Today was Arwen’s first chemotherapy dose! We have been waiting for this for weeks. Arwen is 35 days post op, and ideally we wanted to start chemotherapy 2 weeks after her amputation, but had to wait because of the strange wound on her right side. Luckily, that wound has healed great. Keeping T-shirts on Arwen kept her from licking it, and the stitches came out today, as well.
Yesterday, to celebrate her last chemo-free day, we drove Arwen up to the mountain to play in the snow. Arwen has constantly been surprising us with how well she is doing on three legs, and yesterday was no exception. I have been worried about how she would do in the snow. I thought maybe she would slip a lot or lose her balance, but she didn’t at all! She ran around and played and even went through a little deep snow and managed great.
When I picked up Arwen from her chemo appointment, another couple who just had their golden retriever diagnosed with cancer was marveling at how well Arwen was bouncing around as a tripawd. I’m glad she is showing people how quickly pups can adjust to the change.
So Arwen’s chemotherapy schedule is a planned total of 6 doses spread 3 weeks apart, with blood work being done every week in between (the chemo drug is carboplatin). That means Arwen has to go to the vet every week for the next 18 weeks. Arwen has never been a fan of any vet office, but the place she had her amputation surgery she is especially nervous going to now. I feel so bad for her, so I gave her a little bit of cheeseburger in the vet lobby today (my coworkers got Arwen a McDonald’s gift card so I can spoil her with occasional ice cream cones and plain burgers), and will plan to do it every time to try and give her a positive association with the place.
Arwen also had her first physical therapy visit last week. Arwen’s orthopedic doctor recommended it, and the Tripawds foundation has a great set up for helping people with their first visit. The rehab clinic we visited has balance discs and an underwater treadmill, but Arwen hasn’t tried any of those yet. Instead the physical therapist showed us stretches and joint exercises we can do on Arwen legs and hips, and she went over all of Arwen’s bones and joints to make sure all was in good working order (it is). The therapist recommended we add fish oil to Arwen’s diet (we ordered Nutromax Wellactin fish oil and Arwen LOVES it). She also said a carpal/wrist brace for Arwen’s front leg isn’t a bad idea to give her a little added support. We are planning to order one in the coming week.
We are SLOWLY increasing Arwen’s exercise. My husband and I still haven’t taken her further than a half mile, and are still mostly just taking her on walks every other day. We love her so much! We are really hoping she has no side effects from the chemotherapy and can continue being happy.
Arwen is doing well and it looks like the mystery wound that developed on her right side is healing fine. The vet said that we can start chemo as early as this upcoming Thursday, but I am now thinking we may want to wait just one more week. I want to be completely sure her wound is fully healed before her immune system is compromised. Also, my husband and I fear we may have overlooked a UTI infection in Arwen. She held her urine A LOT the first 72 hours after her amputation surgery, and she was licking her groin a lot in the days that followed. There was also some discoloration down there which I thought had always been there. But now that it’s going away I realize my mistake. However, she was put on Cephalexin for the wound on her right side, which also coincidentally treats UTIs. So she may have been accidentally healed. But we have asked the vet to test a urine sample of hers to be sure.
We are so proud of Arwen’s progress on three legs. She isn’t even a month post-op yet, and she is doing so well getting around as a tripawd. We are forcing her and ourselves to take it slow, though. We would hate to over-work her right front leg. Since she was cleared to go off bed-rest (just over 2 weeks post-op) we have been taking her out every other day for very short quarter mile walks. But when she first gets to a hiking spot she just wants to run. Sometimes, my husband takes a hold of her harness handle and they do a quick burst of speed together, him supporting her the whole way. But she’s happiest when we allow her to do her own thing and don’t fret over her. She is clearly uninterested in our preconceived notions about what she can and can’t do, and just wants to go back to being a happy, active dog.
I wanted to mention that Arwen is finally about to be off all her prescribed medications. She has been on anti-inflammatories and pain killers for weeks (Vetprofin, Tramadol and Gabapentin) and then anti-biotics for about 2 weeks (Cephalexin). She has also been on glucosamine for months. But I decided to put her on K9 Immunity supplements, too, which I have heard some other pets in the Tripawd Community are on. It is a mushroom-based immune enhancement supplement from Aloha Medicinals. I showed the bottle to Arwen’s oncologist, who basically told me it wouldn’t hurt to use, but may not help. However, I am willing to do whatever I can for Arwen’s health. I am using slightly less than what is recommended for a dog Arwen’s size (she would be on 8-9 tablets per day which seems like a lot while she is on other meds, so I am giving her 4-6 per day). Just noting this for other parents like me who are interested what people are doing supplement and nutrition wise for their osteosarcoma pets. I have not changed Arwen’s diet yet, except to add more wet food (purely for the purpose of spoiling her). But I am interested in adding more turmeric to her diet for it’s cancer-fighting properties, and I found some recipes for turmeric dog treats on the internet which I am going to try out this week.
Much love to everyone going through the same thing we are! And continued thanks for all the love and support!
So we have had some good news and bad news with Arwen. The good news is that her amputation incision has healed beautifully. The incision never got infected, she never tried to lick it (probably because it was a weird angle; she did try to lick her wrist area where her IV was). She has been cleared to go off bed rest and is starting to get in physical activity again, though we’re making her take it slow. She is so happy to be going on car rides and walks again, and she’s learning to walk on 3 legs like a champ.
So the bad news is that last Wednesday night, 15 days post op, I was petting Arwen while she was standing up and noticed a sore on her right side. It’s about the size of a silver dollar and was really hard to see because of all her fur. I trimmed the fur around it and sent pics to her vet thinking it was a pressure sore because Arwen has been non-stop lying on her right side. But the vet doesn’t think it’s a pressure sore because those are usually on bony areas. The vet office isn’t sure what it is or how she got it. They shaved her fur on the right side, put Arwen on anti-biotics, and had us dabbing the wound with a saline solution 3-4 times a day.
Needless to say, this surprise wound has thrown us for a loop. The doctor cannot clear her to start chemotherapy until the wound is at least partially healed. I hate that we have to delay chemotherapy when I just want her to be on the road to healing. I started having nightmares about the wound, dreaming of parasites living in it. I asked if we should do a wound culture to check for a staph infection but the vet doesn’t think it’s necessary or a staph infection.
We weren’t supposed to wrap the wound because it could trap bacteria, so we kept putting cotton shirts on Arwen to keep the wound clean. Unfortunately, the shirts wound stick to the wound and we had to keep peeling them off, making her wince. After almost 5 days the vet said the wound looked clean and healthy enough to stitch. She got stitches today to close the wound and the vet said the most important thing is to keep Arwen from licking it. We have decided to not use an e-collar because shirts have worked so far discouraging her from licking.
Per the vet, the soonest she can start chemo is in a week, depending how the wound looks. We may have to wait for 2 weeks. I hope this wound heals as fast as her amputation incision did. It is so unfair she has to deal with this right now when she just lost her leg and has chemotherapy looming ahead of her.