Seriously, Sirius

Sirius is our old man dog.  He was adopted 6 years ago from the Humane Society and they said he was two.  He was probably 4 or 5.  He's getting old - eyes starting to cloud, losing his hearing, fatty tumors, and "old dog hairs" as the children lovingly refer to his graying fur.  Yes, he's gone from a black dog with white specks to a brindlish dog, black and white brindle.

Sirius led an interesting life before he got to us.  His first vet visit after being adopted we found out his leg had been broken and healed on its own.  He had to have his tail amputated due to "happy tail" (banging it around on his cage) and subsequent infection.   He has a front foot missing a toe, probably born that way.

Since he's been with us, the only thing that's happened is an ear infection.  Until a couple weeks ago when we discovered a lump on his neck.  Feeling it, I could tell there was a matching one on the other side of his neck, only smaller.  My thought was infection or tumor in a gland.

To the vet we go! Turns out it was a lymph node.  Could be infection, inflammation or lymphoma.  Decide to put him on antibiotics and benedryl.  If it is infection or inflammation, this will take care of it.  If not, then this won't hurt and we can do a biopsy then.

That didn't seem to help so on to the next step, biopsy.  This was just poking a needle several times into the lymph node to get some cells to be sent off for analysis.  Seems horrible right? He didn't even care.  What he whined about? Checking his temperature in his ear.  Dog, you do know the alternative temp taking spot, right?

Biopsy came back.  Negative for infection.  Probably lymphoma but we can't be sure. 

  • Another test.  This one if positive, would tell us it's lymphoma.  If negative, 70% chance it's not lymphoma.  Not really great odds of helping us figure stuff out, and it costs $110.
  • Don't do the test and move forward with prednisone.

If we think it's lymphoma or do the test and find out for sure, we have 3 options.
  • do nothing.  He would live weeks to a year if it is lymphoma.
  • Prednisone.  Improves quality of life and can help slow the spread of the cancer.  If it's not lymphoma, won't hurt him.  Not expensive.
  • Chemo.  Quality of life may or may not be improved.  Longer life than prednisone, but measured in months.  Very expensive.  Lots of tests and decisions.
So we're going with the prednisone and no further testing.  It makes the most sense since he's completely fine right now (you wouldn't know he's "sick" other than if you felt the fairly small lump on his neck.)  It also has very few side effects compared with chemo.  While they claim chemo is easier on dogs than people, I've seen what it does to people.  It's pretty horrible stuff.  And we're talking about extending his life months, not years.

It's sad that we have to make these decisions.  It's sad that he probably has cancer.  But the last 6 years have been great for him and us.  His next year(s) will be just as wonderful.  He's loved. He loves us (except Tonks, he's pretty sure we got her just to annoy him.)  It'll be good.

And maybe, just maybe, we're wrong.  And then the prednisone will take care of any residual inflammation and he'll live many more years.

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  • Anonymous | October 19, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Sounds like a carefully, lovingly made decision for a cherished family member. ((( Sorry )))

  • April | October 19, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    ((Shawn)) Hugs to you and the girls.

    You are correct to not do chemo on a dog. Chemo is hard enough when you know why it's needed. But it is awful, and in many cases not worth it even for humans.

  • Coble Family | October 31, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    I am so sorry that these decisions are part of your life right now. We are going through a similar situation with our dog, Jessie, who is 13 or so (also a pound hound, not sure of her correct age at adoption, just know that we've had her 12 years). Just yesterday she had her left eye removed due to glaucoma. It breaks my heart to think her end is near.
    I am hoping that the prednisone will help Sirius and that your family will be able to enjoy his company for a long time.

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