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Cyberknife Radiation for Dogs: The Story of Ginger

One of our Dogster members, Cecilia, contacted me because she wanted to share her story in hopes that it would benefit others. Her best friend,...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Sep 8th 2008


One of our Dogster members, Cecilia, contacted me because she wanted to share her story in hopes that it would benefit others. Her best friend, Ginger, was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Thanks to a radical new treatment, Cyberknife radiation, Ginger stands a fighting chance.

When everything goes wrong…and right.

“I’m very sorry, but the MRI shows a mass in Ginger’s brain.”

These words from neurologist Dr.Stephanie Kube, at the South Shore Animal Hospital in Weymouth, MA, set in motion a series of events that turned a simple trip to the vet into a mission to save my dog’s life. Ginger is a 10 yr. old Basenji/Shepherd mix, and had been incredibly healthy up until mid-August of this year. I brought her in for symptoms that I thought were signs of Lyme disease: lameness, lethargy, and tilting her head to one side. The MRI Dr. Kube reviewed showed a walnut sized tumor in the area of Ginger’s brain that affects balance and mobility. The tumor is surrounded by healthy brain tissue, so surgery was not an option.

Dr. Kube felt that Ginger was a good candidate for radiation, and mentioned a new treatment called Cyberknife. Thanks to the internet, I learned that this treatment entails only 1-3 sessions of radiation, as compared to 15-20 treatments for traditional radiation. Cyberknife also limits damage to surrounding healthy tissue, so side effects are minimized. This treatment was developed for humans, not animals. Read about it at http://www.accuray.com/patientinfo/index.aspx .

The only clinic in the US currently using Cyberknife on animals is The Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, NY (www.animalspecialtycenter.com) I contacted Dr. Sandra Charney on Friday, August 22nd. Dr. Charney then spent most of her weekend contacting various co-workers to arrange to have Ginger analyzed the following Tuesday, followed by 3 days of Cyberknife radiation.

We are now at ten days post-treatment, and Ginger is doing well. No side effects that are visible, and she is a happy, wagging, food monster. She’s on prednisone for the next month, to keep her symptoms at bay while the radiation takes effect. I also have her on an ‘anti-cancer’ diet (high protein/low carb), K-9 Immunity supplements (www.k9medicinals.com), and fish oil.

It’s not possible for me to properly thank all of the people at The Animal Specialty Center, from Kim at reception, to the animal handlers and doctors. Dr. Charney came in on her day off for our initial consultation with Ginger, so that we could start the radiation the following day. For us, that meant only one 4 hour drive to New York for all of Ginger’s treatments. Ginger ran in the door of the building each morning, and emerged from anesthesia happy and stress-free.

Ginger will need an MRI in a few months, so we can monitor the size of the tumor. There are no guarantees that the radiation will work, as the tumor was not biopsied, so we don’t know exactly what kind of tumor/cancer it is. I feel confident that Dr. Kube, Dr. Charney, and everyone else involved in Ginger’s care gave me the best advice available.

The Animal Specialty Center has only been in operation since January of 2008, so it’s too soon to have full data on the prognosis for animals treated with Cyberknife. Ginger was number 45 to have this treatment, including cats and dogs. I hope to tell you in another year that Ginger is still with us.

I want to thank Cecilia, and gal pal Ginger, for taking the time to write this. Seeing as this is a very recent event, and Ginger’s prognosis is still unknown, I know how hard it must have been. By sharing this information, and getting the word out, other dog parents in the same situation will now know they have options. An option that may very well save the life of their best friend.

If anyone has a question about this procedure you can bark back in the comment section or stroll on over to Ginger’s homepage and leave her a message. Good luck Ginger, we’re rooting for you.