Monday, October 29, 2007

Not My Favourite Dog

A certain young lady trod in something nasty on her trip to the woods on Friday. Unfortunately I only realised half way home, and so the inside of the car was covered in poo-prints. Both dog beds needed an urgent wash.

Today, we reach the car and she has a brown streak across the middle of her head. And her muzzle has brown smudges. Luckily I keep baby wipes and kitchen roll in the car, but even so... I could cheerfully swap her for something less poo-encrusted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A trip to the Experts

I've arranged to go see Cambridge Vet School next Tuesday with Herbie. The chemo is no longer holding him stable, so it's time to go see if there's anything else left in the medicine cupboard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chemo Week 8

Herbie was weighed again, and caused me vast embarrassment, he's 36 kilos now, and a bit of a porky pup. Maybe it's time to lay off the tripe. The steroids make him more interested in food, but I think it's time I started monitoring portion sizes.

However. The nodes at the right side of his neck, where this whole saga started, are enlarged again. The chemo may be losing its effectiveness. Given that first-line chemo hasn't knocked him into remission during the first seven weeks, what are the chances of anything else working?

My vet is going to contact the oncologist at Cambridge to discuss where we go from here. And I've taken Herbie out to rustle his way through the autumn leaves, in the warm sunshine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holly - Just Because

She isn't getting enough attention at the moment.

Magnetic Fields Cause Lymphoma?

I've just been reading the October issue of Bark magazine which mentions some research done in 1995. Apparently dogs living in homes with high magnetic fields are seven times more likely to develop lymphoma.

Suddenly I remember that at our last house (we moved in January), Herbie's upstairs bed was next to a powerpoint and a phone socket - and (his choice) next to the radiator. Although he spends most of this time on my bed, did he spend too long near a power socket? And what about this house? It might be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but I have Holly to think about too...

Then I found out how much the cheapest EMF meter costs... plus I can't afford to move just now. Wonder if I should cover all my walls with aluminium foil?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Semi-Birthday

Yesterday was Herbie's 7 1/2th birthday. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is. He first developed swollen lymph nodes around his birthday, six months ago, but went untreated (or rather, treated for the wrong thing) for four months, so his survival to date is a little miracle in itself. There were moments in August when I didn't think we'd see his half-birthday.

It seems too much like tempting fate to mention future landmark dates, so I won't. Every day is a bonus, but I'm glad he made it to 7 1/2.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chemotherapy Week 7

He's back home after his seventh lot of chemo, and is exhausted. Before he goes into the vet's consulting room, he is shivering, teeth rattling, deep shudders running across his ribs. He does NOT like this process.

But now he is safe for another week, and his blood test shows that his white cell count is fine, apart from the eosinophils. These have been on the low side; there are various infections known to cause raised levels, but I have not been able to find out what low levels mean. His neutrophils have been slowly rising, to 3.4, which is on the low side of normal for ordinary dogs, but just fine for a greyhound. Greyhounds have a different blood composition to other breeds, and the test results judge "normal" by other dogs. Everything has to be re-interpreted in the light of greyhound blood values.

I no longer have to collect pee samples, now he's off the cyclophosphamide, so that will make Tuesdays easier. He still has lumpy lymph nodes, though....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Damp and misty morning

Will the dogs go out, will they heck. Herbie has made it perfectly clear where he intends to be spending the morning.
Greyhounds suffer from a little-known condition called "meltophobia", a morbid fear of dissolving in the rain.
No cure has yet been discovered.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another day, another drug

The vet rang this afternoon. Since Herbie is developing cystitis with the cyclophosphamide (Endoxana), she's been consulting with the awfully nice people at Cambridge Vet School. Herbie's oncologist has suggested we substitute it for chlorambucil (trade name Leukeran). Again, every other day, and it's cytotoxic, so you have to wear rubber gloves to handle it. I now have a special pair of pink rubber gloves in the kitchen (Pink for Pills) just for dog medicine. Plus, this one needs to go in the fridge.

Chlorambucil has a whole different range of side-effects. Let's see how we go. Herbie doesn't know about this one yet.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Boiled-up Liver

... and other culinary delights. One of the hardest things I've found is taking the time to provide a good anti-cancer diet. I've taken a look at a number of places, including Canines in Crisis, Laurie Kaplan's book and Ginger's diet (for hemangiosarcoma), and added some supplements as recommended by Shawn Messonnier.

So far, I've steered clear of the so-called "miracle cures", because they seem more like faith healing, and I'm not sure my faith is sufficient. Maybe later.

At the moment, Herbie is getting a packet of frozen raw tripe or other meat (available from pet shops with a freezer, as 400g bricks) defrosted for breakfast, with a fish oil capsule, and in the evening some boiled meat (chicken, liver, lamb, turkey) with boiled broccoli and/or cauliflower or green beans and a little brown rice, with some arginine and glutamine (available from the body-building section of health food shops).

Tonight we're boiling up lamb's liver. He's been putting on weight, after losing four kilos in the early stages, when he wasn't being treated. I'm not sure if it's the diet or the treatment that's putting the weight back on him, but he is almost tubby now, and for once I don't mind.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chemo for Lymphoma Week 6

I've just retrieved Herbie from the vets. As usual, he is starving, anxious to be home, and exhausted. His urine sample is clear this week, but the vet has consulted with his oncologist at Cambridge Vet School - no cyclophosphamide for another week, to be sure his bladder is healed.

It's weird, it's almost like you've failed an exam. Failed one of the chemo drugs. I shouldn't take it personally, different dogs react differently, and that's why I've been chasing round the garden with a plastic bowl every Tuesday morning, to get the sample for testing. (Such fun this morning, in the rain. Somewhat of a diluted sample.)

He is now crashed out in the blue and white dog-bed that he's too big for. His lymph nodes are slightly smaller this week. Little, tiny incremental improvements.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Happiness Depends on Poop

Dog no poop, me no happy. A worrying morning, hoping something would appear. Plenty has gone in the top end over the last 24 hours, so where is it all? At lunchtime, success! A little step for a dog, a giant step towards human calmness.

Now that I'm feeding Herbie on a home-cooked diet, there's a lot less residue (so to speak), but even so, he used to go twice a day before chemo. Now he's on chemo, he'll only go in the mornings. It's not listed as a known side-effect of steroids, but the vet assured me that slowed "transit times" were a known feature of steroids. (There was me thinking maybe the chemo was killing off too many gut lining cells... or something. Should have paid attention in biology class.)

The trouble with all these drugs is that you never know what's an unusual side-effect, and what's normal, and when to start worrying. The net result is, you worry all the time. Maybe I should set an alarm clock, and allow myself half an hour's worrying a day, then forget about it until tomorrow.

For more on steroid side effects, see

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lymphoma - The Story So Far

Herbie has been a particularly unlucky dog, as far as getting a diagnosis. I took him to the vets at the beginning of April to arrange for a dental, as his teeth were looking quite manky - not unusual for a greyhound. He'd cracked a tooth last year, and my then vets had said it's best to leave it unless it's causing trouble. New vets said Hmm, time to come out, and he'll need antibiotics first. While he was on a week's course of antibiotics, prior to the dental, the lymph node on the right side of his jaw swelled up, golf-ball hard.

The vets said Not good, he'll need a biopsy under general anaesthetic, so he was booked in for a week after the dental. Then 10 days' hellish wait, and the verdict: not lymphoma. The entire node was removed, so it seemed a clear diagnosis. He healed well, but the nodes on the other side came up, then the popliteal nodes (at the back of his knee). Further tests, for bacterial infection, viral infection, you name it. Anti-histamines, in case of allergy. Then prednisolone, in case of aut0-immune disease.

The steroids had an immediate effect, but made him very sick. Rapid muscle wasting, to the point where he could barely stand, climb stairs, and walks were out of the question. Panic attacks, panting with rapid heart beat, for hours at a time. I was afraid the treatment would kill him. He lost two kilos in 10 days. After a week, the dose was scaled d0wn rapidly - but his nodes went right down.

Then a frustrating two months(!) while I asked for a second opinion, phoning the vets a couple of times a week, and little or no action. They wanted to start him on cyclosporin, for auto-immune disease, and I wanted that second opinion first. Finally, a referral to Cambridge vet school, and a nightmare six-hour drive (should only have taken four). I had to leave him there, but by the time I came home again, they already had a diagnosis. Lymphoma, and well advanced. Lungs clear, but spleen swollen. Could they start treatment immediately?

Absolutely. A month later, Herbie is still alive, his nodes are reducing, but he's a long way from being in remission.

Lymphoma Treatment Week 5

It's been a long time since I posted, and in many ways I have a superstitious dread about posting details of Herbie's illness. But I want to keep a record of how he's doing - at the moment, his vet bills are the only record I have.

He was finally diagnosed with lymphoma on 4th September (long story, I'll post later) and had his fifth chemotherapy treatment (intravenous vincristine, part of the COP protocol) on Tuesday 8th October. His urine test showed microscopic traces of blood, so the vet asked us to lay off the cyclophosphamide for a week, and see how he's doing next time.

One of the risky side-effects of this drug is hemorrhagic cystitis, so I'm glad they caught the signs early. See Graham and Prince's blog for how uncomfortable this can be: