Friday, October 17, 2008

This is not a good year to be a dog in our house

Tim took Sam to the vet today. Sam's been limping worse than usual for a week or so, and his wrist was swollen. I figured it was his arthritis acting up, but the vet's pretty sure it is actually bone cancer. They don't see metatheses on the lung x-ray, but 90% of bone cancers in dogs have already micrometathesized upon diagnosis.

So we're going to get to make some fun decisions about treatment.

We can do nothing about the tumor and put him down in the very near future, since the vet doesn't think she can adequately control his pain without amputating.

We can have the leg amputated, which will resolve the leg pain and may get Sam four good months (average, damn statistics), but won't do anything for the metatheses that are likely already present and will ultimately kill him or lead us to having him euthanized. I have some serious doubts about whether or not he can manage to get around ok on his three other legs, given that he's got some arthritis in what would be the remaining foot. I'm trying to remember as I type this if it is the "good" front foot or the "bad" one that he'd have left. He's babied one leg, I think the one without cancer, for several years now, so he'd have to carry his full front weight on one gimpy front leg if we go this route. What if we put him through the amputation, only to end up deciding that his quality of life is too poor?

We can amputate and do chemo and have a life expectancy of about a year, but with some number of days spent at the vet receiving chemo, and some number of days feeling sick from chemo. Sam is spazzy when we've kenneled him. He's the reason we've always hired pet sitters, ever since the kennel I used to take TY to (when he was an only dog) told me not to bring Sam back. I'm having a hard time picturing him being happy confined at the vet for a whole day and night every few days. We'd also have a hard time schlepping him back and forth to the vet, given the realities of jobs with late hours and a car that doesn't easily hold a toddler and a dog simultaneously. Sam has previously demonstrated just how much damage a dog with intestinal distress can do to a house.

I'm reading this and thinking how shallow it sounds to say chemo's too expensive or I can't be bothered to do the vet appointments and deal with (and clean up after) a neurotic, arthritic dog trying to figure out how to walk on three legs, but regardless of what we do, we're looking at a life expectancy of a year at most.



  1. It's a hellish decision, but personally, I don't believe in prolonging the animal's life at great expense. I've seen too many people in my family saddled with thousands of dollars in debt, only to have the pet die a month or two after treatment. And I don't think pets understand *why* you are subjecting them to treatment--it's just traumatic. Maybe a compromise, somewhere between euthanasia and intensive intervention? Massive painkillers, maybe?
    As for the iron question, I do wonder if historically people had more iron because a) they ate more red meat, and b) they ate a LOT more leafy greens that we do in our culture now. I think they probably had more Omega-3's, too, since grass-fed beef, for example, has them. The meat that we eat today (those of us who eat it, that is) is so much less nutritious in comparison.
    Both L. and I are constantly being diagnosed as having low iron. And we always forget the cardinal rule--no dairy with your spinach! because apparently calcium helps prevent iron absorption (do I have that right?), while vitamin C helps with it.
    I can't believe Dalton is a toddler already!

  2. Hi, Cathy, I got your message but wasn't sure if you still have the same email--didn't you switch colleges, or did Tim come to yours? Email me and let me know your address when you have a second! And please don't worry about calling, I understand completely and am a bit overwhelmed myself at the moment--or rather, I should be, if I could convince the brain that it's time to switch into high gear! (Next chapter due Nov. 1) Talk to you soon, love, Jess