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Post Op Day 3

Arwen got to come home to us on Wednesday after her Tuesday surgery, and we are so relieved to have her back home. The vet office was a little concerned because she refused to eat a bite or go potty the whole time she was admitted. They thought she maybe just needed my husband and I to be there, and they were right. The second we arrived at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon she wolfed down a cup of food, and the second we arrived home she went potty in the backyard. I guess this means if Arwen is ever kidnapped, she will go on a hunger and potty strike until she is returned to her parents.

Picture of Arwen getting her incision site iced at the vet hospital, sent to me by vet staff

We prepared the house for her return by laying rugs all over the hardwood floors, and moving our living room couch into the garage so Arwen won’t be tempted to jump/step up onto it. We replaced the couch with our bed’s king-sized mattress, and we are camping out with her in the living room. My husband and I have adjusted our work schedules so we take turns being home with her so she hasn’t had to be alone yet.

Arwen’s first day home after surgery

That first night was hard. Arwen was super restless and didn’t sleep hardly at all. I think it was hard for her to get comfortable. She panted and whined a lot. The only thing that made her stop whining was my husband or I petting her, and it’s impossible to pet her and sleep at the same time. Arwen’s second night was much better. She slept most of the night, and only got restless a couple of times.

So the good news about Arwen’s recovery is that her appetite and thirst is as good as it has ever been. Definitely no appetite loss at all. And she still drinks water like a horse (as my stepfather describes it). She also takes her medication with no issues. She is on 14 pills a day (8 tramadol, 4 gabapentin, 2 vetprofen) and we just toss them in with her food. I don’t think she knows she’s even taking meds.

So she doesn’t go potty as much as she used to. We knew she may not have a bowel movement for a couple of days, but I wish she wouldn’t hold it so long when she has to urinate. She is only urinating maybe twice a day. We try to get her to go, but she won’t until she really has to go, then she urinates a lot. We have started rewarding her with treats after she goes to try and encourage her to go more. She just had her first post-op bowel movement this morning, though (hurrah!).

Arwen Post-Op Day 2. The leg warmer is because she wants to lick the spot where her IV was.

Seeing Arwen so helpless is really hard. We are bringing food and water to her, and using a simple harness the vet gave us (it just loops under her chest/stomach area) to help her go potty outside. Otherwise she is just on bed rest, sleeping on and off. When she is awake she is getting lots of attention and cuddles. But I can tell she is still uncomfortable. It’s really hard for her to get up when she’s lying down.

I know we made the right decision for her, but I still feel guilty. I wish I could take her pain from her. I keep telling myself that this pain is temporary. Just seeing her on 3 legs is hard, too. I have only sent pictures of her to my closest family and friends (who have been super supportive), but hesitate to have anyone else see her right now (present company, excluded). I know not everyone will agree with our choice to amputate, and worry people will give me their unsolicited opinions. I am thankful there is a community like Tripawds where so many people have made the same choice my husband and I have. Even though it’s sad so many people have had to have these medical issues with their pets, I take solace that we’re not alone.

Thanks to everyone who has blogged about their own journeys! I have read so many of them and it helps so much.

Surgery Day

I have been living with the knowledge of my sweet Arwen’s osteosarcoma diagnosis for 5 days now. While I discovered the Tripawds site that first day my dog was diagnosed with bone cancer, I chose to wait until today, Arwen’s surgery day, before posting anything. Had I posted sooner, even just a day ago, my tone would have been much angrier. I am guessing I am not the only dog parent to feel overwhelming grief and anger immediately following such heartbreaking news. But Arwen is successfully out of surgery, and I am able to glimpse some hope of recovery.

Arwen doing her favorite thing: Playing in the snow at Mt. Bachelor

Arwen is our 9 year old, 100lb Saint Bernard mix. My husband and I adopted her from a rescue when she was 6 weeks old, and our hearts broke on Friday when we found out she has osteosarcoma. We first got a hint something was wrong on May 5 when Arwen started limping with her left, front leg at the end of a 6 mile hike. It went away whenever we rested her, but intermittently came back. We had a vet appointment on June 1 and were given glucosamine tablets. It didn’t help. She was placed on anti-inflammatories. No difference. On July 6 we did xrays, and a slight abnormality was seen on her front left leg by the shoulder. It could only be seen from one view, and the radiologist and vet could not agree if it was something or nothing. Repeat xrays were done on July 27. The abnormality was clearer, but my vet thought it was a bone cyst because Arwen had no pain in the shoulder at the area of the abnormality. She recommended I go to an orthopedist to be sure, and he agreed with her assessment, though he offered to do a CT scan to try to verify. But he thought it was likely a coincidence and not the cause of her limping, which we were all thinking may be tendonitis. I passed on the CT with a plan to do repeat xrays in the future.

Arwen loves to swim

Arwen went on vacation with my husband and I in Montana and Idaho 2 weeks ago. She didn’t limp the whole week until right before we took the 6.5 hour car ride back to Oregon, and she was so uncomfortable during the drive she couldn’t lay in one position for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. She had a vet appointment and xrays done again on September 9. Her abnormality had grown and now, because her shoulder area was painful to the touch, they thought it was more likely to be a bone tumor than a bone cyst. A bone biopsy was done with an orthopedist on September 10, and her path results came back as osteosarcoma on September 13th.

We were told if we amputated Arwen’s leg, it could give her 3-5 extra months of life. If we followed up with chemotherapy, we were told we could get her 9-12 extra months of life. We were also told that at the time of diagnosis, osteosarcoma has almost certainly always spread to other parts of the body. The vet explained that the cancer’s appearance in the lungs is what usually kills a dog, but it tires them out more than causes them pain. The pain comes from the primary tumor site in the bone.

I am grief-stricken that my future with Arwen has likely been cut short, and that she had been intermittently limping since May and we are just now, in September, diagnosing the cancer. I keep going in circles in my mind over what Arwen’s odds might be if we could have just realized what was going on with her sooner. I will always wonder about this.

Today, on September 17th, Arwen had her left, front leg amputated.

Arwen and her dad on the Oregon coast

While choosing to amputate a limb from our beloved pet wasn’t easy, we were immediately certain it would be the right choice. Arwen’s leg will never get better. The limp won’t go away. It will only get worst. And the pain will become harder and harder to manage with pain meds. I know this. Yet it is so hard for me to imagine my large dog doing all the things she used to do with a front leg missing. I am devastated for her, and hate that I can’t explain to her what’s happening.

My husband and I picnicked with Arwen at a river spot a couple of times this weekend, a sort of last hurrah as a quadraped. The wait for the amputation surgery is terrible. We didn’t get any sleep last night (well, Arwen did). I kept imaging worst case scenarios. I hated leaving her at the vet office this morning. She is so happy and normal. Besides the limp, which is very slight now that she’s on Tramadol, she has no symptoms. She is playful and cuddly and energetic. I hate giving her new pain, even if it’s temporary.

The worst part of the wait today was waiting to hear how her chest xrays were. The orthopedist recommended they be done so we can know if the cancer has metastasized there yet. When we got the call that the chest xrays were clean, I was so happy. A weight has been lifted from my chest. Then Arwen went into surgery for about 90 minutes. The orthopedist says she did good, and she’s currently recovering. They recommended we not visit her while she recovers overnight, as she could overexcite when she needs to rest. It’s so hard, but the veterinary staff has been so nice and helpful. We are so anxious to get our baby home tomorrow where she belongs.

Tomorrow will be a new journey with our pupper who is now a Tripawd. But my husband keeps insisting that she doesn’t need a fourth leg because she has us. I hope he’s right.

Arwen romping through the snow with her dad and cousin Jake

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