Discovering that your dog has tumors and preparing for end of life

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This was my FB status yesterday:

5 years ago today we drove to Gatineau, Quebec to adopt Mowgli from a shelter. As we drove away (on the hottest day ever!), he never looked back. He acted like we had always been his people. I know dogs are supposed to be loving, loyal and your best friend but he’s a champion at these things. He has his share of annoying traits but his heart is pure gold and gentle is his middle name. Today, I take him to the vet as he’s so sick. He developed terrible allergies for the first time 1 year ago and that hasn’t changed but he’s having other issues now. Hoping he starts to feel better soon! Being up several times during the night is no fun for the owners either.

Recently, we had to put Mowgli on a higher dose of meds to help him find relief from his allergies. As per usual, eventually, we try and reduce that dose. When we went down to the every-other-day pills earlier this week, Mowgli developed diarrhea. Up-in -the-night-taking-the-dog-out-multiple-times diarrhea.  He also vomited a few times. One of his vomits was so foul we questioned if it came from the other end (it didn’t). I found the following online on several sites: “Blockages in the lower GI tract cause abdominal distension and the vomiting of brown, fecal smelling material.”

Yesterday, I brought him in to see the vet given that his diarrhea hadn’t improved over 3 days time. Derek had wondered if he swallowed a large bone that he dug up last week. Knowing that we are dealing with a senior dog + our financial limits, our vet said that we could forgo doing an x-ray because if there IS an obstruction we wouldn’t do expensive surgery to have it removed (surgery that can cause the dog to die from complications afterwards — happened to our friends young dog). I told our vet that while we are reaching the end of what we are willing to afford for Mowgli, I also need to be able to sleep at night knowing that I did the right thing. I agreed to do the x-rays just in case they were to find an obstruction. If they found something, I’d rather put Mowgli down than have him suffer in pain.

As I was siting in the waiting room, I was thinking to myself that I just spent a bunch of money for x-rays that won’t show us anything. After 20 minutes, a lady came out and asked for “Mowgli’s mom”. She told me that the doctor would be with me shortly to go over the x-rays with me. I knew in that moment that they had found something. Why else would she have worded it that way? If they found nothing, why would she need to show me the x-rays? The vet came into the room and said what they found was not good. She said that while they didn’t find any evidence of a bone or obstruction, they did find something else. She pointed to an area on the x-ray and said that shadow is a large tumor in his abdomen. She shared that after she saw the x-ray she felt for it on Mowgli and found it. She also pointed to another area and said that he has a tumour at his prostate. She said its extremely rare for a neutered dog to have a prostate tumour but not impossible.

The only way to know if these two tumours are cancerous or not would be to do an ultrasound/biopsy. Given that we wouldn’t do chemo treatments if it was cancerous (we’d have to drive to Toronto for treatments – a 3 hour drive), she thinks its reasonable not to investigate further re: if the tumours are cancerous or not. Given the way that cancer likes to spread, I’m suspicious that it is cancer. Even if its not, the treatment would be the same. Noncancerous tumours can cause a decline in the dogs quality of life as well. The plan is to take it week by week. As soon as we notice a significant change in his behaviour or health, we would act quickly and put Mowgli down so he doesn’t have to suffer. The vet didn’t give us a timeframe but did say that we aren’t talking 5 years here. And she kept saying to take it week by week. She also said that his tumours are a “ticking time bomb”.

Finding two tumours on a fluke like this (they are unrelated to his allergies or his recent bought with diarrhea) was shocking. But I’m glad that I decided to do the x-ray. Now we are better prepared with what to do if suddenly his health declines. We also no longer have to worry about keeping his allergy dose as low as possible (prednisone isn’t recommended for long-term usage). The priority now is to make him as comfortable as possible. I feel bad that he’s been neglected (along with our other dog) since our baby was born 5 months ago. I wish to have more patience with him and to go on as many walks as possible.

We have no idea what the future will hold. We don’t know how much longer we’ll have our Mowgli with us. Could be weeks, months, or even a year. I fear how heartbroken our other dog will be without her buddy (that’s their paws in the above photo). I’m sad that our daughter will have no memory of him. But I’m grateful for a heads up. And despite the annoying things about him, Mowgli will always be the best dog that I ever owned.

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4 thoughts on “Discovering that your dog has tumors and preparing for end of life”

    1. I’ve wondered about this as well. His allergies are said to be unrelated but maybe his body is worn down with cancer (if it is cancer) and so other issues began? I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

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