of Dr Russel and Nurse Marsha dressed in their space suits giving Ripley her chemo – click here to view.

She and Dawn are receiving lots of positive thoughts from all the team at Pet Friends. We will be updating our Facebook page regularly with Ripley's progress. If you would like to leave some words of encouragement for them, I'm sure it would be appreciated by both Dawn and Ripley.


Dr Russel Bassett.

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  • what a fantastic story!

    Posted by james ramsden, 23/09/2013 10:30pm (7 years ago)

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