Friday, February 6, 2009
An Unsettling Discovery
As many of you know, we have two dogs. Zoey, on the left in the picture, is now eleven or twelve, and Lily, on the right, is a little over three.
Last Wednesday evening, I noticed that Zoey was limping a little on her left leg when we went for our walk.
I checked her foot for pebbles or other impediments, but found nothing. I thought it might be sore from her arthritis, so we took it easy on speed, but walked our full walk.
Thursday morning, the limp was still there, and by Friday evening it was worse. On Saturday morning, she seemed happy on her walk, but when we crossed a ditchbank lined with rocks, she tripped. She got right back into the walk, though, and I made a mental note to go more slowly on uneven terrain.
The Boychick and I went into town in the later morning, and after a full morning there, we delivered two bales of straw to the Chem Geek Princess for Ruby's new doghouse and dog run, and then headed home. When we got home, I asked the Engineering Geek if the dogs had been out, and he said that we should take them out.
So I got the leashes, and Tomboy Lily came running, but Zoey lifted her head and then tried to get off the couch. I thought she was stiff, so I went to help her, and when I put my hand under her left left shoulder, in the axiallary area, I felt a big, firm mass. Zoey whimpered when I touched it.
I called the Engineering Geek over, and he lifted Zoey off the couch and then felt up her leg. He whistled when he felt the mass, and said, "Call the Vet. I'll take them out and then we'd better take her in."
Although our local Vet does have Saturday hours, they were booked and so the very concerned receptionist recommended that we take Zoey into town. We knew of two emergency clinics, and the closest one to us was the Urgent Care vet next to Blake's Lotaburger on Montgomery. We had taken Zoey there years ago when she was bitten by a rattlesnake. We really liked that Vet, so I tried to call them. Their mailbox was full. So I called the other possibility, and we decided to stop at the Urgent Care on the way. It turned out the Urgent Care had merged with an Animal Hospital very close to the Boychick's Dojang, so we went there. The Engineering Geek went inside to see if they would see Zoey, while I waited with her in the car. We did not want to get her down unecessarily, because she seemed to be in some pain.
The Engineering Geek came out and signaled thumbs up, so we took Zoey in. She had a decided limp by this point, but she still walked in with the dignity of a dowager, and won the hearts of the front-desk staff. A tech (I guess this is a vetinary version of a nurse) came our right away, and looked at Zoey's leg and side.
"Has she always had this mass?" she asked.
"That's why we brought her in, " I answered.
"She seems to want to lie down," the tech responded. "I'll take her back where she can have a soft spot."
We sat down to wait. Later, the tech informed us that Dr. E. was with Zoey, and shortly after than we were ushered into an exam room. Dr. E. explained that Zoey had a mass, that it was large and firm, and that Zoey was in pain, but very stoic during the examination. She recommended that we have X-rays, bloodwork and an aspiration biopsy.
The X-rays showed that the mass is in the axillary area and up against the chest. It did not look like ribs were involved. We were sent home with pain medication and orders to keep Zoey quiet. The pain medication does help with this, because, although it is not an opiod, it does bind to one of the opiod receptors, and also binds the Serotonin re-uptake mechanism.
But it is amazing how quickly our Zoey has become worn down. Despite the pain medication, she is not able to get ahead of the pain, and the tumor is growing.
On Monday, I took her in for more blood work.
On Wednesday, we heard that the blood work and urine came back normal, so she's in good metabolic shape.
Yesterday (Thursday) morning, Zoey woke me at three, moaning. I took her out, and then she seemed to settle. But at four a.m., she woke me again, and the Engineering Geek, too. We noticed that her whole 'underarm' area was bruised. So we called the Animal Hospital. We spoke to the tech on duty, tried to feed Zoey--she has to be coaxed to eat--and then got her settled.
Thursday afternoon, I spoke at length to Dr. J. The aspiration biopsy had come back inconclusive, but she recommended that we make an appointment for a surgery consult for next week, and that I should bring Zoey in for a pain patch.
So Zoey accompanied us as I picked up the Boychick and A. from school, dropped A. off at the library, and then went to the Animal Hospital. The Boychick helped me get Zoey out of the car, and then headed across the street for Taekwondo.
When we saw the vet, she said that Dr. J. was busy with an emergency, but that they had shown Zoey's X-rays to the veterinary surgeon. The surgeon thought we ought to get a tissue biopsy, and possibly other imaging prior to any surgery, because she thought she saw infiltration of the mass into the chest cavity and did not want to go in until we know what kind of tumor this is and the extent. So they recommended a biopsy procedure with a local anesthetic and I agreed. But I called the Engineering Geek to meet me, as this was more than I had expected when I took Zoey back in.
The procedure was done quickly, and Zoey was more animated than I had seen her in days, because the local meant that the area was pain free. She came home and ate.
But by 3 a.m., she was once again restless, although she ate again after being taken outside.
Today, she has pain from the biopsy, as well as her limp, although she had a short, slow walk in the woods near the swingset.
Since the samples are sent to Phoenix (I just don't understand this!), we won't get results until the middle of next week. Much of what we do next will depend on those results.
We will probably have a double consult meeting with the surgeon and the doggy oncologist (!), if the tumor is malignant. I am not sure how far I am willing to go in treating this thing, if it is. Zoey is an old lady, and furthermore, how would a dog understand treatments that are more painful than the disease?
In the meantime, we wait.