How to treat pet cancer: Do nothing, says one doctor


Dr Makoto Kondo’s aged pet beagle was sinking. What to do? The poor beast had breast cancer. That’s something new in dogs. They’re living longer and longer, afflicted in old age by once unheard-of diseases.

Treatment was one option. It’s available. Pet aging has rejuvenated the veterinary business, as owners spare no expense to keep their beloved animal companions alive as long as possible. If you’ve heard of Dr Kondo – and you may have; he’s well-known – you’ll know he was having none of it. What, then? Euthanasia? As he mulled it over the dog solved the problem by dying quietly and naturally.

Kondo’s public notoriety rests on a number of bestsellers he’s written whose shared theme is, “Say ‘no’ to cancer treatment.” No surgery, no radiation, no chemotherapy. Even if these procedures extend the lives of cancer patients – and they don’t necessarily – they are so painful, debilitating and invasive, he says, as to make the cure worse than the disease. Cancer is not necessarily fatal; sometimes it can be lived with. If it can’t be, his advice is to come to terms with death and dying; medical intervention should be limited to making the passage as easy as possible.

The medical establishment excoriates him. The general public, judging by his books’ robust sales figures, is at least willing to give him a hearing.

His main concern of course is human cancer, but Josei Jishin (July 1) sounds him out on the spreading scourge of pet cancer. Once upon a time, the average pet dog lived five, six years; now it’s 15. Ditto for cats. Half of all pet dogs, and one-third of cats, end up with cancer. Kondo himself is an animal lover and understands what owners go through. He went through it himself. But treatment? Never, he says.

“I see what vets are offering in the way of cancer treatment, and it reads like a parody novel,” he says. “Parody” because it mimics human treatment – CT scans, MRIs, surgery – although “there is no evidence” any of this works on animals. Human treatment is at least subject to regulation. Pet treatment, he says, is not – neither the regime nor the costs, which easily run into the hundreds of thousands of yen.

“It’s all baseless and meaningless,” he tells Josei Jishin – “but many of the owners are elderly; they say, ‘It’s my last pet;’ they’re very attached to them.” Unscrupulous vets find them willing listeners to promises of cures. If they shrink from the expense they feel guilty.

Still, “Best do nothing,” Kondo advises. As for people, so for pets. He doesn’t use the phrase “death with dignity,” but it fits the point he’s making. “Whether for human cancer or pet cancer,” he says, “I wish society would learn to accept this as normal thinking.”

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It IS extremely painful to watch them slowly die and not be able to do a single thing to ease their pain... Then comes that last "yelp" just before the end...

I could think of better "articles" to start my Monday morning...

1 ( +7 / -6 )

This comes in a time when me and my family are grieving over the death of our beloved golden retriever, Happy. She was diagnosed with cancer and had only two to three months to live, we thought about it over and over as to what to do,,and came to the conclusion of doing the natural thing.,,she died peacefully in the bed of our son and around us without having to euthanized her. Frankly she did suffer for the last three remaining days of her life, but we knew it would have been worst if she went to medical procedures, etc. I agree with Kondo San all the way.. Thanks for this article and a piece of advice that we kinda did the right thing.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Bit black and white if you ask me. If cancer is found early is a quick op to cut it out and you can lead a long and healthy life.

Do agree on long chemo, I rather due than go through that. Seen too many people suffer from treatment only to die at the end of it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Like all extreme positions Kondo is wrong. It is true that increasingly there's an awareness that with small, slow-growing tumors it is often better to just adopt a "wait and see" approach, especially with elderly patients. However with aggressive, fast-growing cancers the sooner treatment begins the better the chance of a full recovery. The same logic applies to pets. A young pet with an aggressive cancer can receive treatment and recover in weeks. An elderly pet may experience less pain if it is simply left.

I do, however, think that responsible owners should consider euthanasia if the animal is in constant pain.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Like all extreme positions Kondo is wrong.

He is not as extreme as the article suggests. For his books, he has researched which types of cancers could be treated with positive results and those for whom there is no amelioration with a heavy treatment, and those where you tend to survive a little longer and with less pain without the heavy therapy. He does recommends treatment in the first case. What he criticizes is that most doctors prescribe everything available even when it's useless. And recently, the trend is increasing as they do more high tech screenings, so when they find something that might someday become suspect, they treat it "just in case" and put the person on lifelong cancer-stopping drugs... but as it's ineffective, mortality rate is not lowered. For instance prostate cancer, they've done more early ops, and many more men where left impotent earlier... but not living longer. And in Japan, not only patients get no health improvement, but they pay a lot (the 30% of a cancer treatment can ruin a family) and the social security pays a lot. I've seen that with acquaintances. Roughly, the doc was afraid to say "I don't know any effective treatments for your case...." because the guy was very optimistic, not at all aware of his poor chances. So he prescribed operations, radiotherapy, chemo... Later, the patient was in palliative care in hospital, after months of tiring treatments that he did in addition of his work, so the family asked to the doctor : "So now that's the end ?...OK. And 6 months ago, you thought the treatments could work ? -Er... er... er...Well, we never know... but...but... but, you wanted to try, no ?" . The truth is they didn't know the real situation so they couldn't have an opinion. The doctor has decided for them, and particularly for the patient that might have preferred spending his last months taking a big holiday and doing whatever he liked with the help of painkillers. For instance, as he was "in treatment", his son postponed his wedding of a year to let time to his dad to recover . Had they known, he'd have advanced the party. A while ago, the doctors wouldn't let you know you had cancer, you were just told to get a series of treatments and someday, oh surprise, you had everybody around your bed crying and : curtain ! That's nearly the same.

noone wants to lose a child to cancer and even a few extra months would be precious.

Months of life or months of torture ? There was the really heartbreaking case of a little British girl, maybe she was 9. She went through very heavy treatment. Unfortunately, with no success, so a few months later, doctors wanted her to do it all again. She had made a petition to be allowed to not go to hospital again and wait for death at home with family and friends around her.

The same logic applies to pets.

No. One thing is your pet is not able to discuss it with the vet.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Cos, your example of the child is specious. Nothing is guaranteed in medicine. I've seen perfectly health adults die because they got a cold and were too stubborn to go to see a doctor until it was full-blown pneumonia. I've also seen cancer cases where the oncologist gave them less than 1% chance of surviving a month alive 10 years later.

If you're a parent and someone says your child has a 10% chance of recovering from the cancer and living a long and full life you'd grab it. Just because the one child you give in your example died doesn't mean another child didn't survive. You can't deny someone the right to fight for their life just because their odds aren't good. By your logic no-one should receive treatment for leukemia because most cases don't end well. If it was your kid I'm sure your tune would change.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Reckless: "Whether or not to treat cancer is a highly personal decision"

True, but in the case of pets they can't decide. Regardless, I'm torn on this one. I've had pets, watched them get sick at times, and it's painful to be able to do nothing (depending on illness and pet). In particular it's easier to get treatment with larger pets like cats and dogs, but it seems like there aren't too many vets here who deal with smaller animals like birds, hamsters, or rabbits or what have you. Anyway, with cancer in pets I'm kind of with Kondo on this one, save perhaps getting a consult and finding out if the animal is in a lot of pain, and if so perhaps pain meds or euthanasia (the latter being extremely sad, but at times humane). A friend of mine had a dog that died recently, and while I understand that she was a member of their family and they loved her completely, the lengths they went to to keep the dog alive were almost scary. They went to the vet three times a week for IVs until the father completed training on how to do it himself and set up the rig for it at home. The poor critter was 16 years old and the type of dog that typically only lives to 11 or 12 and had had cancer for the last two years of her life. She finally just shut down. I remember wishing a couple of years back, upon hearing of the dog's suffering, they had just let her go naturally.

4 ( +4 / -1 )

When one of our Chow Chow was diagnosed with Bone Cancer we were advised and agreed to have him put to sleep.

Granted that was nearly 40yrs ago and today treatments for pets are often more costly than the same for a human.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So if this guy gets cancer, he'll agree to no treatment and suffer the pain and die a "natural death"? Sorry but if my dog gets cancer, I'm doing everything I can to help him - be it medication, operations or ending his life so he doesn't have to suffer.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

A young pet with an aggressive cancer can receive treatment and recover in weeks. An elderly pet may experience less pain if it is simply left.

i love it when grand statements are made with zero proof. i'll trust what the doc has to say on this:

“I see what vets are offering in the way of cancer treatment, and it reads like a parody novel,” he says. “Parody” because it mimics human treatment – CT scans, MRIs, surgery – although “there is no evidence” any of this works on animals.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Maybe he could tell the dogs to smile and they'll get better?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I'd agree, except I'd euthanize the animal at the very end.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'll never forget those last few weeks... but the doctor had said "I don't think it's cancer"...I was alone with him when he gave that last "yelp"... my son said later it must have meant "thank you" (for rescuing him). He would have been 12 a couple of months later...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Viking, I had a similar experience except that we knew it was cancer; the vet said an operation would help him if only we could build his strength up (He'd lost a lot of weight very quickly) and we did all we could to get nutrition into him (special food, injections, drips), all to no effect. Right to the end we believed that he would get better, if only.... In the end he slipped into a coma and went peacefully with me and the kids around him. He was only 9 years old.

The only dog I ever had euthanised was a little bitch who came to us with a bagful of problems. She was slightly autistic (never really managed to train her), had twisted hips that made her hop like a bunny and in her later years lost both her eyes to glaucoma. Yet in spite of all her disadvantages she was a happy little thing for the first ten years of her life. Then she developed epilepsy, and the drugs the vet gave her to keep the fits in check had her zonked out to the point that she started to develop bed-sores; she just wasn't there anymore. Lowering the dosage enough for her to be active meant four or five fits a day. It was a sad decision to make, but not a hard one; she was no longer happy.

The best we can do is make what we think is the best decision for our friends. It's part of the package we sign up to when we accept an animal into our lives.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I agree with Dr. Kondo this time, it doesn't mean that if your beloved pet gets ill you'll have to abandon him, it seems to me that the doctor criticizes all the "parody" that is made, just to take money from the owner, MRIs, surgery, radiation, etc, it is way to stressful on a person imagine on a pet!, I believe in if your pet gets ill, you help him easy the pain, like that guy with his dog in the water he helped his dog ease the pain.

A couple of years ago, I had a cat since his birth, he was very attached to me, and when he got sick he didn't show anything, mind you, he hated taking medicine though, so by the time we realized he had kidney failure, it was way too late, he never complained, so after we started a treatment he died a week after, but I agree that I would not prolong his life at the cost of his pain or suffering, and invasive methods like surgery or endoscopy it would put him in more stress, He hated so much traveling in the car that the little 10 minutes trip to the vet was so stressful to him, and he would meow despairingly.

Off topic: A little joke: there is this man that had a beautiful pet bird, he goes to the vet because the bird looked very ill, the vet examines the bird and says, "he's very ill, I would not give him more than 1 month to live", then the owner says "That's impossible, I want another opinion", the vet then leaves the office and minutes later enters a cat, the cat gently probes the bird and nodded his head and left. Still astounded by the cat, soon enters a beautiful golden retriever dog, who sniffed the bird ,circled around him and then nodded with his head and left. After a while, the vet seemed to pet the cat and dog outside and then entered the office again, and said, "yes, there isn't doubt about it, the bird has more or less a month to live", the owner, resigned to the fate, said "Ok, please tell me the bill", then the vet says "oh, for all is 1050 dollars", the owner says, "that much?", "just to tell me that my bird is going to die?". The vet says, "well usually my fee is 50 dollars, but the CAT scan was 450 dollars and the LAB report was the other 550"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

rickyveeJun. 23, 2014 - 05:22PM JST i love it when grand statements are made with zero proof. i'll trust what the doc has to say on this:

Erm, cancer reacts pretty much the same way in both humans and animals when you cut it out, i.e. it stops being in the human or animal and the cancer ends up in the medical waste disposal. As long as you're careful to get all of it and before it metastasizes then its all good.

The CT scans and MRIs that Kondo is so scornful of perform precisely the same function in animals and humans, they're to locate the cancer so you can cut it out (the surgery that Kondo doesn't like).

Also, have you meditated on the irony of trusting a human doctor (Kondo) who's up front in saying he knows nothing about cancer in animals? He straight-up admits his ignorance of the field, but proceeds to spout off on the subject anyway. He cites a lack of proof as proof of his argument. This is known as an "argument from ignorance", and it is the type of logical error that has kept the man a mere lecturer for 40 years.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Maybe he could tell the dogs to smile and they'll get better?

Or that they created this disease in their minds (or past life karma) in order to learn from it. Or that adopting a positive attitude and positive thinking will heal them. Oh yeah, and expensive herbs. Let's not forget the expensive herbs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As a person with 10 years + in the dog industry - This is a quite common very sad and emotional problem & subject! I think if a dog is in any untreatable pain, it should be put down to be in peace. By the way, the scary thing about cancer in dogs - more than 40% of cases are caused by giving them cheap food and treats that contain horrifying, and even sometimes undisclosed hidden chemicals and includes high salt & sugar content!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm really touched by all the "minuses" I received... This article went straight to my heart and I couldn't help crying as I read it... The sight of my wonderful, faithful companion of 10 years finally slipping away, leaving only his emaciated body (that used to weigh 32Kg, down to 20 Kg the day he died) is still so vivid... Although it's true I didn't expect so much "empathy" I think that maybe you could have just left my contribution at "0" ? That wouldn't have hurt so much...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Damn this article. We lost our lovely white Hokkaido-breed "Merry" last Saturday. She also had breast cancer. R.I.P. Merry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I am with you. The loss of a dog can be wrenching. Still think of my dog who was my best friend until I was 12.

Now we have a great one we dote after, many decades later. Same name... Even better personality.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Tokyo Joe

Thank you. You make me feel a little less lonely in my sorrow...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Our dog was diagnosed with cancer, and the vet recommended surgery to remove it. The prognosis wasn't very good, but we paid quite a lot of money for the treatment. The cancer returned after a couple of years, and vet performed another major surgery. This was 6 years ago, and our dog is still with us now. She is healthy and happy, and doing remarkably well at 16. Yes, surgeries were very expensive, but our dog has provided us with a lot of happiness, and has loved us unconditionally, so we didn't think twice about the cost.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Juicing marijuana is probably the #1 best option with Cannabis Oil (Rick Simpson) being #2.

Legislation allowing the production of low-THC, CBD-rich hemp has been approved for limited use in 10 states. -The hemp oil is fairly new and was a get around for those that make Cannabis illegal.

I cannot emphasize enough that you need to eat fresh, organic (no pesticides or synthetic fertilizer), non-GMO foods. This can include grasses like wheatgrass etc. Support local farmers or grow a garden.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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