• Donna Ferrigno

How well do you know your dog?

Updated: Apr 12

How well do you know your dog? I mean truly know your dog. You could save her life.

Here is my story...

Thanksgiving 2016

It was around this time that I noticed a change in my 5 year old golden doodle, Zoey. She started drinking a lot of water. Now, Zoey weighs about 85 lbs. so her water bowl is considerably large. She would make half of her water disappear in one sitting. I was constantly filling up that bowl. She was recently treated for a UTI, so my first thought was a possible re-occurrence. But at the same time, I was dreading the obvious, diabetes. The next day, I collected a sample of her urine and dropped it off at the vet for testing. The results showed her liver enzymes were high. They were off the charts high. A normal count would have been in the one hundreds. Hers were in the one thousands! So, the vet put her on several different types of medications for about two weeks to see if it would clear up this issue. He thought she was exhibiting signs of a new tick born disease. Two weeks went by and we retested. Sadly, the numbers did not improve as we had hoped.

Ultrasound results

An ultrasound was ordered to find out what is going on with her liver. The results were not good. They found a tumor, the size of a nerf football, in her liver. As I sat there in the examination room with Zoey, the doctor proceeded to tell me that a chest x-ray was necessary to determine whether or not surgery was even possible. If it had spread to her chest, well, basically there was nothing they can do. At this point, I am in utter disbelief. I think I went through an entire box of tissues dealing with flowing tears and a mind that was functioning on a 10-minute delay. How can I possibly lose my baby girl?

The chest x-rays showed that it did NOT metastasize. Good news. Next step, surgery.

Surgery scheduled

We all know the holidays are stressful enough with all the hustle and bustle. Add to the list, a critical surgery for your beloved dog scheduled a few days before Christmas. Along with all this, a mind full of uncertainties. Will they be able to remove it? Will it be cancerous? Did it spread to the lymph nodes? What did I do wrong that caused her illness? The questions are endless and the waiting game begins...

Pre- and post surgery consultations with the surgeon did not seem very hopeful. In fact, things seemed pretty grim. The surgeon was not even sure if she would be able to remove the tumor at all because of its location. Thankfully, the surgery was a complete success. The tumor was on the outer lobe of the liver which made for an easier removal. Several lymph nodes were inflamed and removed as well. Several other biopsies were performed around nearby organs as precautionary steps. While they were performing the surgery, I agreed for her to have canine gastropexy, a procedure performed to prevent bloat which can be fatal in large breeds.

Post Surgery...a tender warning to all dog lovers

I was able to see Zoey right after her surgery while she was in recovery. I was happy to see her and yes, the waterworks began. But... I do not recommend this to anyone. She lay there sleeping under blankets, hooked up to IVs, yet she appeared lifeless. I knew she was okay but it was very difficult seeing her in that condition. This is an image I will not soon forget. Zoey came home the day before Christmas Eve. My Christmas gift. It took several days for Zoey to be Zoey again. Until, one day I came home from work and there she was by the back door, greeting me with her wagging tail. Heart warming.

Test Results

The tumor was cancerous. But as far as liver cancers go, Zoey had the least aggressive kind. She did follow up with 4 rounds of chemo to make sure they got all the microscopic cells surrounding the areas of the tumor. The lymph nodes were clear and other biopsies good. She has had several ultrasounds of her liver, chest x-rays and blood workups done since her surgery and all have returned with positive results. She will be having another follow up in October and I pray for continued positive news.

My advice to you...know your dog.

"Oh....she's just really thirsty." Something that may have appeared insignificant, like drinking a lot of water, turned into something serious. Do not ignore these subtle signs. It may sound gross. It may sound silly. But, pay attention. Pay attention to the way she urinates and poops. Pay attention to how much she eats and drinks. Pay attention to everything. Know your dog. Any changes can be a sign of some underlying health issue or it can be nothing at all. Better safe than sorry, right? How well do you know your dog? I mean truly know your dog. You could save her life.


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