But it's not just greyhounds -- one in four dogs will die of canine cancer, and it's the number-one cause of death in dogs over age 2, according to the Morris Animal Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit foundation dedicated to funding research studies to protect, treat, and cure animals worldwide.
Megan Blake, pet-lifestyle coach and host of the PBS show Animal Attractions TV, and her dog, Smiley (pictured), joined Luke and his two Great Pyrenees dogs as they walked more than 2,000 miles across America from Austin, Texas, to Boston to raise awareness and money for canine cancer research. Luke's trek was inspired after the death of a beloved dog, and Luke and "the boys" ended up on the road for about two years, with Megan and Smiley joining them for the last leg of their trip between April 11 and April 18.
After the trek, I caught up with Megan to find out more about the walk, as well as have her answer some questions about the dreaded "c" word.
Q: How was the walk?
A: Life is a journey, and joining Luke and his two Great Pyrenees on their 2,000-mile hike was part of Smiley's and my new adventure. Luke set out to walk across the US with Hudson and Murphy to bring awareness to canine cancer, and Smiley and I were so thrilled they invited us to join them to help bring awareness to the cause and to honor the memory of our dogs, Guardian and Spirit, who passed from cancer.
Q: What are the basic signs of canine cancer?
A: Look for the 5 L's: Loss of appetite, lethargy, lumps or lesions, loss of weight, or lameness. Spirit was an older dog with arthritis who was slightly lame from that. I took her to the vet to have her medication adjusted, and she was diagnosed with bone cancer. It's imperative to have any of these "off" symptoms looked at by a vet immediately.
Q: Why are so many dogs getting cancer?
A: Many dogs get cancer due to genetic predisposition. An environmental factor may trigger the onset just as in people. This may be why we're seeing more cancer in younger dogs. Increased use of chemicals like cleaning products and pesticides may be stressing their immune systems.
Q: What are some ways to combat canine cancer?
A: Owners can combat canine cancer by first catching it early. Again, as with people, this can be a life-saver. Consider integrating Western medicine with Eastern treatments like acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition. But make sure your vet is involved with everything you're doing. Ask your vet about all treatments available. Guardian, who had liver cancer, received traditional medical treatments as well as treatments delivered through soy to influence hormone levels.
2 Dogs 2,000 Miles is working to find a cure and to enact programs to assist in paying for these expensive treatments. Some pet insurances cover cancer, but you need to have that confirmed in writing that your particular dog's breed is covered for all cancers. If time is short, cherish every moment left with your dog. Listen to your vet and to your dog as to when you should help him pass, and if possible, have your vet come to your home for the passing.
Canine cancer can be heartbreaking, and while I hope to never find out firsthand, I'm so glad people like Megan and Luke are working hard to fight it.