This post might be a little on the sad side, so I’m sorry for this, but just wanted to share with you what’s been going on with our beloved Boone.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, we felt a small lump under his left chin. Nothing too big, and it didn’t seem to bother him. About a week later though, he started to become fuzzy with food. Been through this before, he’s always been a picky eater, Ryan and I tried various techniques to get him to eat. Among them: pumpkin puree, hand feeding him, sitting down with him to eat, boiled chicken, rice, etc. It was a lot of effort and it really didn’t seem to work. Other than the food averseness, he was in good spirits, but we still decided to take him to the vet.
There, they did a cell sample of the lymph node, which came back negative for cancerous cells. They put him on antibiotics while we waited on some blood work. A week later, he wasn’t tolerating the antibiotics too well and his blood work showed exposure to lyme disease. After talking to the vet about doing a possible biopsy, we decided to wait and switch antibiotics to see how he managed those for a couple of weeks. We were travelling to Puerto Rico at this time as well, so we wanted to keep him comfortable and easy to manage at least until we got back, since Ryan’s parents were going to be taking care of him and we didn’t want to make it a hassle for them.
Well, little did we know that Boone had decided to use this time to go downhill and quick. At some point during our time away, he started having difficulty breathing and still wasn’t feeling up for food. The lump on his throat had grown significantly and he had developed other bumps on his body. Not having a 24-hour hospital nearby, my in-laws took him to ISU’s Veterinary Medicine Hospital to admit him and see what they could do to help. Long story short, they kept him for two or three nights, gave him steroids, monitored his lungs and did some more testing. From this, we find out that Boone had developed lymphoma.
Hours after we got back from our trip, we headed to Ames to pick up our dog and talk to the vet about the future plans for Boone. While at the hospital, they gave him a chemo treatment and steroids so his mood and appetite had greatly increased. By the time we saw him, all his nodes had come back down to normal except the one where it all started, which still to this day hasn’t gone completely down. Lymphoma, and any form of cancer in dogs, does not get treated like in humans. While humans get treated to cure, dogs get treated for a comfortable life until there’s no more to do. The dog can go into remission, but the cancer can come back within weeks and treatment has to start all over again. The best case scenario prognosis is about 2 years.
We were given three options for treatment. The top notch one where a mix of chemo meds is given weekly for six months and costs about $7K for that period, has the highest chance of remission and longest prognosis. The second option would be a chemo treatment where a single medicine is given to him orally every 21 days or weekly through IV for six months with an average cost of $2.5K for the six month period with a shorter prognosis than the first option. The last option, would be straight up steroids. This last treatment would not attack the cancerous cells or treat them, but keeps them at bay enough to make him comfortable until they don’t have any effect any more. We were given some time to think, and would be visiting back in a week.
The “waiting” week away was nothing short of awful. After the chemo, I couldn’t have too much contact with him for 72 hours and needed to avoid all secretions, including doggie kisses, due to the residual of drugs and the risk to my pregnancy. He was taking all sorts of medicines in the morning and at night. Steroids, anti-diarrhea, antibiotics, antiemetic, digestive system protection, you name it. It was a lot and he hated it. By the time we needed to give him his tablets at night, he was shaking like a leaf. He had to sleep through it with one of us to keep calm. We also had to take care of his leg where they gave him the chemo for fear of contamination (it bruised when they took the IV out). This required changing of bandages and topical steroids every 6-8 hours. He woke up frequently during the night and we had to bring him water (the medicines also make him very thirsty) and/or let him out to pee. In the mornings, he would wake up fine, but by midday he was back to looking pretty weak. I took him on walks in the morning and at night, which seemed to help, but just for a bit. His appetite was still pretty off.
Once the weekend came around, he was feeling and doing a lot better since the side effects of chemo were starting to wear off. He had light in his eyes again and was back to being his playful old self. Plus, his appetite came back with a vengeance. That Monday, Ryan took him in to move on to the next step in his treatment. We were waiting for the results on what type of lymphoma it was and what would be the best treatment. Ryan and I had decided against the first option, so it would either be the oral chemo or steroids. His results came back as T-cell lymphoma for which the oral chemo is recommended. The prognosis is still only 6 months. Turns out his white blood cell count was too low to give it to him that Monday, so we would need to retest him the following Friday.
This week, after his second visit and no chemo, was absolutely great. His spirits were high, he was eating like crazy, cuddling like no other, playing with all of his toys, following us around the house everywhere, loving his walks outside. He was back to being Boone, but just with a stronger appetite. So much so, that he got in the garbage this week for the first time since he was a puppy. That was a surprise!
He got his blood tested and we got the go ahead from the vet to administer his chemo pill this Monday. Ryan was in charge of this, again due to the risk to me and the baby, but he still had to do it with gloves on. The treatment is just one pill every 21 days, plus some anti-diarrhea medicine just in case and the leftover steroids. For the next 72 hours, I can’t handle any of his secretions and I’ve placed antibacterial soap all over the house to keep my hands as germ free as possible. So far, we haven’t seen any side effects. If no major side effects develop, we will continue with this treatment for as long as we can. But we decided that the best thing to do was to make sure he’s comfortable, so we have no problem with moving to just steroids if it comes to it. We rather have a super happy dog for bit shorter than make him suffer any longer.
Nonetheless, I’ll keep you posted on how he’s managing and hopefully it’ll help somebody who might be in our shoes in the future. For now, I’ll take all the cuddles he’s willing to give me.