Saturday, August 21, 2010

Big -- Good News and Bad News

Here's the latest on Big, the dog who refuses to die.

He was due for his rabies shot and the vet also required an exam to renew his prescription for carprofen (a NSAID). But it's so hard for him to walk around and impossible for him to get up in the Jeep, so we arranged for one of the vets to make a housecall. We scheduled the appointment for August 18. Then he seemed to be getting worse, so last Friday (the 13th) I talked to the vet and said instead of a rabies shot it might be time to euthanize him. She suggested a change in medication - a steroid and a stronger pain med. So I got the new meds that afternoon and by Sunday he was doing so much better it was unbelievable. He could actually stand up and walk and sit or lie down without his back legs going out from under him. And he seemed happier, too. He'd never yelped in pain (this is the dog who chewed through extension cords when they were plugged in and never yelped then, either), but he had obviously been in pain and with the new meds he was in much less pain. He doesn't smile the way Wolfie does, but he had a happier expression on his face and especially in his eyes.

Dr. Sue came and did the housecall Wednesday and we told her about his improvement. She said the steroids could buy us another year or so and we talked about gradually decreasing the dose (steroids have bad side effects on dogs, too, ya know) while keeping him comfortable; it's a balancing effect.

I pointed out some sores on his underbelly (near what's left of his private parts). She had noticed them, but examined them further and said they're tumors -- sarcomas, (cancer) and she said they are probably what will "do him in" in the end. Typically if they're removed surgically they always grow back and at his age, the anaesthesia would be very hard on his body.

So who knows how long he has left? Knowing Big, it could be years. Five years ago we thought he only had six months left. What's most important is his quality of life. If he's in pain and can't get around easily, it's time to let him go, which is why we'd thought about letting him go a few days ago. But the steroids and pain meds are helping, so we'll see how things go.

He has more lives than a cat. I keep saying that he'll outlive us all and we'll have to name a guardian for him in our will. Any takers? He's really turned into a sweet and mellow dog in is old age. He didn't growl at the vet until she started trimming his claws; they're gigantic and not easily trimmed. We put on his Hannibal Lecter muzzle for the vet visit, just as a precaution.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I was thinking about Big just yesterday morning (after giving the cat who won't die his weekly bath), and about how long he has lived after you got the replacement dog for him to train, and wondering how he's doing now, so this was a very timely update!

It's wonderful that the steroid is helping. Isn't it amazing how quickly it acts? I hope this gives Big many more happy months with you and the rest of his pack.

I know what you mean about the balancing act. At some point, it's going to be something: the original illness, side effects from treatment, or something new. It's great that there are more treatment options than there used to be, but the other side of that coin is that it's a lot more complicated, and we just have to take our best shot at doing the right thing.