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Dear Daisy Dog

When we lost our beloved cocker spaniel to cancer, we asked our veterinarian if he’d suffered prior to his death. He said dogs don’t know pain. Is this true?

Daisy Responds

My animal and human family members extend our sympathy to you. I know from personal experience how sad it is to lose a canine member of the family.

Thinking he might have been in pain only compounds the anguish. From your veterinarian’s response, though, it sounds like your dog was not.

That said, I think you may have misunderstood part of your veterinarian’s statement.

The canine nervous system is similar to its human counterpart, so we dogs feel pain much the same way people do. Because veterinarians understand this, they prevent and treat pain using drugs, acupuncture and other methods.

Some cancers, such as bone cancer, cause pain. But most cancers don’t, including lymphoma (also called lymphosarcoma), one of the most common cancers to strike us dogs.

When my golden retriever brother Sam had cancer of the spleen, Mom surgically removed the organ and administered chemotherapy. Sam behaved like an energetic puppy and didn’t give us any indication that he might be uncomfortable.

After many months of taking long walks, retrieving balls and enduring innumerable kisses and hugs, Sam became lethargic and started to vomit. He was suffering, and Mom euthanized him to spare him a prolonged death.

In summary, while we dogs can feel pain, most cancers don’t cause substantial discomfort.


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