I find this topic tough to write about but I feel getting my experiences down in print might help some dog owners facing the same issues. My pal Sam passed away in January 2010 after a good fight with treating canine lymphoma cancer. He was such a trooper as we asked so much from him during that period.
We had just lost our beloved yellow Labrador Glenda to kidney failure (she lived a good long life at 14.5 years). Sam our Chocolate Labrador immediately started not eating. Being human with the inability to see dogs as dogs we said he was grieving just like us and would come around. After a few days though he was still not eating and I started getting concerned. A vet visit and some test confirmed that he indeed had lymphoma, a cancer that has the highest rate of success with treatments.
We decided, with the guidance of our veterinarian, to proceed with chemotherapy as a canine lymphoma treatment. The decision was made part based on selfishly needing him to not go yet as we were hurting but more importantly he was not suffering, still had his energy and was always ready for a walk. We (our vet and us) felt he was up for it. There were no guarantees but statistics showed that the rate of remission was better than half. The way I thought about it was even a year which equals seven in dog years was good quality time as long as he was not suffering.
So we immediately started with the chemo treatments. The protocol involved 18 treatments, the fist 9 being every week and the second 9 spaced every other week. Sam was twelve when we started so his white blood cell count was done every visit to make sure he was strong enough to take the treatments. What a guy! He walked into every treatment like the champ he was and quickly became a house favorite with the staff at our vets and a hero to me. I would drop him off on the way to work, everyone would ask how he was and the techs that took him to the back always remarked on how much stronger he was resisting than the last time.
The treatments rotated between four different types of drugs all with different warnings and possible side affects. Most of the warnings were in conjunction with possible human contact with urine or feces which transported the drugs out of the system. Side affects were possible vomiting and/or diarrhea. We rarely had any vomiting but some diarrhea a day or so after the treatment would occur. Sam turned thirteen while in treatment so although pretty healthy he was no youngster and a little more fragile than a younger dog would have been.
There is no hair lose during these treatments. The amounts given to dogs are a lot lower than given to humans. Mostly Sam would be a little lethargic for a day or so after the treatment but would always be ready to bum some treats pretty quickly after.
A couple of times his white cell count was too low to do a treatment and the treatment were put off a week. Finally in the summer of 2009 he completed his treatments and was doing great. He was in remission, still demanding daily walks and he and I were spending every minute I could afford hanging out together.
We enjoyed about four months of good health before I started noticing he was slowing and the signs could be saying the cancer was coming back. After a visit it was confirmed that it was back. The vet suggested we could start on a rescue protocol which involved two intravenous drugs and the rest of the treatment could be administered at home because the drugs were in pill form. These were different drugs than his body had been subjected to and they completely wiped out his white blood cells.
Sam got an infection that he just couldn’t fight and after a couple days of trying to get a very high temperature down we made that final tough decision to say goodbye (for now). He maintained good energy and temperament up until a couple of days before we put him down. The last couple of days were the toughest as for the first time he was suffering.
Not that it would have mattered any and this never came into play with our decisions but to paint a clear overall picture I must note it was expensive. We were given a round number at first; of course no one could say exactly how much it will cost. We wound up paying approximately three times the initial quoted costs.
Our Vet said he had hoped for longer time in remission but I think Sam was a little farther into the lymphoma initially than any of us knew. It was a chance; we took it and never had any regrets.
Was it worth it? You bet your milkbones it was! We enjoyed ten months that we never would have had together. We enjoyed daily walks through the neighborhood with other owners and neighbors always asking about how he was doing, stopping to pet him and say hello. He brought lots of joy to us and everyone that came in contact with him. He was just that type of guy.
We’ve always gotten a note from our veterinarian when our pets pass away. This time however we got a card signed by the whole staff with comments on what Sam meant to all of them. Even our vet was surprised at how big a fan club Sam had at the clinic. I however was not.
While writing and rereading this I get choked up. It is real hard to say goodbye to our pet companions. It’s even harder when you go through so much with them such as we did with Sam.
I hope this article provides some insight for anyone that might face the same issues. There are many success stories out there and this, also, is one. Ultimately you should take the advice of your veterinarian. They are great with helping on decisions such as these.
I knew I wanted to write about my experiences with this and as time goes by I’ll start to remember only the great times Sam and I spent together. It is hard to go through a time without a dog around and so, on that note we are just days away from picking up a new Chocolate Labrador puppy. Now we are starting all over again. Man I can’t wait because the joy and love our pets bring to us is the absolute Best. When it comes time to take care of them remember how much they take care of us.