The ones of you that follow my blog regularly may have wondered whether I had abandoned this project at all. Unfortunately I had to, after receiving yet again a not very good news towards the end of this year – possibly the most devastating news in the last 12 months in fact. Our Indy was diagnosed with canine anal gland cancer.
Why did my dog get cancer
This is a question that we keep asking ourselves if and when we become ill with cancer, or more so if we have a loved one affected by the disease, or more so if we have lost a loved one to cancer. The mental process is the same, believe you me, when you discover that your dog is affected by the same illness. But it is a question that will never find a logical answer.
Whether you are a matter of fact dog owner, or whether you cannot help but thinking of your dog like the child you never had – whether your dog is a big working dog, or a small sized lap dog, the feeling of despair that this may be it, and that this terrible illness may be the one taking your dog away from you is the same as with humans affected by the illness.
Your dog becomes a family member. And when your dog is in hospital, it all sinks in too soon as to what your household and your life may be like without your dog. But, even before you get there, the waiting for a diagnosis, and the thought that your dog may have to suffer, are equally unbearable.
Another conundrum is whether you are going to make the right decision by your dog. Many schools of thought are inclined to avoid offering dogs, or cats, any invasive intervention. Dog owners veering toward this alternative will want to ensure that their hound will never suffer at any one stage, but feel fairer that nature take its course, as invasive procedures will only prolong the inevitable. However other currents of thought support the extensively new surgical techniques implemented in the last few years to treat dogs and cats successfully, granting them a longer and comfortable life.
With Indy, when we were told the possible diagnosis, we immediately decided we did not want him to go through any surgery or any other treatment. But, as soon as we were advised referral for removal of the mass, and possibly making him well again and allowing him to enjoying a few more years with us, our brains went into automatic mode. Nor my husband, my son or I ever asked the question again: whether we were acting in our own selfish interest rather than in Indy’s best interest. And, given the result so far (and we are only at week one from surgery last week), we have not regretted our decision to go ahead with the referral.
How did it happen
It all started some time in September, when Indy started scooting regularly (that is, the action dogs make when they get an itchy ‘bum bum’ after going to the toilet). At the time, and in the course of October, Indy had his anal glands expressed twice by the nurses at our vet surgery – this is a manual and painless procedure that some dogs, mostly males and older, have from time to time to endure when the anal glands they use to mark their territory when going to the toilet become obstructed.
Nothing more came of it, until we took Indy to the groomer at the beginning of December, and in cleaning his ‘derriere’ she found his glands inflamed. She suggested taking Indy to the vet as he may have an abscess and may need antibiotics.
The long and short of it is that, after aspiration at the local vet surgery, one of the surgeons there informed there was the suspicion that Indy may have a rare form of canine melanoma cancer, for which it was advisable to refer him to a specialist centre.
Indy was admitted at the Dick White Referrals in Cambridgeshire last Tuesday. It’s just dawned to me it is a week today, yet it feels like a month! There Indy had a CT scan with contrast where it transpired that thankfully both liver and lungs were unaffected. However Indy underwent surgery on the following day to remove the left anal gland and part of the anal wall and rectum. Yes, rather undignified part of the body!!
At Dick White Referrals Indy received care by the clinical staff like second to none. Surgery went much better than expected, and the lovely surgeon Georgia managed to send Indy home on Friday – just in time for Christmas. Yet, the mass was sent for biopsy analysis, and we should see an oncologist in the early part of January 2017 for advice as to whether additional cancer therapy may be needed.
I suppose we are now at a cross road. We have discussed with my husband and with my son the various implications pending the outcome of the biopsy results. Cancer in dogs can very rarely be cured like in humans, but their lives can be prolonged noticeably, but proportionately to their age.
If indeed the initial suspicion were confirmed of melanoma, a new canine vaccine was discovered a few years ago, which again would help in prolonging the life of dogs without affecting their quality of life. On the other hand though, would it be fair to prolong my Indy’s life by only a few months? Would that only be for the sole purpose to fulfil my selfish will?
We are all aware that unfortunately dogs are often outlived by their human families. We also know that, although our Indy is a relatively small breed hence destined to live longer than bigger breeds, this natural trend is not set in stone, and once reaching the age of 10, he started classing as older senior dog.
I always enjoy looking at pictures of my family, and they include pictures of Indy. In his past younger days, how much fun he had!! He was always laughing like dogs do, always ready to plays and to mess around with my son or with any of us. In the last two years Indy has aged in behaviour: he enjoys longer sleeps during the day, and does not smile any longer as often as he used to.
However, am I suggesting that my Indy is past his ‘sell by date’? Not in the least!!! And I suppose that is also the reason why instinctively we went for the surgery that may lead to our Indy getting better and, hopefully, having a few years more with us. And that is because we can see that our Indy has still plenty of energy to give. He still enjoys his adventurous walks, his food, and he is still much playful, albeit not with the same energy levels of times past. And he is still paying tricks on us, which make us laugh to tears. So, why letting nature take its course with a ‘cheeky monkey’ who is still full of elderly life? There’s definitely still life in the old dog!!!
Well, as well as waiting on results, the resolve is to make the most of what we have together as a family with our Indy, no matter what the verdict with the oncologist may be.
I am not in any manner of talk trying to portray a doom and gloom scenario. When we meet with the Dick White Referral oncology team, the outcome may be rosier than we fear. And we shall be delighted if that is the case!!! Or it may be good for the time being, but not excellent- and we shall be equally grateful.
Until our Indy is with us, our endeavour is to respect his older age and his ailments, but also to keep fulfilling his ‘sniffing’ interests by letting him enjoy his adventurous walks, or special trips to dog friendly places. The plan is to move forward with Indy, as the last thing we want to do is to let him fade away as if he were already gone from our lives.
For me personally, I feel that this year particularly external factors in my life have got in the way of me being able to spend more quality time with my Indy. As months progressed, more and more circumstantial occurrences have taken place with increased frequency, but which have had a negative effect on my every day well-being – these included my mother and husband’s health problems, and Indy’s back injury in February, from which, I must say, he recovered magnificently. Indy being diagnosed with cancer at the end of a trying year was the tip of the iceberg. But it was an awakening call too!
If there is one thing that I have learnt from Indy’s ordeal is not to take my dog’s presence for granted, but to keep cherishing every moment that we spend together. So many times this year I have had to prioritise the needs of other family members, or work even, at the expenses of my Indy. Don’t get me wrong, I never felt that my Indy was becoming part of the furniture as I kept feeling guilty that I could not spend more time with him. Nevertheless, I feel I was slipping down the road of forced complacency.
So, my resolution for 2017 is to never forget how precious my dog is. I am not kidding myself, as I am fully aware that life will keep throwing testing times at me. And I am aware that at the end of the day our dogs are not forever. I accept that. But nor I nor my family are ready to let Indy go. And so long as Indy is with us, we shall feel blessed by the joy and love that he gives us every day.
I am endeavouring to keep you up to date with further developments on Indy’s health and his next appointments. please let me know if you have undergone a similar experience with your dog, so that I may be prepared for as much as I possibly can with different outcomes.
In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a wonderful Christmas time!!!