Since I’ve been tweeting about it this morning, I figured I’d give the details (as they stand now) about my dog.
My dog Jango is almost eleven years old, but you’d never know it. He’s still very energetic and has seemed completely healthy up until now. Of course that’s one of the things about dogs: they don’t complain.
Jango sleeps in our room with us — sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on the bed — and he rarely disturbs us. He almost never needs to go out in the night. The most obnoxious thing he does is lick himself too loudly or shake the bed while chasing dream-squirrels. But last night was different. Last night, he was restless. He kept pacing around the room. When he stopped pacing, it was to stand with his head hanging. He didn’t seem to want to lay down. I think I knew right then that something was wrong, but I’m a worrier when it comes to my critters. (Last week I was in tears over my daughter’s pet mouse. She seemed to be having painful convulsions. I was positive she was dying. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure they were hiccups.)
Cut to this morning, when I get out of bed. Jango went down the stairs ahead of me, as he always does, but something just wasn’t right. He was moving too slow, and as I watched him, I became alarmed at his size. It was as if he’d become pregnant overnight. His stomach was bloated and hard, although he didn’t seem to mind when I touched it. I mentioned it to my husband who sort of shrugged and said, “I don’t know. He looks fine to me.”
I finally got my kiddo out the door and off to school and realized I hadn’t seen Jango in a while. I started looking around and thought maybe I heard him whimpering in the garage. I opened the door, and there he was, just standing with his head and tail both drooping to the ground, but with the hackles near the base of his tail standing straight up.
I don’t know if the hackles have anything to do with any of this, but it just struck me as so wrong that I called the vet, who told me to bring him in right away.
At this point, I figured he had a twisted stomach. (I’m sure there’s a technical term for it. I only know it tends to happen in bigger dogs with deep chests.) But when I went to put his leash on him, he jumped around so much that I actually began to suspect there was nothing wrong with him at all. Still, the vet was expecting me.
Now, my vet is a bit of a goof. He’s been in business for at least thirty years now. He’s a no-bullshit kind of guy, but the first thing he did was look at Jango’s gums and I could tell right then that this wasn’t all in my head. Based on his gums, the vet immediately suspected that Jango was bleeding internally.
At that point, the endless stream of tests and possible diagnoses began.
First, there were abdominal X-rays. They couldn’t tell from those if there was a mass or not, although they were convinced that his abdomen was full of something (the assumption was blood). They also found a surprise — a sewing needle in his intestines. There was talk of perforated bowel. Possibly his abdomen was full of stool and infection because of that.
At this point, they had me rush Jango to the CSU Veterinary Hospital. (There are real benefits to having one of the top veterinary schools in the country right down the road. And for the record, that’s the school both Nick and Paul attended.) The first thing the doctors did was ask me in a very, very polite way which was more important to me: figuring this out, or saving money. I am happy to say I’m in a position where I was able to choose my dog over my checkbook (especially within the ballpark estimates they were giving me).
Once that was settled, they did an abdominal ultrasound and bloodwork and were able to get a sample of the fluid in his abdomen, which proved to be mostly blood. Based on these tests, they think the needle is just an odd coincidence. If not for these other things, they believe it would have passed on its own with us none the wiser. But at this point, they were basically preparing me for the worst. They suspect it’s a particular type of cancer (I can’t remember the name) which is very aggressive. They told me it had likely already spread to other organs. They did a chest X-ray to confirm, and we finally had a bit of good news: there is no evidence of it having metastasized.
The next step is for them to go in and surgically remove the mass. Jango’s still bleeding internally, so if we don’t stop that, he’ll die in a few hours. I don’t want that, so I told them to move forward. Once the mass is out, pathology will determine whether it’s malignant or not. They’ll also check his heart and liver for signs that it’s spread (since they’ll be able to see a lot more during surgery than on any X-ray).
At this point, there are three possible outcomes. The first (and worst) is that they call me in the next few hours and tell me that upon opening him up, things look bad enough that they don’t advise going through with the surgery, at which point I’ll basically have to decide how much post-operative care to put him through before euthanizing him. The second (and by far the most likely) scenario is that the mass is malignant. If this is the case, his prognosis is anything from a couple of weeks to three months, depending on whether or not it’s spread. The third possibility is that the mass proves to be benign, in which case, all bets are off. Although this is more likely that scenario #1, it is still far, far less likely than scenario #2. The vets continue to prepare me for the likelihood that this is a particularly nasty breed of cancer.
So, that’s where it stands now. I just returned from the hospital a second time (having stopped halfway through composing this post) where I signed more consents. Jango will be going into surgery within the next hour. We should know more by 7 or 8 o’clock tonight.
Fingers are crossed.
Update at 7:15 pm: Just heard from the vet. The surgery went very well, so scenario #1 above is (thank goodness!!) off the table. [BIG sigh of relief]
The mass was on his spleen (which they suspected). The were able to remove it. The thing weighed over 9 pounds! Everything else apparently looked very good and healthy, but they did do a biopsy of the lymph node closest to the tumor and sent it to pathology as well. So, we won’t know whether we’re looking at option 2 or 3 until sometime next week when we get those results. But the good news is, he’ll probably be home tomorrow (with a big cone on his head), and the veterinarian seemed much more optimistic than before the surgery.
Now, I need wine!!
Update Friday afternoon: Jango is home! The vet was amazed at how quickly he bounced back from such a major surgery. He’s a bit drowsy of course, but otherwise seems to be doing well. We still won’t know the final prognosis until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, though.