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Archive for December 6th, 2012

Dog Blog: Still living with canine cancer – the penultimate chapter

Posted by indigodream on 6 December, 2012

Thursday 6th December

r_dogs-13Nov2011- 136a

When I wrote the last cancer post, Lou had miraculously reached her first cancer milestone and we were reasonably optimistic about reaching the next on 20th December. That date is starting to look unachievable.

Sadly, thing have taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the last 10 days – in fact, her illness has been like a whirlwind and I can hardly catch my breath at the speed with which her lymphoma appears to have returned.

Back on the 1st November, we were struggling to get an infection at the root of her canine tooth under control. We tried a number of antibiotics specific to the mouth and had a relatively incident-free fortnight – Lou seemed really well – she was back on her full dose of anti-inflammatories and looking more mobile than she had for months. But the inflammation in her gum just wasn’t going away, and she was developing little spots on her skin – they mainly looked like insect bites, though one looked like a pimple. The vet wasn’t worried – he assumed that her compromised immune system meant that bugs on her skin were taking advantage and forming little infections.

As always, I was afraid that the cancer had come back, but following a dental x-ray, the vet still thought that she had a gum infection and decided that the best course of action was to remove the canine tooth and a few others that were becoming troublesome.

On Monday 17th November, Lou went in for a dental – she had 5 teeth removed and, a few hours after the anaesthetic, she started to recover and was in top form for the rest of the week. We were very relieved because we were expecting an invasion of hounds on Friday 23rd!

Lou continued to perk up, though on Friday 23rd, she became lame on her front right leg – I couldn’t see an obvious cause and it was intermittent, so I assumed a pulled muscle – she, like all greyhounds, is very prone to them. Our guest hounds arrived and a great time was had by all – we went to Cardiff for the day on Saturday, leaving the hounds in Greygal’s capable hands. She mentioned Lou’s lameness and thought that the problem was in Lou’s foot/lower leg. When we got home on Sunday, I did my usual Lou inspection – she was lame, had developed a few more little spots and a hazelnut-sized red raw “boil” on her back leg – since Saturday – waaah!

r_grand-union_20110828-161Luckily her vet was on weekend duty so I rang him to get authority to start Lou on antibiotics then I went to see him on Monday 26th. I mentioned that Lou had been lame and that I thought that she had sprained her wrist. But then the bombshell – Lou was lame because she had a pea-sized lump under the skin on her wrist – this was pressing down on the tendons when she walked and causing her pain. My heart sank – as did the vet’s – he took needle biopsies of that lump and of the “boil” on her back leg – which caused Lou a LOT of stress and drama (though he was as gentle as could be). The following day we got the initial results – the lumps had an abnormal number of lymphocytes – a potential indicator of lymphoma. The samples were sent to a specialist for corroboration – the specialist was worried and recommended a full biopsy.

On Monday 3rd December, Lou went in for a biopsy – now of 4 lesions – the big lumps on her front and back legs, a smaller lump on her back leg and the original pimple. We’re currently waiting for the results. She has also lost around 3kg in 10 days, despite having a good appetite and eating well.

In the meantime, Lou has been developing spots and lumps at an alarming rate; yesterday afternoon I noticed a big swelling on her lower lip and a strange swelling under her jaw.  By Thursday morning, she had a hard lumpy pea-sized swelling in her neck. I knew, on an academic level, that lymphoma spreads fast, but the reality of Lou developing new symptoms every few hours has been quite shocking.

I took her back to the vet this morning. Although we don’t have the biopsy results back, the most likely cause of her symptoms is lymphoma – a relapse and very aggressive. He gave her an injection of steroid to try to alleviate the swelling under her jaw – it’s being caused by a build up of fluid – it seems that her lymph drainage system is blocked – probably by a tumour.

I was very tempted to let her go today, but she’s been such a battler, I felt that the least we could do was wait for the biopsy results – we should get them tomorrow.

If the biopsy confirms the cancer (which is what we and the vet expect), then we’ll call it a day very soon – Lou hasn’t been that well on chemo and the law of diminishing returns applies – each intensive course yields a shorter remission. If she had been very well during her first remission then we might have considered it, but her quality of life has to be the deciding factor so we’ve decided against further chemo …

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