Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lessons learned and a rogue disc

There are a few things as a dog owner I have learned recently:

1.  If you have dogs with chronic health conditions that require significant care, never, ever decide one day to figure out how much money you've spend on them in the past year.  If you can answer the questions "Would I do anything different?" or "Am I unable to pay my mortgage and other bills?" with a  a "no", then stop right there and don't count up the receipts.  It may cause unnecessary pain and make you realize you could have bought a nice used car or taken that trip to Europe you've always wanted and taken a friend along for free.  Nope. Stop right where you are and do not get out the calculator.  Go hug your dog instead and be grateful you still have him.  Understand that ramen noodles and PBJ may be an integral part of your diet and you may make a tank of gas last 13 days at one point.  You may even sell concert tickets that you really wanted.  Just never, ever sit back and add up the costs.

2.  Never say "I would never pay to have _____________ done to my dog".  That will come back and bite you hard one day.  There was a time in my life I would have said I would never do radiation treatment on my dog or do CT/MRI on my dogs.  Time changes things as does the bond with a 14 year old and a 10 year old dog. It's a personal decision for everyone.  Some friends and family think I'm crazy, that's fine.  There are worse things I could be doing.

That said, here's the latest on the Tullster.  The back pain we were battling back in February/March worsened and culminated with him screaming out in pain one night in the back yard and walking in hunched up and panting in July.  Last spring we had tried prednisone and other medications by mouth, without any result.  With the episode in July, it was time to do something more drastic.  A visit to our favorites specialty center and a CT later, it was found that Tully had a disc herniation at L7-S1causing compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots which was causing his pain and also the reluctance to jump we had been seeing for months.  He also had disc herniations at T11-T12 and L2-L3, but they were insignificant at this time.  Because he did not have any outward neurological signs (just pain) and the lesion was at L7-S1, it made him a candidate for epidural injections of methylprednisolone instead of invasive back surgery.  The epidurals consist of 3 injections over 6 weeks while he is rested, plus an additional 6 weeks of rest after the last injection.  The success rate is 80%.  Tully has had 2 injections and is doing well and less painful.  I am hopeful this will work. If not, he may have to have back surgery.  The cost and invasive nature of back surgery concerns me, however the other part of me believes any rogue body part (spleen, disc, etc) should be immediately and swiftly dealt with with a knife.  Let it be a lesson to any other body part that refuses to behave!   As always we are thankful for all the specialists at VCA Advanced Veterinary Care on the north side of Indy.  I think they are tired of seeing me with a red dog in tow, but there is no other place I'd take my dogs.  Thanks especially to Drs. Edwards, Cross, and Wehrenberg for all the care they have given my dogs and their patience in dealing with me!  I don't know what I would do without them.

On a positive note, Tully's 9 month lymphoma recheck came up clear - no sign of metastasis on ultrasound.  Woo hoo! 

The plan for Tully?  All competitions for the 12 weeks of treatment have been cancelled.  His last day of rest is October 3rd and ACD nationals start October 7th.  He is suppose to work up slowly to a normal level of activity over several months, but should be fine to do veterans obedience and some rally at nationals.  The specialist thinks he will return to full function...I am doubtful at his age and assume his days of agility and herding are permanently over.  Right now, he feels great, the epidurals are working, and he's ready to go.  I keep my fingers crossed for a pain free dog that is happy and has a good quality of life.  Anything else is just icing on the cake.