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Need advice, dog with cancer, short prognosis, considering amputation
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22 August 2017 - 9:57 pm
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My gorgeous 8 year old Australian Shepherd, Badger, has been diagnosed with hystiocytic sarcoma in his hind leg. He's been lame and hopping on 3 legs for a couple of months now and all the results have just come back after many vet visits. The sarcoma is in his knee joint and has infected the the bone. He is obviously in pain as he is not weight bearing on the leg but otherwise is bearing up well, he still wants to run and play, and is eating well.

However, the scans showed the cancer has metastasised to a lymph node hear his hip, so it's not just localised. Going by all the literature the average prognosis is about 5-6 months for similar conditions where the cancer started localised but has moved to the lymph. Having said that, there are not a lot of similar cases around and the time of survival after diagnosis is varied and could be shorter or longer.

The decision I face is to either try to manage his pain but expect to put him down soon because of it, because this sort of bone pain can't be managed effectively, or to put him through amputation as a form of pain relief knowing he might not live for long afterwards. 

He is my pet as well as a working dog so we work and play together and are so closely bonded. I want to minimise his suffering and also give him the best chance, knowing that it's highly unlikely he'll live more than 6 months.

Thanks for any thoughts. It's been such a rough few weeks as I just expected him to be around for another 5 or 6 years. He has a real zest for life and people often ask if he's still a puppy as he's always harassing other dogs to play.

Livermore, CA
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22 August 2017 - 10:20 pm
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Hello and welcome to you and Badger, your future posts will not have to wait for approval.

I'm sorry about the cancer diagnosis- we know how devastating and overwhelming this time can be.

Remember that dogs can't tell time- so when we are talking about 'only' 6 months...we that's a life time to our pups.  My pug Maggie had a different type of cancer, mast cell, which led to amputation of her left back leg.  After the surgery the lymph node removed with her leg showed lots and lots of cancerous mast cells.  It was a surprise to me since pre-surgery all the tests came back clean.  With chemo Maggie was given 6 to 9 months.  I thought I had made a mistake choosing amputation for 'only' 6 to 9 months.  What I finally came to realize was that after surgery recovery Maggie found joy in each and every day while I was busy waiting for her to die.  We were really lucky in the fact that Mag beat her prognosis, lived almost 4 years, and did not pass from mast cell cancer.  If I had not chosen amputation I know we would not have even 6 months.  I gave her a chance with the amputation.

For most pups the worst of the recovery lasts only 2 weeks or so, a little longer for some, so in the overall scheme of things there is not much down time after surgery, and in the case of bone cancers the excruciating pain is relieved.

We will support you and Badger no matter what path you choose. 

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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23 August 2017 - 8:34 am
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Oh I hope someone who is computer savvy can point you in the direction of Murphy who I believe had the same cancer as your precious Badger.  Murphy survived over 4 years and just recently passed of a different cancer at almost 12 years.  I'm too computer illiterate to post links here but maybe you can search the blogs I think if you just search the blogs for Murphy it'll come up or as I said maybe someone can post a link for you.  Statistics are just that....statistics.  No one has a crystal ball to know the future.  Some pups blow those statistics out of the water.  I guess most of us go into this journey with the hope that our pup will be one of those that do.  And if not at least we know we took the pain away for them for whatever time we do get with them and we gave them a chance.  As Karen said we will support whatever decision you make for beautiful Badger.  Welcome and know we are here for you at this hard time!

The Rainbow Bridge

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23 August 2017 - 10:19 am
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I'm so sorry, that's a tough situation when the cancer has gone to the lymph nodes. But ditto what Linda and Karen says. Nobody knows how long we have, with or without cancer. Yes, amputation can be a leap of faith in situations like this but most time we get more pain-free quality time with our animals. 

We've had quite a few hystiocytic sarcoma survivors in this community. Some have beaten the odds by years, others haven't. But to get a good idea of what is was like, you can read their stories:

Barney B's story: http://tripawds.....r-suvivor/

Murphy's story: http://murphyh......ipawds.com

Bentley's story: http://honeybbe.....pawds.com/

And many more:

http://tripawds.....istiocytic

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23 August 2017 - 10:24 am
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I don't know much about this cancer.  I agree with Linda I think it is the one that Murphy had.  

Here is the link to his blog  http://murphyh......pawds.com/

I know if you reach out to Donna she probably would share any information that she has to offer.

hugs and good luck

Michelle & Angel Sassy

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Sassy is a proud member of the Winter Warriors. Live long, & strong Winter Warriors.
sassysugarbear.tripawds.com
07/26/2006 - Sassy earned her wings 08/20/2013

"You aren't doing it TO her, you are doing it FOR her. Give her a chance at life."

Michigan
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23 August 2017 - 11:17 am
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Hi ~

I'm Donna, Murphy's mom.  I see my friends have been pointing you in my direction.  smiley  I haven't been as active here since we lost Murphy because it's just been a bit difficult, as I'm sure you can understand.

Murphy was 7 when he was diagnosed, and he had been limping for several months before surgery due to an initial misdiagnosis.  The lymph node that was removed with surgery was also positive.  We were told that with chemo, CCNU, 50% of the dogs live 12-18 months.  Murphy did well with CCNU, and had to take denamarin each day to protect his liver.  They thought they found another tumor on his left shoulder blade when he finished his chemo, but it never got any bigger.  We did x-rays for awhile, and a couple of ultrasounds, for after some time we decided that since he was doing so well we would just let him live his life.  At about 3 1/2 yrs we did a set because it had been about a year and I just about cried because they were clear.  I fully expected to see some little white dots on them, but nothing!  Murphy did really well as a tripawd - he could still jump up on the furniture, chase after squirrels, run the fence, pretty much everything he could do before surgery.  Everyone always commented on how happy he seemed.  

We just lost him in June as a result of a hemangiosarcoma.  He survived over 4 years with no metastasis heart

Donna

Donna, Glenn & Murphy  http://murphyh......pawds.com/

Murphy had his right front leg amputated due to histiocytic sarcoma at 7 years old.  He survived 4 years, 2 months & 1 week, only to be taken by hemangiosarcoma at 11 1/2 years 6/12/17  

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Durham, NC
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23 August 2017 - 6:46 pm
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I'm so glad Donna popped in to add her story! 

I struggled with the decision to amputate, although my Izzy had Osteosarcoma. She was nearly 12 and we found the cancer after she broke her leg trotting home from visiting her doggy friend (our neighbor's Golden). She limped for a few days and seemed to get better, so we actually didn't learn that her leg was broken for a couple of weeks. Stoic girl, she was. The survival estimate was 4 to 8 months, as I recall, and I had just changed careers so money was tight. I took a leap of faith and had the leg removed, knowing I couldn't also afford chemo. Izzy survived for two years - 23 months, to be exact - and to be honest, it wasn't the cancer that got her. She was almost 14 and had sudden acute pain ... she cried just trying to get off her bed, so I knew I had to let her go. I am so SO glad that I got those extra two years, even though they don't feel like near long enough.

Whatever you decide, we're here to help. Ask all the questions you want - I know I had millions - and we'll do the best we can to give advice! 🙂

Momma to the world's most beautiful American Bulldog, Izzy!! Lost her front leg to OSA 9/18/15. Diagnosed w MCT in June 2016. Celebrated her 1 year ampuversary with knee surgery on 9/18/16! MCT recurrence in Dec 2016. Happy & hungry til nearly 14, earning her wings on 7/31/17.

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23 August 2017 - 7:12 pm
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Thanks so much everyone for all the links, information and support. Thanks Donna for your response as well, I'm so sorry to hear you've lost Murphy after such an epic battle. I am also amazed and delighted he did so well against this horrible cancer. The situation sounds similar in that Badger has now been limping for a couple of months, due to the first vet insisting it was bad arthritis.

It's encouraging to hear all these good news stories. Badger is an amazing dog and I have no doubt he'll put up a fight. The vet is surprised he is as sparky and active as he is now given the condition of his leg. Unfortunately the lymph node involvement for him is in his abdomen and not removable, which it might have been if it was in the leg near the tumor. So this means, with that type of metastasis remaining there, according to limited records his prognosis is pretty bad.

The part I've struggled with I guess is that knowing that dogs only live for the day, that during the amputation and recovery time Badger will be suffering and won't be thinking ahead about how much better he might feel in two weeks or so. So it's a matter of balancing out whether putting him through such major surgery will end up giving him more good days than bad days.

But everyone here is right we can't ever know how much time they'll have - for him it could be one month, it could be more than 6. I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Since he is relatively young, and coping so well with what must be an excruciatingly painful leg, I've decided at the very least that I owe him a chance. I'm talking to the vet today to schedule the surgery. If he only gets a couple of months then if some of that time is pain free that's a good thing. I would love for him to be able to chase a ball again, which he wants to do but I can't let him now because of the risk of his leg breaking since the bone is degraded.

The thought of the alternative, of leaving the leg and medicating him and waiting for the pain to effect him so that we'd have to put him down soon is pretty unbearable.

So I'm taking a deep breath, and hoping this goes well for him and that I'm doing the right thing for this incredible gift of a dog.

Durham, NC
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23 August 2017 - 7:33 pm
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Yayyyyyyy!!! I know you're probably a nervous wreck but Badger sounds like he's still full of life and I think he'll continue to amaze you! Good news - dogs carry 60% of their weight with their front legs, so he's only losing 20% of his support ... just a rudder. I feel like rear amps have an easier time with a great many things, but for boys, I've heard learning to pee without "lifting a leg" can be an adjustment. Izzy was acting pretty much normal within two weeks and honestly didn't suffer much after the first couple of days. A little phantom pain here and there, but SO much better than I expected.

You'll have lots of prepping to do ahead of surgery - non-slip runners if you have hardwood or tile floors, a harness or sling (you can use a canvas grocery bag in a pinch) and all that jazz. Where are you located? I'm guessing from your spelling and remark about talking to the vet today that you're overseas - Australia?? If you are stateside - I have sooooo manyyyyy things leftover from my Izzy. She's only been gone a few weeks and I have *all* the "stuff".

We do have several members from across the pond, as we like to say, but if you're where I think, it's about a 14ish difference in time zone (at least) for many of us which is good news for you - I always panicked in the middle of the night - lots of us will be up and online if that's the case.

Please keep us posted on Badger's journey ... hoping he's got lots of adventures ahead!

Sending good thoughts,

Amy & my beautiful angel bulldog, Izzyheart

Momma to the world's most beautiful American Bulldog, Izzy!! Lost her front leg to OSA 9/18/15. Diagnosed w MCT in June 2016. Celebrated her 1 year ampuversary with knee surgery on 9/18/16! MCT recurrence in Dec 2016. Happy & hungry til nearly 14, earning her wings on 7/31/17.

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23 August 2017 - 8:50 pm
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Thanks Amy big-blink Yes to everything, I am indeed a nervous wreck and I'm located in Sydney, and yes some late night posts from me are bound to follow as I stew over everything that's happening. Thanks so much for the offer of Izzy's stuff that's so kind, but yep I'll look local.

In terms of prep needed before surgery, I found a list on this site http://www.bone.....#questions is there anything important you think is missing?

Thanks for the tip on the peeing adjustment, Badger has been struggling with that already as it hurts to prop up on his sore leg, he did a handstand the other day but still gives up sometimes or squats instead of turning to use the other leg.  He's a crazy smart dog which is good so he should figure it out, but that also makes him really sensitive to my mood, voice and facial expressions so I'll have to make sure I stay up and positive in front of him.

Thanks for the good thoughts!

I've put Badger on a low carb diet (he's been on grain free for years due to occasional allergies), and a high protein and fat diet, and glucosamine and fish oil (which I'll stop before surgery). I've read a few of the nutritional posts on this site, for curcumin I have ordered him some theracumin as I've read that higher doses of better absorbed curcumin are needed for effect. Has anyone had any good or bad experiences with using it?

Virginia
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23 August 2017 - 9:04 pm
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Badger's avatar is so cute!   Such a happy smoochable face!  Cannot wait to see more photos!

I  know this "forced choice" is so unfair for any of us to have to make.  It's a gutwrenching time.  And Badger's lymph issue certainly doesn't make it any easier.

Sometimes when outcomes are soooooo unclear (which almost all are on this rotten journey), it really does boil down to knowing yourself and knowing  your dog and what your dog would want you to do.  Would Badger want you to take a "chance", even if it turned out that he didn't get much extended time at all?  Would you be able to deal with that KNOWING you HAD to TRY??  Or, would you be able to handle NOT trying and be able to not constantly second guess yourself and wondering "what if"?   No right or wrong whatsoever!!   You will make a decision out of love for Badger and that is always the right decision. 

I certainly understand your fear about the disease being so brutal that getting past the recovery could be "compromised".  Yes, it is major surgery and it hurts.  But once you get the pain meds balanced, many dogs just lay around a lot and are pretty well drugged to keep them comfortable.

Does Badger's Onco have a follow-up plan for any additional treatment, with or without the amputation?   It does sound like Badger has an "unusual" case.  Do the Onco and the Surgeon feel.like Badger is a good candidate for the surgery and should have a "normal" recovery?  Now, keep in mind, some dogs who were expected to sail through recovery may have a rough time.  And some dogs who were expected to have a rough recovery, sailed through it!

I'm sorry you are dealing with this.  It's clear how much you love Badger.  Just know we are all right by yiu4r side and are here to help you in anyway we can!

Lots of hugs

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!

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23 August 2017 - 9:19 pm
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I took a look at the link and feel those are good suggestions! I would add that Fentanyl is "popular" for pain relief but my experience with it & Izzy was wildly negative. She didn't have Fentanyl for her amputation (came home from the surgeon with Tramadol and her vet added Rimadyl and Gabapentin to help control her pain) but did after her knee surgery - a year after amputation - and it was just reallllllly tough. Whining, panting, and discomfort. If possible, I'd ask to have other options if the vet is planning to use it.

Another "pro" tip ... stagger pain meds so they aren't all wearing off at the same time. I don't know if youve seen Jerry's Required Reading List, but a lot of resources were posted for me when I first arrived (see http://tripawds.....-help-her/) so you might have a look at the first few responses.

My pup came home the same day as her amputation but most do stay overnight but hospitalization can be expensive. Since you're still in the planning stages, I'm sure you'll discuss all of those things with the vet.

Let us know once you get a date ... I'll plan to check in once he's home and night had fallen.  That's always when it gets interesting!

laughing

Momma to the world's most beautiful American Bulldog, Izzy!! Lost her front leg to OSA 9/18/15. Diagnosed w MCT in June 2016. Celebrated her 1 year ampuversary with knee surgery on 9/18/16! MCT recurrence in Dec 2016. Happy & hungry til nearly 14, earning her wings on 7/31/17.

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23 August 2017 - 9:39 pm
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Thanks Sally. I guess either way Badger will be drugged up, either for his current leg pain or the amputation and at least after amputation the drugs can be phased back.

Thanks for your insights, those are good questions to think on. When I think on what he would want, Badger is a life force - he is eight and I still get asked all the time if he is still a pup as he's always harassing other dogs to play and jumping around with joy. He does have a very cute face and he milks that, he's won hearts all over the place. He loves adventures and going anywhere, as long as we're together. I think he'd want to take the risk because he's not the sort of dog to give in. Personally, for me I think it would be harder if I did nothing and to wonder how long he could have had if we amputated. This cancer will get him eventually there is little doubt, but to put him to sleep because of leg pain when at least that could be fixed is something I find hard to contemplate.

But I do want to make sure I'm doing this for him and not me, I'd cope with anything if I was sure it was best for him. That's the agonising part as you say, that nobody knows what is best. If/when the cancer progresses, I don't know what sort of pain he'll be facing then if it gets to his organs.

Oncos are pretty rare here, I'm dealing with an orthopaedic specialist but he seems good and familiar with everything and has gone through chemo options etc. I'm also lucky to have a couple of vet friends, although this is not their field, and in general Badger seems to be a good candidate, he's still in good condition apart from the leg, doesn't get anxious, is very stoic and a glass-half-full kind of dog. He is very bright and I don't know if that's good or not for amputation recovery.

Thanks for your support and encouragement!

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23 August 2017 - 9:50 pm
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Thanks Amy for the tips on Fentanyl, sorry to hear Izzy had such a bad reaction that sounds awful, it's helpful to know that.

Staggered meds sounds like a clever plan, I hadn't seen Jerry's required reading list I'll check it out, thanks.

I think the plan is to keep him for at least one night. It's not going to be cheap but the vet seems thorough and they can do overnight monitoring as it's a 24hour vet hospital. If I have to pay off the bill for the rest of the year then I will! I've got some quotes from local vets as well as this orthopaedic specialist and there is not much difference in cost in this part of Sydney if I want Badger close by, so I figure I might as well go with the experienced surgeon. 

Will let you know when I've talked to the vet again and booked it in.

Thanks!

Livermore, CA
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23 August 2017 - 10:59 pm
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I hope that making a decision has brought some comfort.  Remember that there is no way to know what would have happened if we chose another path. 

I would suggest that you write down your thought process on choosing amputation.  When Maggie developed her second cancer I chose not to treat at all, just do palliative care. I did write down all the reasons I made my decision and it was very useful when the 'maybe I should have...' doubts hit me after she passed.

On the pain meds- I've had 2 dogs with fentanyl patches and neither had an adverse reaction.  I've had 4 dogs take tramadol and one, Maggie, got really agitated on it, the other three were fine.  Once after a dose of tramadol Maggie didn't sleep for 12 hours!

My point is to keep your options open- not all meds work the same for all dogs.  It's not unusual after surgery that a tweak of pain meds is needed.  Is he taking meds now? You might jot down some notes on how he is reacting so you have something to compare to post surgery. 

I've had two rear amps but both girls so I can't help with the leg lifting issue.  However, Maggie had quite the routine before she could poop.  She had to spin in a clockwise circle before anything would happen, she had been doing it since I met her when she was 10 weeks old. After she lost her leg she would try and spin and fall down.  Man- if looks could kill!!  It was very hard to watch.  Since she lost her left rear leg she still had her 'pivot' leg- and after about 6 or 7 days she could spin and keep her balance and we had poop! Badger will figure things out.

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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