wildsage
My sweet Labrador was diagnosed with subungual squamous cell carcinoma after having one of his toes amputated in March. They unfortunately weren't able to get good margins without amputating his whole leg (which we didn't think was fair to put him through at 11 years old), but he healed well and everything was great until about a week ago.

It started out with him picking at his food and having diarrhea. He's been to the vet several times and all of his tests (stool sample, chem screen, CBC) came back normal. He didn't respond well to Metronidazole and had to stop it after several days because he had trouble keeping it down. He was on Cerenia and Mirtazapine which helped a little but he still has to be coaxed to eat, and the list of things he is willing to eat grows smaller and smaller. He still is having diarrhea, too, and had to have fluids today because he was getting dehydrated.

The vet told us that the next step would be an ultrasound, but that it would be completely understandable (given that the symptoms are likely due to metastatic cancer) if we wanted to just keep him comfortable until it was time to help him pass. I don't know what to do. I feel like I need a definite diagnosis in order to be at peace with letting him go. I keep thinking - what if it's not cancer but some illness or condition that can be easily treated? At the same time, if the cancer has spread I don't want his final days to be spent getting tests done just for my own peace of mind.

I am going to call the vet tomorrow to discuss our options and I am absolutely dreading it.
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Sampson
This sounds very much like when my Sampson became ill. I had to make the decision to have him pts even though I didn't have a definite diagnosis because like your boy, he had cancer previous to that. He had much the same symptoms and I feel sad having to write this but I know you would may need input. My thought would be that you made the correct decision not having his leg amputated when he was 11 years old. Puppies and young dogs bounce back much faster and this would have been very hard on him and still no complete guarantees. At this stage, you may want to step back and think of all of the lovely times you shared with him and how you want the remainder of his life to be before making any decisions. I went with saying good bye to my wonderful friend because I didn't want to have him to undergo any procedures that would be painful (for my peace of mind) when there was obviously something very wrong. You may find this helpful to know: Since then, I've thought it would have been good to know but on the other hand I'm glad that I didn't. I just felt strongly it was my old boys time because of the same things you have described and I wanted to be able to look back and know that I had given him the best life that I possibly could have. I realize this is probably not what you want to hear but I want you to be prepared. If he is eating less and less and now becoming dehydrated this may be time for you to make a sad decision out of your love for him and wanting the very best for him. Talk with your vet and try and make it a very frank discussion if you feel you can because I know this must be killing you inside. In the end that is what it is really all about: what is best for your friend. You have my deepest sympathy during this time and please know I will be thinking of you and wishing strength and courage for what you have to face. Please come back and update on how things are going and please take care of you too!
S.
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wildsage
Thank you for your kind words.

We didn't get the ultrasound, but we did have x-rays taken at his regular vet (he would have had to travel two hours and be hospitalized for the ultrasound and it just would have been too much stress). The cancer had metastasized to his lungs so we decided to let him go before he declined even further. They gave him a sedative beforehand so he went to sleep with my mom and I stroking his ears. It was very peaceful.

I'm still dealing with guilty feelings about not having caught it sooner (the vet initially thought it was an infection so it was several months before he had it amputated), and thinking back to times when I yelled at him for stealing things off the counter when he was young, but I am at peace about my decision. I think I waited too long with my last dog, who I unfortunately just lost to kidney failure back in February.


Here he is just a couple months ago. Even as an older guy he still had a puppy face.

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Monty13
I'm so sorry for your huge loss! Such a beautiful dog! I love his picture!! You were very brave to let him go but I know this has to be such a tough time for you. It does get easier in time but this is the worst.I feel so bad for you! I wish there was more I could say to help.
Take Care,
Monty
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Sampson
Dear wildsage,
I see exactly what you mean. His face was very puppy like indeed and also very handsome! I applaud you for the decision you made and also for getting the x-ray which unfortunately did confirm your worst fears.
From what you described I wasn't surprised to hear this having gone through it with Sampson. You let your boy go so peacefully - with your mom and you both stroking his ears. It couldn't have been more happy and peaceful for him. Now comes the most painful part and I do understand that feeling so well. You had no way of knowing that this wasn't infection because we do trust our vets and sometimes they just don't know as much as we wish they could. We think of any little thing that we might have said or done wrong but the truth is you gave your wonderful boy a beautiful life. The proof is right there in his picture! I look in his eyes and face and I see a happy dog!! Cancer is an awful thing! You have every right to feel anger at this awful disease but please don't blame yourself. You did everything you possibly could for him right down to the end. I believe you will see him again just as I know I will see my Sampson. Please post again when you feel up to it. I would sincerely like to know how you are doing. Peace,
S.
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LuckyLouWho23
I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I'm sure that it's a hard decision to make, but it never hurts to get another opinion. I don't know where you live, but maybe they have an emergency hospital. Those type of surgeons see everything. Maybe if you call them they can tell you who to see. My friend recently had his dogs leg removed because of cancer. His dog is doing great, even doing very well with his walking too. He wasn't sure what he was going to do, but then finally made the decision to have his leg removed. His dog is older, he maybe has 2-3 years left. He decided to do this just to hopefully prolong his life. Whatever decision you make try not second guess yourself, just know that for whatever reason you did it for your dog. Your dog loves you no matter what. I wish that I knew what else to say to you. Again I'm sorry that you're going through this.
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wildsage
Thank you all for your condolences.

LuckyLouWho23, unfortunately since the cancer had already metastasized it wouldn't have helped to have his leg removed at that point. Back when his pathology report first came back our vet presented it as a potential option but recommended against it. It took two attempts to just remove the toe because he crashed and nearly died during the first surgery, so attempting another surgery and/or radiation (which requires general anesthesia) felt too risky.
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marcy
I am truly missing my Chihuahua mix Lil. One, how does one go on with the guilt of not knowing if you did all the right things. I wish I could take the last year of her life and live it all over again. She passed away 10 days ago at home in my bed, I literally saw her take her last breath. I am devastated, I'm waiting on her ashes so I hope that will bring some kind of comfort.. She had tumors in her tummy unfortunately she was too old for surgery 15 years old. I miss her every day. And will always love her!!!
Maricela valdez chism
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wildsage
I'm sorry you are going through this too, marcy.

I have been feeling a lot of guilt the last few days, wondering if I made the most of his final months. I took him for a walk every day (minus when he was recovering from surgery), which he enjoyed, but I wish I would have taken more time to put my other two younger dogs away and play with just him. As he got older their roughhousing was a little intimidating for him and he would just hang back and watch, but when I had him alone I could get him to play a bit. I also wish I would have given him stuffed Kongs more often - he really loved those.

I know the guilt is a normal part of the grieving process, and I went through it with my Boston Terrier who died earlier this year, but it's still really hard. It helps me to look through pictures and remember all the good times we had.

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Bono1983
You really did your best for your sweet boy. Wishing you all the best in this difficult time.
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