On Tuesday 13 October 2020 we were told that Bailey's cancer had spread to his liver and that he is unlikely to make it to 30 days.
11pm, Saturday 30 May 2020
I am on the couch next to the bed. I hear Bailey get off the bed for water. The only light is the computer light but I see him come back and him jump on the bed. Next thing he walks over to me and just leans against me. It is not completely out of character but unlike him to do so at this time of night. He doesn't lay down and he's not shutting his eyes. Something feels wrong. I get up and switch on the light and his eyes seem a little out of it. When I say his name his eyes move a little but he doesn't look at me. I check his gums - pale. Having gone through what we did last year with Fudge and Solomon I call the vet. It's now 11:15 pm. In the van we get. They draw blood and he is anaemic, the very basic scan they are able to do indicates something is bleeding inside, but an ultrasound is needed. I ask for Cyklokapron to get him through a few days (despite how urgent this may seem, one still has to wait for availability of a specialist vet to do an ultrasound).
8am, Sunday 31 May 2020
I start calling around, nothing until the following Friday and then a miracle. There is a cancellation and I can take him to our first choice animal hospital first thing the next morning.
8am,Monday 1 June 2020
Bailey gets taken in for the ultrasound. A tumour on his spleen had bled. They could not see active bleeding on the scan, but they suggest removing his spleen - one of the vets there have offered to do the surgery straight away. They had him prepped and ready for surgery before I left. I got to see his vet (Dr Barry) who runs the holistic practice within the same medical centre before I left and he promised to have a look at Bailey after his surgery and start him on treatment. On Sunday we had already made the decision that should this be cancer we will treat this holistically and not go the chemotherapy route. The vet calls after surgery. Everything went well. He could not see any physical signs of tumours on any of Bailey's other organs. He asked if we would like it sent away for testing which we did.
Tuesday 2 June 2020
I go fetch Bailey. He comes bouncing out when the vet brings him. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. His vet has started him on Vitamin C treatment and some other remedies - discussed here. He needed to be back in 7 days. The vet that performed the operation comes in and gives me pain medication for Bailey. He has lost 1.5 kilos. On the way back home, having learned from my 10 days with Solomon last year, I stop and get a selection of different tinned dog foods (premium to standard), fresh liver and hake. as well as some sausage, liver paste and cottage cheese. Many of these go totally against my grain on feeding, however there are times where desperate times call for desperate measures and history taught me to be prepared.
I e-mailed Kate McDowell from McDowell's herbal. She helped us with Fudge last year and we value her input greatly. I ordered two sets of her Hemangiosarcoma (as this is what my gut as well as Dr Barry's gut said it is likely to be) pack and started with some of her suggestions as well.
Summary of next 4 and a half months
The cancer specialist called back 3 weeks after Bailey's operation. Being lock down I think everything was a bit muddled. I had already received the results of the splenectomy 2 weeks before from Dr Barry and knew what it was.
It is important to note here that should you decide to take the chemo route that that should have started pretty much within days of the spleen being removed. For various reasons we decided not to go this route, one of the main ones being Bailey's age.
OK, so you're wondering what it is?
The results came back that the cancer is malignant and that it is Hemangiosarcoma.
The feedback from the two vets:
He recommended chemo therapy and that it needed to be started right away (this is already 3 weeks down the line, so the "right away" window had actually already closed, but I did not pick him up on this). He said it would be every 3 weeks, 5 treatments. Life expectancy without chemo 40 - 80 days. With chemo "maybe 6 months".
Homeopathic specialist - Dr Barry
"Let's not focus on average life expectancies. Let's focus on giving Bailey the best quality of life as long as possible. What I can tell you is that I have patients in the same boat as Bailey and at least one of them has been going for almost 4 years. So you never know, We take it a day at a time"
So Bailey was going for his Vitamin C treatment first once a week, then every 10 days, then every 14 days and then every 21 days. He was doing incredibly well, no signs of being a sick dog. His gums were consistently a healthy pink and he was just his happy, healthy self.
6:30am, Saturday 10 October
Bailey doesn't bounce off the couch as he normally does for breakfast. His eyes are following me but he's not even lifting his head. Check his gums - very very light pink. When I am done dishing up their food Bailey does get off the couch but he just sniffs his food, seems interested in eating but doesn't eat. Then he lays down. His gums are even lighter by 7:30am. I get him in the van and take him to the vet. Luckily the vet that performed his surgery is at the hospital. He does a basic scan and says there is another bleed, it looks at though it may be his liver. He says that I need to ready myself that it's possible he may have only days left. I ask for Cyklokapron to help with the bleeding and bring Bailey home. By that afternoon his colour is back, his appetite is back and he is clearly feeling better. I message Dr Barry who says he will see if he has a space available to see him Monday and get an appointment for an ultrasound for Monday 19 October 2020.
Monday 12 October 2020
Bailey has a "booster session" with Dr Barry. We go back to treatments every 14 days. Whilst I'm paying I remind the receptionist that should there be any cancellations for the ultrasound I can shoot through at the drop of a hat. She informs me that a slot had just opened up for the following day.
Tuesday 13 October 2020
Bailey's ultrasound reveals that the cancer has spread to his liver. There is one very large lesion of about 3cm and at least 6 other smaller ones. He is put on 5mg Prednisone tablet in the morning and continue with 1/2 tablet Cyklokapron twice a day. The vet gave 30 prednisone tablets with the words "...though I doubt he will make it 30 days, I'm sorry"
Wednesday 14 October - Friday 23 October 2020
Dear Bailey has a great two weeks. His gum colour is pink, not quite as pink as his "old normal", but still a healthy pink and stays consistent. I'm feeding him 6 meals a day. His two main meals are smaller and then 4 "snack" meals during the course of the day. More about his meals here. He seems to get hot flashes about every other day lasting from 4;30pm - 6;30pm. Apparently hot flashes are a possible side effect from the Prednisone. At his appointment on 23 October with Dr Barry he has regained 1kg of his pre-cancer weight, so just 0.5kg away from being back to his normal, healthy weight.
3pm, Saturday 24 October 2020
Bailey sniffs at his dinner but does not want to eat. When I put his tablets in liver paste he happily takes that so I try some cooked liver which he eats and then I open a tin of food and he has a few bites of that. he is quite pale - pinkish white more so than whitish pink. By 7pm he is really hungry and asking for his normal food which I gave him. His colour was more pink.
Sunday 25 October 2020
Bailey is behaving his normal self, his appetite is back to normal but his colour is still pale and fluctuating between very light pink to slightly light pink. His abdomen is quite distended.
Monday 26 October to Thursday 12 November 2020
Bailey has an amazing 2 weeks. by Tuesday 27 October his colour is back to bright "old normal" pink and he is bright eyed and bushy tailed and even chasing squirrels. He is still getting his 6 broken down meals a day. HIs hot flashes are every evening. By Wednesday 28 October his abdomen is back to normal (which means his body has sufficiently re-absorbed the blood). His colour stays consistently dark pink and he is a bouncy, happy boy.
7am, Friday 13 November 2020
Today marks 30 days since the vet said to hope that he has another 30 days left would be optimistic. 3 weeks ago I made an appointment for a follow up ultrasound "just in case" he did make it this far". I woke up to Bailey being quite weak and again, not excited for his food. His gums are very pale pink. 45 minutes later his gums are almost white and he keeps laying down. We leave for the ultrasound appointment. He very slowly walks into the vet's office but then after the catch up he lays down and he needs to be carried in for the scan. Afterwards he has to be carried out.
The news isn't great. The one large lesion has almost doubled in size and his liver is now absolutely riddled with cancer. There is an active bleed happening. The cancer does not appear to have spread to other organs.
Today was the most difficult day so far. His body went into shock twice and having been with both Solomon and Fudge when they took their last breath (neither euthanised) I thought this was the end. Eyes fixated on nothing, breathing going from very shallow to so slow I can hardly tell he's breathing and ice cold pads, ears and lips. He hardly moved all day and I had to push his medication down his throat. Because he wouldn't eat I picked up some Virbac Nutribound and was squirting little bits of that down his throat with a syringe every hour and little bits of water (mixed with some other things) every 40 minutes.
A more detailed account of what happened during the course of the day here.
By the evening he was lifting his head when I was walking around, interested in what I was doing. The sparkle returned to his eyes and his white gums had gained some pink colour. He was eager to have some liver and heart. His abdomen is very distended and relatively hard.
Saturday 14 November 2020
Bailey slept through the night, he did not move much, never got off the couch (we have been sleeping together on the couch as it is lower and he can climb on and off as opposed to jumping on and off the bad and also I can protect him from the other dogs should he not want any of them close). He got up and came for his breakfast, he seemed very hungry but only gave a few licks of the raw food. He wanted tinned food and liver. So I gave him very small bits smooshed with Nutribound every 30 minutes. After about the 4th time he no longer wanted anything with Nutribound and he wanted some of his raw food. His colour gradually got better throughout the day. He was a bit tired but every time I went to the fridge he leapt off the couch and came running. He was clearly feeling better. By the evening his colour was back to bright pink and he was ready to cuddle up with mom.
Sunday 15 November (the day I am writing this post)
Bailey is back to himself. His abdomen is a little distended but not what I expected it to be, actually closer to normal. He didn't quite finish his whole breakfast so I'm going to be making his meals smaller and do 8 smaller ones throughout the day. I believe that all the medication and supplements may be affecting the taste so I am going to split them into giving them to him in 3 smaller breakfasts so there isn't so much he has to take in in one go.
For those that have read thus far and purely want a summary or some sort of checklist - see below. For those that are interested in the smaller details of daily routines, feeding, supplements and a more holistic approach, please feel free to join us on the rest of the journey here.
In Summary (for other cancers these could be slightly different, this is in my experience dealing with Hemangiosarcoma of the Pancreas and Spleen and spreading to the liver)
Get intimate with your dog's gums.
Seriously I cannot stress this enough. KNOW your dogs gums because when the day comes where it's important and the advice or question to you is "check his gums" or "how does his gums compare to normal?" - you need to know what "normal" is. Don't think that it's something you can compare to your other dog or dogs either. One's normal is another's pale. Just a quick flip up of the lip and take a glance and store it in your memory bank.
My experience has been that there is a lot of talk of ruptured tumours, bleeding and such but the general vets seem to stay away from the word cancer and no one ever mentioned "Hemangiosarcoma" (both this time with Bailey and with Solomon).
If your dog's gums are pale and you're concerned - Questions to ask (this is before you get to see a specialist/get an ultrasound done and for the general vet):
- Ask that they do a basic blood test
- Ask for a basic scan to see whether there is a bleed
- If there is a bleed and they won't be able to assist with an ultrasound that same day ask for pain medication and Cyklokapron (or something similar, Tranic is the generic equivalent) that can help to get you through the days until the ultrasound can be done. Cyklokapron is a man-made form of an amino acid called lysine. It is used to prevent bleeding.
At this stage a basic scan cannot show the vet much. At best usually they can only tell whether there may be a bleed or not. They usually cannot tell where the bleed is or whether it is actively bleeding. The blood test can indicate to them how some of the organs are coping and whether the body is producing red blood cells to replenish what is being lost. It also gives them an indication of the platelet count. Platelets help the blood prevent excessive bleeding. If your dog is very low on platelets they may suggest a blood transfusion to introduce fresh platelets - this was our experience in Solomon's case.
Ask more questions
These are for when/if you see the specialist that did the ultrasound.
- Where is the bleed?
- Can it be removed? (with Hermangiosarcoma these what I no call "initial bleeds" usually are from tumours on the spleen, sometimes pancreas and then less often the other organs, if in the spleen or pancreas then often those two organs can be removed in order to stop the bleeding). I have not had experience with it being on the other organs so I will refrain from commenting on those. I do know that if on the heart especially it is quite a different kettle of fish.
- Can you see any other signs of cancer on the other organs?
- What are my options? (the average life expectancy is discussed above) It is up to you to walk away and decide what you want to do. Due to not having all the information we could have had and not knowing what sorts of questions to ask we walked a slightly different path with Solomon with Hemangiosarcoma.
There is also the option of going the "unconventional" route. More about this here.
This has not been a cheap exercise. In fact, The pet insurance available on Bailey's policy (it's a very good one with very very fair and comprehensive coverage limits) was depleted in 5 and a half months. When your dog is 2 years old you think of it as a "waste" or unnecessary monthly expense. You won't think that when these emergencies happen. Get cover for the emergencies.
There's no rush for death
Not everyone is in the position to be with their dog 24/7when these things happen, however, the vets tend to make it sound incredibly doom and gloom in that moment (especially when your dog is 8 or older) and if you, like many, don't know the vet well then there is a strange sense of pressure to go with what it seems they are advising. Very often this is euthanasia. They prattle off the very awful and sad statistics on the short life expectancy with and without treatment. I have realised how one very often tends to make the decision right there and then with the vet looking at you asking "so what would you like to do?". In a split second you have to deal with everything you just heard, the underlying thought of the next person needing to see the vet is waiting, an overwhelming sensation of not wanting your dog to suffer, because surely with everything you were just told they would suffer....right? Well, maybe. But you do not have to make that decision in that moment. Presuming that your dog is just what I've experienced, a little weak, pale, not convulsing or obviously bleeding or visibly in distress when you bring him in: Ask the vet if you could have your dog back and either whether there is an available room for you to sit in or go sit outside or in your car with your fur baby. Process everything you just heard, make some calls if you need to, have a think about the reality of your situation and how much time, energy and whether you are able to deal with a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride going forward. Never feel pressured to make a decision in haste. If you do end up deciding that the best option is to euthanise on the day or within days after receiving all this news then you at least know you took the time to think it through, to give last hugs and cuddles in a more comfortable environment than the vet's room and in your own time. Once they're gone they're gone and you never get to remake the decision when you replay that moment in your mind when the vet asked you "what would you like to do?" and you said "OK, I suppose it's best to euthanise".
Bailey's liver is that term that the vets so often use that ends up pushing us into that sudden decision to euthanise - riddled. The ultrasound that the entire liver is riddled, yet here he still is, living a quality life, his normal happy self.
For more detailed info on the holistic approach and choices we have made:
ALTERNATIVE HEALING & BLOG DISCLAIMER
Alternative healing articles and any other advice featured in this blog do not claim to replace any conventional veterinary treatment. This is an educational blog for Beagle owners to read about alternative options that we as Beagle owners have tried ourselves and seen positive outcomes. We do not post anything we have not experienced positively and will never endorse anything in which we do not believe through positive experience.
Kinesiology and other healing modalities do not diagnose, cure or prescribe, as these activities are the prerogative of veterinarians. Kinesiology may provide a different, energy-based approach to allergy support, and potentially allow for a reduction in the use of corticosteroids. As a kinesiologist, I believe that allergies, just like other ailments, may have an emotional and/or mental aspect which is worth addressing. As such, this modality represents a valid complementary therapy to veterinary care.