hi ho, hi ho, off to chemo we go

Posted in Uncategorized on July 7, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

We decided to move forward with chemo, but really want to have it done at Medvet.  I called yesterday to find out when we could get in, and the earliest appointment was next Thursday.  Yikes.  So, I called the Akron option, which isn’t a horrible option, just not our first choice, and we could get in any day this week that we wanted.  Hmmm…so hard to make these decisions.  Fortunately we had an appointment with Dr. Sporer and Jess this afternoon, so we were able to get their advice.

Dr. Sporer seemed a bit alarmed at waiting until next Thursday too, but also hated to see us not be able to go for treatment where we were all most comfortable.  She made a quick call to Medvet and worked her magic to get us in tomorrow!  Awesome.  While she was on the phone, Jess was giving Kesey a bath.  I am so grateful for both of these amazing people.  Kesey smells so good and has to feel so much better.  We are admittedly not frequent dog bathers.  I mean they might get four baths a year max, but Kesey hasn’t had a bath yet this summer, and he really needed it.  I just feel better putting him through chemo feeling as good as he possibly can going into it.

We left with instructions from both Jess and Dr. Sporer to call and let them know how things go tomorrow.

We’ll stay in Columbus tomorrow night and hopefully see some friends for dinner, and we’ll definitely have to make a Pattycake run.  I’ll be super anxious until we know Kesey handled the chemo okay, but I have to tell myself that it’s all going to go well.

I have a call in to Dr. Sivula b/c I really want to get some “next step” advice from him.  I have all of these holistic treatments in the kitchen, but am not sure how to use them in conjunction with chemo.  He is leaving town tomorrow and we won’t see him again until July 14th, so I hope to talk with him before he leaves.  If we aren’t able to get in touch with him, Dr. R from CA should be back in town relatively soon, so we can hopefully talk with her about combining holistic with chemo.

I need to remember to ask about heartworm prevention too, b/c Kesey didn’t get it at all in June and now I think we’ll need to wait until after chemo.  I always forget to ask about this one for some reason.

As I type, L is outside building the deck.  The steps are done and the rest will come together soon.  It’s going to be awesome…just hope Kesey agrees!

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Kesey’s Back…mostly…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

Smiling Kesey 7.5.09

His smile is back.

As I’ve mentioned, Kesey had never turned down food in his life, so his refusal to eat throughout the past two weeks had us very concerned.  We took him off his antibiotic and he is nearly back to normal…he’s even eating kibble!  He does still leave a few bits of food in his bowl, so that’s strange, but he’s eating at least as much as he was pre-amputation.  We’ve been feeding him a mix of different grain free canned foods, Evo kibble, dehydrated raw, and homemade foods including chicken breast, cottage cheese and eggs.

Friday, my mom and I stopped to check out the grain free options at the Clipper Cottage (my parent’s Cocker, Zoe, has her hair styled there).  They had a wide variety of options, including some I had not seen elsewhere, Orijen and Taste of the Wild.  They also had some canned tripe, which I’d read no dog would refuse, so I picked up a can of that.  Now that I’ve read more about what it is, I’m totally disguted by it and am not sure I’d buy it again.  Also on the shelves, were dog treats made from Tripe.  I brought a few samples home and Kesey devoured them.  He did not eat the other sample treats I brought for him.  Clipper Cottage was awesome b/c they had so many free samples…we will be trying lots of new foods in the coming days.

deck old

L is building new stairs on our deck as well as doing some general improvements b/c the entire deck is quite unsightly.  Our backyard is inaccessible from our house without use of the deck, which is elevated about 5 feet off the ground.  The current stairs are kind of rickety (and terribly ugly) anyway, so this was a project that’s been needing done.  L’s making the stairs much wider and longer, closing them in, and in general just trying to create a way for Kesey to reach the backyard.  If Kesey can’t use the new and improved stairs, we’ll continue taking him out front, but it would be nice to avoid that and it would be nice for Kesey to feel a little more “normal” too.  Today my dad and L worked on the stairs most of the day.  The new ones should be ready to go tomorrow.

Kesey hung out in the backyard with us all day today.  He seemed very happy to spend time under his favorite tree.  Later this afternoon, Kesey and I went for a short walk – about 10 minutes round trip.  Kesey definitely had a little spring in his step, but he tires quickly.

Kesey 7-5-09

Here’s another shot of his incision site…looking good, isn’t it?  I expect the remaining staples will come our when we see Dr. Sporer Tuesday.

Thursday – day 4 in four days of vet visits

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

It’s been quite a whirlwind this week.  Thursday, we saw Dr. Sporer, our regular vet.  She wanted us to come in so she could check on Kesey’s incision and make sure there was not further sign of infection.  We arrived and Kesey was unusually calm.  I think he’s been to this vet clinic enough lately that he probably feels comfortable there.  Our fave tech, Jess, came out to get us.  I just have to note how lucky we are to have a vet and special tech who we adore and who seem to care so strongly for Kesey.  When we leave to go see Dr. Sporer and Jess, I always tell Kesey that we’re going to see his “girlfriends,” b/c he really does love them.  Jess knows just the spot on Kesey’s ear to rub and Dr. Sporer is just so upbeat and compassionate.  We’re so fortunate to have found them.

Okay…so Jess takes us to the exam room after stopping at the scale.  Kesey has lost nearly 10 pounds since before the amputation.  Not good.  We spend some time talking with Dr. Sporer and Jess and Dr. Sporer says she thinks Kesey looks great.  She said the incision site is looking very good, but not ready to remove the last of the staples yet.  She was clearly not thrilled about the discontinuation of the antibiotics, but she does understand that time is kind of important if we’re going to do chemo.  She gave us a topical antibiotic to use instead, and we were all happy with that.

I asked about the groomers at the vet office – it’s one of those full service practices with vets, grooming, boarding, 24 hour care.  Dr. Sporer said she and Jess would be happy to give Kesey a bath for us.  How awesome is that?  I’m not comfortable doing this for Kesey b/c I don’t want him to fall and I’m nervous about his incision site.  But he needs a bath and I know he’ll feel better if he has one.  And he loves Jess and Dr. Sporer, so if Jess does this for him, with a bit of assistance from Dr. S. if needed, it’s honestly perfect.   They have a great non-slip tub and can do this safely and I know Kesey will enjoy the time with them.  We did take them each a bag of treats from Heidi’s as a general thank you for being so awesome, so that may have had something to do with them making this amazing offer, but I think they would have offered anyway, b/c they seem to love Kesey so much.

So, we talked with Dr. Sporer about chemo and how impossible we were finding it to make a decision.  I said that one of things I’m really struggling with is that we amputate Kesey’s leg and I feel like b/c of that, maybe we really should consider chemo, b/c I want it to be worth it for him.  She made me feel so good b/c she said that if we had not amputated, we would likely have been taking about whether or not to euthanize him yesterday rather than whether or not to do chemo.  I knew we were making the right decision with amputation, but it’s hard to not have doubts sometimes, so this was very helpful to know.  She said OSA is incredibly aggressive and the pain is unbearable, so we had to amputate.  I agree.  So we talked about chemo and she recommended doing it.  I could tell she was trying to be careful to not cross that professional line and get too personal, but it’s easy to see that this has become personal with the five of us who were in that exam room (me, L, Jess, Dr. Sporer, and Kesey).  We all connect very well and we all have Kesey’s best interest as top priority.  So, Dr. Sporer said that it’s certainly our decision, but if Kesey were her dog, she’d do chemo.  I have to say that hearing this from Dr. Sivula and Dr. Sporer has us leaning HEAVILY toward giving it a try.  I just felt such a connection to both of these vets and I feel like they really connected with Kesey too.  I trust them both and I like that one is holistic and one is traditional and they both had the sense that Kesey would be okay with chemo.

The one thing truly holding me back is our conversation with Dr. R. on Monday.  She made such a good point about Kesey not handling the surgery and antibiotic well and what sign that might be of how he would handle chemo.  That makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes me feel very cautious.  This is definitely not a decision we will make lightly.  But I am coming to think that overall we do not want any regrets.  We can try chemo once and if Kesey has a bad reaction, that’s it, we’ll never ever do it again.  But if we never try and he leaves us in a few months, I think we will have tremendous guilt and will regret not giving him the chance.  So, right now I’m in the process of deciding between Medvet and our local oncolgist.  I’m leaning toward Medvet – even though it seems crazy – but I just felt so much better there and so did Kesey.  Need to find out how many treatments they recommend and how long in between, etc.

Oh…important note: Dr. Sivula told us about another grain free food from Wellness.  It’s called Core, and I picked some up for Kesey.  He has had it twice now, and both times gobbled down the entire can!  I’m sure this is a combo of the nux vomica, acidophilus, acupuncture and discontinuation of the antibiotic, but he does not gobble the Evo at all, so I’ll be picking up more Core today as well as some more chicken breast – hopefully pre-cooked.   Things seem to be looking up.

Wednesday – day 3 in four days of vet visits

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

Kesey still is not eating.  We’ve tried so many things…he has no interest.

On Wednesday, we went to see the local oncologist.  He practices out of a large veterinary hospital.  It was not at all like Medvet though.  Not sure how best to explain the difference, but I guess this one was probably most recently updated in the 80’s.  Also, there is no separate cancer center.  We felt very anonymous here, unlike at Medvet where we were treated as very special cancer patients in a center dedicated to Kesey’s care.  The local hospital was just very sterile and, I don’t know, just not comforting.  Kesey seems to be quite defensive around other dogs since becoming a tri-pawd.  I think he feels like he has fewer defenses, so he uses his loud bark to keep others away.  It was a very busy waiting area and Kesey was very loud.

We went back to a small, sterile exam room and met the oncologist.  A very nice, straightforward guy.  Kesey barked and became quite nervous when he walked in (not common for Kesey), so that made me kind of worried.  We talked about options and we talked about Kesey’s inappetance.  The vet recommended that we stop the antibiotic and see if things improve.  Otherwise, we’ll need to do some belly x-rays and make sure there are not mets in that area.  He also did some bloodwork and a urinalysis to be sure all looked good, and that Kesey’s body seemed capable of handling chemo.  He recommended 4 treatments, each one 3 weeks following the previous.  And he wants to get started asap, but we have to get Kesey feeling better and eating first.  He explained things very well and I like the thought of just four treatments.  Each treatment will cost between $700 and $800.  Honestly, the expense does not influence our decision, but it is still alarming.

We left with orders to discontinue the antibiotic, try to get Kesey eating and improve his general mood, and call on Monday with an update so we can make a decision.

Tuesday – day 2 in four days of vet visits

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

Tuesday we were miraculously able to get into to see a local (45 minutes away is local enough) holistic vet.  We were referred to this vet by our friends Susan and Jonathan, who take their pups, Gabbie and Bilbo, to see him.  They could not say enough wonderful things about Dr. Sivula and his animal wellness center.  We had no idea they even existed, so I was very excited to have another holistic option close by, since the one closest to us takes more than two months to get in.  So, I called Dr. Sivula’s office and was able to get in the same week!  Fortunately L and I have very flexible schedules (thanks to my very understanding employer) and we are able to make ourselves avaialble as needed for Kesey’s care.  So we drove up toward Broadview Heights to the Dancing Paws Animal Wellness Centerhttp://www.dancingpawsawc.com/  We were the only patients in the office and were treated so nicely.  The staff welcomed us, didn’t mind that we’d made a wrong turn and were 5 minutes late, and showed us to an exam room.  The room was as large as a bedroom in an average sized house.  It had a fireplace, a sofa, a huge comfy dog bed in the middle for Kesey to rest on, a bowl which they filled with fresh, filtered water for Kesey, a DAP dispenser plugged in, and it was FULLY CARPETED.  Carpet is so much easier for at tri-pawd to walk on, so we were especially thankful for this.  There were no exam tables, no scary posters showing how worms can kill your dog, no ads from pharmeceutical companies…just a nice, comfy space for caring for Kesey.

Kesey was completely relaxed here (very unusual for him when visiting the vet) and happily found the big dog bed and rested the front of his body on it.  We spent a full hour with Dr. Sivula and gave him Kesey’s history.   We talked about diet and he recommended keep things varied…some canned Evo and Wellness Core, some dehydrated raw, some homecooked.  This sounded like a good plan to me.  I think we’ll do homecooked primarily, but nice to know he thinks it’s okay to do a little prepared food when we’re running short on time.  And he gave us some samples of the dehydrated raw, so we’ll definitely check that out too.

We talked about treatment options and Dr. Sivula said that if Kesey were his dog, he probably would try chemo.  He said Kesey seems to be a very strong and healthy 11 year old, and that he seems full of life.  Dr. S. also said that he would use acupuncture and some natural treatments to counteract the effects of the chemo.  I was really surprised by his recommendation and it kind of muddied our thoughts b/c we were starting to become comfortable with not doing chemo.  He was very gentle in his recommendation, and said we could certainly go either way, but he thought the benefits would be worth a try and he is confident in his abilities to help Kesey through it.  Hmmm…more to consider now.

When we were finished talking, Kesey received his first acupuncture treatment.  Dr. S. used a laser for the acupuncture, b/c he said he’s more comfortable doing that with cancer dogs, b/c even thought the needles are completely safe, he doesn’t like to take any chances with infection for dogs with cancer.  He also did a little chiropractic adjustment in Kesey…all seemed to go well.

The office has one of those underwater treadmills, and we’ll use that with Kesey once his incision is fully healed.  This is supposed to be excellent for increasing muscle tone, and Kesey really needs some help with that now that he is operating on three legs.

We left with some fish oil and another supplement as well as some samples of the dehydrated raw food.  Dr. S. said we could use all of this in addition to what Dr. R. recommended the day before.

We are supposed to call Dr. S. next Monday and give him an update on where we are and what we’ve decided about chemo.  So many options to weigh, but I guess we’re lucky to have caught this early enough to have options.

holistic…western…holistic…western?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

We are really struggling to decide how to treat Kesey going forward.  Intially we thought no way on chemo, then we thought, “well, maybe,” then we thought, “we have to try at least one treatment,” now we’re leaning away from chemo again and toward more holistic treatment.

We talked with a holistic vet (Dr. R.) out of California today and we LOVED her.  She came to us highly recommended by good friends who love their companions at least as much as we love our Kesey.  Dr. R.  is a DVM who decided to move toward holistic medicine after years of practicing western medicine.  I’m finding that this seems to happen more than I would have thought.  She said that she is not completely opposed to chemo, but she cannot recommend it for osteosarcoma.  I mentioned that it’s hard for me to not consider chemo, b/c we’re looking at 4 months without it, and around one year with it – yes, you read that right – even with chemo, we’re looking at only one year with Kesey.  But this vet pointed out that those numbers are averages and we should not get caught up in them.  It was a really good point.  She said she has had patients go holistic and live much more than one year, and she’s seen some on chemo who do not make it 4 months…so there is no absolute.  Dr. R. also said that many of her OSA patients come to her after they’ve tried chemo and it hasn’t gone well.

I guess, I’m starting to realize more and more that what matters most is not the quantity of time, b/c let’s face it, we’re probably not going to have much in the way of quantity, but rather the quality of the time that we do have.  Today, Dr. R. made another really great point that I hadn’t considered…she said that since Kesey’s system seems to be so compromised from his surgery and the antibiotics he is taking, we should think about what chemo would do to him.  It’s weird, b/c I still think of Kesey as this big, strong pup who can eat anything and never get sick – he ate batteries as a puppy…seriously…nothing affects him…but now he’s down – really down…and we can’t seem to get him back up.

Anyway, I really appreciated all that we learned during our hour long call today.  Dr. R. seemed to think that Kesey has a combo of upset belly from the antibiotics and surgery, and some depression.  I agree.   She recommended that we start him on some probiotics and a homeopathic remedy called Nux Vomica.  And in a few days he should be feeling better and then we’ll start him on something called Immpower.  She is also sending us a Chinese herbal remedy – or medicine – not sure which it’s called, but at any rate, something that she thinks will help.  She recommended using these treatments and following a homemade diet that she’ll be sending me as an alternative to doing chemo.

We talked with her fairly extensively about diet and nutrition and Kesey’s complete lack of interest in eating.  She said she would not recommend a raw diet for him…basically said it’s not great to start him on it at 11 years old, and not always best for labs, and also not always good for cancer patients.  She said homemade is our best bet, and I’m looking forward to receiving her diet plan and getting to work on that.

My friend, Dorie, also wrote today and gave me some ideas for foods no dog will turn down. I’ll share them here b/c I know many of you who are reading share my struggles to get your OSA dogs to eat.  Her recommendations included:

Braunschweiger – I’ll have to google this…no idea what it is
Dingo chicken jerky – which she calls “doggy crack”
Hormel pre-cooked pot roast and roast beef and such found near the lunch meats at the grocery
Heat and eat sausage links – apparently the aroma becomes very enticing to them
Salmon flavored cream cheese – this one sounds easy

Dorie also filled me in on the fact that you can buy pre-cooked chicken breast.  Awesomeness!  I will have to find this, b/c I really did not enjoy cooking it the last time.

Finally, L ran Kesey to see Dr. Sporer, our regular vet, this afternoon b/c a section of his incision just is not healing and it was open and kind of oozy again.  We had an appointment to have his staples removed tomorrow, but didn’t want to wait.  Dr. Sporer said the problem is that that area is getting any air to heal, so she did some stapling to move his skin around a bit and open that area to air.  AND…she removed all of the other staples.  Yippee!  Kesey did seem to have a little more spring in his step tonight, so hopefully we’re on the upswing now…especially if we can get his belly feeling better.

Field Trips

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 by Christina in North Canton

Yesterday we decided it would be good to get Kesey out of the house.  We decided to check out a new(er) restaurant in Highland Square that has a nice patio, Metro Burger, and then go to the park.  It seemed like the day just didn’t want to work out for us from the beginning.  We got to the restaurant and it started to rain, so we took everything with us to the park.  It wasn’t pouring rain, so sitting under a tree would be okay.  L, G and I ordered veggie burgers and I debated chicken breast or beef burger for Kesey and decided on the beef burger…figuring surely he’d eat that.

We drove to the a park in the valley – a really nice area – thinking it would be fairly calm and we could all eat and then head back home.  We got out of the car and Kesey started running – running!  He was so happy to be at the park.  We set up at a picnic table and put a blanket out for Kesey on the ground.  He was not interested in his burger…this is becoming truly concerning…we managed to get him to eat about half of it.

As soon as we started to eat these two men pulled up and pulled a black pit bull out of their car – a female – and they were looking at her and kind of examining her.  Very bizarre, I thought.  L said “I bet they’re thinking about breeding her.”  So then they put her in one truck and then a big white van pulls up – the kind with no windows.  One of the men pulls out the biggest brindle pit bull we’ve ever seen…this dog was huge.  He was a male and had a number of chains around his neck including one of those pinch collars.  He did not seem to be very friendly and it was no wonder, b/c he was not being treated well at all.  I was becoming very anxious and not sure what to do.  One man was holding onto the huge pit bull and the other was examining him from across the park.  It was so strange.  Then they moved the female from the truck into the van.  We heard her let out a cry.  At this point, we packed up very quickly.  We were nervous for the safety of Kesey and G, and we were also just really upset by all of it.  Len walked Kesey past the huge male and the pit bull went crazy.  I was terrified that he was going to get loose and attack our poor recovering, three-legged dog.  Len lifted Kesey into our car and G and I walked very quickly to the car and loaded ourselves and our food in.  The man handling the pit, told us we didn’t need to worry, he had him under control.  He had him under control thru being really mean to him.  Poor dog…not that I wasn’t terrified of the dog…but I was horrified at how he was being treated.  We figure this van must have been a pit bull breeding facility.  Surely, if we’d stuck around, we would have seen the male loaded in with the female.  Awful.  Seriously, I’ve worked in animal rescue and humane societies for years, and this is among the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.  We debated calling the local humane society to come and check it out, but figured what they were doing was probably legal, and we know thru experience that humane agents probably wouldn’t have made it out in time anyway.  Looking back, we should have called though.  I really regret that we didn’t.  I cannot get these images out of my head.  Just to note, I do not think pit bulls are bad dogs…I’ve known and loved many of them.  I think the aggressive ones are a product of their environment.

So, our nice relaxing day out with Kesey, was kind of a nightmare. But it was nice to see Kesey so happy for those few moments before everything went crazy.

Last night we took Kesey with us for a visit with my parents.  Kesey used to spend a lot of time at their house.  They recently rescued a cocker spaniel though, and Millie does not get along with her, so none of our dogs have been there in a long time.  Kesey goes everywhere now that we realize Franklin and Millie are okay home alone.  My parents were having some people over last night and we wanted to go so G could play with some of his cousins…and we took Kesey.  Everyone was very concerned about him.  He seemed happy to be with us.  Some people were eating chicken so I tried to feed some of that to Kesey, but he refused.  Yesterday he did eat one can of Evo (spoon fed by L) and then last night he ate about six Evo hard treats.  I guess that’s something, but today I’m on a mission to find something he will eat.  Today we’ll be speaking with a holistic vet and then “field tripping” to shop for some new food.

Staples come out tomorrow and I cannot wait!  I hope he’ll feel better once they come out.  I keep hearing from bonecancerdog group members that they perk up after the staples are removed, so I’m counting on that.