On April 22, 1999, we lost our Goblin to bladder cancer. She is featured in the In Memorium Gallery.
Ally, our beautiful collie, came to live with us on July 2, 1999- after the loss of our dear Goblin- the day we also celebrate as her birthday.
Ally was found starving, dehydrated, and abandoned in Montana, and was rescued. When Ally arrived by plane in San Diego, she weighed a skinny 45 lbs. (we could feel every vertebrae on her spine, and her bony hips stuck out!), had severe periodontal disease, and arthritis. As far as we can tell, she was close to 10 years old.
She was introduced to our 3 yr. old lab/shep/midget mix, Maggie, and they get along famously! We took her to the groomer, and then the vet. We made an appointment for the vet to pull 8 teeth, since they were rotten and rotted down to her jaw bone! Since her arrival, we have showered her with love and told her she is home, and will never want for anything again! We spent the ensuing months building up her weight and immune system. By November, 1999, she weighed in at 59.4 lbs. She is a sweet, delicate, loving girl, and my friend Jane calls her "The Lady Dog."
Ally had been having pinkish nasal mucus in the beginning of April, and sometimes, small drops of blood would come from her left nostril. April 10, 2000 was when we got the definitive diagnosis of nasal carcinoma, also called nasal adeno-carcinoma. I read everything I could, called people, e-mailed people, and found that her best chance was using the OPLA-Pt implant combined with radiation, but the study was small, and the dogs in the study were not all collies, and didn't all have the same kind of cancer. Also, the only place available for the OPLA-Pt implant was Colorado. Ally had been through such a trial with her abandonment and starvation the year before, I just couldn't see shipping her off to Colorado away from her family, so we decided to make her last days as comfortable as possible. Also, there was no way either my husband or I could take a leave of absence without jeopardizing our jobs for "she's just a dog." Tells you about some of the people I work with, doesn't it?
As it happened, another dog in Michigan had the same diagnosis, and was so much worse off than Ally! In July, Carol Murphy told me that this Michigan dog had an amazing response to the chemo and radiation procedure, and even though the OPLA-Pt wasn't used (it can't be used outside of Colorado State University Vet School, according to the FDA), the dog was in remission! Summer school was almost over so we'd have some time off, and I had a (very small) Certificate of Deposit due in July, and we decided that if a dog much worse than Ally was in remission, we should give it a try since the timing was right for us to be there with her during treatment, and I could use my summer school pay and the CD. We drove to Colorado, and I stayed with Ally in a hotel for her entire treatment time. Ally had a total of 18 fractions of radiation--a fraction every day with weekends off, and she had the biodegradable OPLA-Pt polymer sponge with the slow-release chemo in it implanted in her left shoulder. We know she will only get one chance at remission, and then this cancer will kill her.
Ally didn't start getting side effects until we were home. Her skin and hair on and around her muzzle began to look blistery and slough off. I've made notes every day about Ally's progress, and taken photos for each day after treatment, so others can read about it and see what to expect.
Today, the 9th day after the completion of treatment, her midline muzzle looks like it's been burned black, and the sides of her muzzle look red and raw, but feels dry and not moist and oozing. Her eyes have developed conjunctivitis, though I was assured one eye would NOT be in the radiation field. Yesterday, the sides of her muzzle were blistery looking and wet looking, but they were dry to the touch. Ally hasn't really had a lot of itchiness, so we haven't used the e-collar yet. Her appetite is good so far, and we and grateful for that. It seems that her skin looks blistery, this scabs over, it falls off, and then we do the cycle of blistery, scabs, falls off again every day or so. The vets told me to expect side effects beginning the 2nd to 3rd week of treatment, but that didn't happen with Ally.
Ally began having side effects the week after treatment ended. Moist desquamation and conjunctivitis can occur with the eyes, and there is medication to treat this. The vets also said that Ally may develop "dry eye" and need artificial tears. We were watching for mucositis too-this is because some of the salivary glands are destroyed by the radiation, and the remaining salivary glands overproduce to make up for it. Symptoms include long, thick, ropy drool. Another "mouth" side effect we watched for was necrosis. We were told to expect her gums to be bright pink in the areas exposed to radiation, and they were. When the mouth tissue becomes necrotic, it literally turns black and rots. The dog's breath will be so stinky it could peel wallpaper, so said Dr. Ogilvie. When this happens, you can rinse your dog's mouth with plain ol' Lipton tea IF your dog lets you get close enough to do this. We were prepared with a turkey baster for helping to rinse, but Ally never developed necrosis. Her mucous membranes DID become grayish, but it was like when the doctor applies a dab of silver nitrate on a cold sore-the skin becomes grayish, pain is diminished, the grayish skin sloughs off and healthy skin is underneath. We also expected a lack of appetite due to mouth soreness, but this didn't happen.
However, it's very important to make sure your dog get nutrition and doesn't lose weight! Some dogs have to be tube fed during this time! Tiredness is a common side effect after the treatment ends. Ally likes to take LOTS of naps! One of her vets, Dr. Dernell, said the tiredness is very common and can take months to completely recover.
10/12/00 Ally's muzzle is starting to regrow hair! The regrowth is at the bottom part as opposed to the bridge of her nose, but little hairs are coming up!
10/26/00 Ally's right nostril is very crusty-very peculiar because the tumor was on her left side, we need something that's more absorbent on the cellular level to offset the crustiness.
11/5/00 Now, both nostrils are very dried out and cracked and bleeding. Have switched to Vaseline with Vit. E and emu oil, and biafine RE on her nostrils.
11/8/00 Talked with Mary P. in MT, whose dog went through this. She said her dog had the exact same dry, cracked nostrils. She used aloe vera from a plant and it cleared it right up. That's what we are now using.
11/20/00 Has had slight congestion sounds from her nose for about a week. Her nostrils, esp the right one, is still cracked and dry-putting aloe vera on it as well as vit. E. Today started to have nasal mucus dripping from her left nostril as she slept on her left side it was tinged red.
12/20/00 Still has red-tinged nasal mucus. Hair growing back slowly on her muzzle. Still loves to eat! Continued crustiness on rt nostril, but not as much as last month. Has "globby" dried red "bugger/nasal mucus" from right nostril. Doesn't seem to bother her.
1/01 Nostril crustiness has cleared up. More hair across her muzzle-the upper "bridge of her nose" part-her hair is coming in white. Still bald on the lower part of her midline muzzle. More "congested" sounds more often, esp in the morning. When sleeping, begins with "congested" sounding breathing,
then this clear up for regular breathing. Only sounds "congested" upon exhalation-sorta like snoring.
Started to make slobbery sounds when eating-part of the congested sounds? Dr. Dernell says this is normal. Good, healthy appetite. Likes to be inside the house or garage to eat instead of on the porch where we usually feed her. Very affectionate-when we pet Maggie and Ally sees, she comes over to us for some petting too she didn't used to do this when we first adopted her. The piroxicam seems to be helping her arthritis a lot-she has a little bounce in her step. Not in any pain or discomfort that I can tell, and I watch her carefully! Tends to wake up and want to drink lots of water-possible congested stuff feeling stuck in her throat, much like people have phlegm???
Finding drops of blood in the a.m. on the kitchen floor. She must have gotten up and taken her "walk" and sneezed. Not a lot of bloody nasal mucus otherwise. Snoring seems improved.
Had a BIG ol' sneeze around 1:00 pm, followed by a dangling, thick, clotty looking string of bloody nasal mucus. A nosebleed followed this. We checked her mouth and saw blood in it too. We applied cold compresses to her nose and wiped her mouth and told her she was a good girl and petted her and it stopped within a minute or so.
No bloody nasal mucus, no blood coming from her nostrils this morning. After a nap this afternoon, she woke up and had a dangling bloody-nasal mucus string, and then no more blood after that. She seemed a bit more finicky about eating, until we give her a piece of deli roast beef! Hmmmm, maybe she is holding out for special treats?? ! lol!
2/6/01 2/6/01Ally's lost 9 lbs since her last vet visit. Vet thinks with her age and symptoms, could be her kidneys or liver, so he did a blood test. Will have the results back Thurs a.m. Also, said it might be that the cancer had metastacized before we got treatment--even tho it is slow growing and tends NOT to spread to other parts of the body, it's a possibility. It's not a tooth/sore mouth problem since her mouth looks good. Blood work done at vets-checking her liver and kidneys. Both normal. She ate a whole can of CA Natural Dog Food but I had to hand feed her. She also ate some kibbled Innova, but again, I had to hand feed her. Buying her Alpo (gag) just in case that works too.
Very little bloody snot, altho she did have a bloody nose on the way home from the vet's. This is only her second bloody nose-the first one was in Utah, on the way to Colorado.
Ate an entire can of Innova for bkfst w/Jack encouraging her. Ate a chicken breast and some Alpo for dinner around 7 pm (I hand fed her). Ate another can of dog food at 11:00 pm. No bloody snot noticed today at all.
Went to the vet. Ally's lost 9 lbs. Spoke with him about her lack of appetite. Ran blood tests to check her liver and kidneys.
Blood work came back normal. Will try Ally on Nutri-cal. Wrote to Dr. Dernell re the three sugars that Nutri-cal has in it, and the theory of sugars feed cancer. He says not enough evidence for it, and if Nutrical doesn't work, try megestrol acetate (ovaban) 5 mg daily to every other day. Will see how she does.
Seems to be eating better. Appetite perks up around 10 pm to 11 pm. If we have her food laid out, we can hand-feed her. If we "run out" of the hand-feeding sized morsels, and we go get more, we have to start with the coaxing all over again-it's like she forgot she was eating.
Appears to have lost sight in left eye-to be expected. Maybe that's where her general confusion comes from? Still prefers to eat "late" and does take a bit for the late afternoon.
Nutri-cal gel is easy to squeeze into her mouth. Played ball with Maggie-it's fun for Ally to chase Maggie. I guess this is how Ally plays. After "ball" she showed a bit of an appetite. At was at 7:30 pm. Fed her and squirted nutrical in her mouth too. Will see how she is at 10 pm to 11 pm.
Got a Rx for megestrol acetate (Ovaban)-we're to give Ally 5 mg/day. Started this today.
No discernible difference in her not eating.
Ate almost a can of dog food plus some baked chicken tonight at around 10:30 pm.
Ate 1/2 can dog food for lunch, plus almost a whole can for dinner. The appetite stimulant seems to be working. Noticed her nose and bald area near her nose on her muzzle are looking crusty, so applied emu oil and aloe at different times.
March 18, 2001
Y'know, I've been thinking a lot about Ally and I think if I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, I probably would have NOT gotten treatment.
She cannot be all that comfortable with a constant drippy nose. She can't be all that comfortable with her huge sneezes, that blow out clots of blood, and she can't be all that comfortable not being able to breath clearly because of the congestion/irritation. The nasal irritation must be uncomfortable too. Sometimes, when it seems really bad to me (i.e. this morning we woke up to blood clots on the kitchen floor, a big blood spot on the towel where she lies in the bedroom with me, and sneezed blood streaks on the fridge and the floor, I wonder what I am doing.
I think the only thing that keeps me going with her here (vs putting her down) is that she still is eating--but not her 3 squares a day, still likes to chase Maggie when we throw the ball, still likes to go on walks, so I think she is still enjoying her life and is not *suffering* but just perhaps uncomfortable. Her being uncomfortable really bothers me, tho, even more than her arthritis and her age. Guess I'm just "talking it out" to see what you think. I truly don't think she is in pain, but just uncomfortable. I knew there would be side effects, but didn't really understand just how much they would bother me. She seems as happy as possible, tho she has never been a tail-wagger. Guess I'll always wonder about my decision for tx, knowing what I know now, and will always wonder about her degree of discomfort and all.
April 10, 2001
Ally seems to be doing better. She is having fewer constant drips of bloody snot when she lies down. She still has congestion sounds, and is still eating only 2 meals a day, but somehow, I think she is better. She still sleeps a lot and has one more bump on her nose-now she has two papillomas.
April 14, 2001
Got Ally bathed yesterday at the Dog-o-Mat. Came home and groomed/trimmed her. She sure does seem bouncier! Guess a good bath and haircut will do that to ya! She still weighs 45 lbs, which is what she weighed when we got her. She was up to 60 lbs when we were in Colorado. We've doubled the dose of her appetite stimulant three days ago.
April 19, 2001
Seems like she has NOT had any bloody discharge for a couple of days-she lies down and her nose is on the hardwood floor and there is no blood on it when she gets up. Still not eating as we'd like. The misshapen areas on her muzzle, left side, may not be papillomas (which apparently are like warts) so we're taking her in to the vet tomorrow for a fine-needle aspiration and/or biopsy unless the vet can determine what it is.
April 25, 2001
Still almost ZERO bloody discharge from her nose. Last Fri, the vet said the "bumps" on her nose looked like seroma (kinda like a hematoma in an ear flap like Booboo had, but I guess in the nose, this is an empty area that has filled with blood). Over the weekend, it drained a bit, but didn't lessen in size. Monday, Dr. Dernell consulted with our local vet, and then said he'd consult with the radiologists at Colorado. Today, it was the opinion of the folks in Colorado that our local vet should do a couple of punch biopsies and see what's happening, and go from there.
Ally's diary is updated regularly. For any questions about radiation, Ally's mom - Susan welcomes questions.