Sasha continues to do well. We brought her back from the vet’s office on Thursday after having her right arm amputated due to a tumor on her humerus caused by osteosarcoma. Her pain seems to have diminished greatly even though we have begun to ween her off of her pain meds. She wags her tail more often, and she seems to be more comfortable when the other dogs approach her. Now we are waiting to hear back about the results of the bone biopsy. Once we get those results, Liliana and I will determine, along with our vet and the oncologist, what course of action will be taken to help Sasha beat the cancer. I have been researching chemotherapy for canines so that I will be prepared with a good knowledge base when I speak with Dr. N.. My understanding so far is that chemotherapy is not nearly as traumatizing for dogs as it is for people. I am glad about that, but I am fearful that Liliana and I may not be able to afford the cost of treatment. I’ll keep you posted.
Sasha is doing so much better. She is no longer whimpering, and she is getting around well. She can even get up and down the three steps of our deck when she needs to go outside to do her business. She hasn’t needed help to lay down for two days, and she is beginning to perk up at the mention of certain key words: park, walk, go and kitty cat. Spirits our up in the Ruano house!
Sunday, March 18, 2012: Sasha wags her tail for the first time since she came home from the amputation.
Today, Thursday, March 15, is the day that we go to pick up our Sasha from the Vet after amputation of her right arm due to osteosarcoma. Liliana and I are feeling many emotions as we get closer to the vet’s office. How will Sasha react when she sees us? How will we feel when first we see our girl with no right arm? The questions pile, one on top of the other, and tears begin to fill Liliana’s eyes. I hope Sasha is happy to see us.
After we review all of the care instructions, receive Sasha’s medications, and pay the bill, we are ready to take Sasha home. Liliana and I follow Dr. Patterson (he fills in for Dr. N. on Thursdays), Shelly and a tech back to where Sasha is being kept. The kennel door is opened, and Sasha looks around nervously. She is probably scared about what might be in store for her next, but our eyes meet. Now she knows that she is going home. As Dr. Patterson and the tech get Sasha out of the kennel, she let out a screech. Her scream makes it abundantly clear that she is in considerable pain, and that we need to be very cautious with her. Like the Stoic American bulldog that Sasha has always been, she ignores her pain and the fact that she is missing a limb, and makes a beeline directly for me. To be completely honest, Sasha was more likely heading for the door to get the heck out of Dodge.
Dr. Patterson helps Sasha walk to the car using a towel under her belly to help stabilize her. It’s time for me to lift her into the back of our Jeep, but I am so scared of hurting her. With my right arm under her belly, and my left hand contorted under her chest to keep as much pressure away from her right side as possible, I hoisted her into the Jeep. I carefully climbed in the back with her so that I could keep her from getting hurt during the short ride home. Sasha is happy to be with her family again, but there is no disguising the fact that she has been through a traumatizing experience. It will take time for her wound to heal, and for her to learn to be a three-legged dog. I will continue to chronicle Sasha’s road to recovery from the surgery, and her battle with cancer.
When I wrote my last post/entry, Liliana and I had just learned that our eleven year old American bulldog, Sasha, had a tumor on her right humerus. Our vet, Dr. N., and Dr. Clary, an orthopedic surgeon, agree that the tumor is likely the result of a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. After speaking with Dr. N., and doing extensive research on canine osteosarcoma, Liliana and I decided that the best course of action would be to amputate Sasha’s arm. We did not believe that Sasha was ready to leave her family yet. She is very healthy aside from the tumor, and she acts younger than her age. Immediate amputation of the affected arm was the advice given to Liliana and me by both, doctors N. and Clary. Their advice was consistent with the accepted course of action of all similar cases that I was able to read about on-line.
We brought Sasha into the vet’s office on Tuesday for some final X-Rays to make sure that the cancer had not visibly metastasized into her lungs, and to have a fentanyl patch applied to her neck for pain management. I was so happy to see that the radio-graphs showed no signs of additional cancer. Unfortunately, just because no tumors were visible in Sasha’s lungs, does not mean that they are in fact clean. Apparently, osteosarcoma does metastasize in 90% of all dogs that present with a tumor. I am just glad that the cancer has not progressed to the point where it is actually visible in her other organs. I will write more posts in the future to cover Sasha’s continued battle with osteosarcoma post amputation.
Tuesday, March 6th was a very sad day at the Ruano house. Liliana answered her phone, and it was Dr. N. on the other end. He was calling to give us his findings about why Sasha had developed an increasingly worsening limp due to pain in her front right arm. In the back of our minds, Liliana and I may have had suspicions of ominous news, but on the surface we had expectations, and even hope of learning that Sasha had a broken or fractured bone. Yes, I do understand how strange and morbid it sounds that I was hoping for broken bones in my beloved pet. The news was much worse, however. I knew that our dear Sasha was in real trouble when I turned around and saw Liliana in tears while holding the phone. Before that moment, I did not know that Dr. N. had called, but the sadness and pain in my wife’s face made it instantly clear to me what was going on. Liliana could not bear to listen any longer and handed the phone to me while the Doctor was in the middle of delivering the bad news.
Dr. N. explained that he and Dr. Clary, an orthopedic specialist brought in to examine Sasha that day, had found a tumor on the upper part of Sasha’s right humerus (upper arm bone). There was no way to say for certain without a bone biopsy, but the doctors suspected that the tumor was caused be a type of cancer called osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a very aggressive bone cancer, and it is the most common type of bone cancer seen in dogs. The good news is that osteosarcoma almost never spreads from bone to bone. The bad news is that it does metastasize into other parts of the body – usually the lungs. The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma is rather grim.
Dr. N. layed out our options for Sasha. He first explained that if we did nothing, Sasha would probably live another three to four months, and be in a lot of pain for the rest of her days. The second option was euthanasia. The third option was to amputate Sasha’s arm, and the final option was amputation and chemotherapy. My eyes began to swell with tears and my throat tightened. I knew that if the doctor stopped speaking, I would not be able to respond to his diagnosis. Dr. N. spared me for another moment as he explained his opinion of the situation, and what he would do. His recommendation was to spare Sasha the trauma of a biopsy, and amputate the leg. Once the leg was removed, he reasoned, a pathologist could make the determination of exactly what the cause of the tumor on Sasha’s arm was. Regardless of the cause, he said, the arm would almost certainly need to be amputated anyway. I continued to listen to Dr. N., in a state of half disbelief, and then in a broken voice and a couple octaves higher than usual, I thanked him and told him that I would see him soon.
While Liliana and I waited for the time to pick up our girl from the vet’s office, I began devouring as much information as I could possibly find on the internet about canine osteosarcoma. As usual, I began my search with a simple google search of the topic. I find that, while much of the information I find using this method is anecdotal, it gets me going in the right direction. Other people have gone through the same situation that I am facing right now with Sasha. I can read about the choices that they made, and possibly learn some valuable information at the same time. The next step in my research process is to pull up as many academic research papers on the topic as I can find. What I learned during my search for information about osteosarcoma in dogs, is that Sasha is in a very precarious situation. In talking to Liliana about our options, we both agreed that we needed to take action. Doing nothing was not an option, and it was very important to us that we make a morally ethical decision, which, of course, was very difficult to do in a situation like the one we were in. Dogs cannot speak for themselves, so it is up to their human guardians to make decisions for them. Euthanasia was almost unfathomable, but would it be fair to Sasha, a dog of almost twelve years of age, to amputate her leg, and expect her to relearn how to walk on three legs? Would it be fair to put Sasha through the trauma of surgery, and the difficulties of recovering from such a major operation?
I continued my research and found that dogs that undergo amputations usually recover fairly quickly (begin acting somewhat normally in about a month’s time). Animals do not share the same feelings of shame or feel the stigma attached to being an amputee. They do not sit and think about how they are different than all of their buddies at the dog park. Dogs get right back in the game, so to speak. Their new condition is simply their new reality, and they continue on without a second thought. Sasha may never be quite as agile as she once was, but if she can still enjoy things like chewing on sticks in the back yard, chasing down frisbees (albeit more slowly than before), and swimming in the ocean, then her life is worth sparing. As long as Sasha is happy and her quality of life is good, we will do whatever we can within our power to ensure that we can continue to make good memories with our girl.
After hours of reading, Carlos and I talked about our options to treat Sasha. If we did nothing, she would be with us for maybe 6 months, but likely much less than that, and most of the time, she would be in a lot of pain and not able to enjoy herself and be happy. So, amputation seemed like our best option for our girl. It will provide immediate pain relief, and on average, dogs live for about 370 days, so we’d have a year (more if we are lucky) with her. After her recuperation, we plan on doing all the things she loves.
For now, we just had to wait for 4:30 pm so that we could pick up our girl. It seemed to take forever. Once it was time, all I wanted to do what see and hug Sasha, but we had to speak with our vet first and we asked him to get us a quote for the surgery. He informed us of our options, which was everything Carlos had already read. He supported us on the decision we were leaning towards and we appreciate that, he knows the type of people and owners we are, and knew it was the best decision.
When Sasha was brought out, she looked SO happy, her tail wagging, ready to go home. Her happy face is embedded in my mind. Once home, we got her comfortable and I lay with her for a while.
Tommy wanted to be close to Sasha.
My favorite picture. I like pencil drawing.
Sasha stayed on my arm for a while, which is strange because she’s not a cuddler.
Tommy wanted to be close to her as well, and near her ‘wound.’
Tommy moving in for a lick. Alli near, on the other bed.
And he got to lick my nose. He was really sweet, and Sasha didn’t mind him being that close.
Dogs, they sure make our lives whole.
Back in August, we took Sasha to the vet and to see an orthopedic surgeon because this was going on. At that time, X-Rays were taken of her paw and wrist but nothing above that. The X-Rays didn’t show any signs of fractures or anything else. She got a couple of medications and within 24 hours, she was back to her spunky old self. It was a relive and her condition remain a mystery.
For months she was normal and we continued with our normal routine or playing in the yard with sticks and frisbees. We continue going for walks at our parks, which she absolutely loves. We had been planning on going to the beach and camping with the whole gang, because we don’t have dog sitters and it would be so costly to leave them in a kennel. Earlier this year, we noticed she was limping again. At times, she would be really spunky and run in our yard, but then something would hurt and she’d squeal. This happened a couple of times before we decided to limit her activity in hopes her”injury” would heal. After about a month of her leg not getting any better, we decided to take her to see our vet, Dr. N., again. She showed very brief sings of pain and where exactly the pain was, was undetermined. With these results, our vets asked us to allow for normal activity to aggravate the injury and find it, in order to correct it. As much as I didn’t want her to hurt more, we allowed her to do what she wanted in the yard, but only took her for short walks around the neighborhood. After two weeks, her “injury” worse. We scheduled another appointment with our vet and Dr. Clary, our orthopedic surgeon, was going to re-check her.
Through out this time, my heart’s been heavy. I feared the worst and though I love all my dogs, Sasha and I have a special bond and I love her to death. I did grow up with dogs, but they were always outside and they were not “my” dogs, they were mainly my brother’s. Sasha was my first dog. Out of a litter of seven pups, we had chosen her sister, but after seeing how spunky Sasha was, we switched our decision. From the day we chose her, we visited her every day until we could take her home with us, and that was probably about a month. So every day, we would leave work and go to see her, and this was no different during the weekend. Our first priority was to go visit Sasha and spend a good couple of hours with her.
Her appointment was scheduled for Tuesday March 6th and we were to drop her off as early as possible. Around noon, I received a call from Dr. N. It was the worst news I could possibly hear. All I recall Dr. N. saying is, “its not good news”, and “Sasha has Osteosarcoma on her right leg’s humerus.” I could not bare to continue listening, so I handed the phone to Carlos. My heart sank, I couldn’t breath, and all I could think of was how Sasha is supposed to live forever, and wondering why this was happening to her, its not fair. This day so quickly became one of the saddest days of my life.
I know it is not fair, but I always thought (expected really), that Sasha would live to be at least 15 years old. I thought we might loose Argus first. I know its not right to think this way and I do love all of our dogs very much, but Sasha is my baby. She was the first puppy Carlos and I got and I recall those times as if they were yesterday. Her and I have a special bond.
After the devastating phone call, Carlos and I sat together for a while, just thinking about Sasha and how much we love her. Carlos kept saying he was sorry, because she is my girl. Then Carlos started telling me with our vet said were our options. And he right away started reading all he could up until we could go pick her up…