Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The things that are dogging us

UPDATE WEDS. 4:26 PM: The vet looked at the photo of Butch's gums and said the growth does appear to be an epulis of the non-malignant variety. Fortunately, there are some non-surgical treatments that might help, the first being antibiotics to eliminate any possible infection. She gave me a prescription to start him on tonight and said he should be eating better by tomorrow. If not, then infection isn't what's keeping him from eating, and I will have to take him in tomorrow afternoon so they can get a good look at what's going on. She said that without surgery these tumors sometimes grow so long that they completely encase the dog's teeth. Most dogs, when that happens, will simply chew off the surplus. That's gross, I know, but it's an alternative Butch and I can live with.

I'll keep you posted.

I had expected to be announcing this week that a new dog had joined our family. His name is Barkley, he's another Goldendoodle, he's about two months older than Levi, and, in fact, he's Levi's brother from another mother. Barkley belongs to my niece, who loves him very much, but he's a little too big and a little too energetic, and he knocks her babies down when he wags his tail too close to them.

Barkley's move from Texas is on hold for now. If my niece hasn't changed her mind in a couple of weeks, I hope he can join us then, but for the immediate future I have to put Butch and Levi's needs first.

Levi is on strict crate confinement for two weeks to try to clear up a limp that his vets still think is bursitis. He had a whole series of x-rays on Monday, none of which showed any bone or joint abnormalities, so we're hoping that complete rest will heal what ails him.

I moved his crate into the living room so he'll have company, but he is not a happy camper. To make matters worse, he started shaking his head violently this morning, so I checked his ears, and one of them appears to be infected. We're going back to the vet later this afternoon.

Butch, in the meantime, has been perkier in the last week than he's been in at least a year. He's been so stiff and arthritic that I can't recall the last time he was able to get up on the furniture, but I looked up the other day and was shocked to see him sitting comfortably on the futon in the den. I don't know what made him decide to give it a try on that particular day, but he's been up there several times since then, apparently happy that his attempt was successful. Here he is relaxing on the futon with Lucy:

Butch has also been more social lately, spending more time interacting with people and other dogs and less time off by himself sleeping in another room. He seems to be hearing better than he did for months previously, and if I so much as crack open the refrigerator, he is up and coming into the kitchen to investigate. I've used his interest in food as an indicator that he still finds something positive about life in spite of his blindness, near deafness, and painful joints.

All that sounds good, don't you think? But there's a problem. When I took him for a checkup early in November, the vet commented on one tooth that looked really bad, saying he wouldn't risk putting Butch under anesthesia to pull the tooth (because of his age). He said to watch for any swelling around Butch's mouth or any signs that he was having difficulty eating.

Last night Butch didn't want his supper. He accepted a treat I offered him later, but promptly dropped it on the floor and left it. I pulled his lips back to check the appearance of the bad tooth, and I couldn't even find it. Since that veterinary visit less than two months ago, Butch's upper gum tissue has grown and hangs down to obscure all of his upper back teeth.

I have looked on the Internet for pictures of dogs' mouths that look like Butch's, and I believe what he has is an epulis. An epulis is a non-malignant tumor that occurs fairly commonly in older dogs. The problem in Butch's case is that treatment consists of the surgical removal of the epulis. In Butch's case surgery is not an option.

Butch needs to go to the vet, but riding in the car has become pure torture for him. He fights me when I try to get him into the car, and his whole body shakes until he is out of it again. I don't want to make him suffer more than necessary, and I am afraid he may not come home from his next trip to the vet.

I have taken a photo of the growth on his gums and will take it with me when I take Levi today to see if they will/can identify it from the picture. If it is what I think it is, I have a decision to make. Should I have Butch put down now, while he's in a relatively happy state of mind, or should I wait until he's in so much pain that death is the only way to make him comfortable? I don't want to deprive him of a single happy minute, but this brave animal has already endured so much pain in his lifetime. Is it fair to keep him alive when a long, hard winter may be all the future that lies ahead of him?

I'm praying for answers. What would you do?


  1. Oh Linda, there's just no good answer is there? I went through this 4 years ago when my 12 year old Scottie had cancer. I actually kept her alive a week too long. She was really doing great until that last week and I kept waiting for her to bounce back and she never did. If I had it to do again I would have let her go when she stopped eating but it was just so hard to say good by.....and I still miss her. It's a decision only you can make, but you'll know what to do when the time comes. I'll be thinking about you and Butch.

  2. Thanks, Harriet. After talking with the vet, I'm feeling a little more optimistic that this condition doesn't amount to a death sentence for Butch. One day at a time, right?

  3. Oh, my, I would give the medication a chance to work before I think about saying goodbye to Butch. I hope he's eating now, poor baby-give him a scritch and a kiss from me.

  4. the dog in the cage looks pitful.

  5. Janet, I definitely will. At the time I wrote this I didn't know medication was an option. Everything I read on the Internet said surgery, surgery, surgery. Should have waited to write about it until I had talked with the vet, but I stayed awake most of last night worrying about it and was getting panicky.

    Patsy, he does look pitiful. To give him credit, though, he's dealing with it a lot better than I had expected him to. So far no barking, very little whining, and only resisted going back into the crate one time out of a dozen leashed potty breaks. We're only on day 3, of course, but I'm proud of him so far. What's really funny is that my daughter's little Shih Tzu, Oliver, has been whining and trying to find a way to get inside the crate with Levi.

  6. I was so happy to read your update :) I love how you love your dogs! Hopefully this problem Butch has can be nursed along, I would hate to think this problem warrants being PTS for....I know you will do what is best for him, trust yourself.

  7. I almost forgot about Levi, I'm sorry! Although I am not a fan of kenneling (for some reasons), you do what you have to do, to allow him to heal. I wanted to mention to you the "thundershirts", my vet swears by them, as well as two of my friends that use them for their pets when taking them in cars. Might be worth looking into, if Butch has a lot of anxiety when you take him to the vet?

  8. I forgot to mention Levi, too! I wonder when he'll have had enough of jail and stage a breakout? be careful when you open that cage door!
    I hope his little buddy doesn't torment him dangling a chew bone in front of the cage!

  9. Levi and Butch have my best thoughts. I'm glad Butch's prognosis isn't as grim as it is on the internet. I hope he responds well to the antibiotics.


  10. Sandy, Kadi's final illness early this year made me take a hard look at the quality of Butch's life. At that time, sick as she was, Kadi seemed happy. Butch clearly was not. He slept ALL the time and showed very little interest in anything. Food was the one thing I knew he liked. Although he has improved in terms of socializing, it was the thought that eating might be painful for him that panicked me. I'm back to spoon-feeding him (he won't put his muzzle into the dish) and breaking up his treats into small bites, but as long as he shows up for supper, I'll do everything I can to make it easy for him.

    Thanks for telling me about thunder-shirts, too. Hadn't heard of those.

    Janet, Levi had a bone inside the cage, Oliver had an identical one outside. Each dog wanted the other one's bone. Levi would like very much to bolt out of the cage when I open the door. Fortunately, he can't get a running start.

    Ellen, thank you. I'm so relieved that surgery isn't the only (non) option here. So far, so good!

  11. I am so happy to read the update before I read the post. I'm glad that medicine is an option. Please keep us posted on his progress. Also, have you tried soft food for adult dogs? Just a thought.

  12. Linda,
    So sorry to hear of Butch's troubles. I'm praying the antibiotics work!

    I wanted to second what Sandy said about the Thundershirts. I've heard great things!

    Also, my brother in law's recipe for chicken liver brownies has never failed to get one of our dogs to eat! It's on the Creekhiker blog:

  13. Alison, thanks. I've been moistening Butch's kibble for nearly a year now, to make it soft, and I mix that with canned food. From now on I'll make sure he doesn't have to do much chewing, though that will change his treat habits. He'd be a very happy dog to know that there will be a lot of scrambled eggs in his future.

    Holly, thanks for the recipe. I've copied it and will give it a try.

  14. wondering how things are today? I looked at that recipe for liver brownies and I still think making it would make me gag.


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