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June 7, 2021 – For too many pet owners, a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. But it doesn’t have to be. When we invest in science, we can continue to advance veterinary medicine and give the animals we love longer, healthier lives.

Rob Jarrett, a Morris Animal Foundation supporter, benefited greatly from scientific research and was given more time than he expected with his dog, Bud, who he called the most important being in his life.

Bud was a mixed-breed dog that Rob rescued from an animal shelter when the pup was about 2 years old. The two enjoyed long walks, traveling and bringing smiles to nursing home patients where Bud worked as a therapy dog.

“He was the constant in my life. I thought of him as my son, as well as my best friend,” Rob said. “He was loving, supportive and caring. My companion. He was everything.”

When Bud was about 8 years old, Rob found a dark, solid lump on his skin. Pretty sure it was not the usual, benign fatty tumor many dogs get, Rob took Bud to their veterinarian. A biopsy revealed Bud had melanoma, a highly aggressive, often fatal, cancer in dogs that usually occurs in the oral cavity and nail bed but can also be found in the skin and eyes.

“I remember being totally devastated that he may only have a few months to live, which is what they said was the typical life expectancy for that diagnosis,” he said. “Then they told me about a new vaccine that might be an option. I started exploring it and talking to people and thought I had to do it for him.”

Veterinarians gave Bud the vaccine and, incredibly, it kept him alive and mostly well for another eight years. While he had a handful of surgeries to remove some tumors, the cancer never spread to other organs. He lived to the age of 16, dying of cardiac arrest due to his old age.

“It was a true blessing to think basically it doubled his life, doubled the amount of time we had together,” Rob said. “It meant more than anything I could ever ask for.”

Morris Animal Foundation has funded several studies addressing melanoma. One examined specific genes to determine their effects on radiation sensitivity to help develop therapeutic strategies to treat the cancer. Another active study is testing the injection of iron nanoparticles to diagnose the disease’s spread to lymph nodes in dogs with head and neck tumors, such as melanoma.

Progress like this is not possible without the support of people like Rob. You, too, can support researchers around the world working to find better diagnostics, treatments and even cures for cancer. Make your gift today to invest in a healthier tomorrow for the animals we love.