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Discussion Starter #1
Looking for the down-low on lung tumors. Personal experiences. Resources. Anything at all.

Basically, Kiley is going to be 13 in May. She has a heart murmur (as of November the vet graded it a 4/5 of 6, increasing from a 3 since her last visit some time last spring). During a routine x-ray to check on her heart the vet found a mass in her lung. The takeaway from that appointment was that due to her age and the heart murmur there isn't really any way to find out what it is (IE they won't put her under to biopsy it and surgery to remove it is out of the question entirely) and there isn't really much that can be done about it (from what it sounded like they didn't think she was a candidate for any type of medication or treatment, let alone surgery). It was said that I could take her to see a specialist but they would likely tell me the same thing, only for a lot more money.

Can anyone verify that given this limited information? Is it worth it to see a specialist anyway? Is there any treatment options at this stage given we can't remove it? Or is it just a case of managing the symptoms as best we can? The vet did not give me any sort of guess on life span at this stage, but i didn't ask either.... i was stunned. I expected the murmur to be worse, but did not expect them to find a tumor. The research i've done so far say anywhere from months to a year, depending.

She goes back in the spring for another vaccine, should i ask to set up something with a specialist? Are there any questions i can ask the regular vet? Any way to find out if this tumor was spread from elsewhere (which i take is the more common reason for lung tumors) or if it originated in the lung (less common), or does it really matter if there is no possible treatment?

I'm still a bit in shock. Any help would be appreciated......
 

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My personal experiences are more parallel than similar but here's mine.

We had 2 sisters from the same litter. Noel developed a murmur probably around 12-13yrs. It remained stable for a year or so then started progressing. She eventually developed CHF which was also managed for a while but it was a road there was no coming back from. Dog heart disease and human heart disease are very similar. Both my parents had different types of heart disease, so I had a lot of second hand exposure. I'd also done a lot of internet research on trusted medical sites and they backed up what my vet was doing and suggesting. Because I trusted my vet and what he was telling me and everything from reliable sources were saying the same things, I felt no need to go to a specialist for Noel's condition. He said what yours did about spending money on a specialist and in this case, I agreed.

Holly was, we thought. still going strong after we lost Noel at 15y 8m. Then one day she just started not eating regularly. We went to a regular vet office but not our old clinic since our vet had retired. We felt unsure and the vet had no idea what the cause might be. After a few days of no improvement on various meds they suggested an ultrasound. We went back to the old clinic and a new vet there said the same thing - go see a specialist and get an ultrasound. We saw the specialist. Like the x-ray showing Kiley's tumor, the ultrasound showed not good news but there couldn't be an actual diagnosis without doing a biopsy. If we were going to do a biopsy, why would we put her thru surgery and not also remove the tumor and repair and then where would we go? The Internal Med specialist felt it was an aggressive cancer based on her experienced reading of the ultrasound and the history (this was about 2 weeks from seemingly fine). Without the biopsy, we couldn't be positive what we were fighting and with the biopsy we were into surgery, then maybe chemo and maybe she'd be better for a while and maybe not. Even though we didn't have a confirmed diagnosis, we had a much better idea of what Holly and we would be fighting.

I'm telling all this to get to my advice. If any of my poos had both situations going on and the heart issue was not in terminal stages, I'd spend the money to see a specialist if it was feasible. I'd want as much information as I could get, so I could make better informed decisions. You aren't required to continue seeing the specialist or put Kiley thru treatment but you'll likely have a better idea of how to help her.

Noel's heart disease alone was a clear path to the end. Holly's situation required a specialist to even suggest what the problem might be. Right now, all you know is "tumor". You don't have enough information to make decisions on. Seeing a specialist for a second opinion, possibly blood work, possibly an ultrasound, this might give a probable diagnosis. It will at least help you feel that you are doing something for Kiley.
 
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I'm so sorry. ?

If it were my dog, and I had the financial means as well as access to a good specialist, I would take that one additional step to get a second opinion. Even just for managing symptoms, I'd prefer to get that information from a specialist.

I'm actually a bit surprised your vet would continue vaccinations at this point. That alone would nudge my gut towards wanting a second opinion.
 

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I am going to play devil's advocate to PeggyTheParti. I have a good vet and trust his judgement for a start. Second BF and I agreed when Lily and Peeves were puppies not to ever treat any cancers in our dogs other than for pain managment. And finally dogs don't know or understand the word cancer and all of the terrible connotations we assign. They won't be worrying. I would just do my best to keep my dog comfortable until they told me they were ready to leave. I had a cat with cancer and that is what I did for her. It was an easy passing with the vet's help when he time came.
 
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So far it seems like the general consensus is that it wouldn't hurt to see a specialist, not for treatment options but for management. That makes sense. At her age, with the murmur, i agree with the vet that there isn't much we can do (they won't even put her out for dental work so any testing or treatments that require sedation are out) but i agree with you guys that a specialist might be able to help manage things as they progress and may be able to give me a potential diagnosis based on something other than testing or with whatever limited testing they can do.

So i guess'll call them ASAP to get a referral. Thanks, guys. If anyone else has anything to add, please feel free!

Peggy - i don't disagree about the vaccines, at her age and with her health why bother with anything other than what's legally required, but the vaccines i do keep her up to date on where recommended based on where we live and the fact i'm a dog groomer with a second dog who frequently comes to work with me. She stays up to date on lyme since we live in a tick heavy area (i actually pulled one off a dog the other day) and on bordatella because i work around other dogs and the vet thinks it's better safe than sorry. She goes in twice per year (winter for bordatella and spring for lyme) and the vet uses these visits to listen to her lungs/heart and keep an eye on things. When it starts to be too much for her, we'll stop.

She's in relatively good spirits. There are symptoms that i suppose could be the murmur or the tumor but she's eating okay and she still plays with Dublin. Other than the obvious loud murmur her heart sounded strong and wasn't skipping or struggling, and her lungs where clear other than the mass, so i guess that's all good. Guess the next step is to see a specialist.
 

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I'm so sorry you got this shocking and sad news from the vet.

I can only say what I would do if this was my beloved 13 yo poodle with heart disease. I have been going to the same vet for many years and have developed a trust that they have always been honest and provided good care. I wouldn't look to see a specialist. I would provide palliative care so my dog is as pain free and comfortable as possible. No biopsy or tumor removal, no invasive tests and no medication that negatively affects quality of life. I would ask for a recommendation for a hospice vet. Hospice vets come to your house to exam your dog so they don’t have the added stress of going out to the vet. They do basic testing with equipment they carry in their car and can take blood samples to send to the lab. They support you and your dog though the stage from when they are ill to death. They prescribe medication for palliative, not curative care. When it’s time to put your pet to sleep they do it in your home where they were loved and handle the remains according to your wishes and the laws in your area.

A few years ago I was in a similar situation with my beloved ragdoll cat. He was magnificent, huge, not overweight, glorious coat and the most wonderful personality. Anyone who saw him were shocked at how huge and fabulous he was, even people who hated cats. He was very special. He was 16 yo which is elderly for a cat and blood work showed he had early kidney disease which in cats progress. We had switched to special kidney food and he was doing well. He hadn’t progressed yet to needing water infusions or other treatment so we thought we had another couple of years before he would show signs of deteriorating health. Six months later he did start to lose muscle mass, which animals, including humans do as they become elderly. He also was showing signs of dementia so we brought him back to the vet. We were shocked and saddened when the vet palpated his abdomen and found a mass. She thought it was cancer but wanted us to take him for an ultrasound at the specialty pet hospital. I asked about treatment. Since she wasn’t 100% certain we discussed several potential causes, how they would be diagnosed (biopsy or MRI etc) treatment and how that would affect my cats quality of live and longevity. Frankly for all the potential diagnoses none of the treatments were going to extend my cats life significantly and all were going to impact quality of live. He didn’t need the stress of going to another vet, sedation for MRI, possibly biopsy or surgery, being left at a vet hospital for recovery, horrible side effects of cancer treatments etc. We took him home and loved him and he did well for 6 months before he started serious decline. I medicated him for nausea and pain and fed him treats and food toppers to encourage eating. Towards the end I was taking him to the vet about every month getting new medication. My biggest regret was I didn’t get a hospice vet like I did with his brother who passed at 8 yo from polycystic kidney disease. The reason is the last time I took him to the vet she had nothing else to offer and I had him put to sleep. I would have preferred putting him to sleep at home and saving him from that last visit to the vet.

This is a difficult situation with many ways to proceed so hopefully reading how others make choices will help you make the best decision for you and your poodle.
 

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We saw a canine oncologist for our previous dog, a 13 year old Scottie. The diagnosis was devastating, he had bone cancer. The prognosis was six months without treatment, and about the same with leg amputation, radiation and chemotherapy which the vet recommended “If it was his dog”. Charlie was my husband’s heart dog and he made the hard call to have him euthanized that day. He could not bear to see him suffer a painful decline. I possibly could have, but I was spared that further heartache.
 

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Mfmst one of the dogs in my brother's family faced the same Dx. They opted for the amputation and other treatment. She got some good time but I hated seeing how much she was suffering at the end. It went metastatic to her lungs. Every exertion exhausted her. They had an appointment for right after the holidays for an in home euthanasia but she died the day before it was scheduled. I think your husband was very brave and generous to Charlie and to you.
 

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I've never heard of a hospice vet - if palliative care is what we need then maybe that's a better option than a specialist. I'll ask her normal vet when i call in the morning and see what he suggests, if there's even any hospice vets in the area. I trust him completely with this - he's been nothing but helpful and informative and frank with the health of both of my dogs. He's also seen my small animal pets, too.

This isn't my first tangle with tumors, just the first where i'm the owner of the dog and have to be the one to make the decisions. Our family Maltese had a tumor on her spleen - this was back in 2006, when i was in high school, and my parents made the calls then. The vet at the time (not the same one i use now) suggested surgery to remove the mass and spleen and a week post-op she was dead. She was 11, had no other health issues, she just came back from surgery and a few days later stopped eating and drinking. We brought her in, they gave her an antibiotic, and told us to come back the next day when the vet who did the surgery and was in charge of her treatment would be in - she died in our living room two hours before her appointment. I have regrets about how that was handled, and was one of the reasons i switched to a different vet (the other reason is a whole other story involving Kiley.)

Anyway, it's good to see that i have options - my goal is to make her comfortable, not cure her, though if someone could snap their fingers and poof a cure then that would be wonderful.

Kiley(left) and Dublin(right) August 2019

463493
 

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A hospice vet sounds wonderful. Perhaps that's the route I'd take, too.

Our current vet is the best I've encountered in all my years of pet ownership, but I still don't expect her to know everything. She's a general practitioner, just like my beloved doctor. That's the only reason I suggested the specialist route, just so you can feel confident you've gotten a complete picture of Kiley's condition.

That said, there are no perfect answers, no perfect way forward, and few of us feel 100% peaceful with these hard decisions.

Please give your girl some gentle love from me.
 
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