A canine social media star with a long track record of promoting Washington State University is receiving cancer treatment at the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Dash Dog, a celebrity around WSU and “WSU Ambassadog” according to his Instagram page with more than 65,000 followers, was brought to WSU earlier this month following diagnosis of a heart arrhythmia.
The cause of that arrhythmia, a malignant tumor known as a histiocytic sarcoma, was found on Dash’s spleen and removed by WSU veterinary surgeons. There is no overt evidence that the tumor has spread, but because spread often occurs with this tumor type and may not yet be evident, Dash must undergo weeks of oral chemotherapy, beginning with his first treatment last week.
A promoter of the WSU Alumni Association for years, Dash became famous overnight in 2018 after a photo of the dog posing with a hot dog at a Mariners game went viral. Later a video of Dash’s owner Ande Edlund taking the photo aired on “Good Morning America.”
“It’s all about buying time,” Edlund said. “I love Dash and I just want to have as much time with him as possible.”
In terms of time, veterinary oncology resident Dr. Fernanda Gimenez, who is overseeing Dash’s treatment, said Dash’s case may be a hopeful one. Dogs tend to tolerate chemotherapy well. With chemotherapy, “pets tend to live longer, and for many animals that extra time is spent enjoying life,” Gimenez said.
However, splenic tumors in dogs are often malignant and aggressive. The tumors can rupture to cause potentially fatal internal bleeding. Many dogs are only expected to live for a handful of months even when a rupture does not occur.
“The median survival time of dogs with excised hemangiosarcoma followed by treatment with chemotherapy, even in the absence of metastasis, is four to six months,” said Gimenez. “In the case of a localized histiocytic sarcoma, with no evidence of metastasis and follow-up with chemotherapy, the median survival time is one to one and a half years.”
Dash’s diagnosis has been understandably difficult for Edlund (‘94 Hotel & Rest. Admin.). For more than a decade now, he said no matter where they go his golden retriever is always the center of attention. Even members of Dash’s surgery team — who see their fair share of golden retrievers — recognized the dog before knowing his name.
Dash’s fame and connection with the Cougar community becomes evident the moment he is spotted on campus and people start taking pictures. In fact, not only is Dash allowed at The Coug — a popular WSU gathering spot — he’s the only four-legged member of the The Coug’s Mug Club, ever.
Edlund said Dash’s Cougar connection helped the dog when he needed it most with gifts pouring in to support Dash’s treatment when news came of the cancer diagnosis. Edlund said it would have been difficult to pay for the surgery or the chemotherapy otherwise.
“A lot of times the people that are the most generous are the ones you barely know, and that you wouldn’t expect,” he said. “We are grateful for the generous support of Dash’s audience.”