Osteosarcoma is bad news, but it doesn’t mean that every dog will follow the same pattern of this disease. Tripawd Zeus is one such dog who has made cancer look dumb and left his doctors scratching their heads.
The following guest blog post was written by his mom Lisa. We asked her to share his story because Zeus is an amazing senior pup who’s inspiring everyone with the way he’s beaten the osteosarcoma odds, despite the appearance of lung mets prior to his his amputation last year. Here is this amazing pup’s story:
Against All Odds
by Lisa Gordon
Zeus was always our healthy dog. His medical history was comprised of his annual checkups and one visit for eating something he shouldn’t have eaten. An eleven year old Husky mix, his face had turned white, but he still bounced around fine.
Until, that is, he developed a limp that just wouldn’t go away and the eventual diagnosis of Osteosarcoma left us reeling.
This is Zeus’s story of how a dog can ignore all of the statistics and, despite a poor prognosis, leave the vet scratching his head and his parents in awe of his courage and strength, and can live life to the fullest . . . against all odds.
I say that Zeus has beaten the odds because of the poor prognosis we received at the time he was diagnosed. A CT scan showed one spot on his lung and another on his liver. All research indicates that visible metastases significantly reduce the odds of long term survival, and chemotherapy is usually not effective against those existing tumors. I asked our vet for his personal experience with this scenario and he told us of a similar case where the dog lived for only six weeks after amputation. We struggled with this news.
- Was it fair to put Zeus through amputation and recovery only to lose him a month later?
- Was it fair to not amputate and risk a painful fracture?
We felt hopeless. Then it occurred to us that the CT scan is more sensitive than x-rays and that most of the statistics are based on visible mets on x-rays. Our vet confirmed that the mets were too small to have shown on x-rays and in our minds that put us back into the category of ‘no visible mets showing on x-rays.’ So, we amputated and started chemo.
Zeus’ New Normal
Right from the start, Zeus decided he was not going to follow the expected protocols. The two week recovery went out the window when he strained his back and had to take pain medications for a full month after amputation.
We fretted over his seemingly depressed state and were convinced that he was missing the leg and unhappy. Nope. Eventually the back healed, the pain meds were stopped and he returned to his normal personality.
Immediately after amputation we switched to a variation of the dog cancer diet recommended by Dr. Dressler. Zeus was beside himself with happiness when every meal consisted of ground beef, beef liver, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower and brussell sprouts! He LIVES for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sincerely believe that this diet has played a significant role in how well Zeus has done.
Additionally, my wonderful employer allowed Zeus to become part of our work team and he has gone to work with me every day since the surgery. Zeus morphed from a dog that would pout as I left for work, to a dog that would intently watch me to see if he was going to go with mom again today, to a dog that would wait eagerly by the back door because he finally figured out that I wasn’t leaving him ever again. Our ‘new normal’ was pretty awesome for Zeus and his parents.
He is happy and, with the exception of the missing leg, you wouldn’t know he is sick.
Six rounds of IV Carboplatin were tolerated well. An upset stomach after the first treatment led our vet to be proactive and give an injection with the chemo to ward off the nausea and that seemed to do the trick. The effects of the chemo are cumulative and each treatment left him a bit more lethargic for a few days but he always bounced back. An apparent sensitivity to the Carboplatin left his white blood cell count too low each time to proceed with the treatments every three weeks as planned, so we reduced the dose a little and changed to a four-week schedule. Shortly after the final treatment Zeus developed pneumonia, most likely because his immune system was suppressed from the chemo. Fortunately, we caught it early and he only spent one night in the hospital.
Zeus Becomes a Living Legend
I guess we made an impression because everyone at the hospital seemed to know our boy, and this is a very large practice.
On two occasions we saw other vets at the practice for minor issues and both said “So, this is Zeus!” One of those vets does a large amount of cancer treatment and we talked in length about our experience. He told me that he regularly discusses Zeus with his other patients. I was thankful to hear that.
I know that every dog does not fare this well, but everyone needs some hope that it can be done – even by a senior dog.
Throughout treatment, follow-up x-rays showed that the lung met was still a single met and had not grown, which is very unusual. Once again, Zeus had decided not to follow the guidelines. This seemed to really throw our vet off his game. I love my belligerent pup! Every time the x-rays came back showing no changes, I would remind the doctor of that six week story that he told us and implore him to also tell others about Zeus, the one who decided not to listen to conventional wisdom. I wanted others to have hope that life can still be good even with cancer.
Upon completion of IV chemo, we began the metronomic protocol. Zeus became very sick to his stomach and could not tolerate the Cytoxan or the Peroxicam. The MP protocol is usually well tolerated by dogs, so we immediately suspected that some underlying issue was at play.
Blood tests revealed that his red blood cell count was declining which led us to do an ultrasound. Unfortunately, we learned that the cancer has spread throughout the abdomen. Again, for a dog with a lung met at the time of diagnosis, this was not the anticipated course. But, he hasn’t followed the rules so far so why start now?
Dr. R estimated that Zeus would live two weeks to one month. It has been three and one-half weeks and so far he is still eating and happy.
Living Every Moment
As terrible as this may sound, I must say that this disease has been something of a blessing in disguise. We lost two dogs in the past (one to liver disease and one to cancer). Both dogs passed soon after diagnosis and we never got to put up a fight. We didn’t get to spoil them while they still felt good. Don’t get me wrong, they were spoiled their entire lives.
But, there is something different about the relationship once you know your time is limited. You spend more moments just being still and watching them. You enjoy every bark, every smile, every belly rub just a bit more. You sniff them and memorize their smell. You talk to them more. You spend more time just sitting quietly with them. Once again, when Zeus was diagnosed we didn’t think we were going to get a real goodbye with a dog. But Zeus was having none of that!
NINE MONTHS later, Zeus is still here. We likely have only days left with him, but we are at peace with that because we have had nine months with a dog that was given a month or two at most. Those extra months have just been icing on the cake.
If you are walking this path with your dog, take time to enjoy every step. Make sure nothing is left unsaid and you have no regrets. Love them with your entire heart. And, most of all, don’t give up! We didn’t and our boy is proof that there is life beyond a cancer diagnosis. He has lived large…. against all odds.
Tripawds welcomes guest blog posts. If you want to share your Tripawd’s story, contact us for details.