Potato the Pitbull and How the Best Skill I Teach in my Pet First Aid Courses Caught His Cancer

Many of you know Potato the Pitbull – my infamous Pet CPR Demo Dog Extraordinaire!

But not everyone knows his cancer story… his story of survival all because of one VERY simple skill.

Everyone joins our classes usually to learn the CPR portion – which is the most obvious skill that most people admit that they don’t know. But… hidden throughout our program are other little “gems” that people don’t know that they don’t know. One of these “gems” is what helped to catch Potato’s cancer early on so that he could be treated.

If you’ve taken my class before, you are familiar with a Snout-To-Tail™ Assessment and I believe, it’s the most understated skill of the class, but also my favorite. I stress to my students to perform them weekly on their pets for about three months and then reduce them to monthly if they feel comfortable. I’m sure many of you have been told by your doctor to examine yourself monthly at home, and this is how we can do that for our pets. The most crucial part is that the Assessment is done with Intent and Purpose – not just a good pet and praise.

In November 2017, Potato wasn’t feeling well. He gets PLENTY of Snout-To-Tail™ Assessments since, as a Master Instructor for Pet Tech™, I am typically teaching monthly classes. This allows me to know his “normals” very well, and I can instantly tell when something isn’t right. Although Potato has had four exploratory abdominal surgeries, something was off, but it wasn’t exactly the same symptoms as his previous foreign body escapades. There was nothing too obvious, no physical symptoms exactly, but I went ahead and took him into one of my favorite vets.

They x-rayed him, weren’t confident of a foreign body, and nothing else seemed abnormal. We decided to run some bloodwork, put him on fluids, repeat his x-rays at the end of the day and watch him. Later that day, he was clear; everything in his stomach moved OK, so we were all kind of at a loss. I just knew something wasn’t right, but nothing showed up, and I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. Because the other vet was booked, I went to a different location a few days later to see another one of our favorite vets. I was asked if I wanted to repeat the bloodwork that we had just run two days prior. I initially hesitated but then agreed, and this decision ultimately saved Potato’s life.

On Monday, the veterinary technician had taken his blood from his leg, but the second technician happened to go to his jugular on his neck to take his blood sample. She immediately alerted the doctor that Potato had a tiny lump on his left thyroid gland. Soon after this discovery, he was diagnosed with functional thyroid carcinoma. They all kept telling me how sorry they were for the diagnosis, and it came as a complete shock, but I knew something was wrong… I just hated that I was right.

The year and a half since then has been a whirlwind. He has had surgeries, radiation, more surgeries, and oh yeah, more surgeries! They finally told me he had the last surgery his body would be able to endure. He is the strongest and bravest warrior prince that I have ever known. He is now 18 months since diagnosis and is cancer-free! When he was diagnosed, they said without complete treatment, he would have seven months. With treatment, he would have 4-5 years. He gets regular medical checkups every six months and has a team of superb veterinarians, both western and eastern medicine, that keep him feeling great.

I cannot ever express the importance of doing regular Snout-To-Tail™ Assessments on your pet. If I hadn’t known what was “normal” for Potato, his cancer might have gotten out of control, and he wouldn’t be here right now! CPR and bleeding skills are extremely important, but THIS could save your pet’s life today!!