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.