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Nemo, the First Hampshire Pig to be Treated for Lymphoma

Update Date: Jul 18, 2013 12:56 PM EDT

Even though animals have pretty much the same organs as humans, hearing that a pig is suffering from lymphoma might be surprising. It could be hard to imagine animals developing cancer and other deadly diseases since they tend to have no remedies for these conditions in nature. Although studies have found that animals, especially non human primates such as chimpanzees and apes, know how to self medicate, cancer might seem like a death sentence for these wild animals. For Nemo, a Hampshire pig however, his cancer will not be the death of him as doctors were quick to treat his lymphoma.

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer in which the white blood cells, known as lymphocytes, get haywire and fail to protect the body from infections and diseases. Nemo was four years old and weighed 730 pounds when he started to develop a coughing fit. George Goldner,  who is the co-owner of a farm sanctuary in the New York Catskill Mountains, brought Nemo on a four hour drive to Cornell's hospital. There, Nemo was not only diagnosed with presumptive B-cell lymphoma, he also became the pioneer pig for teaching students about treating cancer in large animals at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA).

"I want to do everything humanly possible for my animals," Goldner said according to Medical Xpress. "They're rescues, and we [with co-owner Nancy Krieg] keep them for life. Pigs are very smart. If you're nice to them they're very friendly. Nemo's a real performer; he's attractive, loves people and has a great personality."

At the hospital, the clinicians performed the first ever-intravenous medication delivery on Nemo. The procedure required the help of surgeons Jim Flanders, who has experience with this procedure on little animals and Susan Fubini, who deals with larger animals. Together with a medical team, they were able to surgically implant a vascular access port, which ran a catheter up to the vein on Nemo's neck all the way to the port behind Nemo's ear. This allowed the doctors to administered chemotherapeutic drugs safely and effectively.

"Although lymphoma has been document in swine, there aren't any documented cases of pigs being treated for it," a CUHA oncologist, Cheryl Balkman said.  "We adapted a treatment plan based on what we know is effective in dogs, cats and humans with lymphoma."

Nemo has been recovering since his admittance to CUHA. Although the clinicians are unsure what the prognosis would be for a pig post-treatment, they are optimistic that Nemo will prevail. Nemo will continue to stay at CUHA where he can provide a lot of valuable research regarding treatment options for large animals for the veterinarians and students.

His previous owner, Goldner stated, "He has a better life there. He's running around digging holes, eating pineapples, communicating vocally and getting lots of love. CUHA's people play with him and bring him treats, and he plays funny tricks like tossing water at the residents. The vets have cared for him with amazing dedication and thoughtfulness."

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