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"Whisper" - Chocolate Labrador with Malignant Melanoma



"Whisper" has terminal cancer. Her owners have ensured that she has led a full and thoroughly enjoyable life.......... with still some time left for a little more. She has been joined relatively recently by a younger version of herself called "Fig", another chocolate Labrador, who reminds "Whisper" what it was like to be young!

My involvement with "Whisper" is trying to ensure that she is kept as comfortable as possible for the time that remains. Her cancer is a "malignant melanoma". A type of cancer to which Labradors are prone. Since this form of cancer spreads very early in the course of the disease surgery has it's limitations; slowing it's progress rather than effecting a cure. Additionally, the poor response to chemotherapy means that it's disadvantages outweigh any potential gains.


Consequently, between us; her owners, Whisper and I, we plan our treatment accordingly. Accepting that eventually we will lose the battle in the longterm. Currently, the scales of life are tipped in her favour if her enthusiasm for my liver treats are anything to go by!

Additionally, "Whisper" is playing an extremely important part in the battle against cancer by donating blood and tissue samples. A research group in Cambridge at the Animal Health Trust are attempting to identify the inherited gene mutations that make some pedigree dogs susceptible to certain types of cancer. The identification of the location of these mutations in dogs could ultimately help similar research in humans. The bizarre reality is that the presence of specific diseases in pedigree dogs whilst clearly detrimental to their health could ultimately lead to enhanced understanding and knowledge of these conditions in humans.

The relatively small populations of dogs with very similar DNA together with the relatively high incidence of these diseases should make it easier to find the location of the faulty genes. But until the scientists make that breakthrough "Whisper" and I will continue to indulge in those small pleasures that make life worth living!

Terry Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS

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