“Nine percent. He shouldn’t even be here, sniffing my hand and looking around, at 9 percent. He’s clinically dead.”
Our vet knows that my wife and I want her to be candid. She is.
At this point in the clinic visit, we’re learning that the lymphoma has progressed to where Mani the Tibetan terrier has anemia. The only thing that could remedy anemia this severe is a blood transfusion, but the cancer stops that option.
We know the dog overnight has taken a turn for the worse, that’s why we’ve called for an appointment on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He’s down to 18.1 pounds where his weight for most of his 10 years was 22-24 pounds. It began dropping on the Aug. 10 cancer diagnosis; we had brought him in because he stopped eating.
A dog’s red blood cells should be 35-37 percent of his blood, so the 9 percent worse than bad anemia. She took the sample after a chest X-ray. The liquid in the vials we saw was like berry Kool-Aid, so thin was his blood. The X-ray showed a lymph node in the middle of the chest had swollen to the extent it pressed against the heart, which isn’t so harmful, but was displacing his trachea (windpipe) a good inch. That’s sizeable, in a beagle or cocker-size dog as TTs are.
We thought Saturday’s might be That Visit to the doctor. The last one.
Back in August, we considered chemotherapy. Ten years is late middle age for a small or medium dog. First thing was to learn which lymphosarcoma Mani had, the treatable, common B-cell or the rarer, nastier T-cell. The latter can be treated with chemo, too, but best case is another six months of life (no clear answer given on its quality). The B-cell chemo treatments could provide 18 more months (after several weeks of treatments), and chemo can be tried again at the end of that time.
And dogs don’t have the awful side effects humans do. Well, 95 percent don’t.
Ours was T-cell. We did one dose of its chemo. Mani turned out to be among that 5 percent. Those were a terrible couple of days, him spewing out both ends.
We stopped that and chose palliative medicines — chiefly prednisone — for as long as he would live, estimated at mere weeks.
Here Mani is, over three months after diagnosis. Slower, trouble on stairs, more sleep. But he ate ravenously, enjoyed the short walks with me on our lane, he did basic tricks for treats — dog stuff. What I told myself, and others, is that we were seeing him enjoying life as a senior dog but instead of a year or two, just this fall.
In the last week or two he began having trouble walking — muscle wasting, the doc said.
Saturday morning we sensed a downturn from that.
The day’s exam turned out to not be That Last One.
“He’s not in distress. He’s not in pain. He’s alert and responsive and friendly, and you’re telling me he poops fine and he’s not incontinent,” the vet said. The blood test for kidneys was fine Saturday; long-term prednisone causes kidney damage so we will continue that.
Mani is responsive and friendly. The alertness is fading though, and add in slight trembling and listlessness. The prednisone-induced hearty appetite and thirst ended yesterday.
The doctor basically advised letting him go at home, as with this type of cancer it should be a peaceful passing. But call her and come in if there’s trouble.
That’s where we two are at, our younger TT alert nearby, loving on one tough hombre, Mani snoozing on one of our good thick blankets on the living room floor.
UPDATE — Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 — Mani was more resilient than our vet predicted. He didn’t pass in his sleep but woke Christy before dawn today with terribly labored breathing. (The dogs generally sleep on blankets along her side of the bed.) We chose to take him to the clinic to humanely end the suffering that appeared only overnight,.