I hope this post doesn’t come across as self-indulgent. Apologies if it is.
On Saturday I came home at around noon from the barn. I left my dog, a fifteen-year-old chihuahua, laying on the couch at 9:30am, where she usually sat, waiting for me, every day, whenever I left the house.
She was very energetic, especially considering her age, and always was very healthy. FWIW, she was an ‘extra large, big-boned’ chihuahua, no health problems, very sturdy, very active. In October she had had a dental so she had complete blood work for going under anesthesia–the vet described the results as “textbook perfect.”
I came home to find her having seizures, foaming at the mouth, having lost control over her bowels, and spinning in circles.
I rushed her first to my vet, found that they could do nothing for her there, then to an emergency vet with a specialist on hand. The neurologist said that for a formal diagnosis they would have to put her under anesthesia and do an MRI but based upon her symptoms it was almost certainly a tumor in the forebrain, the constant circling being the main issue indicating that.
I took her home with anti-seizure medication and steroids which were supposed to keep her quiet and give her an appetite but she was never the same dog. She was no longer having seizures (they stabilized her at the vet and I was able to get the pills in her via a syringe with water down the throat) but she kept circling and circling non-stop. She did not drink, other than what I was able to give her with the syringe (I gave her a small amount of water every hour to keep her hydrated as best I could, even though swallowing was difficult) and didn’t even lick the baby food I smeared on her teeth to encourage her to eat.
Eventually after a day the drugs kicked in a bit and she grew more sedate but still seemed very uncomfortable. I took her in my arms to comfort her but after lying there for awhile she would start circling again if not confined to her crate and drunkenly walk around in circles if I let her have any freedom to wander even a few steps on the floor.
I took her this Monday morning to the vet’s and after looking at her both the vet on call and the vet that saw her yesterday agreed with me that it was the best decision that this morning be her last. She was so weak that when I spent time with her to say good-bye before they took her she couldn’t even get out of the cage.
It’s just so shocking given that she seemed fine on Friday. Looking back I can maybe see some signs. Her tongue was hanging out a bit (but again, she is 15 and has had dental problems). Sometimes she’d stop bringing a toy back to me during a game of fetch but she always felt that fetching meant that I did some of the running around with the toy, not just her. She’d occasionally miss a nearly 18-inch step she liked to jump on but again, she was getting old. I can’t imagine taking her to the vet months ago for a MRI or a neurological evaluation for those symptoms, given her age.
Because of her age and the fact her symptoms were so extreme and advanced they did not recommend the MRI, since surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy would be too much for an older dog to bear and even for a younger dog these can only prolong life at best not cure.
I am sorry for the novel but the real question I have is–do any of you have experience with brain cancer in dogs? What are your stories? Are there any known factors which contribute to it? I’ve had dogs in my life since I was eight (it’s so hard with an empty house right now) but I’ve actually never had experience with this before, which is why it is so scary and utterly heartbreaking.
She is–I can hardly bear to say ‘was’–a wonderful dog, a dog of a lifetime and I guess it’s my nature to want to learn about this and understand better what happened as a way of dealing with the pain.