Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Aging Giant

Mabel is eight years old. When you are a giant breed dog that means you are somewhere around seventy in people years.  (You might think of dogs' aging as faster by the pound.)

Mabel's gait is a bit stiffer these days.  Clearly, her back hurts sometimes.  For a while, aspirin eased her discomfort.  Eventually though, we had to get a Rx from the vet for something stronger.

Speaking of the vet, a few weeks ago, it seemed like Mabel was drinking more water than usual.  This may be symptomatic of any number of things:  dry food, medication side effect, urinary infection, diabetes, Cushings disease, Pyometra, something else, or even nothing at all.

Mabel was due for a physical in April anyway.  So, on a crisp February afternoon, I was juggling a jar of urine, a bag of poop, and the other end of a leash attached to a very reluctant Mabel, heading through the door of our local animal hospital.

Results of the exam:  urine fine, poop fine, blood not so fine.  Turns out Mabel has some extra baby red blood cells.  With nothing else in the tests suggesting a clear reason for these results, the vet uttered the c word. We should look for a "mass".

A few days later, following a six hour fast,  Mabel reported back for her Xray.  She's a big gal so they had to take three views to see all of her abdomen.  (You get used to it.  As with age, with big dogs everything costs by the pound.)  Results:  Mabel has arthritis of the lower spine (we didn't need an Xray to tell us that).

Though the vet was determined to find a "mass" and sure it had to be on the spleen, there was no mass visible on the Xray.  Well, says the vet, we've got an ultra sound!  We can get a better look.  The mass might be hidden behind the spleen or within it's folds (The spleen is like a tongue, you see.  It can sort of undulate, change position).  OK, I say, poor Mabel is still drugged, let's go ahead and search for the "mass" with the ultra sound.

Results.  No mass.  (But it's gotta be there!)  "Sorry," says the vet, "Mabel is so wide I just couldn't see everything.  Here's a referral to Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Small Animal Division" (Wait!  Small Animal?!  Will their ultra sound be able to access Mabel's wideness to find the mass that just has to be on Mabel's spleen?!).

Reality check.  The ONLY diagnosis offered is spleen mass.  The treatment choices are:

1.  Do nothing.  The dog will live out his life for however long that may be.

2.  Cut the dog open, still don't find a mass.  Remove the spleen (the problem has to be the spleen!).    If the dog survives the surgery this might buy him a few extra months of life.

3.  Cut the dog open, find a mass on the spleen (it has to be on the spleen!).  Remove the mass along with the spleen.  If the dog survives the surgery and the mass is benign, this may buy the dog a few extra months of life.  If the mass is cancerous, start chemotherapy.  This may buy the dog a few extra weeks of life.  Or, do nothing more and the dog may live a few fewer weeks of life.


  1. Aw ... poor puppy. I understand. My Sir Poops is enjoying his time without being poked, prodded, or cut open. When its time to go, he'll let know. He'll be 14 in May.

    Right now, he's sleeping which he does a lot. But he still does a Happy Dance here and there when he gets his chow or a treat.

    Keep Mabel happy.

    Hugs and chocolate!

    1. Thanks Shelly. It helps to know somebody understands. I promise to keep Mabel happy for as long as it is. Hugs to you and Sir Poops.

  2. We went through this with our German shepherd. Schatzi was eleven years old and reached the point at which she could no longer walk. I realized she wasn't going to get better and had made the decision to have her euthanized when she passed away in her sleep one night. It was so strange...I was sound asleep but woke abruptly, almost as if I'd felt her spirit leave her body.

  3. At this point, keeping Mabel comfortable is the right thing to do.

  4. A sad catch-22. So sorry for Mabel. Hugs to you both.

  5. So sorry to hear about Mabel.
    The same problems happened with Kirby. After all the operations I just decided no more. I let her eat the foods she wasn't suppose to have we carried her up and down the stairs. She would fall alseep in the flower beds in the sun, she did what ever she wanted.
    She fell asleep in her sleep.
    I still miss her after all these years. I have tears in my eyes right now.
    I miss her so much.
    Watson is 16 and thehamish is 12 both have health problems and I know what is coming.

    cheers, parsnip