Chips is a great dog. He is a 13-year-old terrier mix. He is a happy little guy and doesn’t complain much. In fact he wasn’t complaining much the day he was brought to Berkshire Veterinary Hospital in October. He had had diarrhea for a week and had lost weight. His physical examination was normal for a dog his age, and there was no outward evidence that he had a serious problem.
Because of Chips’ age, Dr. Lyn Lemieux recommended a CBC (complete blood count) and profile (blood chemistry panel). When the results were obtained the next day, there were two major abnormalities. Chips’ white blood cell count was low and his serum proteins were very high. High serum proteins can occur with chronic infection, inflammation or cancer.
The next step was to identify the type of protein elevation by means of protein electrophoresis and titers for tick borne diseases that might cause elevated serum proteins. A monoclonal gammopathy was present increasing the suspicion of cancer. X-rays and a bone marrow tap identified cancer in Chips’ bone marrow. The pathology lab at Tufts confirmed the diagnosis of multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that is quite responsive to chemotherapy. There are two drugs commonly used to treat multiple myeloma in dogs. Chips has been on these two drugs for two months with minimal side effects. At this point he is in remission.
This case illustrates the importance of screening tests to identify problems that might not be apparent on physical examination. It also points out that chemotherapy is available to treat certain types of cancer in veterinary patients, and that chemotherapy doesn’t have to be scary or cause major side effects.