Family, local vet pull together for Myriah

Long gone are the days when a pet was sick, there was little else to do but put them “down” or put them “to sleep.” Now, with the technological advances similar to that of human medicine, dogs and other companion animals can have a shot at longer, more fullfilling lives.

Recently, Myriah Lynn, a Red Doberman owned by John Shaffer and Bud Lutz, received chemotherapy treatments for lymphoma at Ocean View Animal Hospital. Shaffer said they noticed while giving her a bath that she had two lumps on the side of her neck.

“We took her immediately,” said Shaffer. “She did have lymphoma cancer and we started treatment right away.”

Shaffer described the treatment as 25 weeks of weekly blood tests and chemotherapy. After about the 11th week, it tapered off to every other week.

Myriah received both oral medications and injections of multiple drugs all targeted at killing her cancer cells, explained Dr. Jennifer Brunori of Ocean View Animal Hospital. She added that the time of administration of the injections varies with the medication, ranging from seconds to 30 minutes.

Other than a temporary change in her taste buds, Shaffer said Myriah had little side affects. Certain breeds of dogs can lose their fur (it does grow back) or their whiskers, but Myriah lost neither.

“She’s looking at me,” said Shaffer, over the telephone, “She knows I am talking about her.”

“You’re going to be in the paper,” he added to Myriah.

The treatments were very aggressive and three times, Myriah had to be given anesthesia so she was completely asleep. But, Shaffer explained, the doctor and office staff took great care of her and they are very pleased with the result.

“They were so kind,” he said. “She never once didn’t want to go into the office, and that made me feel comfortable as well as her. Dr. Jennifer [Brunori] gives you so much hope. [When we heard the news] I thought it was the end, but she said ‘no.’”

“Myriah Shaffer is a wonderful 10-year-old female red Doberman Pinscher,” said Dr. Brunori, who over the course of 10 years has treated multiple dogs with lymphoma.

“In April 2009, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a malignancy of immune system cells called lymphocytes. Left untreated, the disease rapidly infiltrates the body and dogs generally die within 30 days of diagnosis.”

Dr. Brunori concurred that Myriah received a 25-week course of a chemotherapy protocol developed specifically for dogs affected with lymphoma. She said that median survival times for patients undergoing a protocol such as this is 12 months.

Shaffer and Lutz had to take Myriah to Annapolis once to Chesapeake Oncology, a large animal hospital, to see if she was healthy enough to undergo treatment and once she got the go-ahead, they started. And in the beginning, they thought they would have to take her to Wilmington to treat her, which Shaffer said they would have, but as it worked out, they did the treatment right in Ocean View. She has been through with her treatments for about a month now.

“In addition [to the median survival times of 12 months], 20 to 25 percent are doing well two years later and incidence of side effects is relatively low. Research indicates that less than 7 percent of lymphoma dogs receiving this therapy are hospitalized secondary to a complication of medication” said Dr. Brunori.

Shaffer said that he had another Doberman that lived to be 16 years old, and Myriah is now 10. She was diagnosed when she was 9 years old and the average life expectancy for the breed is about 9 years.

“There’s a lot of hope,” said Shaffer. “You do know that their life will end eventually, just like ours, but if you can give it a shot, give it a shot.”

Shaffer said she was a little slow and lethargic in the beginning of treatments, but has regained her activity, and then some. “She’s worse,” laughed Lutz.