Costly cancer treatment gives Dallas dog new leash on life



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Posted on December 29, 2010 at 11:44 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 30 at 6:31 PM

DALLAS — Teresa Needham may not have loved her dog more than most. But when 10-year-old Tiffin was diagnosed with cancer, she was willing and able to do more than most to save his life.

She flew the dog to a veterinary hospital in Los Angeles specializing in a blood treatment that can cure lymphoma in dogs.

The procedure is a bone marrow transplant that uses the animal's own healthy cells and radiation to beat the cancer.

“We thought that if we don't do everything that's out there that there is to do, I don't think I could live with myself knowing that there could've been something that could've saved him,” Needham said.

At first, the doctors said the risks for Tiffin were too high for this rare procedure. They said Tiffin was too small to survive, and his other health problems — including diabetes — made it too complicated.

But the Needhams insisted. And it's a good thing, because Tiffin survived the surgery.

He came home to Dallas on Thanksgiving, and so far, is doing well.

Most of Tiffin's hair is gone, though it will slowly grow back. And now, instead of a life expectancy of weeks or months, he may now have years.

Dr. Johnny Chretin of West Los Angeles Animal Hospital said this little dog taught some big lessons. "It is possible to do little animals," he said. "Just because they have other diseases, it's not a reason to not offer it to them.”

But it's an offer, for many pet owners, that's not realistic. The procedure requires a two-week hospital stay and can cost up to $19,000.

So why did Teresa Needham spend so much money on the care of her pet?

"Because we love him,” she said.

For the Needhams, there's no putting a price on that.