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Animal Care

With the Help of Petco and NC State, Laid-Back Jack is Wagging His Tail Again

Jack is doing better since his unique cancer care started.
Jack is doing better since his unique cancer care started.

If you’re looking for adventure, Jack probably wouldn’t be the dog for you, but for his Holly Springs family, the 12-year-old Lab mix rescued from the SPCA at 8 weeks old has been the perfect companion.

Aside from giving chase to the occasional stray squirrel, laid-back Jack mostly hangs out with Emma, the other rescue dog in the family of four sons, Liz Massey says.

“He really fits in with us,” she says of her homebody boy.

Last fall, Jack began to have trouble walking, disrupting the normal ebb and flow of his quiet life. Even chasing squirrels no longer had any appeal. Jack asked to go outside only when it was really necessary, then his back legs started to collapse at times. 

Liz took Jack to their primary care veterinarian, and pain medication helped for a while. Early in November, however, the situation deteriorated to the point that Jack was completely unable to walk. The primary care veterinarian referred Jack to NC State Veterinary Hospital, and when Liz called and explained the situation, she was told to bring Jack to the emergency room immediately.

With the advanced resources and a team of specialists available at NC State, Jack’s problem was identified quickly, and the news wasn’t good. Jack has a spinal lymphoma, a malignant tumor compressing his spinal cord, leaving him unable to walk. Fortunately, a thorough examination showed no evidence that the lymphoma had spread to other parts of Jack’s body.

Jack’s case has created an opportunity for NC State experts to develop a unique treatment plan. Medical oncology and radiation oncology specialists are using a novel combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to help him. 

“It really shows how multiple teams in the hospital are collaborating to provide Jack with an innovative care package, which thus far seems to be helping quite a bit,” says Michael Nolan, professor of Radiation Oncology. 

After an initial round of chemotherapy, Jack started receiving a series of radiation treatments that will eventually combine with more chemotherapy in an effort to provide Jack with the maximum benefit. The potential of this particular approach is unknown, but so far Jack is responding well.

“He’s doing better now,” Liz says. “He can walk and go through the door, although he can’t do steps. He looked miserable at first, but now he wags his tail. Without this treatment, they told me that he just had one to three months, but so far it’s been positive, and he’s doing well.”

Patient Jack Massey receives radiation treatments to his spin from Radiation Oncology technicians Colleen Vargas and Megan Coble.
Patient Jack Massey receives radiation treatments to his spine from Radiation Oncology technicians Colleen Vargas and Megan Coble.

These positive results have been made possible thanks to a combination of advanced technology and the combined expertise and treatments devised by multiple clinical veterinary scholars. If that sounds expensive, it’s because it is. The cost of medical treatment can be daunting, whether the patient is a person or an animal. Fortunately, there are sources of help and hope.

In this case, the Masseys are being helped by the Petco Love and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund. Through a generous grant to NC State, the fund helps clients defray the cost of cancer treatment for animal companions with the hope that every case regardless of the outcome will lead researchers closer to a cure.

“I’m not rich by any means,” Liz says. “These funds have been a big help and made a big difference. When your pet is sick, it’s like one of your kids. It’s really hard not to be able to do anything for them.”

Asked how her experience with NC State has been, she says, “It’s been very good. I didn’t realize all these services were available. It’s comforting to have them so close by.”

So far, it’s even been enough to get Jack’s tail wagging again.