Our Last Pet-Friendly Outings
It’s been a rough and emotional summer in our household. Oso hasn’t been acting like his usual self and I feared something might be wrong. It started with random days of lethargy, refusal to eat or drink and vomiting whatever medicines or foods we could coax down his throat. A trip to the vet in July gave us few answers. Pancreatitis, they said. He was given an IV to help with dehydration and some anti-nausea medications to get him to eat again.
Over the next month he had good days and bad days. Mostly good but about once a week he would act lethargic again. By the end of the day, though, he would begin eating again so we didn’t take him back to the vet. That is, until 2 weeks ago.
Oso was having two bad days in a row. I took him back to our vet, concerned about dehydration and convinced that something was seriously wrong with him. They agreed to run a battery of tests to figure out what was happening. A few days later they diagnosed him with canine insulinoma.
Our poor baby boy has pancreatic cancer.
Our vet, forever optimistic, told me it’s no big deal. A simple surgery can remove the tumors on his pancreas. Despite the “simplicity” of the surgery, we were referred to another vet 45 minutes away.
An ultrasound and meeting with two more vets gave us a little more guidance for his treatment along with a realistic picture about his condition which is anything but simple. According to our new vet Oso’s glucose levels weren’t just low, they were abysmal. A normal glucose reading should be 90-110, his was a SIX. The doctors weren’t able to locate a tumor on his pancreas but did see some nodules on his liver, indicating that the cancer may have already metastasized. His epilepsy further complicates his cancer treatment.
It’s been a very hard decision for us but we’ve chosen not have Oso undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Insulinoma isn’t one large tumor but many small ones and it’s not likely that they will get them all. If they can’t find any tumors (because they’re hidden so well inside the pancreas) then they would simply cut half of his pancreas off and hope that they removed the half that had the most tumors.
There are options for treating canine insulinoma besides surgery, though. Dietary changes can prolong Oso’s life as well as medications such as prednisone. Some studies online have revealed that the average life expectancy for medication-only treatment is just 74 days. Our vet told us that she’s seen dogs live an extra 1-2 years. I’m hoping for the latter.
Ever since Oso’s diagnosis Brandon and I have been planning as many pet-friendly outings as we can. Day trips to the local farmers market and dog park will fill our spare time this fall. I’ve also got plans to take him to the Mystic Seaport, a popular pet-friendly attraction near our home. I might even buy him a ridiculous Halloween costume and take him trick-or-treating this year with Stink. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to manage an overnight vacation. Oso isn’t supposed to overexert himself and he gets so worked up on long trips but I’d like to plan one for him anyway. Perhaps we can get away for just a weekend, to Vermont or New Hampshire. I think he would love to see New Hampshire.
It’s hard to think about Oso’s mortality, especially on days when he seems so normal and happy. We’ve had him since he was a puppy; he was our first baby and spoiled rotten. I wonder how I will possibly explain this to Stink, who has no comprehension of death at her young age. But for now I’ll try not to focus on that and instead enjoy each day with our little man.