Jack and Zac

Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet’s Kitchen.

Owning a dog is much more than simply looking after a pet to many people. To many owners dogs are literally one of the family and are involved in all aspects of family life, from everyday activities to holidays, travel and even, in some cases, work.

In my case my dog Jack is not just very much at the heart of the family he’s also at the heart of my pet food business Pets’ Kitchen. Our original brand of dog food, Joe & Jack’s, was named after him and he played a significant role in developing the recipe through tasting and approving various different versions during the testing phase of development. And even now we have moved on to develop a new range of food which doesn’t bear his name, he’s still very much involved in the whole taste testing and recipe development process. Jack comes into work at Pets’ Kitchen with me when I’m not in the surgery and spends his days patrolling the warehouse hovering up stray biscuits and generally keeping an eye on his pet food empire!

Having such a close relationship with my own dog definitely helps me empathise with clients at work who feel equally strongly about their own canine companions, especially when things get difficult. At times like these empathising with the owners can help me understand what they are going through and be more sensitive in how I approach their case, but it also has its downside as I can share their sadness and stress when cases don’t turn out as hoped.

A recent case involving a dog called Zac really affected me deeply as the dog was very similar in many ways to Jack – a middle aged collie-cross dog with plenty of character and a slightly shaggy black and white coat. His owners, Meg and Peter, had been coming to the surgery with Zac since he was a puppy and even though I’d only started looking after Zac a year or so ago I quickly developed a close bond with both patient and owners and was always very happy to see Zac bounding into the surgery for his boosters every year.

A few months ago however I had to see Zac in very different circumstances. Meg brought him in looking very worried, and after saying hello to Zac, who was his usual energetic self, I asked her what the problem was.

‘I’ve found a lump in his neck,’ she answered, her voice quavering slightly.

My heart sank at this news as I immediately thought of lymphoma, a particularly unpleasant form of cancer that tends to affect collies more commonly than other breeds and typically causes lumps in the neck. And as soon as I felt under Zac’s chin my worst fears were realised as I felt two firm, golf ball sized lumps.

Breaking the news that I suspected that Zac had cancer was very difficult indeed and Meg was devastated – as I would have been had it been Jack. Over the next couple of months we confirmed the diagnosis with a biopsy and then started treatment with a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. Thankfully Zac has responded really well and the lumps in his neck have all but disappeared, which is an immense relief to all concerned – although we are all aware that this is likely to be remission rather than cure.

Being a vet is always challenging and often difficult – but cases like this one which feel so close to my own pets and family are always the hardest to deal with of all.

If you are worried about a lump or any other symptoms your dog may have, contact your vet or use our interactive Dog Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.

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