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Oscar's long journey

This is a story about Oscar beating the odds

Oscar's long journey

The preface

March 12th, 2017 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

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Hello all!  Thanks for checking out my blog.

I wanted to share the story about our little old man, Oscar, the beagle.

In January 2004, I found Oscar in the newspaper.  Some kid had purchased him for his high-school sweetheart for Christmas, and as expected she couldn’t keep him.  So they put him in the paper.  He was the cutest little thing I had ever seen.

When he was a baby growing up in our home, he once got his little snout stuck in the baby gate.  It left a permanent scar on the top of his snout, and so we sometimes have shorten his name to just ‘Scar.

He had a pretty normal life.  He initially grew up with cats (through the “formative” years) and so he was always a little temperamental about attention.  It didn’t take long for us to get him a sister from the shelter (a basset hound with the exact same coloring).  But he was the baby.

He had a pretty normal life until he was 7 years old.  We were traveling to see family, everyone was comfy in the car, but Oscar couldn’t catch his breath.  He was panting incessantly. Over the weekend he would just lie around, and with any movement, he seemed exhausted.

Monday we made it to the vet.  His abdomen was bloated and tight.  They did some X-rays and Echo and we got the news – Oscar has Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).

But he’s only 7 years old!!

We started him on the “CHF starter kit” (furosemide and enalapril).  Vet said if that didn’t work, we would add Vetmedin (the expensive one).

Well, it didn’t work, so we added Vetmedin.  Also during this time, the vet was trying to figure out what caused CHF in such a young dog.  She tested for Chagas’ disease and it came back positive.

If you don’t know what Chagas’ disease is, I would highly suggest you find out, especially if you live in the South, and super especially if you live in south Texas.  It is contracted from the “kissing bug” which causes a parasite to grow in the bloodstream.  It is transmittible to humans either directly from the bug, or also from the blood of an infected animal.  So my little sweet Oscar is now a risk to the environment.

This stuff is serious.  There are very many people in central and South America who die from Chagas.  It wasn’t tested in blood in the US until the mid 2000’s – after someone got it from a transfusion.

Since this was the diagnosis, the vet was pretty matter-of-fact – there’s nothing we can do at this point, prepare for the worst.

Nope – not an option.  With nothing left to lose with him, we decided to try something different.

Raw diet.

I had been researching the pros and cons (and considered all the bad press from the Vet medical community and factory foods).  Our pups were on very high quality kibble.  But Oscar wasn’t handling the CHF cocktail.  He was still labored in breathing, still bloated from all the fluid retention.

So we dove in.  And it worked miracles.

I won’t tell about the journey of learning how to feed raw.  There are lots of blogs and forums and facebook groups out there to help anyone considering.  The most important thing here is that it allowed Oscar to thrive.  And that disease that was supposed to kill him in months was put in check and he’s still here 6 years later.  And today, recovering from rear leg amputation.

The cancer.

In 2014-2015, we noticed a larger-than-normal lump growing on his little toes.  We took him to our regular vet who took a needle aspiration and later confirmed it was cancer.  She didn’t check what kind, but it was cancer.

We scheduled an appointment to have it removed under anesthesia.  While under general anesthesia, his heart slowed several times to a dangerous point, and so they pulled him out and abandoned the surgery.  We were referred to an oncologist at the specialist hospital.

Dr. Wiley was awesome!  They were able to use propophol to sedate him enough to get a good-sized sample.  It came back as Spindle Cell Sarcoma.  The oncologist explained that it is generally a non-spreading cancer and as long as he is not having challenges walking, then we can leave it (vs. removing the whole leg).  For now.

It grew and grew.  Every once in awhile, he would limp on the leg, but never for long.  We kinda noticed that he was laying around more, but he’s getting older, so can be expected?

Then around the end of February 2017, the golf-ball sized tumor ruptured.  He was bleeding everywhere he was laying (remember the Chagas?).

We took him to the vet for his normal monthly visit (anal gland work – he’s had 2 ruptures in a couple of years).  The normal vet wrapped the foot.  And that’s when he stopped walking on it.

His little foot swelled up so big below the bandage.  He was laying around, not eating much, wouldn’t get up to go outside.  It was tearing us apart.

I emailed with the oncologist about amputation options.  I was concerned about his age, his CHF, recovery, and then all the emotional things that go with considering amputating your dog’s leg.  She suggested he was a good candidate and suggested we see her associate surgeon.

So we made the appointment for March 7.

The surgeon was so awesome.  She confirmed that he would be a good candidate, but also was very careful to consider his overall health.  We had already considered that he might be eaten alive by cancer, so she suggested ultrasound to confirm if that’s the case.  Also, to ensure his heart and lungs were healthy enough, she wanted to do an echocardiogram and chest X-rays.

And would you believe it?  Even with the CHF, he’s as healthy as any other 13yo dog (thanks to raw diet).  Surgery was scheduled on Wednesday March 8.

At every step of the way, I told myself that this is probably it – that there’s no way he’ll make it through this or that.  I considered how fortunate we have been to have him so many years past the Chagas diagnosis.  And the disbelief just continued to come.

Surgery was “unremarkable”.  If you’ve ever had surgery or tests, you want everything to be unremarkable.  No cancer in the hip, tissues all were healthy, and shortly after he was awake and alert.

Over that first night after surgery, while still at the hospital, he developed very high fever (105).  So they wanted to keep him another day.

Friday was release day.  I was terrified.  Luckily i found the Tripawds site even before we saw the surgeon, and so i knew what to expect, i knew to just be happy to see him and not let him see me sad or stressed about his leg.

But he made that easy!  He came out with tail whirling around, so happy and pain free (of course there’s lots of meds pumping through those veins).  What a relief!  He came out a different dog than he had been in the last year.

We already had his cave setup when we got home.  He went right in, and then wanted right back out. He was ready to go!  I already read about this in Tripawds book, but I thought it wouldn’t happen for him – he’s a little old man!

We had some trouble getting him to eat his pills that first day after.  But I learned from some website that you can coat the pills in butter to make it slide down the gullet, and then just find something smelly to put the little butter-pills in.  It was tuna for him.  He eats it right up.

Yesterday, 3 days post-op, we left him in the cage but didn’t clasp the gate.  We were upstairs for maybe 15 minutes.  Came down and he was not in the cave.  He was not in the house.  He was in the yard.

So, this little buster pushed open the cage, WENT OUT THE DOG DOOR (on three legs), down the stairs on the patio and was hopping around the yard.  He still continues to amaze me.

He was SO exhausted after that heroic event.  Who knows how graceful all those transitions were.  He slept for a few hours.  I checked his temp, checked his gums, iced his hip and he seems fine the day after.  But that was a terrifying day.

Today he came up the 4 stairs on the patio by himself.  Before today, he would stand at the bottom and not really try. We had to carry him in the sling-bag (also from the Tripawds book).  The victories keep coming.

There will be more as we continue this journey.  What I’ll say in closing is that I regret not doing this earlier.  I don’t know how long he’s been in severe pain, but I know that right now he’s showing me that he didn’t have to be.  And that hurts.  I can only forgive myself and be happy that we made the decision when we did.

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