Monday, August 15, 2016

Stupid Cancer

Kirby June 2016
When the new vet called me late last week, I did not immediately think the worst. He was asking how Kirby was doing, and truly the dog is doing well. He bounds up and down the stairs, jumps off the couch and bed, and does not seem to be in any pain. He has adjusted to his new normal of wearing the cone of shame. The only thing that has given me a little concern is the fact that his appetite seems to be off. Fortunately he still will take a bite of ham from me, which is great as that is how I disguise the pills he has to take. And he will normally eat the hard boiled egg that he and Jim share each morning, but he has not eaten much of his dry food. I suspect that he may be playing me a little, hoping he can hold out for more ham.

But then Dr. M. mentioned that the pathology report came back, and that is when my heart dropped. I figured it was probably bad news if he was calling me himself. The report stated that Kirby has mast cell cancer. Mast cells are present in all dogs, and they help other cells get to where they need to be to fight an infection. The mast cells release histamine, which causes tissue swelling so the white cells can travel through the tissue to reach the infection. But when a dog has mast cell cancer, the amount of histamines being released can be dangerous. A tumor is formed when the mast cells reproduce out of control. Mast cell tumors are the most common form of skin cancer in dogs. Certain breeds are at increased risk to get this type of cancer, including the Boston terrier, Boxer, English Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Labrador retriever, and other bull breeds. As a cockapoo, Kirby does not fall into any of those, so it is certainly odd that he got this.

Because Dr. M. found a second tumor when operating on Kirby, and that tumor involved a lymph node, Kirby's cancer is considered a Grade II out of III, and he has been given a "guarded" prognosis. I was advised to start him on 25mg of Benadryl twice a day to help combat all the histamines that the cancer is pouring into his system. And removal of the stitches was pushed back one week as this type of tumor has a tendency to come "unzipped". When asked if this means Kirby has to wear the cone for an additional week, the vet said that was up to us. He said we can remove it and see if Kirby leaves the stitches alone. My plan is to keep it on for the full two weeks, and then remove it to see how he does. I don't want to take if off and then have to put it back on.

Dr. M. said at this point he can recommend some veterinarian cancer specialists in St. Louis if we want to go that route. I have been reading up on mast cell cancer, and it sounds as if the first six months following surgery will be crucial. If Kirby doesn't have a recurrence of the cancer in that time period, studies show that 44% of dogs survived over four years following surgery. Since he is already over ten years old, that would be a good run.

Jim & Kirby
Jim was out of town for work when I got the call, so I waited until he got back home to tell him about
Kirby. He wasn't going to be able to do anything from where he was at, and I certainly didn't want him driving home alone with this weighing on him. We both love Kirby, but Jim is number one in Kirby's eyes. They are best buds. Jim and I are on the same page as far as thinking that we'd like to meet with a specialist if only to learn what to expect with this disease. We certainly would not be in favor of doing anything that would cause Kirby unnecessary pain, or make him extremely ill for whatever time he has left with us. But if there is something that can give us more time together without hurting him, we'd like to explore the options.

Skin cancer on both me and my dog - what are the odds?


Mrs. Wryly said...

Kim, I am so sorry to hear this about Kirby. He is such a sweet guy and I can imagine how difficult this diagnosis is for you and Jim. I hope he can rally against this stupid cancer and give you those senior years that you all deserve.

Darn dogs know how to reach all of the soft places in our hearts...

Kim Wolterman said...

Thanks, Mrs. W. We are hoping for the best, and will enjoy his company for as long as we have it. He is a sweetie!