My poor neglected blog. Let me start out by saying that this *might* inspire me to post photos from the last 2 years to “catch up”, but it also may not. Too much has happened to even get started, so let me just tell you the story I came to tell today about my girl Quincy, a beautiful basset hound who fought cancer & is winning!
This is going to be a long post and those of you who have gone through this with me certainly don’t have to read it all. I’m mostly writing it because I was the dog owner furiously googling for answers, help, information of any kind and there was woefully little that was helpful and recent. Now, with that background, I’ll begin at the beginning.
It started around January 21, 2016. The first sign we noticed that something was wrong was when Quincy started waking up crying in the night. She turned 8 years old on January 18, 2016. We were all in a rhythm and that rhythm included sleeping good through the night for all of us. These dogs do not get up in the night. The first night, she was sleeping at the foot of my bed and started making a new cry, not one that we’d ever heard before, sort of panicky and pretty loud. She seemed to be sleeping and so we blew it off as a dream. Over the next few nights, this happened occasionally, sometimes worse than others, sometimes taking 15 – 20 minutes to get her to snap out of it and stop making that loud crying noise. We were worried something was wrong and then 2 things happened to confirm that. First, I came home and thought she had something in her mouth she wasn’t supposed to. I told her to drop it and she didn’t. When I reached for her mouth, I realized it was a lump and upon looking her gum looked completely swollen. Now, I brush their teeth, not every day,but sometimes and it hadn’t been that long. I watch for problems with their teeth and gums and I hadn’t seen any issues whatsoever, so that seemed really strange. I assumed that she’d damaged the tooth somehow. Of course, we noticed that on a Friday (Jan 29th) and couldn’t get into the vet until Monday. The second thing we noticed was that she had had some blood on her nose. We thought it was because it was bitterly cold out and she kept putting her nose on the ice to chew snow.
Before I get to the first vet visit, I want to backup and say some things that we probably should have taken more seriously and may have helped us diagnose her earlier. In the fall, she had started snoring. She never snored really that loudly before and it started to happen regularly. We just thought she was getting older and lazier and thought it was cute. Also, she had one eye that seemed to be constantly having tear stains and looking even more bloodshot than normal. I just thought it was some sort of allergy, but it was persistent for quite some time. As a dog owner dealing with so many allergies all the time anyways, I did not take that sign seriously enough and take her in for it. I say those things, but I don’t really think that anyone would have thought that those were a sign of a tumor in her sinus cavity.
So, back to the story. Monday, February 1st, I didn’t know if they would want to take the tooth out right away, so I withheld breakfast that morning and called the vet first thing. Our appointment at Bavarian Veterinary wasn’t until the afternoon and we saw Dr. Darrow. He took pictures of the tooth and wanted to put her on an antibiotic, Clavamox, for a week before doing the extraction. I accepted that plan and home we went with the antibiotics and a sense of direction.
The next week, on February 9, 2016, Dr. D’Anna at Bavarian Veterinary Clinic extracted her tooth. Everything seemed to go well and we picked her up that evening. I left for Florida the next day and Steve nursed the patient at home sending me updates while I was on my work trip. She seemed to be doing well. She was to continue on Clavamox and they also gave Tramadol for the pain. Dr. D’Anna did note that her tooth did not seem damaged, but the root system was completely dissolved and eaten away. They felt around for any other abnormalities, but did not find any. She really bled a lot and she bled a lot when she came home, but seemed to bounce right back the next day. She never stopped eating through all of this. Apparently, it is not uncommon for dogs to continue eating normally even when their teeth and/or mouth hurt.
When I came home on Saturday, Steve was worried about Quincy. She didn’t seem to be in a very good mood and didn’t have her usual personality. After being on antibiotics for a week and coming home from the tooth extraction, the lump on her face was noticeably smaller, but it actually seemed to be growing again and her eye was still tear stained and draining. On Monday, February 15, 2016, we noticed some blood coming from her nose. We called on Tuesday, February 16th and took her in to see Dr. D’Anna again. At that time, she was done with the antibiotics, barely sleeping through the night she was in pain and crying half the night. Dr. D’Anna could not visually see anything wrong with the wound or incision, her heart and lungs sounded good I asked Dr. D’Anna what she would do if it were her dog that she really loved and she told me she’d take her for a CT scan at the Animal Surgical Center of Michigan in Flint. They set up an appointment for Thursday, February 18th.
We barely made it to the CT scan. On Wednesday, we got home from work and she was just yowling in pain terribly. Dr. Darrow met us at the clinic on February 17, 2016 at about 8pm and gave her a pain injection just so we could make it to the CT scan. She was in serious distress. She was still taking Clavamox and Tramadol for pain and it seemed like the pain must be unbearable. None of us were sleeping at night. The sound she would make was absolutely heart wrenching.
Thursday, February 18th, we drove to the Animal Surgical Center of Michigan and met briefly with Dr. Walshaw before he brought her to the back for the CT scan. They have to put your dog under anesthesia for a CT scan.
The ASC is very forthcoming about rates, I called them ahead of time to get an idea of what the costs would be. Steve & I had already decided that we were committed to finding out what was wrong with her and if it could be resolved surgically we would try to make it happen financially. Because you might find this site looking for info on pricing, I’m going to share the rates that I paid in 2016. Please understand that things fluctuate and I found the ASC to be very upfront about the costs, treatment plans and risks. We spent around $800 for the CT scan that day. Your rate may vary, we didn’t have to use any contrasting dye.
Anyways, back to the story. I waited in the waiting room for what seemed like the longest 45 minutes of my life. Playing on my phone, trying to make my mind not think of all the crap diagnose that I’d googled the night before while my girl cried in pain. Dr. Darrow had given her at 8pm, 2 shots, one of Rimadyl and one of something else. She was getting doped up on anesthesia for the CT scan and her mind would end up being real weird for the next 24 – 48 hours. Dr. Walshaw, a super friendly veterinarian with a great accent and a penchant for big words, took me to the back where my girl was coming out from under the anesthesia. I was impressed that there were 3 vet techs watching over her and dedicated to her care. The place was clean, fresh smelling and had lots of weird technology all around. Dr. Walshaw showed me on her CT scans how she had a cancerous tumor in her sinus cavity nearly completely blocking her air passage. I was standing at a big computer monitor and I think I felt my knees come out from under me. A very nice lady veterinarian named Dr. Wheedon came up to bring me a tissue as I had started crying and gave me a hug. I asked Dr. Walshaw if he could remove the tumor and he said, yes that he felt he could and that he thought she had a really good prognosis and that he thought it most likely to be a localized cancer that could be removed and would be unlikely to come back. He said more words, but I think after he told me he could operate that I just blanked out.
I went to work and I bawled my eyes out.
Quincy was at work with me that day. She was very doped up. Dr. Walshaw saw no reason to continue on the antibiotics, added Rimadyl to the Tramadol and scheduled surgery for Tuesday, February 24, 2016. I left feeling sad for cancer, but hopeful for a positive outcome. At home that night, she seemed to do worse. She was still eating, but started crying out in the most terrible way and that continued through the whole night. It was Friday and to be honest at 3am, listening to our dog in agony for hours, Tuesday could have come in the morning and it would have been too far away.
I will admit to going psycho pet parent on Friday morning. First, I called ASC, surely they could get my baby in earlier, listen to her pain. I’d seen all the other dogs there on Thursday though. Every single case they have is a tragedy that needs immediate help. I left a message for the vet to call me back that her pain was not being controlled. I called Dr. D’Anna at the family vet. Also, I made an appointment for her that afternoon. Steve was sure that she wasn’t going to survive until Tuesday and/or that we couldn’t survive like this until Tuesday. It was awful. I can’t even explain this sound to you, it was one that she never made before and hasn’t made since (Thank God!). It would wake the dead. My mom heard it over the phone and cried for the next 2 hours. It was simply the most heart wrenching sound you can imagine. The sound of hopelessness, fear, pain, confusion, agony, all rolled into a terrible, terrible yowl. Steve & I couldn’t work. I was a wreck. I called MSU. I wanted to see if I could bring her in for emergency surgery. They told me that they couldn’t make an appointment for me for 3 weeks, that I was very lucky to have surgery with Dr. Walshaw on Tuesday that he was great and that the 24 hour hospital may not deem surgery a necessity before Tuesday and do it as an emergency. I was told to work with my vet to manage the pain.
At 11am that day, I can assure you we were convinced that the only right thing to do for our dog was to euthanize her that afternoon.
At noon, Dr. Wheedon from ASC called me back. She could tell from my voice that I was in distress. She talked me off the ledge. She told me that my dog was strong, that we could make it until Tuesday. She reviewed all of the meds we were taking and told me that I could increase the Tramadol and that if that didn’t work, we could try swapping Tramadol for Gabapentin. She told me she had a good heart, strong lungs, a fighting spirit and a good appetite and that we could make it to Tuesday. I felt a lot better, more calm and confident after that. I did go and see Dr. D’Anna. I didn’t take my basset hound and I’m so glad I didn’t end up euthanizing her prematurely! Dr. D’Anna told me the same things that Dr. Wheedon did, and she helped me to formulate a pain management plan. She told me that sometimes dogs, just like people don’t react well to Tramadol and that we could take home the Gabapentin and try that instead. We did and it made a world of difference! It is possible that she was hallucinating or having some other bad reaction to the Tramadol, but as soon as we got her switched to Gabapentin, she did much better. We also ended up keeping her on an antibiotic through the weekend. Even though, it wasn’t going to fix her tumor, I do think it helped to bring some swelling down and infection down that was in those tissues and relieve some pressure in her head. We kept her on Clavamox and Gabapentin for the weekend. She was still quite restless at night, but we slept for 6+ hours which was wonderful. She did lots of weird things over this weekend. She started holding her head really still and not wanting to shake or move it. She would stand, frozen one paw up, her head twisted back with her bad side against her body, pointing toward the ground. She gave up ever sleeping in any way other than with her bad side down (laying against the floor). She never would sleep the other way. We assume that the way she held her head helped alleviate pressure in her sinuses. It was highly weird though, but our mantra was, just make it to Tuesday, just make it to Tuesday.
We made it to Tuesday! Yay team! It took our friends (especially, our friends Jeff & Bridget who were our lifesavers in many times of need), the prayers of my church family and my Steiner family, and our actual families, Steve & I being united, and lots of tearful calls to my mommy, but we made it!!
She had to fast the night before the surgery and the morning of, I had to give her 2 Pepcid AC 10mg tablets with water. I opened her mouth and put the tablets on the back of her throat and used a syringe to put water in her mouth, making her swallow. I dropped her off for surgery knowing that I had done everything I could and that she was in the hands of the greatest doctors we could hope for. After the CT scan, her diagnosis was: Aggressive cancer of right maxilla – possible fibrosarcoma or acanthomatous ameloblastoma. The day of surgery (February 24, 2016), Dr. Walshaw called me at about 10:40am to tell me that the surgery went well, he felt confident that he got the whole tumor and that she was in recovery. He said that the way it was attached to the bone was a bit odd, but nothing to be concerned about at this point. The plan was to send samples out to be tested, but since they had to dissolve the bone, it would be 2 weeks before we would have the results back. Quincy would stay overnight for monitoring and I would pick her up the next day, Wednesday. At 8pm, I got another call from Dr. Wheedon this time who was at the hospital with her. She was getting ready to feed her, she said that she was being a very good patient and was nice to have in the hospital.. I was super impressed that the vet herself was staying there so late with the dogs. There was to be a blizzard the next day, so arrangements were made for me to come and get her at about 2pm.
The procedure she had done is called: Right Rostral Maxillectomy. Basically several teeth, including one canine and part of her jaw were removed. The whole area was sealed back up using her excess lip tissue. We spent just under $3K for the surgery, after care, medicine to take home, and testing of the tumor. I have no idea what factors cause these rates to change, but I do know they said all of that loose skin around her lips was going to come in handy and that may have helped some. I felt like this was a reasonable charge to save our dog’s life. We spend several thousand dollars a year on medicine for Chip. She has been pretty low maintenance and we really think we can gain several more years together. That seems like a bargain to me!
When she came home we were told to keep her pretty calm for the next several days. We were supposed to apply ice packs for the first 2 days and then heat pads for the 4 – 5 days following that. She had bled quite a bit and continued to bleed. We weren’t supposed to let her run, jump, play, chew hard things, scratch or sneeze for the next couple of days. Thankfully, I am able to work from home and I stayed home with her. She didn’t really want to do much but sleep for the first day, so that was pretty easy. We kept her in her crate as much as possible for the first 2 days. In part to protect her from Chip and in part to protect her from her own self. With all of the drugs she was taking, she was loopy and didn’t need to run into a wall or anything. After surgery, she remained on Gabapentin and Rimadyl for 10 days and also had 10 days of an antibiotic Cephalexin. Quincy never stopped eating, she continued to take meals, though we were instructed to switch to a soft food diet for 2 weeks. We used canned food from Merrick’s (not the kinds with the bones), Pura Vita, and Nutri-Source along with adding water to her kibble for long enough for it to become mush. The only treats we fed her were mushy bits of food. My dogs are great about taking pills, we just put them in a dollop of wet food in their dishes and they take them. We were prescribed Gabapentin 3 times a day, but ended up after a bit of testing switching to just 2 times a day. It kept the pain at bay without turning her into a barely walking zombie.
The first 4 or 5 days after surgery were pretty tough. There were points I wasn’t sure she was ever going to get better. I was tired, we’d been battling this cancer for an entire month. I had to stop and imagine how she felt and she didn’t even understand what was happening again. We scaled back the Gabapentin to the 2 a day (from 3 a day) and added 2 TBSP of pure canned pumpkin to stimulate a bowel movement. She did at one point in the first couple of days go 52 hours without pooping and we were all miserable. She never stopped eating remember? She bled a lot over the first few days. All over our house. We just gave up caring and made this entire place a dog bed. There were dog beds and blankets covering virtually every surface. People and dogs were catching sleep whenever and wherever they could at night. We found out that after surgery, those basset hound bowls that keep their ears out of the slop aren’t very easy to eat out of when your nose hurts. We started feeding her on a plate and got a wider bowl for water. Those things helped. The ice packs helped. She would fall asleep and I would slide it under her head and she would let it stay there. She would go outside and just shove her snout into a snowbank and stand there. She did a lot of weird
things the first few days. She would be frozen in place holding her head down like before. She would go outside and not leave the porch. She bled everywhere, from everywhere. The first morning, in her crate, I found a big blood clot, as round as big around as a quarter and probably equal to 3 quarters stacked in thickness. It was disgusting. The first day home and the 2nd day home someone called from ASC to check up on her progress and make sure she was eating and doing well. That helped.
The first day that I was supposed to start applying heat, she was still bleeding some. Not as bad, but still, it seemed wrong to apply heat to a bleeding wound. It turned out that it actually really helped her. No one told me how to apply a heat pack to a dog’s face, so I’ll tell you how I did it. I took an old pure wool sock and filled it 3/4 of the way full of rice. I tied it off. Put in the microwave for 90 seconds. Encourage your dog to lay down. As they start to lay their head, put rice bag under their head. This is probably easier with basset hounds who love to lay down than other breeds. Word to the wise – Don’t fall asleep and forget to pick the rice pack up when you have a curious brother dog who loves to chew wool apparently. Rice is a mess to get out of your furnace vents. I think that she was clenching her neck muscles and jaw muscles and the heat really did seem to help the healing process and relax all of those muscles allowing the facial muscles also to relax and the swelling decreased. It worked surprisingly well and she really ended up liking laying her head on the rice pack.
About a week after the surgery, I would say that she was starting to be more like herself. By March 6th, I would say that she was definitely back to being our dog, albeit more drugged and slower. She finished her pain pills and antibiotic on March 7th.
I’m writing this on March 9th, after our 2 week checkup and report. She ended up not having either of the cancers originally thought possible. She has a less common type, Adenosquamous Carcinoma (AC) – possibly arising form nasal turbinates. Turbinates are tiny bones in the nasal cavity. They can’t be positive of the margins in that area, but the surgeon feels he was able to get the entire tumor and at this point we are living life to the fullest. We go back on Star Wars Day in 2 months and May the Fourth be with us as we get a checkup of lymph nodes and such.
She is happy, healthy, pain free and enjoying our time together.
Here she is today after her 2 week checkup!
Post script – Let me say that I totally recognize that the fact that I even own a pet means that I have a privileged life. I, in no way, would expect or anticipate that all pet owners could or would take the steps that we took. We feel very grateful that we were financially and emotionally able to do this. I write this for some future pet mama that is furiously googling, so you can see a positive outcome. I don’t deny that there is much human need in the world. However, these little beasties keep me sane and entertained and I feel that I owe it to them to do the best I can for them.