Our wonderful 11.5-year old spoo Luna hasn't been feeling too well and so I thought I'd get some thoughts on the forum. This is going to be a bit of a long post, so I just wanted to warn you now.
To give you a bit of background, Luna has always been like a "tank". Nothing gets her down! Ordinarily. she LOVES to play, she wolfs her food down at every meal (and stares/begs for a lot more as dogs usually do) and then licks clean our other dogs' bowls. She runs downstairs at the sound of a peeling banana, loves treats and she'll wake up from a deep sleep just to shower you with kisses. She wags her tail like crazy and is the sweetest and most loveable creature you could imagine! This all changed literally overnight starting on 12/20. I'll try to provide a general timeline as best I can.
: This was when her behavior changed so suddenly. She slowed down. She would eat, but much more slowly than normal. Instead of grabbing treats with "gusto", she'd take them very tentatively and often drop them on the floor and leave them. At first we thought maybe she had a problem with her teeth or there was something in her mouth, but she appeared to have no dental issues other than some tartar. She also started going down the stairs very gingerly. Prior to this date, she was playing with our other two spoos as usual in our living room one afternoon. They like to gang up on one another in "play mode", so our male Samson and younger girl Zoey like to tease. At one point, Zoey cornered Luna near the stairs and while there was no yelping, we think Luna may have twisted her neck due to the roughhousing and there may have been some kind of event/impact or body slam that may have injured Luna. We also noticed that Luna's ears were a bit dirty. Most of us probably know that ear infections are common with spoos and Luna has had quite a few of them throughout her life. But she'd never exhibited symptoms like these due to an ear infection. When we cleaned her ears, we just found some of that very light brown muck/debris around the outside but didn't realize that the infection was deeper (this has since been treated with Claro meds to dissolve the infection over a couple weeks).
: During this period of time, Luna remained stable but was rather lethargic. She would spend a lot of time standing with her head down and to one side while panting and didn't want to lie down. The panting could have been related to general malaise and discomfort. Eventually she would lie down and find a somewhat comfortable position to sleep in, but she just wasn't herself. Her appetite decreased considerably and she just had little to no energy. I'm sure she must have been in pain, too, due to both her ear infections and whatever happened to her neck. It was killing me! It was during this period that I was trying to get Luna in to see a regular vet before resorting to emergency, but it was impossible being so close to Christmas. While I made a regular vet appointment for the following week (12/30), I really felt she needed to be seen before then, hence the trip to the emergeny vet.
: So we spent Christmas day at a local emergency vet where they ran a battery of tests on Luna, including an entire blood panel, X-rays, and a general ultrasound to see if they could find something. $1,100 later, the relief vet found very little with the exception of (what they thought were) slightly elevated liver enzymes. Her other blood levels were normal at the time. They supposedly cleaned her ears, but our regular vet had to subsequently treat them properly the following week, so I'm not really sure what the emergency staff did or why they charged twice what a regular vet would for effective treatment.
Between 12/25 and 12/30, Luna's condition remained the same and we were told by the emergency vet to watch her and take her into our regular vet if she didn't improve over the next few days. She didn't improve very much. The emergency vet didn't want to give her any anti-inflammatory medication due to her symptoms. She continued exhibiting:
- Loss of appetite (she'll usually eat once a day but no more)
- Weight loss (probably due to the lack of appetite. She is usually around 59 or 60 lbs, but is now only 51.9 lbs)
- Panting on and off with some occasional heavy nose breathing, but it's very intermittent and happens more often at night. Other times, she breathes normally. The vet has already taken note of this.
- Favoring one of her legs when going down the stairs (could be attributed to her previous roughhousing, not sure).
: We took Luna to our regular vet and he ran the same blood tests that were done a week earlier at emergency. It was good that our vet already had a baseline test from the emergency vet from which to compare the levels. Her liver enzymes went down 23% from their previous value which was a good sign and he wasn't concerned at the time, but he noticed a lot of debris and puss still in her ears. Obviously the emergency vet didn't treat those ear infections appropriately. So his staff treated the ear infections (properly with Claro). He also put Luna on both Gabapentin
(for nerve pain related to her neck) and Methocarbamol
(as a muscle relaxant/pain medication). This visit was around $350. Better than $1,100, but still no diagnosis. We kept her on these meds for several days and scheduled a re-check just this past Thursday (1/7).
: Upon Luna's re-check appointment this last Thursday, our vet again ran the same bloodwork, but this time both her liver enzymes and CBC counts were elevated (particularly her white blood cells). That freaked me out because cancer would be at the top of the speculation list for the increases. Obviously, this concerns us a great deal and our vet too. In addition to the Methocarbamol and Gabapentin, the vet also added Tramadol for additional pain management. While these all appear to be safe for use with dogs that have some kind of inflammatory issue going on, I'd be lying if I said it thrilled me for Luna to be so drugged, as it's hard to tell whether her continuing symptoms are due, in part, to this combination of meds or whether they're having little effect. The most common side effect for all three medications is just drowsiness. She has been exhibiting most of these other symptoms since 12/20, so it's hard to tell if the meds are even helping much at all.
At this point, our vet wants to perform a more extensive ultrasound of her liver to see if he can find anything that would explain the elevated liver enzymes and WBC (white blood cell counts), which I think is important. We've scheduled the ultrasound for this next Tuesday so I can keep you all posted. My terrible fear is that it could be liver cancer or some kind leukemia or other auto immune disease. The lethargy and loss of weight/appetite are symptoms of liver cancer, as are jaundice, bleeding, diarrhea, etc. but Luna has not exhibited any of those other symptoms (i.e. yellowing of the skin/eyes/mouth or any bleeding of any kind). Her bowel movements are normal. She urinates regularly but not excessively. She keeps herself well hydrated but doesn't drink excessively, either. I know that excessive thirst can be a sign of liver issues, but she normally drinks a good amount of water from her bowl 2-3 times a day and that hasn't changed throughout her life.
What's so frustrating about all this is that after all the vet visits and stressing, there's still no clear diagnosis and I'm running myself crazy with speculation. This is one time when I wish I had a super power to talk to my pets so they could tell me EXACTLY what's wrong.
If it's cancer, then what is the explanation for all of these symptoms coming on literally overnight? Wouldn't something like cancer develop over a period of time? And why would her liver enzymes show slight elevation one week, go down the next, and then up again? Could her liver have been bruised due to roughhousing and maybe she twisted her neck at the same time and the ear infections were just coincidental? I just don't know.
Anyway, I'm sorry for going on so long, but I just wanted to share the experience and see if perhaps anyone else has experienced something similar with their spoo. Luna has been so healthy and animated her entire life that to see her just change so dramatically overnight is so disheartening and scary. However, she is 11.5 years old and I understand as much as anyone that a spoo of this age is bound to start having some issues. All I can do is hope that her condition is something that can either be managed and/or perhaps even reversed with time. I just want my happy girl back again. It just makes so little sense to me that cancer would just appear out of the blue overnight with no explanation or prior manifestation, especially in an organ like the liver. If there is something that has been affecting her liver for some time without our knowledge (which makes very little sense because we're on top of our dogs all the time and immediately notice any behavioral change), wouldn't she have started exhibiting some of these symptoms earlier and over a gradual period of time? I'm not a vet, obviously, so I can't diagnose her correctly, but this whole thing just seems weird to me. Plus, you'd think the emergency vet's ultrasound would have picked something up back on 12/25, especially if it were cancer. I guess I'll just have to wait to get the results of her liver ultrasound next week...