Tag Archives: canine cancer

Is this Cooper’s Mom? Part 2

Cooper and Mason

Cooper and Mason

Since this is Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week AND ALSO Deaf Pet Awareness Week, it seemed appropriate to check in with my friend, Michele–who shares her life with less adoptable pets, deaf Boxers.

Last year, Michele was dealing with the news that her Boxer, Cooper, had been diagnosed with Stage III Mast Cell Cancer. And also adjusting to adding a 4th Boxer to her pack — Mason — because Michele failed Foster 101. Both Cooper and Mason are deaf.

Michele tells me, “In the past year, Mason has learned over 20 signs but his favorite sign is ‘good boy.’ People who see us walking always ask about him and his deafness when we sign; they say they would have never thought a dog could communicate through sign. I also still get calls from people who have deaf dogs. And also from people who realize their old dogs are going deaf. And I think my old girl is losing her hearing some too — she startles a lot more as she is getting older — but she knows the signs, so we communicate.”

Michele goes on,

Geddy, Mama Michele, and Mason

Geddy, Mama Michele, and Mason

So a little over a year has passed since our lives were touched by a new Boxer in the house, can I just say it’s been a whirlwind!

Bailey, Cooper, Geddy and Mason are all sleeping on my bed as I write this update.  Sleep is what Cooper does most of his days now.  The vet is completely astonished that we still have him in our lives and he is doing as well as he can.  The cancer has spread to some organs but he seems to be still happy when he’s awake and will take any opportunity to lie on my lap…. Which of course no matter what weight loss he has had, he’s still a BIG boy!

Our Bailey has had two tumors removed from her this past year, both were benign which is a blessing, however she had her shoulder injured last fall with a run in with our crazy pup and her arthritis has really kicked in.  She still runs the roost and is the Queen around this house!

Geddy is still our sweet boy and has enjoyed Mason the most since we got him.  They are the best and worst of friends… we call it the love hate relationship as Mason gets the most pleasure out of torturing Geddy!

Then there is Mason…. Or as we like to say, the DEMON SPAWN!  Oh yes, I have to say he’s tested my patience this past year!  He’s every Boxer owners nightmare with bad behaviors… he’s mouthy, he loves to destroy toys… he’s torn up any toy I can find, which includes the ones that say SUPER TOUGH or UNCHEWABLE!  That makes me laugh when I bring them back the next day.  He was a challenge to get him crate trained, to not chew on everything he could in our house and walk on a leash without wanting to chew it up also!

Mason

Mason

He also is my youngest son’s best friend, who will wait by the window every day without fail 5 minutes before he gets off the bus.  He will fall asleep with him at night and slowly creep out of his bed once he’s asleep as to not wake him up and he has the sweetest face anyone could imagine. He has a special sense about him when the older dogs are not feeling good, always “trying” to be on is best behavior or giving them extra kisses on the head when they are laying down.  He is so smart, sometimes too much for his own good, but he has learned so many signs, he knows the routines when we leave or go to bed and although he was this little guy when we got him, he towers over all the other dogs with his gangly “pup” legs!  He is a blessing and as I look over on the bed, his head resting on the back of my Cooper, I realize he’s brought new life into Cooper as well and may just be what’s helping us keep our house full of Boxers!

Both Mason and Cooper were classified early on as “less adoptable dogs.” How lucky for them that Michele saw their potential. And how lucky for Michele and her family. These two sweet boys are well-loved members of Michele’s family. They just communicate with their human pack members in a slightly different way.

Not less adoptable. Totally more adaptable.

~

If you’re interested in more information on what great pets deaf dogs can make,
visit Deaf Dogs Rock.

~

An Update on Bailey: Mixed News

First, let me say thank you for those of you who have left comments of support and those of you I’ve talked with. We all love our furbabies, and your kind words are treasured.

I hospitalized Bailey this morning.

Yesterday morning she had to be coaxed to eat her biscuits. She flat-out refused the MiniChunks. In the afternoon I noticed a slight change in her behavior. She was a little more confused than normal (she’s almost 14 and I’ve noticed signs of canine dementia for quite a while).  And she totally lost interest in her biscuits. We made her some lean hamburger for supper–she reluctantly ate it. By bedtime she only took a couple of laps of water. She didn’t wake me during the night to get her off the bed for a drink and potty–I woke her at 4 AM–she very reluctantly went out to potty and had absolutely no interest in water. I knew then that it was time.

So at 7 I got up and got dressed–normally Bailey would have moved from her pillow at the head of the bed to the foot of the bed in prep to getting down, but not today. She refused water, food, and she wouldn’t go out to potty. I called the clinic–both Dr. B (our usual dogtor) and Dr. C (our stand-in from Friday) are off today, but good fortune smiled because Dr. T was in. I used to work with Dr. T, so I knew we would be in very caring hands.

The folks who work at the BR clinic are so wonderful! The 2 receptionists were so caring and empathetic as we waited to see the vet tech. They made a point of coming out from behind the counter and giving Bailey a scratch and me a pat. They are such lovely people.

We met first with the vet tech who got Bailey’s vitals. Dr. T was actually scheduled for surgery–but he was able to put it off so he could meet with us first. He did a very thorough exam, asked me lots of questions, looked over Bailey’s records, and took lots of notes. He also did x rays of her lungs and her liver.

The lung xray was to make sure that there was no cancer in her lungs. They’re clear.

The liver x ray was to see if we could get any hint of what might be happening. Her liver is enlarged, but Dr. T also had an x ray of her liver from a year ago and her liver was enlarged then, too. So no significant change in the size of her liver over the past year. He also looked at her blood-work–again, we had the same panels from last year and there’s no significant change.

He called Bailey “our little enigma.” He said that between the blood-work and the x rays he cannot find a reason for her symptoms and maybe we’re looking at a combination of things. Some of the older dogs he treats have lately had more problems with arthritis because our weather has been so cold. Also, he confirmed something that my friend from work Dr. Amy said to me yesterday: Sometimes older dogs who have symptoms like this simply need some fluid support to snap out of it. I’ll call him later this afternoon to see how she’s doing.

One thing I know for certain: we will not do any “heroic” measures to prolong Bailey’s life. I will not put her through invasive surgery or chemo. Her comfort is my paramount concern–and I will not consent to causing her pain just so I can have her companionship for a few extra months. This is a decision I made 4 years ago when we discussed putting her through chemo and radiation. And please understand, what’s right for me and Bailey is not what I consider right for every pet owner. We each make our own decisions based on our own experiences and knowledge of our pets.

I will probably have the dogtors take care of the bad tooth that Dr. C found on Friday–but I need more information about it before I make a decision.

So Bailey is now in hospital, and I miss her like crazy. The house seems empty without her here. But I still feel confident that I’ve made the right decisions. Keeping her home over the weekend allowed her to rest comfortably, and made me feel better too. But today her condition is beyond my skill and she needs the help of professionals. I’m going to do my best to keep thinking positive and hang on the idea that many dogs snap out of these symptoms after fluid support at the vet’s.

But, oh Dog! the house is so quiet.

An Update on Bailey

We’re waiting.

Bailey has stopped eating. In my heart, I’m certain it’s the food. But remember where I work (Consumer Relation, Iams). My head knows it’s NOT the food.

Our usual routine has been topsy-turvey because of the holidays–I’ve taken some massive vacation time and our usual day of get up/dressed, walk the pooch, feed the pooch, sit at my desk and work with pooch in bed under desk, has been totally disrupted. And Bailey has been annoyed because of this disruption. Nearly every morning of my vacation, as we finish up the dress/walk/feed chores that never change, she stands in the hall outside my office, looks at me and says, “Time for work, aren’t you coming to your desk?” And when I go in a different direction she gets this confused and then annoyed look because I’m deviating from the routine. So when she started to skip a meal here-and-there I put it down to the upheaval in our routine.

Looks like I was probably wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that I feed Bailey 4 times a day. Tuesday night, she refused to eat at her last feeding of the day. Wednesday, she would only eat lunch and supper. Thursday, she refused to eat all 4 meals.

Now the thing that has made me crazy is that she’ll eat her biscuits, or a handful of MiniChunks (which I happened to have on hand) or scraps from the table (yes, I know, bad mom) no problem. So I thought “There’s nothing wrong–she’ll eat other stuff, just not her regular meal. There must be something wrong with the food.”

My head knows it’s not the food.

Remember, Bailey is diabetic. She was due for a check on her blood sugar, so I took her to our favorite clinic on Wednesday and a wonderful vet tech pulled some blood. Her blood sugar was at 213–which is good.

Then Thursday she totally would not eat her regular meals. And each time I offered it she looked at me like I was missing some kind of crucial ceremony that would allow her to eat. Her eyes said if only I would say the magic words or do the magic hand wave she would be able to eat the food I was placing before her. But obviously I was too head-stupid to figure out what the magic charm was that would allow her to eat, so she sadly ducked her head and walked away from the bowl.

I still thought this was part of the routine-disruption. Eventually she would be hungry enough to eat.

I didn’t give her her shot on Thursday evening–I didn’t want her blood sugar to bottom out because that can be life-threatening. For the short-term it would be far less harmful if her blood sugar was slightly elevated.

During the night on Thursday she woke me 4 times so that I could lift her off the bed so she could drink water. And twice insisted that she needed to go out to the patio to pee (she seems to be on strike against the pee pad). I kinda expected this–after all when her blood sugar level is high she gets thirsty. I did not get much sleep.

One of the advantages of working where I do is I have access to a team of veterinarians who are never too busy to discuss Bailey’s health. Friday morning I talked the situation over with two of my best buds–Dr. Dicke and Jen-the-vet-tech. They both agreed it was time to call my vet.

My vet was in emergency surgery, so I left a long voice mail for her. Before noon she called me–she had a family commitment and was about to leave for the day, but she felt I should bring Bailey in today rather than wait till she was next in on Monday so she had made arrangements for us to see her colleague, Dr. C. at 2. I was very comfortable with this because we’ve seen Dr. C. in the past (though it was several years ago), and he’s very nice and very smart.

After I told him our story, he did a full exam on Bailey. And found that she has an infected tooth. (I am a bad mom).

The tooth didn’t seem to be painful (yet). He didn’t want to rule it out, but he also didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that the tooth was the problem. So blood tests were needed. It could be a bladder infection (she has a history), or her liver or her thyroid or her pancreas. Or it could be that the cancer is back. Blood tests will give us better indications.

In the meanwhile he prescribed clavamox (an antibiotic) which will help with the tooth and also the possible bladder infection. And he will phone me before noon tomorrow (today? I think it’s after midnight) to let me know the lab results on her blood.

And so, we wait.

An Update on Bailey–and a Special Anniversary!

Four years ago today, Bailey had surgery to remove her left anal gland and 2 sub lumbar lymph nodes because of cancer.

Snoozing on the Sofa!

Snoozing on the Sofa!

Yesterday, we had our monthly check up with Bailey’s dogtor, Dr. B. We’ve been doing a monthly check up for four years, just waiting for the cancer to come back. I don’t want to jinx it by actually saying that Bailey is in remission–but it sure looks that way to me!!

We now are dealing with the little illnesses that come with old age.

  • Bailey already had arthritis in her back legs, it’s now spread to her left front leg.
  • Her diabetes is under control, but I think it’s affecting her sense of smell (Dr. B. confirms this possibility). I find that I need to nuke her food more often in order to get her to eat–her sniffer is not picking up on the aroma.
  • She’s down to 18.4 pounds–which is actually good. At her heaviest, she’s hit 21 pounds. For her size, she probably should be 17. Dr. B. says the weight loss is probably related to the diabetes, but not to worry because it’s leveled off.

I have so many things to be thankful for. A wonderful dogtor and vet clinic where Bailey gets great care and I get support and empathy. My family and good friends whose eyes don’t glaze over when I mention Bailey’s health for the gazillionth time. And time with my pooch–4 years so far, instead of only 6 months.

Oh, and I’ve got all my Christmas decorations up, lights lit, and presents wrapped. (It’s been a busy weekend!)

Life is good!

Sometimes a Crystal Ball is All You Got

Christie Keith is a part of the blogging machine over at the Pet Connection blog. She posted today that her dog, a beautiful senior Scottish Deerhound named Sindar Rebel of Caber Feidh–Rebel for short–has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  My heart goes out to her!

Rebel was 10.5 years old, had recently been dealing with some health issues, and wasn’t bouncing back to good health as he did when he was younger. As I have seen with Bailey (and my mom) recovery for older animals (four-legged and two-legged) sometimes doesn’t bring them back to the same point of health they were at before they got sick. Little health problems are of much greater concern as we all age. Nothing is ever simple.

Sometimes, the meds/health care don’t work. The cure seems to be worse than the disease. Last fall, Bailey hurt her back. We did x-rays, but the way the vet team had to position her body seemed to aggravate the injury and made her even more miserable.  Plus she had a bad reaction to the pain meds. We (me and my vet) wanted to do what was best for her, and ended up probably making matters worse.

Rebel’s simple (for a younger dog) problem of a bladder infection was made so much more complicated and dangerous because Rebel was an older dog. I have been in this same situation with Bailey. These things are never simple.

What can a pet parent do to give an older pet a better chance to recover their health back to where they were before they got sick?

VISIT THE VET: For a senior dog it’s advised to schedule a vet visit every 6 months. For Bailey, we actually see Dr. B. once a month to monitor her cancer–and I’ve learned to do without a few things so that I can afford good veterinary care. Being a canine hypochondriac may be embarrassing, but treating little illnesses before they become big problems keeps Bailey in better health.

KNOW YOUR DOG: Because life changes can be so gradual, it’s good to have a (written, hard copy) list of “normal” behaviors to refer to–a list of how your dog behaves when she’s happy. This can become your doggie health barometer. I made up my list when Bailey was first diagnosed with cancer. Here are some of the items I use to check Bailey’s mental and physical health:

  • Bailey barks when the doorbell rings.
  • Bailey “grooms” my feet (she licks them–which tickles tremendously) when I brush my teeth.
  • At every opportunity, Bailey will pull the kitchen towels off the rack. Sometimes she gives particularly recalcitrant towels a shake before dropping.
  • For attention, Bailey will tear off pieces of the newspaper if we leave it on the floor–and will run with a “chase me!” attitude when noticed.

When Bailey stops doing any of these things, I go on alert looking for other health clues. And I usually consult Dr. B. because for an older dog nothing is ever simple.

MAKE A PLAN: While your dog is well and your own emotions are under control, think about what you would want to do if your dog’s health suddenly deterioated. Think of this as a living will for your pet. Talk to your family members. Get advice from your vet. Figure out how you want to deal with things like invasive surgery or heroic measures before the decision is forced upon you.

ACCEPT: OK, bottom line is that no matter how much you plan, consult, talk, examine and make lists, in the end it may still come down to a crystal ball decision. What kind of medical treatment  and how much medical treatment your senior dog receives might still be determined by your gut feeling. So make what choices you can ahead of time and hope that your crystal ball is not cluttered with clouds.8-7-09 Bailey

My heart goes out to Christie. I know from reading her posts that she loved Rebel and gave him a good life. And he’s waiting for her on the other side–of this I’m certain.

The Best Birthday Present!!

Today is Bailey’s birthday, and we just got home from the vet. Incredible news! What Dr. B. thought was the tumor returning (see “Poop” we now think was merely scare tissue! Dr. B. said that the alleged-tumor was much smaller and felt different! And she found no tumor-like tissue in the pooch’s rectum (part of the exam I am happy to have missed.)

We have a big trip to Canada coming up in August–I’ve been half afraid to make any kind of hotel reservations because I don’t want to jinx Bailey’s progress (OK, I guess that is kinda silly). I really want to be able to live in the moment, but it’s hard because I’ve got to make SOME plans for the future and some of the biggest plans I need to make for this year happen around Bailey’s 8-month mark. Am I getting to be a self-pity whiny ass?

Bailey is stretched out on the bedroom floor snoozing–she just gave a decidedly lazy stretch, not a care in the world. Happy birthday little pooch! Life is good.

So here we are 3 months, 1 week, and 4 days from the surgery to remove the cancer, and we’re not finding any cancer tissue! THIS IS GREAT NEWS!!!

OK, so now I’ve got to dial it down and step back and remember that there were dirty margins left and the cancer (though not apparent now) is still there just waiting to rear it’s ugly head. Every time I buy her a case of food, every time I make a grooming appointment for 5 weeks from now is a statement of faith that Bailey will be around and healthy enough to eat or get groomed.

Today is the 3 month anniversary of Bailey’s surgery.

2-28-06Bailey-AroooSince January 5, we have had 55 wonderful, normal days! Days where Bailey has been her sweetest most rotten self! Days where Bailey has had as many cookies as she has asked for! Days where Bailey has warmly snoozed in the comfort of her own bed (or beds, depending how you look at it). Days that I’ve enjoyed the wonderful aroma of warm puppy, and felt the joy of a snuggly warm furbaby next to me.

I am doing my best to look at this as a “glass half full” sort of moment, but it’s difficult. We have now reached the lower end of Bailey’s predicted life-span. Every day after this is like a gift we wrestle away from the cancer. I wonder if the fight will still be on come July (oh please I hope so!)

2-28-06Bailey-Face-b-wI am still convinced that I made the right decision regarding her treatment (or lack of). The surgery was devastation enuf. If we had done radiation the tumor might be “gone,” but my little sweetheart’s psyche might have undergone some damage. If we had gone with the chemo we would be half-way through and unsure if it was even working. Bailey has always been nervous of the vet–chemo treatments would have been like a never-ending trip to terror.

As things stand now, I have a very happy puppy dog who hasn’t a care in the world. She has a normal daily routine and the scariest thing on the agenda is an occasional visit to the groomer (she’s had 2 since the surgery). The weather is getting a little warmer, and all her pals are starting to strut their stuff again around the neighborhood. Screw the cancer! Life is good!

Poop.

We went to the vet yesterday. Dr. B. found what she thinks is a tumor.

It’s a little to the left of Bailey’s anus, and about the size of a dime. I can feel it. It’s a hard mass beneath her skin. I’m supposed to keep an eye on it (maybe it’ll do a dance or something). So much for my houseboat on denial river.

The good news is that as it grows it should not interfer with Bailey’s ability to poop.