What's Wrong With My Dog?
Healthy One Day, Not So Healthy The Next!
About six months ago, we noticed that one of our two dogs seemed to be somewhat under the weather. By the next day, he was fine. However, the following day, our other dog seemed to be suffering from the same symptoms. The symptoms that both dogs experienced were the same in the beginning but the outcome was not. The first dog was lethargic and not interested in eating. Whatever was ailing him resolved on its own very quickly. The second dog was also lethargic and not interested in eating but given that the other dog had recovered on his own we felt that they must be suffering from some "doggy" bug and that our other dog would soon bounce back. We could not have been more wrong.
By the next day, our one hundred pound Akita appeared to be headed downhill fast. Although he would take water, he had no interest in his food. This was a dog that had always been ready to eat. At seven years of age, he was still playful and had always been healthy. Now, he could barely put one foot in front of the other. I had to help him into the car when before it had always seemed like I was the sled and he the sled dog. Worse than anything, you could look at his face and see that he was in pain and was absolutely miserable. Also troubling was how fast his condition had deteriorated.
There was no question about the need to get to the vet so away we went. I explained his symptoms to the vet and also mentioned that he seemed to be slightly swollen just in front of his hind legs. I had not noticed this until he became ill and even then I attributed this look to the presence of his winter coat and decreased exercise over the winter. The vet palpated the dog's abdomen and said that the swelling was due to some sort of mass not to a winter coat and not to a decrease in exercise. The typical blood and urine tests were done as well as xrays. I was shown the xrays and after one look I could see what was bothering the dog. He had a huge mass in the area of his abdomen and chest cavity. So, what was it? Well, in layman's terms, the vet explained that it could either be a benign growth, a malignant growth, or possibly a twisted spleen. While my vet said that a twist or torsion was possible, he was of the opinion that the more likely explanation was a tumor. The question was whether it was benign or malignant.
Now we had to decide what to do. My vet told me that his office was not equipped to definitively render a diagnosis from the three possibilities without performing surgery. There was a nearby weekend emergency clinic that operated as a special care clinic during the week. If I took my dog there, they would do an ultrasound on him. They could determine prior to surgery exactly what was wrong. They would be able to tell if something was twisted or if the mass was benign or malignant. They would be able to see lesions that my vet could not see on the xrays. If lesions were present, they would know the mass was likely malignant. The downside to such a definitive diagnosis was that while they had him under to do the ultrasound, they would fix the problem. This would cost $3000 to $5000. Don't get me wrong. I love my animals but $3000 to $5000 is a chunk of change. Aside from the money, was the fact that if there was any malignancy, even with surgery, the life expectancy in such cases could be as little as six months and the quality of life would not be what our dog had been accustomed to.
The other alternative was to let my vet do exploratory surgery. I decided this was the route to go. I did not want our dog to be kept alive if the news was bad. The special care clinic would treat no matter what the diagnosis was. I could not stand the thought of him suffering for six months if there was a malignancy. My vet would put him down if the diagnosis was bad. We agreed that we would come back the next day for the surgery. Once the vet had him opened up and on the table and could determine what the prospects were, he was to call me and I would make a decision about what to do. I had to take our dog back home that night because no one would be at the clinic overnight. The vet was concerned about the possibility of some type of rupture. While I understood this, I also did not know what I would do if something did happen since my husband was out of town. We did go back home though with some pain medicine and that did seem to help him rest more comfortably. I explained to my 12 year old son that when our dog went to the vet the next day, it might be the last time we saw him and that if he wanted to say goodbye just in case, this was the time to do it.
The next morning, I let our dog out into the yard and stood and watched him as he slowly and painfully ambled out to the shrub line to take care of his business. As he stood with one leg lifted, he suddenly collapsed onto the ground and just lay there! I could see him moving ever so slightly and after about fifteen seconds or so of me calling his name, he struggled up and made it back into the house. That was a scary moment! Anyway, we made it to the vet. Later that morning, I had not received a call. Based on when they told me the surgery would take place, I was getting worried and finally could not stand it any longer. I called the office and was told that the doctor had just finished up and to hold because he needed to talk to me. Well, it was good news! The mass was in fact a twisted spleen!
I returned to the clinic after work. The vet showed me a picture of the spleen after they had removed it. It was twice as long as the length of a full-size pencil and I would guess about 2 to 2-1/2 inchces in diameter. The doctor told me that left untreated such an such an organ could burst and a massive infection might result so there was no longer any danger of that and our dog would make a full recovery. I took him home that night. Once again, they did not want him left in the clinic with no one there. However, I did take him back the next day and he spent another day at the clinic being monitored and getting some fluids and other medicines. For the next two weeks, I found out how much fun it was to shove about 6-7 pills a day down a slobbery dog's throat but I was glad to do so given that he was still with us. He had to take an anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and pain medicine. I had to feed him scrambled eggs and canned dog food. It took a few days for him to get an appetite back but he did start eating again. He also had another "fainting" spell a few days after the surgery and I let the vet know about that. He told me to keep a close eye on him and if it happened again to bring him back in. My mother said "that dog is smart and he is just playing you to get attention." As if he had not had enough attention! Whatever caused these two spells is still unknown but I am happy to report that it did not occur again after the second one. Maybe it was just a reaction to pain. About two weeks after the surgery, he had his staples taken out and has now made the full recovery the vet promised!
What's the point of this hub? The point is trust your instincts. We really did think that our two dogs had some little bug that was passing between the two of them. However, don't ignore symptoms that get worse despite what you think about what the problem might be. Left untreated we could have had a very serious problem on our hands. We could have lost a great dog. Also, don't let a veterinary facility that will not consult with you about your pet's diagnosis treat your pet! I was more comfortable with my vet doing surgery even though he did not have the same facilities the other clinic had. I knew he would shoot straight with me and support me in whatever decision I made for my dog and for myself and my family. The proof is in the pictures!