Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How we spent our rainy day

Max with his portrait
Today was an icky rainy day, which meant the dogs slept most of the day and then around 4pm decided that it was time to PLAY!  Max included of course!  Nobody wanted to go out because it's cold and muddy out there but they sure wanted to run around squeaking toys, flinging stuffed animals, and de-stuffing stuffed animals. They wanted to play doggie tag, wrestle, and even run to the far side of the house, bark, then pretend it wasn't them just to get the rest of the dogs to come running fast to see what it was.. then go to the other side of the house and do it again. 

Max was right in the middle of all of it! Including a chase around the coffee table. He even took a flying leap over a dog bed!

I got in on the wrestling Match and Max pounced on my back, head butted me and even crouched down with his butt up in the air, front paws on the ground and play snapped and growled at me while he was wagging his tail!  His spirits are amazing! I just can't help but smile at him!

One thing I keep finding myself doing is worrying.. a lot! I find myself always looking for signs that could mean something is wrong, or something is getting worse.   I know I need to look for these signs but it is really wearing on me and I feel like I've been doing it for years... after talking with someone else who also has a dog dealing with the same stuff.. I realized  I have been doing this for a LONG time!  At least the last 3-4 years with one dog or cat or another.   I feel like I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.. and as much as I try to think that I need to live in the here and now, like Max is doing, I think I may need some re-training!  I think I might be about 4 years out of practice.

I was watching TV the other night, a show on OWN, and someone said something that stood out to me. 

"Worrying is praying for something you don't want to happen, so don't do it"

I wish I could remember who actually said the quote, and if anyone saw it, please let me know.  

So.. I've had Max on 10mg of prednisone 2x/week, every Tuesday and Fri and he's been doing great. His course fur was starting to get better, and his shedding had stopped.  He'd been on this lower dose for at least a month and everything was going great! Still full of energy, but his eye started to drop a little bit again, and he stopped hearing.  Just a reminder that we're still dealing with stuff in his head.  It could be that the CK is still doing its thing.. It's supposed to be able to keep doing it's thing for up to a year they say..  He's just 5 months out. I'm clearly not a doctor, and have no clue, but for some reason I think that as the radiation does it's thing and the tumors start to die, the swell and shrink in different locations and push on different things.  I'll have to check with a real doctor, but I seem to be noticing ebbs and flows of when his sight / hearing is better / worse. It would be interesting to be able to track all this.. but that would probably entail weekly MRI's which I wouldn't want to put him through.. or my wallet. 

Hopefully it's just dieing. He's definitely feeling great!  I do have him back on 10mg of prednisone 2x / week and natural hydrocortisone 1x week.    His appetite is good, his energy level is good, he's been walking, playing, catching tennis balls, playing with his puzzle game, and flinging stuffed animals.  He's a happy boy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Dog's Brain

I love this!!  I"m not sure who the artist is but I found it on the American Veterinary Medical Association's FaceBook Page

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Whisker Twitching is Gone!

About a month or so after Max's Cyber Knife he developed a facial twitch on the right side of his face. At first it included his right eye lid, right cheek, right side of his upper lip, his ear and a muscle that went across the side of his face. (His neurologist thought it was probably a muscle spasm vs. focal seizure because it was less active when he was asleep than awake.)

Eventually all I saw twitching was one muscle across his face which was tied to his hear and ran all the way to one row of his whiskers.  He just had a very slight twitch where I could see 1 black whisker twitch rhythmically. 

Today I was watching him sleep and was just checking on that whisker to see how much twitching was going on and there was absolutely NONE!  I can't even see that muscle in his face twitching or his ear!

I'm not sure what any of this means but I'd be a happy camper if I had a consistent twitch for months and it finally went away!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

THANK YOU Mary Detwiler!

I wanted to send a BIG Thank You out to Mary Detwiler!  She has been doing portraits of each of our sweet fur babies and they are absolutely gorgeous!  She just finished Max's portrait and I love it!   We're working on getting everyone matted and framed But I wanted to share Max's portrait and some of his other brothers and one of his sister.  They are truly AMAZING!




To See More of Mary's work you can visit her website at or visit Mary's Blog or visit her Online Etsy Shop

Saturday, February 11, 2012

First Snow of the Winter!

Max Checking out the first Snow of the 2011-12 Winter, and doing what boy dogs do best.. turning the snow yellow - Lazy style!

...5 Months Later! Test Results, Fur Shedding, a Fashion Show, and the Black Skin mystery solved

So... it's been 5 months since Max had Cyber Knife!  5 Months since he couldn't even lift his head or eat!  5 AMAZING MONTHS!  Over the last months we've had Max's blood levels checked and he's doing great!

His Chem Test (Idexx Lab):

TEST                  RESULTS              NORMAL REFERENCE GUIDE
BUN                      28 mg/dl                           7-27 mg/dl
CREA                    1.3mg/dl                           0.5-1.8 mg/dl
BUN/CREA                22
ALT                        158 U/L                          10-100 U/L
AST                         50 U/L                            0-50 U/L
ALKP                     408 U/L                           23-212 U/L

In the grand scheme of things here - this is Good!  We've had dogs (and cats) MUCH higher and even off the charts!  Considering Max has been on prednisone for 9 months at some level or another

T4 Test:

Results 2.2     Normal is 1.1- 4

Max's fur shedding seems to be slowing down a bit.  Maybe it was just the extra dry heat in the house from the colder winter weather.  We've increased his exercise a bit too to see if that helps - more walks.

I spoke with the PolyMVA folks - while his energy level was boosted significantly and I saw a lot of possitive changes  I wanted to make sure that his herbs weren't reacting poorly to the PolyMVA - nothing Max was on should have been reacting to it, but they did say that some dogs actually can develop a rash from it. One of the functions of the PolyMVA is that it helps flush toxins from the body (from meds, chemo, radiation, cancer cells, etc.. the body naturally flushes toxins from the body through respiration, the skin (the biggest one at the cellular level which is how PolyMVA functions) and when you go potty.  I had actually put Max on their highest recommended dose.. so perhaps that was too much. While he didn't get a rash - the shedding could be related to that.

Years ago Daisy and Max were selected randomly while walking along the street to be models in a Christian Dior fashion show (I DO NOT DRESS MY DOGS UP.. they're lucky if they are wearing a fancy collar! - usually they run around the house "naked" and their leashes have their collars attached) Anyway - it sounded like a fun event, so we went and they did a great job on the Cat walk, but Max completely broke out from the clothes they put on him. His skin got all red and his fur started to shed (he has a thick coat too so you'd think that would have protected him). It is possible that this was just his way of reacting to it.  He is the first dog out of all of our dogs who have been on it who has had this reaction. (Buttercup's coat has gotten beautiful and very silky and healthy.) 

So the plan is to keep him off it for one more week to let it completely clear his system and then start him back on a lower dose and see what happens.  (There is NO iodine in PolyMVA we found out)

There is also the possibility that it's just from being on the Prednisone for so long. That has been known to make fur coarse and cause shedding, which are also signs of Cushing's Disease, which can be caused by low thyroid #'s although I'm told that if he were to completely go off the prednisone (weaned off - you should never stop any medication, especially prednisone suddenly - and always consult your doctor/vet first) his fur would grow back and be healthy.  Now given the option of being bald, vs. being involved in a perpetual game of dizzy bat, I'd go for being bald.  As Max's neurologist pointed out they do make some very fashionable dog sweaters these days..   Anyway - this is always a possibility. We have not done the Cushings test at this point.

We're still going to try the fish oil and see if that works (ran it by Max's holistic vets and his neurologist and got the thumbs up from all).

Another thing I had learned this morning was that a number of the dogs in a cancer support group we're involved with have also lost their fur while on steroids, but it did manage to grow back. Many said that the fur loss actually got worse after they started tapering the steroids back (prednisone, natural hydrocortisone, etc) Which is what we've been doing with Max - he's at 10mg every 4-5 days now). 

One person in the group posted:

"My dog (not my cancer dog) had fur shedding when she was on prednisone. Actually, it got much worse after I tapered her off and stopped it, so i think it can happen with a low dose. She had a low thyroid but within normal range. Her normally soft luxurious fur also became very coarse. The vet gave her a chinese herb called Rehmannia 6 and within days her fur was soft again and stopped falling out. I don't know if you can give it at the same time as steroids, maybe you want to ask your holistic vets about it."


So.. I think we're going to talk with our holistic vets about Rehmannia 6 and find out what it is, what it's side effects are, how it reacts with the other herbs, supplements and medications Max is on,  and if that might be a possibility to help as well 

A  few people also said that their dogs skin had turned black - just like Max's did!  One person was even able to say what specific medication turned her dog's skin black! 
She told us her "oncologist explained that one of the "side effects" of doxorubicin could be the "darkening of skin- the color changes ".  

While I didn't put Max on this medication, he was on it when he was in the hospital in NY for Cyber Knife!  And it was within a couple of weeks that I started to see his skin turn black.. not pretty but as far as I can tell no bad effects.  His fur has all grown back where he was shaved and the skin had turned black and I don't think it's black under there any more.

Just a quick update on Buttercup. Her surgery went really well. Her food has recovered very well - nice scar! Looks good and the pathology report came back that we're all clear - it's all out, clean margins, nothing to worry about any more!  She's been running around and going for walks and I only saw her try to lick her stitches once.

And a few photos of Max working hard and monitoring the landscaping going on...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Buttercup's Surgery

We all have cancer in our bodies at all times. Our body is always fighting cancer, no matter how healthy you are, every so often the cancer cells decided to get together and have a party and grow into something. Our sweet Buttercup apparently was having a cancer cell party on her foot!  About 5 months ago I noticed a growth on her foot, that first looked like a bump without fur, then it eventually started to bleed. 

Buttercup's Stiches
Years ago, I had a flat freckle on my arm that I had a weird feeling about and repeatedly had asked my doctor about and she kept sending me to the dermatologist but he kept telling me I "Was TOO YOUNG TO HAVE CANCER"!  Well.. on the 3rd year and my 3rd visit to him, at age 27, I finally decided that he needed to biopsy the thing on my arm.  He refused, and then a scene insued.. I picked up the little skin cancer panthlet in his waiting room and decided to walk around from person to person in the waiting room, with the picture of melanoma next to the funny freckle on my arm and asked each of them if they thought they looked similar.  Not so surprising to me, each and every person I asked thought it was an exact match, even the receptionist agreed. He very reluctantly took me in the back and hacked it off - and he did hack, and he didn't use pain killer.  He sent the biopsy off and 2 weeks later I got a call from his receptionist telling me that it came back malignant melanoma stage 3 and that was all she knew and  he wasn't available to talk and that was that. Nothing more!  I called my primary care physician and she came to my house, picked me up (talk about a great doctor!) and we drove over to the dermatologists office, and she demanded my records! (I believe she gave him a piece of her mind too but my mind was elsewhere - I had just found out I had cancer and nothing was registering). At the time, even though I knew better, cancer = death. I knew it wasn't true but I was working on retraining my mind - boy was that a project!    Long story short - I found another dermatologist that I loved, I had to have it resected to get clean margins and have had a few other surgeries since.  I'm still alive, so all is well, but that taught me something very important about going with my gut, and being my own advocate, getting 2nd and third opinions and you can never been too cautious.

Before Surgery
You all know about Max, and Daisy, and Buster and Fred, and now Ms. Buttercup.  So.. most of the vets I showed her foot to thought it was a wart.  I finally found a vet who was comfortable being proactive and did a needle aspirate (not always the most reliable - but if something positive comes back we know what we're dealing with) and it came back positive for a carcinoma.   We scheduled surgery for today. It's a minor surgery, the same kind I had for my skin cancer and I was lucky enough to be able to sit in and watch the surgery.

I'm sorry to say I don't think I have any photos of the carcinoma - I wasn't thinking enough to take a photo of it for the blog before it was cut off but I do have a few photos of before and after.

Pain meds kicking in pre-surgery
Butt after Surgery (and a pedicure)