Beagle mix with snout cancer

After the latest Cancer news, all Future Updates @ Nasal Cancer Part Two or you can Like Nunya The Dog on Facebook.

To cut to the chase, my dog has cancer. She has a tumor (nasal carcinoma) in her nasal cavity running from behind the canine teeth to her sinuses on the left side. Today was day one of radiation treatment but before I go into that, let’s try to get some of the emotions out that will prevent the rest of this blog from being useful. My wife and I are sad. I am angry. I feel we never once hesitated to go to a vet or vet specialist when caring for Nunya over the last 12 years. How could something so big get missed? I feel like I let Nunya down in my decision making and now she is paying the cost. I think Ali and I are both confused and fearful. Did we do the right thing by trying to prolong her life or are we making her suffer because we will miss her so much? Is there a magic moment when you know it is time to euthanize your friend of 11 years?

I found Nunya at the pound in Waco, Tx where I was studying bioinformatics and trying to find my beautiful wife Alison. I remember the day vividly for 2 reasons, the first, because I was looking for a three legged dog and they only had one who just dragged his gimp leg. And the more important reason was just a magical feeling when I saw Nunya. She would be my dog.

Nunya out in the Jeep with DogglesFate or dumb luck, I do not know, but Nunya helped me navigate the waters in my younger years. Always staying close, always staying loyal and always up for a 2am Jeep ride. There is no better time in a man’s life to have such a faithful companion than when he is just starting to go out on his own. She followed me through every stupid decision, good day or bad day, because she believed in me (or my ability to hunt and gather from Walmart.)

I have so many great memories of her loyalty from standing guard after surgery, to sleeping beside me on a concrete floor, to even trying to protect me from the loud UPS guy, the list is endless.

She really became part of my identity and I strongly feel had influence on meeting and marrying my wife. For that alone, I owe her the treatment.

Whew, now that part is over, one more note: I mention cost below. This might vary from place to place. Paying this amount of money for a pet is a personal choice and may not be the right decision for everyone. My goal is to be as honest about the experience as possible to help inform anyone else dealing with the same issue. After this experience, I would recommend people who want their animal to have this kind of care investigate pet insurance. I am fully aware that the care she is receiving is not normal and while I personally do not agree, I respect other peoples’ opinion that a dog or cat with cancer should just be put down. Only time will tell if I will change my mind after this experience.

The ordeal started about 4 weeks ago with some bloody sneezes. We took her to her local vet who did about $400 in lab work and x-rays and sent us home with some pills. The thought was that the problem stemmed from allergies. This plan actually worked for the next three weeks and she was incident free until ‘bloody night’. Nunya is really good about notifying us of a problem. She came right over to Ali and I, then gently put her paw out and sneezed blood on us. On one of the sneezes a chunk of tissue flew out (1/4 the size of an eraser). At that point we were out the door and at the doggy ER (because of course this happened at midnight). Very little help… $400 later we are referred to a specialist for her first CT scan  (view the scan). Scan happened, they found a huge tumor but couldn’t give us any info until after the results from the 20-25 biopsy sites (ouch). For anyone who gets to this point with their animal – skip the specialist and go to the super specialist. They will have to redo all the blood work and CT scans. The blood work cost $300-400 and the CT scans cost $750-1250. The whole biopsy ordeal at the first specialist vet was $2,000 for blood work, CT, scope, and biopsy.

She figured out how to keep her mouth open while sleeping since she could not breath out of cancer nose.

Almost immediately after the blood night incident, she started having problems breathing and sleeping since her nose was blocked and most of the air needed to go through her mouth. She started sneezing, coughing and a weird panic breathing thing. We found the best solution to calm this down was neosynephrine sprayed in the nose, back rubs, and car rides. For some reason, when she is in the car she breathes out of her mouth normally.

That was a horrible week of waiting but we finally got the news this last Monday (week later) that it was time to see the oncology team at Texas A & M.Nunya arriving for her tomography cancer treatment

Downside, they didn’t have an appointment available until the 15th which was weeks away. Well that was unacceptable. Nunya needed care weeks ago. So we started searching for loopholes and found out from the great staff there that if the dog goes to the A&M ER, they can get fast tracked to seeing a specialist. We were in the car and on the way to College Station within an hour.  Nunya was admitted through the ER and stayed overnight for diagnosing.  They determined that her tumor was advanced enough that we should start on treatment soon.

I cannot speak highly enough of the Doctors, interns and students at Texas A&M Small Animal Clinic.  Before starting treatment, we spent at least 45 minutes to 1 hour discussing the process and the potential side effects of the procedure.  The quick run down of the scary: hair falls out and then grows back strange, radiation burns,  super radiation burns where chunks of the skin can open up and potentially require surgery to close, voids in skull from the where the cancer destroyed bone that will not grow back – the voids can get infected and require a lifetime of antibiotics and potential surgery, blindness, loss of smell, and death.

Several appointments, lab tests and horrible haircuts for ultra sounds later, we are back at where I started, Day 1 of radiation. Nunya will receive 20 weekday treatments of radiation using a precise plan calculated by the Doctor – I believe it is called Tomotherapy. This treatment required a $4000 deposit, with the remaining $4000 to be paid at the completion of treatment. Each day, she gets dropped of in the morning, put under anesthesia, zapped by radiation machine and then woken back up. We have the option to leave her overnight or to pick her up and bring her home. We opted to bring her home, which I think was the right choice for us. Finding the right balance between the stress of an overnight stay and a 1.5 hour car ride will be a challenge.  Nunya is very much a homebody so we know she will be more comfortable with us at home, but we don’t want to put her through any unnecessary stress of traveling if she is not feeling well.

We did not discuss chemotherapy as a treatment option and I think we were past the point for a surgical extraction.  So our options: 2 months of painful nose destruction and death or Radiation that does not sound fun but could prolong her life up to 19 months (we are pushing for two years).  We did discuss changing Nunya’s diet and it was decided that it was best to leave well enough alone (they were familiar with the same low carb diet recommendations seen online).

TomoTherapy: Radiation Treatment

After Day 1:
Her demeanor seemed a lot better today. She was generally happy and walking around even with the catheter and 50 percent of her hind leg covered with the stretchy medical tape. You could tell that her mouth was sore. Eating was a real problem. Anything that required the use of her tongue to grab was impossible. We tried a few things when the dog food would not go down and eventually ended up hand serving her bacon, ground meat, and green beans. Probably not the healthiest but it was the only thing we could get down.

Playing Hide the Tramadol. I glued it back together with peanut butter and it was still a no go.

She really hates her pain medicine, Tramadol. It must taste horrible. We have shoved it in everything and cannot mask the taste. It tastes so bad that Nunya will not eat the food we tried to shove it in again (I think this is how we killed her favorite snack of cheese). We have resorted to using a pill shooter to get it down her throat. The experience is horrible.

Tonight we also had to rinse the newly put in catheter; which was really simple compared to the Tramadol. Nunya really didn’t seem bothered by it.

She slept most of the night without moving or coughing too much. So day 1 was an overall win.

Day 2-5: The first week of radiation therapy was mostly uneventful. There were few side effects, and we noticed an immediate improvement in Nunya’s breathing. The only side effects we found were her being lethargic (normal for her after anesthesia) and a reduced appetite. We felt that her appetite was reduced more due to discomfort and just not feeling good after anesthesia more than anything. We started cooking beef, chicken and broccoli for her and she seems happy. The improvement in breathing came after treatment day 3; which was really unexpected. I am not sure if they were zapping the right places or the swelling in her nose was going down but she really looks and sounds a lot better. She had a vascular port put in her neck so they would stop poking at her legs. She really doesn’t seem to mind the stitches but the giant life preserver she has to wear is ridiculous to her. It does beat the cone type anti scratch collar though.

The port is huge under her skin. Looks like a Frankenstein bolt on the right side of her neck. We don’t know the cost of the port yet. She can no longer wear a standard collar with it so we looked for a harness for her. Petco had the best option in soft harnesses ($22).

Day 6-13: The Glory Days. She looks wonderful. No loss of hair and appetite back to normal. We had a great three day weekend with her and it felt like all was normal. There was more sneezing this week, and it got pretty gross. The vet had warned us that she would start to cough and sneeze out some of the tumor and mucus that was in her nose. She sure did, and it got everywhere. We recommend putting down old sheets or towels on your furniture, in your car, or wherever else the dog normally goes. As strange as it sounds, the gross coming out almost felt like a victory and that we were winning in some kind of disgusting way.

Day 14-15: Radiation sucks. The burns just appeared out of nowhere. I thought it would be a gradual thing where she lost the hair first then get a sunburn then blisters. Nope… it went straight to horrible red and yellow blisters below both eyes. We are trying to stick to her medication schedule as closely as possible but you can tell she is in pain. She is shaking and just sitting and staring at random walls. We alternate between to different creams, Silver Sulfadiazine ($20) and Xclair ‘Radiation Dermatitis Symptom Relief’ cream ($80) that are supposed to bring relief to the burn areas. She is being really great about us sticking our fingers in her oozing burns and waits at least 5 minutes before sneaking off and rubbing it off.

She is having a problem eating dry food again. We assume this is because she has similar burns in her mouth. We switched her to canned science diet and that seemed to do the trick.

Emotionally this period has been the roughest, as seeing the visible damages from the radiation treatment on your dog is hard to take. It makes us at times question whether we’ve made the right decision in going forward with her treatment. We still feel that we are doing the right thing and are hoping that the final outcome will be a much increased lifespan and good quality of life. It is just hard knowing you are putting your pet through pain and not being able to explain to them why you are doing so.

Day 16-19: Still bad.  The radiation burns have gotten much worse.  The area of exposed raw skin has greatly increased and is now under both eyes.  Hair has completely fallen out in two large areas.  The skin is pink and irritated, and looks painful.  We are still putting on the creams religiously to help soothe the skin.  After a few days of doing this the skin still looked bad, so they also prescribed an antibiotic to take as well.  The poor dog is on so many medications right now.

Some new behaviors have started as well.  Nunya has been housebroken for well over a decade and has not had an accident inside in many years.  But, over the past two days she has used the bathroom inside twice.  One time she peed in the car on the way to the vet office.  The next day she peed in our house.  Neither time did she make us aware that she had to go outside, which is what she normally does.  We are not sure if she did this because her schedule is off with the early morning vet visits and that threw her, or if it is medication related and holding her bladder is harder, or if she is doing this out of nerves (she hates going to the vet) or spite.

She is still in pain too.  When she is picked up from the vet, she whines for about an hour.  Once she gets home she will just sit around and stare at nothing.  Her appetite is also reduced again.  We give her an anti-nausea medicine but that doesn’t make her eat more.  She will lick at the liquid in her dog food but just picks at the solid parts.  She will eat some meat and vegetables if we hand feed her.  Mostly she just lays around and sleeps.  We are very much looking forward to the last day of radiation treatment.

DAY 20: WOOHOO! The tomotherapy is now complete!   They sent Nunya home with a certificate of completion and a nice bandanna around her neck.  The consult with the Dr was overall positive with a lot of warnings.  The worst news is we don’t really know if it worked yet.  The radiation will continue to shrink the tumor for the next week (hopefully).  The downside to that, is the acute side effects can begin after treatment stops.  Poor Nunya is already sore.

They suggested leaving the port in her neck forever, which means she cannot wear here NunStrong collar.

We go back in 2 weeks to do a quick check up (no ct scan yet).  Exact notes from the Doctor:

Congratulations to you and Nunya for completing her TomoTherapy! As we discussed previously, acute side effects after radiation can begin soon after treatment, and may last for several weeks after treatment is completed. Short-term effects frequently resemble a very bad sunburn or “road rash”. You may see hair loss, change in skin and hair color in that area, or ulceration of the skin. You are already witnessing the the radiation dermatitis syndrome underneath both of Nunya’s eyes. Continue to apply the creams and give the antibiotic to prevent infection. Indication of infection would be green, white, or yellow discharge from underneath her eyes. Nunya may appear sensitive or painful around her left eye, nose, and mouth.

Long-term changes are also possible and may affect the bone and lymphatic structures, although this is decreased with definitive radiation protocols (as Nunya had) when compared to ‘palliative’ radiation. Some longer term effects might include the slight possibility that the mineral in the bone in the area can be replaced by fibrous tissue and become soft and predisposed to fractures. Nunya will also always be predisposed to rhinitis (infection of the nasal tissues) for the rest of her life, since the tissue in her nose will never be completely normal anatomically again after the tumor destruction and the radiation effects—so she may need intermittent antibiotic treatment. The majority of the ‘acute’ radiation side effects should be resolved, however, in about 4-6 weeks after completion of therapy.

Nunya is a very sweet dog and a wonderful patient! Thank you so much for entrusting Nunya in our care!

After the TomoTherapy:

11/05/2012 – 4 Days Post Tomotherapy: The burned area on her face has continued to grow (as expected).  Nunya has tried to scratch at her face but we are doing our best to keep that down.  I am betting we have to go to the anti-scratch cone or the ring within the next couple of days.  It is a little more crusty than before – not sure if this is a negative or a positive.  Tomotherapy cancer treatment burns running about an inch and a half down from dog's eyes.

We did have an amazing weekend with her.  While she still hyperventilates if we try to walk, we was pretty active and went on a couple of car rides with Ali and helped with some steam cleaning.

11/16/2012 – The burns are starting to look a little better.  Most of the scabs are gone and the flesh looks a lot less red.  Her appetite is back and she has finished her antibiotic.  She hasn’t needed the Tramadol in a few days.  The one negative during this period – she seems to be more congested and sneezing a lot more.  So far, the sneezes have not contained any blood.  We are looking forward to her check up on Monday.

11/19/2012 – Nunya had her two week check-up today. The vet said she looked good and overall gave a good report. Our main concern had been her constant sneezing and Tomotherapy burns about 3 weeks afterhyperventilating. These were symptoms that started just before the cancer diagnosis. The vet said she was not very concerned about the sneezing/hyperventilating though. She said it was most likely due to post-nasal drip, which is an effect of the radiation. We should monitor Nunya and if the symptoms majorly worsen, or if she starts bleeding from the nose or mouth, we should let them know. Otherwise she should be fine. We still don’t know how much her tumor was reduced by. That answer will come in about two months at her next check-up, when they will do another scan on her.

The next step will be to start chemotherapy on her. This will consist of a daily pill regimen that will include the chemo pill (Cyclophosphamide), a diuretic pill (Furosemide), and an anti-inflammation medication. The vet says that Nunya shouldn’t have any noticeable side effects, other than increased thirst and urination. The chemo treatment is something that Nunya will likely be on long-term. The vet said most dogs who go on it will be on it for about a year to forever. That was not fun to hear, but if it increases her lifespan and helps prevent the cancer from coming back we are game. There are no guarantees of how effective her treatment will be in the long term, but it is the best chance for her so we will do it.  The chemo pills need special handling and require gloves to administer.  I am pretty sure Nunya will love that.

Update later in the day – We were called by the vet later on in the afternoon to go over a blood test finding from earlier in the day. Nunya’s liver levels were significantly increased from her readings about a month ago. The vet did not have an explanation for why this occurred, so wants to do an ultrasound to see what might be going on. The chemotherapy treatments will be delayed until this new problem is sorted out first.

11/22/2012 – Results but no answers.  After an ultrasound (~$500) and a really bad hair cut, we learned that her liver looks good (which is great news).  But we don’t have an explanation for the previous blood work results. We are waiting a week and then bringing her to the local vet for another round of blood tests.  Nunya handled the ultrasound like a champ.  She was a little groggy afterward but was active and hungry by 5pm.

11/30/2012 – Two more weeks.  Nunya had her second blood test done on Wednesday and we got the results today.  Liver functions are looking a lot better but still not where they need to be.  It was recommended that we delay chemo and have her tested again in two weeks.  Overall, she seems to be doing well.  Sneezing a lot still but no blood and less snot.

Tomotherapy related hair loss in Nunya the dog.

We did have two positive events happen this week:

1. We passed the ‘She has two months to live’ point, which is how long her life was estimated to be had we not pursued treatment.  While this marker was always an estimate, it was an important marker for us in evaluating if we did the right thing with her tomotherapy treatments.

2. She smelled the cable man.  Seems silly but small victories still count.  Internet was being flaky and Comcast had to come out to test the line.  Nunya was closed off in my office with me while the guy was working.  Nunya’s hearing is not what it was 5 years ago, so it was not expected that she reacted to the knock on the door or the noise of the man walking up and down the hall.  To my surprise, she lifted her head and started audibly sniffing and immediately knew someone was in the house (got the full bark alert).  This observation came as a huge relief because one of our concerns with the treatment was that Nunya’s sense of smell might be diminished.  *I should note that the hygiene of the repair man was great – we could not detect any smells coming from him.

12/08/2012 – So far so good.  There really has not been much change in the last week.  Nunya has been in a really good mood and has had a great appetite.  She still is sneezing and doing the strange reverse sneezing occasionally but the regularity has been pretty much consistent.  She has lost more hair around her nose and a spot on her head.  We have not seen her scratching so we are not really sure why we still see the increase in hair loss.  But there is a positive on the hair front – some of the ‘first loss’ areas are starting to grow back thin amounts of white hair.  Next week is the follow up blood test.  She is still on the liver medication, taking both Ursodial and Denosyl to help improve her liver functions.  We also put Aquaphor cream on her exposed skin patches to help heal the dry skin.

12/18/2012 – Still doing well. Nunya had to have another blood test last week to check her liver levels again.  The results came back showing more improvement, and her levels are close to normal.  The oncologist said that she can start on her chemotherapy medications now.  The meds were ordered and should arrive in about 3-5 days.  She will then need to have her blood re-tested in about two weeks, and a follow up visit with the oncologist in six weeks.  Nunya has been doing well otherwise and seems to feel good.  Some hair is growing back sporadically in her radiation burn patches as well.  We have even started taking her on short walks outside, and she is able to walk around without sneezing/hyperventilating.

Hair growing back after Tomotherapy12/29/2012We had a great Christmas with Nunya.  She has been doing well.  Still sneezing and reverse sneezing occasionally.  She has been feeling up to daily walks around the neighborhood.   We are still waiting on one of the chemo drugs, but we anticipate her starting the combination of pills this week.  Her bald spots are filling in quickly with golden blonde hair (even in the places that were white hair before).  The doctors told us that it was a possibility that if the hair came back it would be different.

Nunya's hair regrowth after tomotherapy

1/1/2013 - First dose of chemo.  Nunya had her first chemotherapy medication today.  She takes Cyclophosphamide and Furosemide once daily.  The directions say to give it in the morning as it will cause frequent urination.  Nunya lets herself outside through a doggy door, so hopefully that will not be an issue for her.  The Cyclophosphamide directions say to wear gloves when handling the medication.  Kind of an unnerving warning.  Nunya took both meds like a champ, however seemed to have a hard time getting the Cyclophosphamide down.  It is a bigger pill, so we’re not sure if it is hard to swallow or if it tastes bad.  Hopefully taste will not be a deterrent because she will be on these for the foreseeable future.

 

1/6/2013A week in. Almost a week after the first dose and all seems to be going welling.  Urination has increased and sleeping a little bit more.  Hard to tell if it is the cold outside and the warm bed sucking her in and not the medicine (I am guilty of spending a lot of time in bed with her this weekend.)

1/13/2013 – Another week.  Nothing major to report.  We have another blood test scheduled this week to see if the chemotherapy medication is bothering her liver.  I believe we head back to College Station in two weeks to have the nose scanned – we are both a little nervous and anxious about that test.

1/16/2013 – Blood test results came back and the Veterinarians at Texas A&M said that they looked good. Liver functions are still looking improved. Nunya is to stay on all current meds and her next appointment will be the big CT scan on Feb 12th.

2/2/2013 – TODAY is Nunya’s 13th birthday and we are extremely happy to have her here with us.  Today has been filled with treats and Ringos.

2/12/2013 – Great news today!  Nunya had her first CT scan since finishing the tomotherapy treatment and the scan shows that her cancer is gone!  There were no detectable tumors to be found on the scans.  There is the possibility that tiny cancer cells or tumors still exist, however Nunya is considered in remission.  We were so happy to get this news.

No cancer / cancer

No cancer / cancer

Nunya will continue to take her chemotherapy meds for the foreseeable future, and probably the rest of her life.  This is to help prevent new cancer growth or spreading.  She seems to tolerate the meds well so this is not a problem.  Another blood test was done to see if she needs to stay on her liver medications.  We should find out those results soon.  The doctor discussed Nunya’s sneezing and reverse sneezing and said that that will likely continue for her lifespan, but that it is nothing to worry about unless she starts sneezing blood again.  The scans showed how some of the small bones in her nose got dramatically reduced by the radiation treatments.  This means that she probably doesn’t filter air as well when breathing as she used to, causing the reverse sneezing.  This could make her more susceptible to infections, so we will just have to keep an eye on it and act quickly if we suspect she has any type of infection.  We also need to have regular vet exams done every three months, then have CT scans every six months to monitor her progress and make sure the cancer is staying away.

Overall though this was the best possible outcome, and was the news we were hoping for.  We had already thought that going through with the treatment was worth it but this helped reinforce to us that we did the right thing for Nunya, given her particular case.

3/9/2013 – Just a quick update to say Nunya is doing well!  Thanks @bobirakova for your kind words and input!

4/6/2013 – We are extremely happy to say that Nunya had another good month.  The tree pollen gave her a little bit of issue about a week ago.  I think it is again due to the lack of ‘filtering’ structure in her nose.  She would sneeze then start licking at her nose until we wiped it – little gross.

5/5/2013 – We are still very pleased with her health.  Still sneezing regularly but nothing that slows her down.  She has an appointment on the 15th at Texas A&M.  We are hopeful that all will go well and that they might have a suggestion for the sneezing.

5/15/2013  – We had been worried about Nunya recently.  Over the past week she has seemed like she was having more difficulty breathing, and you could hear a wheezing sound and a congestion sound when she breathed.  She was sneezing more than usual, and was snoring heavily when sleeping.  We were scared that maybe there was a blockage or tumor growing back.  We took her for a follow up appointment at A&M and they examined her and took radiographs.    The doctors suspect that Nunya just has rhinitis flaring up.  Rhinitis is basically an inflammation in the nasal passage that can cause the congestion and post nasal drip that she has been experiencing.  They put her on antibiotics (Amoxicillin/Clavulanate) for two weeks to see if that improves her symptoms.  Hopefully this will take care of her breathing issues and all will go back to being well again.  The vet suggested we do another CT scan in another three months, and we can do it even sooner if her breathing problems do not improve with the medication.   The scans and blood work look good for now, so we are hoping we are just dealing with an inflammation or infection that will clear up soon.

6/15/2013 – We are still battling the congestion.  Nunya seems to not mind so much and is at full activity.  She has been taking an antibiotic for about four weeks now.  The cancer side continues to produce blood snot and the non-cancer affected side is crusting up with snot.  She has been a trooper while we have had to clean up her nose with tissues.  She seems to have some difficulty breathing due to congestion at times.  We give her an antihistamine to help, but that tends to make her sleepy.  We will be calling the vet on Monday to see if they can recommend anything else to help with the congestion.

6/21/2013 – Received some bad news.  I started a new page.

Doggy Cancer Database:

More like Dog Cancer Spreadsheet for now but please feel free to add any information about your experiences.

Things we learned with our dog cancer experience:

  • When dogs are nauseous they lick their lips a lot. We were prescribed Ondansetron for that.
  • Staring at wall = pain.
  • When they shake – it means pain, not scared or cold.
  • TomoTherapy cost $8000 for the 20 treatments.  Texas A&M kept the amount exactly to what we were quoted.  This figure does not include follow up visits.

Things we tried during our dog’s cancer experience:

  • ThunderShirt – It is a silly looking vest but I swear she likes it and we get a better response with it on during tough situations. It has also been an easy way to visualize the loss of weight. This win is embarrassing to admit and is completely credited to Ali.
  • Pill Shooter – Horrible device that you shove down the throat to get pills down. It is an unfortunate necessity. Jen really helped us out with this recommendation. We learned you can get almost all medicine in suspension but it is still a must have to keep around.
  • MagicBox – It started as a joke after we got a new dishwasher but has been a keeper. Nunya has always been an inside dog and never really had a dog house besides her crate. We cut a hole, inserted dog bed, heating blanket and extra pillows and turned it into a safe zone. She seems to feel secure in it and will normally crawl in after being doped up with her pain meds.
  • Heated Everything – Heating pads, blankets, mattress pads – she will seek it out and pick to lay there first every time.
  • Heat Robot – Thanks to Lego Mindstorm, we can override the safety features built in the heating blankets. Mindstorm pushes the heat button every 3.5 hours so the blanket is always warm.
  • Safe Zone / Safe Foods – We reserved special places that were medicine free hideouts and we don’t put pills in specific foods. As her sense of smell has increased, she can detect the pills in almost anything and she won’t go near it again. As a result, daily food and specific treats (rewards) became safe zones.
  • Making her sleep by us – After we built box fort with auto heater she would tend to not make the jump to the bed, however it was hard for us to decide and stay ahead of the pain management.
  • Pumpkin helps settle stomach – We haven’t tried this yet but recently heard if from the vet.  (k-weezy on Reddit gave us the first heads up)
  • Walgreens Prescription Savings Club Family Membership will cover pets too.  We learned about this after the fact but might be something to check out.  They claim it is risk free (and claim to refund membership if you do not save).  They only have the drugs common to humans and canines.

Other tricks we discovered were to ask for her pain medication, Tramadol, to be made into a liquid format. The vet pharmacy was able to do so, and it makes it so much easier to give the medicine to her. She still does not like the taste, but as a liquid it goes down much quicker and is over with fast. Staying on schedule with her medications is important to offer her the best pain management we can.

One thing we didn’t realize when we began the treatment regimen was how hard it would be on the people. Obviously the dog takes the brunt of the pain and stress, but it is not easy for us either. Dropping Nunya off is a heartbreak each day, as she knows what is coming and she doesn’t want to go with the vet techs. She will try to climb into our laps so they don’t take her. She trusts us to protect her, so it is hard to pick her up and hand her away knowing she will be in pain later. We know we are doing it to help her, but wish we could communicate it to her better. In the evenings it is hard to see her in pain too. We do what we can to make her comfortable, and often that involves a lot of hands-on time and attention to her. We don’t want to leave her alone at the house for a long time, so spend most our time hanging around home to stay close. Also, she knows when we pull out the bottle to give her pain medication, and she will run away from us (something she has never done before). Our emotional stress is minimal compared to her experience, however it is also something to be noted.

Nunya Photos:

Thank You For Your Support

We appreciate all of the kind thoughts and gestures.  Please feel free to email us at Thomas at this domain (<myfirstname>@<myfirstname><mylastname>.com).


Comments

  1. Terry -

    Thank you so much. You wrote so well what we are going through. I too am a blogger but unable to get this one started. Keep it up

    Xo

    Reply
  2. Thomas -

    Terry, I am sorry to hear you are going through the same situation. Best of luck.

    Reply
  3. Heidi G. -

    I am so glad you can afford to help your furry baby. I know how hard it is to watch them battle cancer. My beloved Amber, a yellow lab mix, just recently lost a 10 month battle with bone cancer. The doctor had really thought it would take less than three months, but we really believe she knew we weren’t ready even though she was 14. On Sept 7th, she went as far as she could, the cancer spread to her brain and we had to put her out of misery. I battle still with the fear I didn’t do enough or I made her suffer longer than necessary because I wasn’t ready to let her go. In the end, I held her face in my hands and kept telling her what a good girl she had been and how much I loved her. I hope that you have success with your battle with your sweet looking dog, I am interested to know if having the ability to give the expensive treatments prolong her life and leaves her with a good quality. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      I am very sorry about the loss of Amber. If it is of any consolation, with Nunya the doctors told us that had she been an older and larger dog they would not have gone forward with treatments as the prognosis would not have been improved. She just completed her radiation treatments so we still are waiting to see if they made enough of a difference. The next apt is in about a week but I am not sure if we will get all the answers. We will have to wait and see I guess. Thank you for your kind words. It sounds like you took wonderful care of your girl.

      Reply
  4. Coco's Tami -

    I just learned hours ago that my beloved 10 yo male shih-tzu most likely has nasal adenocarcinoma and I am crushed. My swollen, puffy and teary eyes found your page.

    I loved hearing about Nunya and your love for her.

    Coco does not have the bloody type but it appears to have progressed rapidly in the last 5 wks since her first runny nose. I’m honestly just trying to deal with the emotions tonight….I’ll be able to start reaching out for more information tomorrow.

    Thanks for listening to a similar heavy heart.

    I’m sending good energy to you, your wife and most of all, Nunya.

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      Let us know if we can help with any info or if you feel like posting more of Coco’s story. Wishing you the best.

      Reply
  5. Melissa Llanes -

    Your Nunya is so beautiful and such a trooper! I just wanna cuddle and pet her!! Most people don’t even realize that dogs can get cancer. I lost both of my childhood pets, mother and daughter poodle-terriers, Peggy Sue and Tinkerbell to breast cancer. Now I have Dottie Mae, Charlie and Rocky. Dottie was born with an infected broken leg and her leg is pretty much useless except for a little balance maybe. Her little limp is apart of her personality though and is adorable (at least I think so). I am planning on keeping up with Nunyas progress and praying for the best for her!

    Reply
  6. Tayler -

    I’m so sorry to hear about Nunya’s condition. I just went through a major health scare with one of my dogs as well. Termite, or Mini as I like to call her, became really sick this past Halloween. She wouldn’t eat or keep anything down, was lethargic and lost a lot of weight fast. She was the runt of a Jack Russel/ chihuahua mix litter. So she’s naturally small anyway. She dropped 3lbs in one weekend. We took her to the vet, they did a bunch of tests and they all came back negative. The following day she wasn’t doing any better so we took her back to the vet and he did an x-ray. She was diagnosed with Pymetra. A severe infection in the uterus. They did an emergency hysterectomy. The size of her uterus was unreal. I still can’t believe it came out of her. It was bigger than she was.

    Her surgery went ok but she still wasn’t out of the woods. She stayed at the vets for a couple of days to get some nutrition in her. After 2 or 3 days the vet said we could take her home. She was awful looking. So emaciated. We had to syringe feed her Ensure and anorexia food. She couldn’t walk by her self or hold her own head up. After a couple of days at home she started eating by herself and could stand.

    Almost a month later she is doing fantastic. She’s eating solid food, walking and running. She still stumbles a bit when she runs or gets tired but overall she’s doing amazing. She can’t jump on and off the bed that well… well if a toy is involved she can lol. She is a miracle. When she went to get her stitches removed the vet told us that she didn’t breath on her own during the operation, they had to breath for her. I’m glad they didn’t disclose that bit of info during the surgery or I would have flipped. Mini had all the odds stacked against her, we’re pretty sure the vet sent her home to die. But she didn’t and I hope Nunya finds the same strength my Mini did to keep living.

    Reply
  7. nonlinearmind -

    I wish you and your pup the best of luck. As for the reverse sneezing, my mom had a small papion that did that when it got older. I forget what the reason was, but I know it wasn’t the sign of anything bad according to the vet.

    Reply
  8. Lorraine Walters -

    I hope Nunya is okay….

    Reply
  9. lrk -

    Thanks for posting pictures, and information about Nunya.. I always wonder how our patients are doing after therapy. I’m so glad to see that Nunya is doing well. Can’t wait to see her when she come’s in for her next..

    Reply
  10. Leslie -

    Thank you for your effort to inform the rest of us who are starting this journey. I know how hard it is to deal this. My 11 year Boston Terrier Owen is one month since diagnosis. I’ve decide to not do treatment due to his age and heart problems. I couldn’t afford a CT scan so I’m not sure how big the tumor is or where it is exactly. I do kind of wish I knew that. I changed his diet to K9 Critical Care and I’m hoping his immune system will be stronger. I was told he may have 6 months but reading blogs makes me think it may be sooner. He’s acting the same at this time. He has one open nostril and has had only one bad night of sleeping. I’m using a daily datebook to keep track of his sleeping and eating patterns. I feel I’m often in denial bcuz he’s acting normal, but then I remember that the end is coming and it’s just crushing! For the last year my original vet told me he had allergies, but now I know that wasn’t it! I feel I lost a year when I could have boosted his nutrition. I’ve had that vet for over 20 years but feel a loss of trust. If I can keep my baby calm and happy and pain free, I’m hoping to make it to June.

    Reply
  11. Kathy Reynolds -

    My heart is breaking reading this. My 10 year old lab mix is going in for her CT Scan and biopsy next Tues. She is so happy and so healthy looking it’s hard to believe that there is something growing in her nasal passage that could take her life. I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Her previous owners abused her and I am so scared that should we choose radiation…she will fear us / other people..or think that we are hurting her. But I also want to fight for her…the decision is gut wrenching.

    Reply
  12. Bounthay Khammanyvong -

    Thank you for writing this. My dog Booda was diagnosed with advance stages of nasal cancer today and I can’t stop crying. I want him to have a long life and good quality of life but don’t want to be selfish. I’m going to see an oncologist tomorrow and explore his treatment. He has a problem with his heart and can’t go through anesthesia. I’m contemplating on what are my options and should I take the risk and put him through radiation therapy. I’m trying to find a definitive time line if I don’t put him through it and let him live his life out by my side. He seems really uncomfortable and can’t breath. I can tell he is in pain but not sure how to proceed. I also cannot afford the cost of the treatment so I feel like I’m letting him down. I’m trying to work with my vet on a payment plan but not sure if i’m going to put him through the treatment.

    What made you decide to go through with the treatment? I love my dog dearly and had him since I was a teenager. He have slept by my side every night but I find that I’m at a lost right now. The oncologist told me that I can extend his life for a year at most so I don’t know if it’s worth putting him through the treatment.

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      I am very sorry to hear the news about Booda. I can assure you that you are not letting him down as I can tell from your comment that you deeply care for him. He sounds like he is a loyal companion. I know how painful it is to watch them not be able to breath – car rides helped with Nunya during this time because she would switch to mouth breathing mode. I also can’t recommend the thunder shirt enough. It is such a silly (and overpriced thing) but it seemed to relax her.

      I wish I had a better answer for you on what made us go through with the treatment. A lot of it came down to gut feeling of what we thought Nunya would want, the fear of the hurt we could already see verses the possible hurt that could come with treatment, and as scientific as we tried to make the decision, love and greed played a huge part.

      Nunya was considered a ‘candidate’ for the tomotherapy because she was still healthy enough to undergo the process of being put under anesthesia 20-30 times and had no other heath conditions that be impacted by her treatment. This made our choice a little easier because we felt the risk was less. We also were able to pick her up everyday – the decision would have been different if we had to leave her for a month for treatment.

      What I always tried to remind myself, which seems of no comfort when typing it; the end result is going to be the same. If you cannot change the final outcome you can just try to make the best choices for you and Booda to get there.

      Ali and I wish you and Booda the best. Send me a photo of Booda, if you would like me to add him to the site.

      Reply
  13. Deanna -

    Thank you for taking the time to share your story My Girl Ebony has nasal cancer it is really hard for her and for me shes my best friend she is a 12 yr old Hungarian puli you might be able to help me with this she seems to be having trouble breathing she sounds so awfull as you said she cant settle to sleep do they get used to the breathing out of the mouth? and how long does it take? this is really upsetting me i get so distressed watching her distressed other than this she seems to be in good spirits

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      I am sorry to hear about Ebony. When we started down this journey we had no idea how many people were impacted by doggy nasal tumors. It was strange, mouth breathing seemed like the easy solution but Nunya really never switched completely (other than when she was in the car with the a/c on). After about a week, she figured out a hybrid solution that was still really loud (basically the sides of her lips would flap and let out and in air).

      We found that if we could get her calmed down, the breathing was a lot less labored.

      Wish you the best.

      Reply
  14. Bounthay Khammanyvong -

    How is Nunya doing? I had my series of appointments with the PCP and the Oncologist and even a Cardiologist. Unfortunately my dog can’t go through the treatment because he has heart problems. All the different vets pretty much tell me there is nothing I can do until we can fix the heart. It broke my heart and I can’t stop crying every time I see him. I was hoping to hear how Nunya is doing after the treatment. I wish my dog can do it but he can’t. All I can do is give him pain meds and anti-inflammatory to keep him comfortable. The CT and biopsy came back positive and its advance enough that it’s in his brain. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it because aside from the nose bleeds and some signs of him being in pain, he seem to be fine to me. My vet to look for signs of seizures. She recommend I put him down before than but I can’t bring myself to do it. She quoted me 1-2 months but I can’t imagine that to be true. He is running around like he has been. He has bad days lately but then he bounce right back. I’m so glad Nunya is a success story because i’m living through the worst nightmare of my life. I was hopeful when I saw this page and still hopeful even with all my vet’s warnings. Thanks.

    Reply
  15. Eric -

    My boy Atlas has a nasal tumor also. It’s been over a year since diagnosis. He still has bloody noses and will sneeze out tissue every now and again. Every day he gets Piroxicam, Reishi Mushroom, Astragulus Root, Green tea pill, Antioxident pill and I mix it all with Flaxseed oil and low fat cottage cheese. He is scheduled for an artery block next week which will decrease blood flow to the tumor and help with nose bleeds.

    Reply
  16. Thomas -

    Today is Nunya’s 13th birthday (well approx. ~ since she was a pound puppy, we will never know for sure). We didn’t know if we would get to see this landmark and want to again thank everyone for their support and well wishes.

    Reply
  17. Janice Dunstan -

    We found out a week ago that our Tucker has nasal cancer after many trips to the vet. He used to weigh 126 pounds and now is down to 111. The vet said we should put him down but my husband wasn’t ready and I agreed with him. I soak his hard food and make him oatmeal and add can food and he likes that very much…it must hurt to chew because he wouldn’t eat before. Tucker is only 7 years old and he’s German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix we adopted from the shelter when he was a puppy. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    Reply
  18. Becky -

    Thank you for all the info! My 12 yr old Lab, Kyro, was just diagnosed with nasal cancer 2 weeks ago after we found a tumor on the roof of his mouth. The vet never did any tests or anything, just prescribed an antibiotic and prednisone and that’s it. I have done loads of research on the subject and the holistic/homeopathic ways to “treat” this because the radiation and chemo aren’t an option for me simply because I don’t have the money. I have emailed every vet oncologists in the DFW area begging for help and have had no luck. I understand Drs not wanting to do stuff for free, but I wasn’t offered any help. Kyro’s breathing is getting worse b/c the tumor is getting bigger but he’s still eating and playing and barking and being his normal pain in the ass self, but I know it’s just a matter of time. Do you know of ANYTHING that can help shrink tumors or any holistic advice or programs that could help? He’s the best dog EVER!!! Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!!! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      Hi Becky,

      We are really sorry to hear about Kyro. We have heard all sorts of recommendations such as low starch/carb diet and exercise, but personally we are not sure what works. A couple of suggestions would be to try to contact teaching hospitals or vet schools and see if they can give you any recommendations, see if they have any trials, or if they have any angel donor programs. Reddit is also an amazing place to find out about other people’s experiences with this situation – ours has been fairly limited to the tomotherapy treatment route.

      We wish you the best,

      Alison and Thomas

      Reply
  19. Bounthay Khammanyvong -

    Hi Becky, I’m a big follower of Nunya since my dog was diagnosed months ago. I’m in the same boat as you. My dog has a heart murmur so he can’t undergo anesthesia. I found a chinese herb called Yunann Baiyao. It helps with the bleeding. Give to your dog when he bleeds and it will stop right away. Aside from that, ask your vet for pain med. Tramadol works well. Similar to humans, your dog is probably having a constant headache. Also, Metacam is a good anti-inflammatory you can ask your vet to prescribe. It slows down the tumor growth but unfortunately ther eis no real cure for it. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. I come home from work and cry everynight when I see him sleeping or panting due to pain. It’s worst with dogs because they can’t express themselves so you assume the worst. Hope that helps. Also, check out Rudy Story on Facebook. Its a very lively forum on dog nasal cancer and you can find great suggestions there.

    Reply
  20. Trunio's mom -

    My dog has a heart murmur as well (due to mitral valve regurgitation – this is age-related). He finished his RT for nasal fibrosarcoma last year in December (18 x 3 Gy, traditional protocol) and was doing fabulous until 10 days ago…when a tumour he had on his spleen ruptured and started bleeding into his abdomen. He underwent an emergency surgery just to be diagnosed with a tick-borne disease five days later. This amazing boy is still with us, although his prognosis is not good at all :( That’s just to let you know that heart murmur does not necessarily mean that a dog cannot be treated for cancer. All the best to our furry friends!

    Reply
  21. Grace Caine -

    I love inspirational stuff like this and found you this morning. My Stuart has lymphoma and it might be spreading.. trying to find inspiration and alternative options. I just can’t do the chemo thing and the thought of him losing his leg is devastating. He’s had murmurs for years now but has handled that like a champ… the cancer is knocking a little wind out of his sails but he’s a tough boy.

    Reply
  22. Laina -

    Thomas and Alison – Thank you for sharing your experiences concerning your sweet dog Nunya’s cancer treatment.

    After having researched “cat nose tumors” via google, webmd, youtube, etc, this is the first site I have found which offers a detailed report on a pet’s reaction to nose cancer treatment.

    My 5 1/2 year old cat, Ashes, whom I rescued 5 years ago, had been sneezing (no blood) frequently for the last couple of years. My vet said that it was most likely allergies. In October 2012 Ashes began making louder trumpeting sounds and had a little blood coming from her nose. At that time we were treating our 17 year old cat, Mango, who was terminally ill with hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. So, we weren’t paying that much attention to Ashes’ new trumpeting noises. Ashes accompanied Mango to our cat specialist vet in late November 2012, the week before we had Mango put to sleep. The cat specialist detected tumor tissue inside of Ashes’ right nostril. Now, several months later, having consulted a traditional vet and our cat specialist vet, the prognosis for Ashes is not good, regardless of the course of treatment. The traditional vet suggested blood work, x-rays and scans for $750-$950. The cat specialist vet recommended seeing a cancer specialist for a biopsy to determine what type of tumor it is, starting at $800 – just for the diagnosis. (Apparently 90% of nose tumors in cats are cancerous.)

    Considering the expenses of medical heroics and Ashes’ prognosis, we have decided to give her palliative treatment with an anti-inflammatory (Prednisolone), antiboitics (Clavamox), and pain medicine (Buprenex). Last week Ashes had a sneezing fit where she blew out some of the tumor tissue from her right nostril. There was some blood, but her lower nostril is now clear. She does have some mucus discharge, but her nose and face are not very swollen. The membrane on the inside corner of her right eye no longer retracts when she opens her eyes. This is due to the tumor growth pushing on the membrane. I imagine that the tumor is growing inside her nasal cavity, possibly into her throat, and/or brain.

    It is difficult to know if she is in pain – if she has a headache. I have pain medication ready to give her, but have only given it to her a few times on bad days. At present I am pilling Ashes with Prednisolone and Clavamox. My traditional vet gave me liquid Buprenex to put in Ashes gums. But,she swallows it immediately and I don’t know if it is as effective if not absorbed through the gums. I also ordered Prednisolone Transdermal Gel from a compounding pharmacy. This gel is applied to the skin of the cat’s inner ears. The cat specialist vet provided me with Clavamox in liquid form to be administered orally. Since I already had experience giving injections and subcutaneous fluids to Mango, the cat specialist vet prescribed me a vial of Buprenex so that I can give Ashes this pain medication via needle injection.

    Watching a beloved pet decline and knowing that we will soon have to live our life without them is so, so difficult. Mango was my best friend, my prince charming, and the best cat in the world for me. I believe that giving him the shot in his hind paw, which ended his suffering, was my final act of love for him. I held him in my arms as he was injected and loved him until the very end. I will always miss my Mango and will never “get over” losing him.

    “We grieve for a lifetime, because we’re forever working to incorporate the death into our own tapestry of life.” http://www.caring.com/articles/how-to-grieve

    Hugs and prayers to you, to Nunya, and your family.

    Reply
  23. Petra -

    Thomas & Alison -

    thank you so much for sharing your experience. It was interesting and emotional to read your experience. I am waiting for what I think will be the same diagnosis with my almost 17-year old girl Roxie (Corgi-Basenji-mix). We’ve had a lot of bloody sneezes, inverted sneezing, nose bleeds for the past week, and a little bump on the ridge of her nose – vet will call the results in today (my stomach in a knot).

    Although, I know we will not go down the same route as you guys did – we will treat her homeopathically – I applaud your courage, your commitment, but most of all your love for this blessed little soul. We lost our 15-year old Aussie Dexter last November to Osteosarcoma, and with a prognosis of only 3-5 months with conventional treatment (chemo, radiation), Dexter enjoyed another 13 months without pain and extremely good quality of life with homeopathy – hence our decision to go down this lane again..

    Nunya is a very brave little girl, and I hope to high heavens that she is able to enjoy the times to come without the stupid tumor popping back up…EVER AGAIN! I’ll keep you guys in my thoughts. Thank you for doing what you do for her. She’s very lucky to have you (~ even though I know you’ll tell me that you are the lucky ones). Aren’t we all :)

    Give your spirited girl a big hug from us!

    Petra

    Reply
  24. June -

    I read your post and want to say thank you so much for sharing, I cried my eyes out reading this as I suspect our boy Spot has the same condition. We are waiting for the scope results and his symptoms are the same. We are very much like you and take him for regular visits to the vet, we feed them with the best and do everything we would for our children. So we are at the start of the journey and so many of our other friends have discouraged us to go ahead with treatment. My view if this was my child I would do everything possible to give him a fighting chance and I will do the same for Spot. So your posts are so valuable and encouragement

    Reply
  25. Petra -

    In case you guys need a natural remedy against nose bleeds: My holistic vet prescribed an herb mixture for Roxie (see my post above) against nose bleeds. It is called Yunnan Baiyao and we started her on it yesterday – NO nose bleeds or bloody sneezes since then!!!!!! Yunnan Baiyao is used a lot by holistic/homeopathic vets when soft tissue cancers rupture or internal bleeding occurs. Here is more information on it: http://www.activeherb.com/baiyao/ and the website I bought it from http://www.modernherbshop.com/Yunnan_Paiyao_Yunnan_Baiyao_Stop_Bleeding_Powder_p/suimed-yunnanbaiyao.htm?1=1&CartID=0

    Roxie weighs 45 lbs and gets 3 capsules 2 x day mixed in with her food. She’s a very picky eater but the capsules don’t seem to bother her at all! I got this > SUIMED-YunnanBaiyaoCaps10pk – Yunnan Baiyao Capsules (160 caps) $59.99 – but it comes also in smaller sizes. The Modern Herb shop is very reputable and was recommended by my vet. I searched other sites as well, but this one seems to be the most economic one.

    Just in case you guys are dealing with heavy nose bleeds, this is the way to go without side effects and medication interference. Just thought I share.

    Reply
  26. Carole McDonald -

    Thanks for sharing your story as we are going through the same thing. We are from Winnnipeg, Canada and had to drive to Fort Collins, Colorado with our 12 year old beagle, Benny. Thankfully he likes car rides. The ride is 1700 miles each way. . Using new radiation equipment Benny had just three treatments and also treatment of a spot on one of his lympnodes as they discovered this during his stay at the clinic which was at the University. Benny had his second chemotherapy treatment today. So far he seems more comfortable than his first treatment. Benny has much the same side effects as your dog. He has four more treatments which will be at the end of June. He is to have another CT scan in August to see if the tumor is gone. We are quite nervous about this. Our prayers are with you and sending our best wishes to your little guy.

    Reply
  27. Mike Cotts -

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m going through the exact same scenerio, so far, as you did. My cocker spaniel, Trixie, will start this radiation treatment on 4/15/13 at the University of Madison Veterinary Hospital here in Wisconsin. Everything you wrote, prior to starting the radiation treatments, is a mirror image of what we have gone through. It’s like I was reading my own situation. I’ve printed your story out and will use it as a guide going forward and look forward to any further updates you add. I can only hope that this works as well for Trixie as it did for Nunya.

    Reply
    • Alison -

      Best of luck to Trixie as she starts her treatments.

      Reply
  28. Lee Sternal -

    Has anyone been told if there are suspected causes for all of this nose and sinus canine cancer?
    If so, I and some of my trial lawyer buddies would be willing to try to make a difference in this situation
    that looks like it is occurring way too often to be accepted as “normal”.

    My guy, “Link” like Carole’s “Benny”, just went through the 3day 30 gray treatment with the only one in the country Varian
    Trilogy System at CSU in Ft. Collins. Very nice people but no present post radiation protocol for “mushroom therapy” to strengthen
    the immune system. And, no special advice given on diets designed to be less likely to “feed” the c. cells that have survived.
    So, based upon the Nov. 2012 study published by Penn State on the surprising and very encouraging results they obtained by use
    of the “turkey tail” mushroom, Coriolus Versicolor and the other published results obtained by use of the “white button” Agaricus Bio
    there is reason to be optimistic about the results that can possibly be obtained by use of non-traditional medicine. Would certainly be
    “good” to read about any such success stories .

    Reply
  29. Lucinda Lavelle -

    Hi I want to tell you my story. My beautiful staffie cross Moomin was diagnosed with nasal cancer in January of this year. We were given the options and it was explained that he had a rare type of cancer and maybe not too long to live as he was already at the reverse sneezing and bleeding stage and we chose to go for radio therapy in the hope we could give him some more quality time – he was not even nine years old and the diagnosis was a terrible blow. I was pretty devestated about the situation – as we all do who visit your blog – I love my friend dearly. I read your blog at the time before I started the radiation and felt your every up and down but was heartened by the outcome. Let me tell you about Moomin. He was a very clever dog. But he was a fearful guy who didn’t like going for walks in the dark, shivered and shook at fireworks and loud bangs and was quite a nervy boy if he wasn’t in his own home. He had lots of human friends who hung out with him but I was his Mum. He was fun and loving and mischievious and beautiful.

    We started the radio therapy immediately as his tumour was large and filled the left side of his nasal cavity and I was fearful it would start to effect his eye or brain. Three times a week for four weeks we drove the 40 miles to the hospital and with ever increasing fear he would go through the doors for his treatment. I felt a very mixed emotion – I was trying to save him but I was submitting him to fearful encounters and I knew that the outcome would result in pain. It was a hard and stressful time – every day I felt the misery of the situation.
    At the end of the four weeks of treatment (12 fractions) we prepared outrselves for the results. Each day Moomin’s nose broke down a little and his eyes started to be red raw and painful. He had developed an ulcer on his left eye and he was itchy all the time. We had a few magical days where his pain was under control and he enjoyed his walks but each day deteriorated. He was on antibiotics, tramadol, codeine and parcetemol – oitments and steriods – but each day he was dealing with the pain less well and each day I felt more and more stressed that he was suffering. Day 8 and 9 PRT he was not coping very well and I went to my vets and back and forth to the Hospital to discuss his condition. I was reassured by the hospital and they showed me a dog with similar burns to his eyes and nose who was now doing well – so we carried on. Moomin became difficult to medicate. He was terrified to having his eye creams administered and at 36 kilos of strong dog not easy to convince it was for his own good. We did our best trying to keep a balance between medicating him and not stressing him out to the point of hysteria. Day 14 was terrible. He was in obvious pain despite the powerful cocktail of meds and his eyes and nose were raw and he was shaking. That night he couldn’t settle so we administered a liquid morphine that the hospital gave us. He woke at 5 am crying – more than crying – howling with pain. I was beside myself. I rang the hospital and they said I could administer another pain relief. I did this but he woke a few hours later – this time he was howling and in a solid ball of pain – not responding to our voices. I was grief stricken to see him suffer like this and so was my husband. We went to the vet as soon as it was open and I went to try and talk things through with the vet and the hospital through tears and a rising sense of panic. My husband stayed in the car with moomin and I brought the vet out to see him. As i opened the car door and saw Moo with his head hanging down, a dribble of snot from his nose – shaking and wimpering – I completely lost the plot. We now had to choose between putting him out of his misery and loosing him forever or witnessing the pain for days more not knowing how it would go. The decision was agony. But each time I looked at Moo and thought of taking him home to suffer or taking him to the hospital he feared so much to be kept on a drip for two days – i broke down unable to imagine it. It took half an hour or so to finally make the decision and we chose to end it. Even as the drugs were being administered I was wracked with indecision and fear that I was making a huge mistake. I thought of your blog time and time again -Nunya recovered and is still enjoying life. I am still haunted by the decision and every day my husband has to reassure me we made the right decision. Moo couldn’t deal with the pain. I am still haunted by doubts. I am really worried that somehow I mishandled his meds so he couldn’t cope – or I panicked and ended his life too soon. I guess by writing this a part of me wants to know what others think and a part of me wants to share the story so others can be prepared for the effects of the treatment – but I guess really I want someone to say I did the right thing. I know you are all going through it. I know the time we try and buy our friends will end eventually in the cancer winning – I guess I couldn’t accept the trade off of the agony he was going through with the extra months we might have had. I miss him very much and want to forget the trauma of the last few months and remember the nearly nine years of love and friendship we shared. It is one thing to face the cancer, it is one thing to loose such a special member of the family – but the hardest thing is the concern I did the wrong thing.

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      @Lucinda – your story is extremely touching. While it must have been very painful, Ali and I are very glad that you shared it. Over the last two days, I have struggled with exactly what to say … to me it is obvious that you cared for Moo very much and you did what was in Moomin’s best interest. I am confident that only you and your family could know what was the correct course of action in this difficult situation. I know Ali and I would have made the same decision had our situation worsened (we had the unpleasant conversation several times). I truly respect your courage and dedication to Moomin.

      Reply
  30. Janice Dunstan -

    I want to say that I also kept saying I put down our Brandy, (Boxer) to soon but the vet said that its very common for people to feel that way. It has been 2 years and I finally have accept that I had done what was best for her. Our Tucker has nasal cancer on his right side and the vet said, do not wait to long to put him down ,but my Husband said, we will know when it’s time and it has been 3 1/2 months now and he still is hanging in there. He is 7 years old and is a German Shephard/ Rotti mix and he was 130 before he got sick and is now 116 pounds. Please know that you did all you could do for your baby and it was time sweetie….take it from someone who knows that we’re our worst enemy!

    Reply
  31. Lucinda Lavelle -

    Thank you Janice – I wish you all the best with Tucker. Hard times :( Take care

    Reply
  32. Janice Dunstan -

    I don’t understand why our dogs are getting cancer…I’ve had a lot of dogs and never lost one to cancer till our Brandy 2 years ago now our Tucker is sickI. Is it the food were feeding them? I just don’t have any answers to that, but when I look at my 4 dogs I wonder which one will be next..crazy I know!

    Reply
  33. Lucinda Lavelle -

    I don’t know – I was told at the Liverpool University Small Animal Hospital that nasal cancer is still very rare – and Moomins carcinoma was so rare they didn’t even have any data on the success of radiation – so I think it is a very small number. Having two dogs in one family – not blood related – is extraordinary bad luck – I am so sorry. If it is environmental I am sure you would have a clue. I think in Moomin’s case it was caused by a strong blow to the nose he got two years ago. But I’m guessing.

    Reply
  34. Janice Dunstan -

    So you think a blow too the nose is the cause of your dogs cancer? I never thought of that , that’s interesting! I know with Tucker he is long nose, and they say you see that in long nose dogs.

    Reply
  35. June Jousten -

    Lucinda, I read your post and it has given me some peace thank you so much. But before I get into my story, I want to say thank you and know that you did the right thing for you, on instinct like a mum, you react as it is required in the situation. As each case differs so does the decisions we have to make. Know that you gave you dog a good life and let that be your solace. It’s amazing that you still have your heart in the right place to question this, but you know in your heart of hearts you did Moomin proud and for sure he had much love, more than most animals get. Well done

    Our dog was diagnosed with a tumor about a month and a bit, did the Xray first with a nasal flush, then his breathing got more labored, off to a CT Scan and three days later surgery. He looked so awful after the surgery. The cut was from his forehead until his nose and it was a huge gape. I cried when I seen him it seemed as if someone had beat him to a pulp. He was in ICU for a day and was very down as we were not allowed to visit. Day 2 we visited and he was so happy to see us and just wanted to go with us, he at least started eating and his spirits were up. He cried so much when we left and had to stay for at least 3 days as they had a plug in his nose. He looked so good and then day 3 they called to say they removing the plug and then he should be able to come home. Nothing prepared me for what he would look like, he became so swollen and his face was twice it size and they seemed to thing it was ok. Four days later my gut said he needed help, took him back and he something something emphazemia (spelling), another tube had to be inserted and the bloating/swelling subsided then came back. But today a week later, I got home this evening and his face is right back to normal. And when I look at his reactions and his happy eyes I know that all this discomfort we have put him through has given him another chance and that he is happy. PS we live in South Africa and wish there were more of animal lovers from here participating on this blog. Good luck to each one of you and your wonderful doggies, may the journey be a happy and not too tough one

    Reply
  36. Lucinda Lavelle -

    @June @Thomas Thank you for your words of comfort. I have such mixed emotions and when I think of you June who went through so much to give your dog a chance and you Thomas that went through so much too and so close to my own story – and both of you are rewarded with extra quality time with your friends – I wonder again and again why I failed. I think Moo and I were very alike – we were both bad at handling the pain. There is no finite answer whether I did the right thing or the wrong thing and no matter what I go through now I can’t bring him back so I have to live with my decision. When I wish with all my heart he was back with me – I think of those last eight hours and would i be able to deal with it differently? – and I know I wouldn’t. I need to forgive myself and try and re-focus on the happy life he had – but I truly miss him and find it so hard to shake off the feeling I let him down.

    Reply
  37. Alison -

    We have had a lot of inquiries from people wanting to know if we knew of any statistics on dogs who have had cancer treatment – causes, treatments, side effects, long-term effects, etc. After some internet research and contacting some non-profit agencies, we have not found a place that keeps good statistics. We decided to start our own informal poll to learn from others who have had pets diagnosed with cancer and find out their experiences and outcomes. To see our results and to fill out your own information (we do not ask for any personal information), go to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Amx04E4u2wbgdFhJM25ZbGhPUlEyZERRbnhtVDZzQUE#gid=0

    Thanks to everyone,
    Alison

    Reply
  38. Tracey -

    Hi, Thomas, thank you so much for posting this. We are going through something similar with our dog, Lucy. She is nine years old and has a malignant melanoma on the roof of her mouth. She is not a candidate for surgery (it’s too large), but we are going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison on Wednesday to have her initial consultation with a radiation oncologist and CT scan. We hope to begin treatment next Monday. UW Madison also has Tomo radiation (I believe UW and Texas A&M are the only two in the country, but I could be wrong). We only discovered the tumor 10 days ago and met with the first oncologist last Thursday.

    I’m so thrilled to hear that Nunya is doing well. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience. This has all happened so quickly and the learning curve has been very steep. It’s extremely comforting to have the additional knowledge and hear a first-hand experience.

    Reply
  39. Lee Sternal -

    Tracey,

    I expect you were told that the plan is to deliver 30 “grays” to Lucy. So, was it discussed whether it can be done over a period of three days at 10 per day or
    instead must be stretched out over 10 or 20 days? (With my guy, “Link”, it was the 3 days but the machine at CSU (Ft. Collins, Colo.) is the Varian Triology
    Sterotactic). Each treatment is under a general anesthetic. So, ask about the different results that
    have been obtained with the “short” vs. the “long” program. Ask to see where Lucy will be kept when she
    isn’t in the waiting room with you.

    Cancer requires sugar to replicate itself. All sorts of “name brand” dog foods have sugar. Press for opinions as to what you should
    be using. Ask the oncologists what they think about the Nov. 2012 study published by Penn State with the finding that use of a certain mushroom
    extended survival time significantly for dogs with spleen based blood cancer. The thought is that anything which increases the ability of the
    immune system is good. Certain mushrooms are said to be able to do exactly that. But, if Lucy is to be getting “chemo” be sure to discuss whether the mushrooms should be taken before it is over.

    “Link” left CSU on March 18th. Except for the ugly lump on his head with hair loss first from the shaving for the biopsy and now from the
    radiation one would never know he was diagnosed with bilateral sinus cancer. He runs, plays, eats and acts like his normal self. So,
    “yes” there is reason to believe that this cursed crap can be beaten. In the meantime, if any of those docs at Wisconsin think they know
    of any product or environmental cause for this huge increase in nasal/sinus cancer, please post it .

    Reply
  40. Tracey -

    Thanks, Lee. Those are some very good questions and tips. We have our consult with the radiation oncologist tomorrow, so we’ll ask him about the “short” and “long” options then (we’ve also never heard any mention of “grays” yet). We’ve been told by our oncologist, based on her conversation with the radiation oncologist, that Lucy will need four treatments of radiation. I’m hoping they confirm that after her CT scan tomorrow. We’ve also been told, at this point, that she will not need chemo, but rather she will need four treatments of the Melanoma Vaccine (one shot every two weeks for eight weeks). I’ll update as soon as I know more. Thanks again for the tips! Glad to hear Link is doing so well!!

    Reply
  41. Mike Cotts -

    Tracey,

    Hope all goes well for Lucy. My Trixie(black female cocker spaniel with a nasal tumor) will have her last radiation treatment at UW Madison this Thursday. She was in a trial they have going on now for 3 weeks and so far her tumor is shrinking. They all have been really nice and caring there. After all it was hard turning over my dog in their care for a full week. But they took very good care of her. I wish you all the luck!

    Reply
  42. Tracey -

    Thanks, Mike! It’s great to hear such positive info about UW Madison! I’ve read a lot about them and it’s always been positive, but it’s nice to hear it from someone who’s been there. If Lucy’s treatment is four days (we’ll find out for sure tomorrow), we weren’t sure if we were going to leave her with them (we live in Chicago) or if we would stay at a local hotel and keep her with us each night. Your info is very reassuring. That’s great to hear about Trixie! All the best!

    Reply
  43. Rocco's Mom -

    Our dog, Rocco, just went through radiation therapy at Texas A&M as well. Since he is 14, we were given the option to choose the 5 treatments of higher fractions of radiation verses the 20 treatments of the traditional low-dose radiation. I, too, cannot say enough about the wonderful team at Texas A&M. They have made this extremely sad and emotional ordeal so much easier to handle. We were given a prognosis of an additional 9-12 months after the treatment, but I am hoping for much longer than that for our boy! The high-dose treatment was also 3500.00 vs. the traditional cost of 7000-8000.00.

    Reply
  44. Manu -

    I am very touched by your story. My dog had exactly the same issue with Tramadol, and I had to stop giving it to him, as he started mistrusting me with any kind of food.
    My beloved 15 year old dog is scheduled for euthanasia tomorrow morning…these are my last hours with him.
    His symptoms began a few months ago. I don’t want to go through all of it now. I opted for no invasive treatments because of his age. I don’t want him to suffer any more.
    I hope your beautiful Nunya will have many more happy years with you. I know I have had the best with my little boy…..
    It is the hardest decision ever to let him go…

    Reply
  45. becky -

    My sweet Roxie has a tumor in the right side of her nose. She is almost 13 yrs old. I love her dearly. I cant stand the thought of her going through treatments and causing her to suffer. We have enjoyed her to the fullest. I will do what I can for her to make her comfortable til the end. I wish Nunya the best. You are awesome for giving her a chance to beat the odds. Good luck.

    Reply
  46. Lucinda Lavelle -

    Hi Becky
    Its nearly three months since I took the decision to euthanise Moomin after the radiation therapy effects became too painful for him to cope with. I have so many regrets – and I still feel the pain of loosing him under these circumstances and find it very hard to deal with. When I finally ended it we were all in a terrible state. Moomin was suffering, I was not coping emotionally – it was a mess. The best advice with hindsight would be to do what you are doing – accept the inevitable, be calm until the last and give Roxie a quiet and serene ending. It is very hard I know. My thoughts are with you.

    Reply
  47. DebbieLT -

    Our 13 year old Bassett Mix developed nasal cancer. His entire right nostril, sinus and parasinus is filled with cancer. No bloody nose or symptoms-doesn’t even sneeze much. Figured it out when he started being very congested at night. Because of his age and problems with his heart and hips, he is not a good candidate for Radiation. We are keeping him as comfortable as possible. The tumor is spreading to the left nasal system and is partially blocking the left nostril. He is great during the day. Likes his walks, meals, and snacks. At night he is congested and wakes up choking and breathing through his mouth. He is on an anti-inflammatory called Metacam. We give him 100mg. of Bendadryl at bedtime. I want to mention that we started giving him 1200 mg. of Mucinex at night and this has helped a great deal with his congestion. He has many more good days than bad and when that balance changes, we will end it. We learned alot from reading this blog. Thank you

    Reply
  48. Thomas -

    As time passes I am trying to separate Nunya from my tech blog as it has been a challenge keeping motivated. I have moved all her content to a new webpage (including the final blog entry on her journey): http://nunyathedog.com/nunya/the-nunya-cancer-journal/#theend. Ali and I are still dedicated to sharing the information we have learned through the process and are very thankful to everyone who has read along.

    Reply
  49. carolyn lindsay -

    hi my dog was diagnosed with MRI same thing as yours but also had a chance of being toxoplamosis and neoplasmo (fungal and bacterial infections) it came back as the infections. Now the doctors are saying she had both . bull shit. First 5% chance of having infections but more then likely not, then when they came back positive they said even though the MRI machine cannot tell the difference , they said mass was too big, cause they have never seen fungal this big, (there is always a first” it has been 3 wks on antibitoics and the change is remarkable. She is sitting up right, wags her tail a lot, barks now, still has blindness, (fungals cause this too) but my husband came in yesterday and she had got up on the couch. vision is slightly improved. I went to feed her and she jumped up on couch again. She couldn’t breathe through her nose at all and was not sleeping. Now she can, but still sometimes breathese through her nose. So much horrible stuff coming out of nose. How do you keep your dogs “nasal membrane swelling down”? she is taking Zyrtec 2 once a day, and saling drops, and humidifier. Can you suggest any thing else please. When she breathes, her and I sleep a lot better. thank you and bless you for taking such good care of your beautiful dog. please let me know , thank you very much.
    carolyn

    Reply
  50. John Kinard -

    Y’all are wonderful people. Don’t know how you handled it all, but I just say…I wish everyone in the world, or even everyone I come into contact with had half of the decency and love that you both have in your hearts. Love to you.

    Reply
    • Thomas -

      Thank you! Your kind words are appreciated.

      Reply
  51. VJ -

    I am sorry to hear that the cancer is back. I had cancer and I was in so much pain. I could never put any of my dogs through Chemo or Radiation. Sometimes we are selfish and we do not think of the pain our animals go through the treatment, we love them so much we don’t want to let them go!! I just found out my dog has cancer on the left side of his head. Putting my dog to sleep was the hardest thing I had to do. I was not going to let my Dillon go through hell. VJJ

    Reply
  52. christian -

    I am a therapy radiographer using TomoTherapy in London England and stumbled across this page when doing some research for a lecture. I would point out that I’m a human radiographer but am full of the admiration for my colleagues who specialise in vetainary radiotherapy as I personally find it more distressing than with humans. Tomotherapy is an excellent treatment modaility which enables high does delivery to diseased tissues while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. This not only contributes toward improving prognosis but reducing the severity of possible side efects.
    I have lost several dogs in my time to disease and illness and understand the pain and distress it causes. For this reason this blog made me smile and feel proud of the endevours of yourselves and your unfortunate pet to try and fight for it. Well done.

    Reply
  53. Lucinda Lavelle -

    Hi Christian My experience with Moomin (my nine year old staffie cross) and his nasal cancer treatment ended in disaster as you might have read if you have read all of Thomas’s blog. Although Liverpool Veterinary Hospital were wonderful – at the end of his radiation treatment the burns to his eyes and nose gave him so much pain that he lost the ability to handle it and so did I and we had a traumatic decision at the vets to euthanise him – I felt such shock when I spoke to the hospital and they said they had NEVER lost a dog in that way – made me feel a complete failure. Moomin developed ulcers on his cornea, red raw patches round his eye and a raw and oozing nose – having gone through the weeks of radiation therapy putting him to sleep was the last last last thing I wanted to do but he was crying in pain and no longer able to take the medication. Is this very unusual? Or did I fail him in some way?

    I now live in Libya and we have just rescued a pitbull puppy from a highly unethical animal market – he is just like Moomin! the absolute double and ironically because he was savaged by another dog before we got him – he has lost an eye – Please God this time we can get him completely well and give him a good long life full of love. I still miss Moomin terribly. One doesn’t replace the other but at least we have another chance to save a dog.

    Reply
  54. Jessi -

    Hello, I am currently working through the diagnosis of my 13 year old collie mix. She has slight swelling on her nose. The swelling is soft when pressed. I was wondering if the swelling experienced with a nasal tumor is soft tissue swelling or swelling of the bone and hard to the touch. We are still unsure of her diagnosis and prognosis. Thanks.

    Reply
  55. chris -

    Radiation therapy (Tomotherapy is a highly targeted version of radiation therapy & IMRT + IGRT solution)by its very nature causes cell death. By targeting an area of disease the aim is to kill cancer cells while reducing the doses to surrounding healthy tissue as much as possible. Prescribed doses will account for the tolerance of the organ (s) while trying to achieve cell death. Some areas can tolerate higher does than others while some areas have more complications with side effects, certainly treatment to the neck, face and head can lead to distressing side effects until healthy cells can repair the damage.
    My experience of treating humans with Tomotherapy has largely been positive but side effects such as skin breakdown (burns), swelling or mechanical impairment of swallowing / eating are not uncommon unfortunately. It is probably much easier to intervene for these symptoms in humans.
    In short I dont think for second you have failed in any way, the radiotherapy to a highly sensitive area wasnt tolerated very well and you made a tough choice that I couldnt make.

    Reply
  56. Mary Watson -

    Hello,

    Thank you for all the information. My Silky’s tumour began in a similar manner; we thought she had a cold or allergies, but after an endoscope, the nasal tumour was found. She still sounds quite congested and I wish there were some way to suction out the mucous. Her treatment is going to be a vaccine for melanoma — 4 shots (1 every 2 or 3 weeks) at about $600 – 700 a shot. The vaccine contains human DNA and there have been good results with tumours shrinking — the vaccine may even have human applications. Our oncologist is in Toronto, Ontario. Just thought I’d share this other treatment possibility.

    Reply
  57. Carole Mayes -

    HI

    We have just found out that our 11 year old golden Labrador has cancer in the nose, we are taking him to the vets on the 7th July for x rays etc to see what can be done for him. He is such a good dog very loving to look at him you would think nothing was wrong. Except when he sneezes or gets excited which makes his nose bleed very badly and sometimes we think he wants to be sick but hes not. I just pray they can do something for him. vet was talking about chemo which could give him another year

    Reply
  58. Lee Sternal -

    Contact Dr. Jamie Curtis at CSU in Ft. Collins to ask about the success they have had with use of their Stereotactic radiation therapy for sinus CA. Also, ask him what he has heard about the ability of certain mushrooms to help the immune
    system. I suspect you will be encouraged. (But, be prepared to spend about $7,500 for the 3 day regimen.)

    Reply

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