A courageous cancer-suffering dog given just days to live by vets has astonished her owners by defying the odds to survive for 18 months and counting.
Tilly, a 10-year-old Jack Russell, was diagnosed with an aggressive nasal tumour in March last year and was not expected to survive.
Fast forward to September 2020 and she’s just been re-examined by cancer experts at Linnaeus-owned Cave Veterinary Specialists, in West Buckland and is continuing to display a “spectacular” response to her treatment.
Cave’s co-clinical director Nele Van den Steen said: “Tilly is the most remarkable dog who really has amazed us all.
“The initial prognosis was poor due to the extension of the tumour beyond the nasal cavity, so the first thought was to offer palliative radiation or chemotherapy while warning the owner that Tilly may deteriorate at any time and, at best, probably only had a few weeks to live.”
Tilly was referred to Cave on March 28, 2019, where a CT scan and biopsy confirmed she was suffering from a tumour which had grown between the nasal cavity into the skull.
After discussing treatment options with owners Cynthia and Ian Davies, from Dorset, Tilly was put on a course of chemotherapy which has worked beyond all expectations.
“Tilly’s response has been spectacular. We normally expect to see a clinical response in about 60 per cent of cases for an average of five to six months, yet Tilly is still with us 18 months on,” said Nele.
“She’s definitely one of a kind and we’re thrilled she’s doing so well.”
Cynthia added: “She is our little miracle dog, our Tilly!
“Yes, she has a bump on her nose. Yes, she sometimes makes a noise like Darth Vader when breathing and yes, she now goes for less long walks, but she is still very happy, playful and is her cheeky self.”
Today’s joy contrasts starkly with the anguish the couple felt when they were first told of Tilly’s tumour.
Cynthia said: “We were absolutely devastated when we heard the news. We expected to lose her within two weeks and had resigned ourselves to this.
“It was such a shock as apart from the small amount of blood from her nose, she appeared to be such a fit and healthy dog.
“Our priority from the start was to do what was best for her, and her quality of life was paramount to us.
“Everything was explained to us very clearly and we were shown the scan pictures, showing the tumour had gone from the nose and through the bone to the brain. As hard as this was, it showed us in black and white the severity of the tumour.
“And, in the weeks and months afterwards, we were so glad we had seen this, as if we hadn’t, we would have questioned the diagnosis!”
Cynthia was quick to praise the caring and kindness of the team at Cave, especially Nele, who she says was incredibly helpful in explaining the various treatment options.
She added: “After discussing the pros and cons of giving her injections, or giving tablets, we opted for the tablets, as we felt these would be least intrusive.
“We felt nothing was going to take the tumour away, but the tablets may slow the progression down and Nele was very instrumental in helping us to make this decision.
“It helped enormously that we had this discussion in the garden, with the sun shining, rather than in a clinical consultation room.”
Ian and Cynthia now want to share their experience with other pet owners who may find themselves in a similarly stressful situation.
Ian said: “We hope our experience helps others to make these difficult decisions.
“Had we known how she would respond so well to the Palladia, and that she would not suffer any side effects at all, we would have not worried as we did.
“Tilly has been a faithful companion and has given and received so much love and joy. Long may it continue!”