Thursday, October 06, 2005

Worried About Max

Max, yesterday. Posted by Picasa
"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog." - Gene Hill
Max has looked bloated for a month. I first noticed it one day when he didn't eat his supper with the usual "inhale and swallow" motion of a vacuum cleaner. At first I thought he was just fat but his tummy felt very tight. Dad had given him a fig and he had been eating them off the ground as well. He loves figs. He still had his poop sessions in the yard and his appetite was fine the next day, but something just wasn't right.

My beagle Dottie started having abdominal swelling, trouble eating and trouble breathing. She had a lung tumor and 500 cc of ascites (fluid in her abdominal cavity) that recurred in 24 hours after draining. This last illness came on suddenly and within a few days was so severe, and she was in such obvious pain, I had to let her go. She was 15 years old.

With this in the back of my mind I took Max to the vet. He had some impacted glands but x-rays didn't show any fluid or problem. His blood work was OK, no liver enzyme elevation. That was two weeks ago. He still eats well, plays with his toys, loves to sleep in the big carrier inside, visits his friend at the fence, gets excited when we go for a walk, fetches and begs for his treat. He doesn't seem to breath any harder and doesn't seem to be in pain. But something still isn't right. His tummy is a little softer in the morning after his constitutional but as soon as he eats in the evening it is tight again. Then he tries to potty and has a hard time, little success. I changed his food, decreased it a bit, cut out the biscuit treats, took away the rawhide and kept him away from figs. No improvement in two weeks.

So today we went back to the vet for the follow-up x-ray. Max doesn't like vets, he usually has to be muzzled or sedated but today he was good. Today's x-ray showed a more "fuzzy" abdomen. This isn't good. There is fluid there. Sure enough, when she aspirated with a small needle the vet collected about 10 cc of a very slightly cloudy yellow fluid. Then an x-ray of his chest. He is a rescue dog and had heart worms when we found him. The treatment is hard. He could have a little right sided heart failure but he has no murmur and the ascites isn't totally clear or colorless. I didn't see any tumor in the x-ray of his chest or abdomen but this isn't a good way to diagnose a mass. Realistically, he has a 75% chance or more of this being a malignant tumor somewhere. For now they are sending the fluid for cytology and he is on Lasix. If it is heart related this might help. If there are no malignant cells in the fluid then we will recheck his liver enzymes and get an ultrasound of his abdomen.

I'm scared. I didn't want this dog after having to put down two old friends within six weeks, but he needed us; he found us. Max is a good dog. He's smart and playful and happy even though his life has obviously been hard and he was terribly neglected for a long time. He still cries when the sirens blare but his nightmares have stopped. He is a dog of comfort now with a choice of hammock, six inch thick orthopedic mattress or a padded sheepskin lined doghouse with fan and covered porch to sleep in or on. He knows his food will be there and he has more toys to squeak and growl at than some kids. He will sit, stay, come, lie down and turn around. He has a funny little talk when you ask him to speak. You don't have to constantly pet Max or physically play with him, he is just happy to have you sit quietly in the yard while he shows off or sleeps.

No, I didn't want Max but now I don't want to lose him. I hope this isn't what I think it is. In this situation I almost wish I knew nothing about medicine, at least I could more easily believe this isn't serious. As long as he's not in pain I'll let him eat what he wants, play as long as he wants, let him give me wet doggie kisses and I'll rub his ears and scratch his sides where he can't reach. He'll let me know when it's time for him to go. For now I want to pretend everything will be OK, that this is just me being paranoid, at least for a day or two more.

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