Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring brings a bit of a rebirth for Zane

Zane has adjusted well as a tripawd. He spends his days on the back deck enjoying the sunshine while being shaded by giant sunbrellas. He rules over his kingdom with a watchful eye.

Barking has become a favorite activity so we have been piece meal putting up privacy fencing around our backyard. It's been a slow process but we are almost there. Zane's view of our neighbor directly behind us has been fully blocked and now another section where kids play in a pool all day has been blocked. So now we don't have the danes charging the fence so much.

Cancer sits on the back burner in our house as much as we can keep it there. We have opted out of doing the every 3 month xrays to see if mets are showing in the chest. We can't afford it for 1, and we can't do anything with the information for 2. So we shall remain blissfully ignorant and continue to treat Zane as normally as possible.

Zane had a small non healing wound on his stump where the skin from his incision has healed by turning in on itself and creating a belly button. It's his stump button. It has been a constant problem area. He's had a track record of being reactive to internal sutures and clearly this has been a problem. He has developed big abscesses in the area where his sutures remain under the skin. His body doesn't break them down as it should and they remain there causing irritation and inflammation.

As if we haven't had enough to deal with, this stump button has leaked fluids and required a lot of aftercare. We found a wonderful emergency care vet a couple months ago that took great pains to help get this problem under control. She works an over night urgent care program at a regular vet hospital. It has worked out really well to bring Zane in late in the evening during urgent care hours when she is not busy so she can work on flushing out the area. We've all done our share of ewwwing at the yucky stuff that pours out of this wound. Zane takes it all in stride and just enjoys the attention :)

We feel like we might have finally made a break through with the wound. No yucky drainage stuff for about 2 weeks now! That frees us up to deal more with Daizy Lu who just had her first acl surgery 2 weeks ago. Oye vey! That makes for our 9th acl surgery. I think Daizy will need a post of her own.

Happy Easter all!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time to let go of the spare

Dogs are born with 3 legs and a spare... Well, it's now or nothing we decided. With the infection in Zane's leg, the odds of getting it cleared up were pretty slim. Often amputation is the route to go with severe bone infections. We didn't know exactly what was going on and our doctors were not clear either. So we had two situations that both called for an amputation.

We were money poor at that point. Kayla Lily and Zeke both had acl surgeries in August and September respectively. Then in November we did the hardware removal on Zane. First estimate that came in for the amputation was over $2400 at a specialty 24 hr care hospital. Holy cow! We were panicked.

I started shopping around- awful to think that you have to "shop" for reasonably priced surgery but we did. We were unwilling to use a general vet that could not offer overnight care. We knew that due to Zane's poor healing track record, he would need 24 hr supervision and damn good pain drugs. We found a 24 hr vet hospital that offered us the surgery for $1700 with 24 hr care and constant pain management via IV. We scheduled the surgery.

Upon meeting the surgeon, we soon realized he was not too optimistic about the outcome of an amputation for Zane and our ability to care for him afterward. His demeanor was a bit unsettling and we left with an uneasy feeling that morning. Greg headed out of town once again for work and I spent the day alternatively fretting and praying that God would lead the way, whatever He chose. That evening, the surgeon called. He had problems during surgery and Zane lost blood pressure. They were able to get things back under control and he was  awake now and in recovery.

I visited the following morning and Zane was awake and in decent spirits all things considered. Geez, that was the hardest post surgery visit I have ever made. The shock of seeing such a giant dog without one of its limbs is something you just can not prepare for. Exactly a year earlier, I had visited my friend Luke the day after his amp. He is a Great Dane who is just a few months younger than Zane. Still, it wasn't enough to ready me for Zane. I sucked it up, held it together, and moved forward. Zane had no choice in the matter so I rallied ahead for him.

I had him stay one more night at the hospital for monitoring and then came back the following morning to bring him home. He greeted me outside and made it into the van easily enough with 2 doctors assisting. I wondered the whole way home how I would get him out on my own and up the 3 steps to the house. I called on my super hero powers. Between using the ruffwear harness and a sling, we inched our way toward the house. Once in, he flopped down on the nearest bed and I breathed a sigh of relief.

His recovery was complicated by a lot of drainage, bruising and after effects from the anesthesia. He had considerable trouble walking for the first week to 10 days. He just seemed to be so uncoordinated all of a sudden. We wondered if we had made a bad decision. True to his nature, though, Zane figured it all out and started hopping around better day by day. By Christmas, he was showing off in the backyard and attempting play with his pack mates.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another bump in the road

Another winter is drawing to a close and Zane is quite happy to see moderate temperatures return. He spends as much of his day laying out on the deck as he is comfortable. We just built a new deck out in the woods for the dogs to lay out on once the temperatures get too warm so we hope he will switch over soon.
Last summer progressed nicely as Zane enjoyed his first non surgery and non recovery summer in a long time.  He still battled a slight limp in his right leg and had sutures that were slowly working their way out from under his skin. We kept them clipped back as they poked out. His body has never been fond of suture material and doesn't break it down as it should.
By fall, I was fed up with it all and asked for the remaining hardware to be removed from his knee. I felt that it was contributing to the chronic irritation in the area. A couple other vets confirmed that it could be an inflammatory response so we scheduled surgery for my birthday, November 9th.
My surgeon checked the joint at my request and when he noticed the area around the joint looking a little odd, he took a biopsy. A week later, I had the shocking results. Cancer
A likely result of chronic inflammation, cancer set up camp in Zane's knee.  He has histiocytic sarcoma. It's a more unusual cancer and not nearly as common as osteosarcoma is in Danes. The general protocol is full leg amputation. No big deal for your average dog. After all, they say dogs are born with 3 legs and a spare. We didn't feel that Zane had a leg to spare. As a wobbler, he still has compromised balance. He has ataxia in his front right shoulder that causes his foot to sometimes knuckle under when walking and when bending down to sniff the ground. So amputation was out.
We met with an oncologist and did all the standard staging tests. We expected the worst since the problem had been going on for quite some time. Surely the cancer must have spread. Much to our astonishment, he was free of cancer in his major organs.
When Zane came home from 2 days of hospital testing, he suddenly went lame in his right leg. It had only been about 2 weeks since his surgery but he had been getting around quite well. The leg swelled and swelled. He stopped walking entirely. Greg was out of town and for 4 of the longest days of my life, I struggled to get 135 lb Zane to eat and to move enough to potty outside. He resorted to holding his urine for 12 hour stretches. He was developing a massive infection in his leg.
After 2 weeks of not walking, Zane surprised me in the kitchen one night by hobbling out on 3 legs. The next morning I called the oncologist and said that I wanted to do the amputation.