Timo, my beloved Rottweiler has osteosarcoma, bone cancer. It was discovered quite by accident as she showed no signs of illness although she’s been checked regularly by my vet.
One day, the beginning of December, 2008, Timo and my German Shepherd, Quanah, were playing when Quanah accidentally stepped on Timo’s right front leg. Timo let out a cry and upon examining the leg I couldn’t detect any damage, but she began limping. I called my vet to look at the leg and while it was a bit painful, we decided to wait and see if there was any improvement. Timo continued to limp, so the following week I opted to take her for x-rays. After reading the x-rays the radiologist felt the problem was more than a simple cyst as originally thought as the bone appeared to be very fragile. The next step was to have a biopsy performed. When the results came back and I was told she had, at most, only 6 months to live, I was devastated.
I love all the dogs I’ve ever had, but Timo is special and I will do everything I can to give her a longer life without suffering. She was obviously in pain and it was getting worse, so we decided to amputate the leg, including the shoulder. The surgery took place on December 8th and Timo was home that evening. She was still sedated and didn’t move the rest of the night. As expected, she urinated on her bedding. I gently cleaned her with warm water. The next morning I took her outside and by placing a towel around her middle and holding her up, she was able to walk a short distance and urinate outside without too much trouble. It’s been 3 days since the surgery and I see improvement daily. When the wound heals, I am seriously considering chemotherapy for her. If Timo responds well after one or two treatments, we’ll continue. In the meantime, I’ve begun my own therapy program for Timo and my other dogs. While I still may include a small amount of kibble in their diets, I’ve started preparing food for them myself. I’m also giving them immune boosters, vitamins and will continue with the glucosamine/chondroitin that I began several months ago. I will continue to update you as to how things progress. My thoughts are if this helps anyone else, I will be very grateful.
It is now one week after surgery and Timo is doing quite well on 3 legs although walking can be a bit tiring for her. She was eating well for a couple of days, but doesn’t seem too interested in food now. We’ll see if we can’t increase her appetite.
Sunday, December 14 – I had to call my vet as Timo was more lethargic than usual and refused all food. When the vet came, he discovered the surgical area was swollen and proceeded to take several vials of fluid from the area as well as taking blood for tests. The next day, my vet called with good results of the fluid and blood tests. There was no infection, but Timo should be on antibiotics for 5 days as a preventive. I was also told to put hot compresses on the area twice a day. I am also going to try to feed her several small meals a day. Next week, she’ll have her stitches taken out. I hope to have the results of the second biopsy this week.
Monday, December 22 – Today Timo had her stitches removed by the surgeon. He wasn’t too concerned that she is not eating well and feels she could stand to lose some weight as it will put less pressure on her other legs for walking. I hand feed her some Science Diet canned food along with cooked chicken, ground turkey and ground meat which at the moment are the only foods she’ll eat. I’m still waiting for the results of the biopsy.
Tuesday, December 23 – Well, the results of the biopsy are in and as suspected, it is osteosarcoma. Last night Timo would not move from the spot she chose to lie down in. She finally did manage, with great difficulty, to move to the bedroom. When I touched her right rear leg, she cried in pain. The vet is on his way to me now. Perhaps we can determine if the cancer has spread already or it’s a muscular pain due to the pressure put on the rear legs which now carry a lot of her weight. When the vet arrived and examined Timo he believed the pain is due to arthritis. Timo was given painkillers and cortisone which did the trick and I was able to take her out for a short walk and she began eating normally. We will begin chemotherapy as soon as my vet is able to get the drugs.
Tuesday, December 30 – Sunday, Timo had her first chemo session with a drug called carboplatin. She seems to be responding well, although she’s not eating much. The vet will continue to monitor her to make sure she doesn’t have a violent reaction to the drug. Timo will have a blood test in 2 weeks to check her white blood cell count and if all goes well, in about 3 weeks, we’ll have the next chemo session. Beginning chemotherapy was not an easy decision on my part, but if it means prolonging her life with good quality, I felt I had to give her this chance.
Thursday, January 22 – Timo’s second chemotherapy session was last Sunday. The night after and next day, she had an upset stomach. Since then she is eating very little. But she has perked up and I’m hoping for a gradual improvement.
Sunday, February 9 – After the last chemo session, Timo did improve gradually and was back to herself in a matter of days. She’s been eating well and jumping around on her 3 legs. Today was chemo session no. 3, one more to go. She did eat after the session was over, but she’s a bit lethargic now. We’ll see how she is over the next couple of days.
Monday, February 16 – Timo is back to her old self. She’s eating well and is more energetic and interested in her surroundings. She will have a blood test next Sunday and her last chemo session the following week. I will continue to give Timo vitamins, immune strengtheners, CoEnzyme Q10, glucosamine/chondroitin and her present diet. I’ve discovered natural, dried, healthy vegetables made for dogs by Sojos called Europa. The veggies are reconstituted with water and you just add meat. I add several other foods and if you are interested, please e-mail me at Ask Iris.
Sunday, February 22 – Timo continues eating well and exercising. She loves to have her belly rubbed. She had her blood test with normal results.
Sunday, March 1 – Timo had her 4th and last chemo session today. All went well.
Monday, March 2 – Timo is very lethargic today. She wouldn’t eat and vomited a couple of times. I’m hoping this is just a normal reaction to the chemo. It’s so sad when she looks at me with those big brown eyes, I wish I could help her feel better.
Tuesday, March 3 – Last night Timo ate her entire bowl of food. But this morning I had to coax her to eat a bit. I’ve noticed that her appetite is much better in the evenings, so I don’t force the issue. You may be wondering why I’m so concerned about her eating habits. One of the first signs of illness in a dog is not eating, which is why I keep such a close watch.
Thursday, March 5 – Timo is doing well now. She’s eating, playful and very alert. My vet suggests I weigh her periodically to be sure she’s maintaining her present weight. He will also give her periodic blood tests and chest x-rays to check if the cancer has metastasized. The main thing is to have a positive attitude and not give up hope. As the surgeon who operated on Timo said, try anything you think will help, even voodoo if that’s your thing. Just to let you know, I subscribe online to Dr. Demian Dressler’s Cancer Survival blog for dogs. While promoting his book, Dr. Dressler gives a lot of insight into causes and help for cancer patients.
Wednesday, March 18 – Timo continues to act like her old self. She does rest a lot, but part of that is her age – she’s 8 1/2 years old. While it’s not an advanced age, it does put Timo in the senior category. Weather permitting, I sit outside with her in the sun for short periods. I’ve read that Vitamin D is a cancer fighter, so I allow her to have small doses of sun.
Thursday, March 26 – I spoke with Timo’s surgeon today. He’s a sweet man, very helpful, gave me information I needed and some I didn’t want to hear. He reminded me that the prognosis with chemo was an 8 month to one year extended life. Four and a half months have gone by and he encouraged me to be positive, continue with my own therapy and Timo may be the one to beat the odds.
Wednesday, April 1 – I’d like to recommend some reading material that I found informative and helpful with caring for Timo. The first is “Help Your Dog Fight Cancer” by Laurie Kaplan, An Overview of Home Care Options. The other is “Without Regret” by Susan Neal, a Handbook for Owners of Canine Amputees. Both of these books have a wealth of information and suggestions about treating dogs with these problems. Osteosarcoma seems prevalent in large breed dogs and symptoms usually appear around 8 years old. As for Timo, I’ve noticed some minor personality changes. She doesn’t respond as well when I ask her to come and she wants to be out in the garden for much longer periods than before she became ill. I hope she’s not picking up on the sadness I feel. I will try to make every day I have with her as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.
Thursday, April 16 – Timo continues to do well. She loves to go out for walks, but I notice that she tires easily. So I take her out for shorter walks or we find a pleasant place to sit for a while until she’s feeling stronger. I plan on taking her for an x-ray a week from Friday and will update the log as soon as I have the results. We’ll also weigh her again. Timo’s last weight check, 2 weeks ago showed a gain of 2 lbs. So she’s still eating well and plays with her favorite toy, a squeaky hedgehog.
Friday, April 24 – Timo had her check-up today, x-rays, blood test and general check. The blood test continues to be normal and her heart is good. The x-rays of her chest appear to be normal as well. I will know more after the radiologist and the surgeon check them out. Timo has started to leak urine again, but I do give her DES to control that. It’s a common problem especially with spayed females although this is the first time I’ve encountered it in all the years I’ve had spayed female dogs. I’ve tried the natural remedies, but unfortunately they did not work. I’m not happy about giving her the DES, but she becomes upset when she leaks. Believe it or not, dogs are embarrassed by this problem. They think they’ve done something wrong. Even though I never scold her, she becomes distressed. I make sure to give her lots of kisses and kind words when this happens. I’ve also placed scatter rugs in the areas where Timo walks. The bare floor is slippery and the rugs help her to grip the floor more easily. If the rugs are not down (they’re in the wash today) Timo becomes agitated, so I put some old towels around until the rugs are dry.
Tuesday, May 5 – I learned two important things yesterday. My vet told me that even though Timo is eating well, she can still lose weight due to the cancer. It’s important to weigh her regularly to make sure she is maintaining her present weight. I also learned that dogs with cancer should not have raw diets. Since their immune system is compromised by the cancer, the chemo, etc. bacteria found in raw diets can be harmful to them. I’ve cooked all my dogs’ food, so no problem there.
Sunday, May 10 – I routinely massage Timo gently all over her body. This evening I discovered a lump under her left front leg in the armpit area. I’ll call my vet tomorrow and ask him to take a look at it. Not a happy ending to Mothers’ Day.
Thursday, May 14 – The vet came today (yes, he makes house calls) to examine Timo. I told him that the last couple of times I took Timo for a walk, she seemed to tire more easily and rested more often. Dr. Doni checked her heart and her body and found everything in good working order. He felt the lump and said it appeared to be a fatty tumor. She’s had a couple of them removed in the past. Instructions were to watch it. If it gets larger, we’ll tackle it then. Dr. Doni then weighed Timo and she gained 2 lbs., now a little over 70 lbs. We don’t want her to gain any more as she doesn’t need the added stress on her other legs. Until I heard the news, this week was not a good one but you can imagine my relief to know that so far all is well.
Thursday, May 21 – Timo has not been eating much the past couple of days. Perhaps it’s partially due to the weather – it was extremely hot and then turned cool. I’ll consult with Dr. Doni and see what he thinks.
Friday, May 22 – We took Timo to Dr. Doni’s office for blood work and an x-ray. This is day #4 that she is refusing food. Her weight has gone down by 3 lbs. The blood work seemed okay, but her temperature was slightly elevated. Dr. Doni decided that she should have antibiotics to be safe. Upon reading the x-ray, he saw some spots that looked suspicious. He forwarded the x-ray to the radiologist and we’ll know more when we get his reading.
Sunday, May 24 – Good news! After reading Timo’s x-ray, the radiologist found no cancer. However, this doesn’t explain why she doesn’t want to eat or just picks at her food. She may have an infection which is why she is taking antibiotics. Another thought – it could be her diet. I’m going to try different food in the hope that that will encourage her to eat.
Thursday, May 28 – In spite of no sign of cancer, Timo is still not eating well. She has improved a bit, eating small amounts of her food. By the way, I’ve changed the dogs’ diet to a kibble without wheat, corn or soy which can be allergens. Timo seems to like this one better as do my other dogs. I still add my own recipes as well. Perhaps Timo’s appetite will improve now that she’s finished the antibiotic treatment.
Sunday, May 31 – Timo is eating very little, even her favorites and that only with my encouragement. It has been 2 weeks since she stopped eating and has had only 1 full meal in that time with small amounts here and there. I called Dr. Doni and we discussed what to do. Osteosarcoma, bone cancer, if it returns, usually metastasizes in the lungs or one of the remaining legs. There is a more detailed blood test that might give some information, but before we do that, Dr. Doni wants to check some more. I’ll have to wait, although anxiously, to hear from him.
Monday, June 1 – Dr. Doni is on his way to us. He’ll examine Timo thoroughly and take blood for an extensive workup. Perhaps then we can find out why Timo is barely eating.
Friday, June 5 – I received the results of Timo’s blood test Wednesday. While a couple of the numbers were a bit high, there’s no indication of anything major wrong. However the test did show that she was dehydrated – not surprising since she wasn’t eating. Dr. Doni came last night as we thought Timo might need an infusion of fluids. But she did eat a bit more yesterday. Dr. Doni also agreed with me that Timo was limping. He decided to take Timo off the painkillers and put her on prednisone for a short period of time. Timo ate fairly decently this morning. I just wonder if it was because Quanah (my Shepherd) was standing by waiting for leftovers. Actually it doesn’t matter, I was just happy to see her eat. The dogs seem to like the biscuits I made for them – whole wheat flour with a bit of white flour added, meat, Sojo’s dried veggies, canola oil, eggs and honey. Sounds tasty doesn’t it.
Sunday, June 7 – Timo is much better. She’s eating well, cleaning her dish. I will call Dr. Doni today to check whether to continue with the prednisone. A friend’s cat was diagnosed with lymphoma at least a year ago and has been taking prednisone as her vet feels it’s keeping her cat alive. I’ll tell Dr. Doni about this as well and let you know what he says.
Wednesday, June 17 – Timo was doing well for a while, but I had to call Dr. Doni yesterday as she was eating poorly for 2 days and was again not putting much weight on her left rear leg. She’s been lethargic as well, but I attributed that partly to the hot weather. Timo is back on prednisone. Dr. Doni prefers the pain medication, but we tried that and she refuses food with that. High doses and long-term usage of prednisone can have serious side effects. I’ve also stopped supplements before she eats. I’ll try giving them to her after meals. Today, after the first dose, I managed to get Timo to eat a fairly good amount of food. I don’t want to use the prednisone long term if it can be avoided so I’ll continue my research and see if I can’t discover a safer alternative.
Thursday, June 23 – Timo was doing well until just a little while ago. It’s 9:30am and I tried taking her out for a little walk to throw out the garbage as I usually do. She barely made it a few shakey feet and sat down. Her legs are very wobbly and can’t seem to hold her weight. I called Dr. Doni immediately and am waiting for him to call back. Needless to say I’m a wreck.
Just heard from Dr. Doni. The decision is to put her on a higher dose of prednisone (she was only taking 1/2 a pill) and see if that doesn’t help. He suspects arthritis but can’t rule out that the cancer has metastasized. If I don’t see any improvement in a couple of days, I’ll have to take her for x-rays sooner than I had wanted to.
Monday, June 29 – It’s 1:30 A.M. and I can’t sleep. I haven’t been able to write in the log because I’ve been too upset and I fear the worst. Dr. Doni had put Timo on a painkiller, norocarp, as well as the prednisone. It seemed to help for a day, but she’s since been having more trouble walking. She tucks her back legs under to get around. Early this afternoon she got on the couch and then hesitated for a while before she was able to get down. Dr. Doni is coming later today to assess the situation. Timo looks at me with those soulful eyes I think asking me to ease her pain. I’m not ready for her to cross the Rainbow Bridge, but I never will be. The tears have been flowing the past few days as I think of the decision I may have to make. I pray it doesn’t come to that yet. Timo will be 9 years old the beginning of August and I so want her to live and enjoy her birthday.
Thursday, July 2 – This was quite a week. Dr. Doni came to see Timo Monday night. He manipulated her legs and felt her resistance. She’s such a sweetie, she lets him do whatever he wants without any real complaints. Dr. Doni wrote an Rx for Tramadol, a painkiller and instructions were to wean Timo off the prednisone. Well, Tuesday morning, when she got up to greet me, she promplty collapsed, her back legs would not hold her. I decided not to delay and my daughter was kind enough to take me to Dr. Doni’s office late afternoon for x-rays which included her chest, legs and spine. The results were good, no metastasis, but signs of arthritis and there is spondylosis in her tail bone. Also, by the time we had reached the office, Timo was walking well. When Timo was 3 years old, she had a torn ligament in her left rear leg. She had ligament replacement surgery & the x-rays disclosed that the wire used to replace the ligament was broken. Dr. Doni felt it was not causing any problems as it was stationary. I would hate to have to put Timo through the trauma of another surgery in her present condition. She’s having enough of a hard time getting along on 3 legs. With surgery to repair the wire, she would temporarily have the use of only 2 legs. Needless to say, while she’s not 100%, she is better and I’m relieved as well.
Friday, July 10 – Well, Timo’s been back on the prednisone & still taking Tramadol and Norocarp for pain. I finally called the surgeon, Dr. Josh, who did the cruciate ligament replacement a few years ago. I’ve been in touch with him off and on as he is knowlegeable about natural supplements. Dr. Josh is going to look at Timo’s past x-rays at the hospital and will let me know how they looked then. Since I can’t get to the hospital he may make a home visit. He did tell me that the wire replacement in her rear leg was supposed to break. It’s a relief to know that. Now I would like an explanation of why she has such difficulty getting up and walking. She spent all last night on the patio which is very unusual for her. I leave the door to the patio and garden open weather permitting so the dogs can come and go as they please. I check on them regularly to make sure all is well.
Dr. Doni just called and said he would forward last week’s x-rays to Dr. Josh. Then he can compare them, see what changes if any have occurred and we’ll take it from there.
I’m going to try walking Timo to my daughter’s house tomorrow if she’ll go as I really don’t want to leave her alone for all the hours I’ll be away.
Monday, July 13 – The walk to Rena, my daughter, was uneventful if long. We took it very slowly, rested several times. Timo enjoyed all the attention, was curious about the cats (Rena has 2 plus some outdoors) but didn’t attack. I’m not sure what would have happened if she had 4 legs.
Dr. Doni stopped by this morning with some tramadol pain meds. for Timo. He explained that it’s obvious the left rear leg where the cruciate ligament surgery was performed is painful. We’ve decided to wean her off the predinsone – it’s not helping and the side effects are not worth the risk. Dr. Doni is gradually increasing the dose of tramadol and once she’s completely off prednisone, will add another pain medication. He’s advising me against further surgery at this time, so let’s see if the medication will help. Timo has developed several little “bumps” on her body, but we’re not dealing with that now. They appear to be only on the skin surface. If they grow, we’ll have to do a biopsy. Dr. Doni also checked her weight and she maintaining her 64 lbs. Previously she lost a few pounds but it’s been hot and I attribute her eating less to the rising temperatures. Quanah my GSD is also eating less and I can use her as a gauge. My little one, Toto, will eat no matter what. She’s doing well for 15 1/2 years old.
I’ve ordered special light-weight booties for Timo to help her walking. I know she’s fearful of slipping which has happened a few times in spite of my covering the floors with rugs and mats. These booties are supposed to apply traction and make walking easier I hope for amputees as well as dogs with 4 legs. I can only hope she’ll wear them and feel more secure. For now, I can only give her lots of love and encouragement.
I’ve joined 2 yahoo groups – caninecancer and bonecancerdogs. The members are very supportive and have lots of information due to their own situations. Sometimes I find it very difficult to read the posts and usually find myself crying along with the person writing. There are no words to express the sadness with so many of our beloved pets lost to cancer.
Thursday, July 23 – On this terrible day, I helped Timo cross the Rainbow Bridge. My grief is overwhelming. I will write Timo’s story when I am able to.
Wednesday, August 5– “The Best Dog I Ever Had”- I always told everyone that this was my Timo. I love all my dogs, all my pets, it’s just that Timo and I had something special, a bond that even her crossing the Rainbow Bridge cannot break.
I might have told you that a co-worker of my daughter’s found Timo outside their workplace in a busy area of Jerusalem when she was 2 months old. My daughter, Rena, called me and asked if I wanted another dog (I had 2 at the time). Silly question, of course.
That first day gave me a clue about Timo’s personality. She sat quietly checking us out. I lived with my daughter and her family then, my own house 5 minutes away. My GSD, Samantha, was only mildly curious and my small terrier, Toto wasn’t at all interested. When Timo accepted us and realized we were her forever family, she relaxed and did normal puppy things. Like chewing everything in sight & peeing & pooping in inappropriate places (my fault). Timo and Samantha became friends until Samantha suffered stomach torsion and went to the Bridge one year later at the age of 11. Shortly thereafter, Timo began to limp. X-rays, 2 years apart, the first at my then vet and the 2nd at the animal hospital didn’t reveal any problem. The vets were perplexed. She limped off and on and was given pain medication when she was obviously hurting. Missing Samantha so much, 2 years later we brought home a 10 week old GSD, Quanah Parker. Quanah quickly attached herself to Timo and they became buddies, playing together and resting close to one another. That was unusual for Timo because she preferred her own space. My favorite photo is one of Timo and Quanah playing tug-o-war with a rag toy.
Timo was afraid of thunderstorms and that was the only time she would become a lap dog. She would get as close to me as possible for comfort. Weighing close to 80 lbs., she would drape herself across my lap and lean into me. I’d put my arms around her and would tell her it’s okay, I’m here for you, I love you, over and over. But she never quite lost her fear of loud noises.
I must stop for a while.
When Timo was 5 years old, her limp came back more pronounced. After x-rays yet again, my vet still couldn’t understand the limp. I promptly took Timo back to the Animal Hospital where I met Dr. Josh and another round of x-rays. Dr. Josh discovered a torn cruciate ligament in her left rear leg. He performed the surgery replacing the torn ligament with a wire. After a short recovery period Timo was as good as new. She underwent 2 more surgeries at different times for fatty tumors. Dr. Doni, who is my present vet, removed the tumors, had them tested and they were benign. I wonder now if these, though benign, showed her to have a propensity for cancer. Through all of these trials, Timo never complained, was a perfect patient and a lady as always. In spite of causing her so much discomfort, Timo loved Dr. Doni and always greeted him warmly. Timo greeted everyone that way, wiggling her back end – whoever docked her tail did it so closely, there was barely anything left to wag.
Timo loved to have her belly rubbed. Whenever she would come for a pet, she would lie on her side and wait for me to massage her belly. Believe it or not, Timo would talk to me. Whenever she wanted attention, she would make this funny sound, something between a bark, a whine and a howl. If I was busy with some chore, I’d answer her with many “I love yous” and she would be satisfied. Most often though I’d go to her and we’d have a conversation while giving her kisses and pets. Timo and I had that special bond, I so miss hearing her voice even though I can still hear it in my mind and my heart.
I always felt protected and loved with Timo at my side. She had this funny bark that would turn into a prolonged howl. When Timo barked I listened and checked. Invariably there would be something happening that needed my attention.
Timo’s only bad habit was that she chased cats and Quanah learned to follow her lead. Little Toto couldn’t do much but would join the chorus and the chase. I guess that’s when pack mentality took over.
I tried keeping the dogs off the couch but I finally gave in when I realized they would sneak on it when I wasn’t home. Timo preferred the couch during the day and her comfy bed at night. I look at all her favorite spots in the house and can almost see her lying comfortably stretched out.
I found this poem on the Pet Loss Matters site. This caring young woman has set up a site for those grieving the loss of a pet. The poem is so touching, almost as though Timo wrote it for me. For all those grieving for a beloved pet, and for me personally I wish to thank the unknown author who put these beautiful words to pen.
You will be sad, I understand
But don’t let grief then stay your hand
For this day more than all the rest
Your love for me must stand the test.
We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears.
You don’t want me to suffer so
The time has come, please let me go.
Take me where my needs they’ll tend
But please stay with me til the end
To hold me close and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree,
It was a kindness done for me
Although my tail its last has waved
From pain and suffering I’m saved.
Please do not grieve that it was you
Who had this painful thing to do
We’ve been so close, we two, these years
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.