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Bravo Doesn’t Know He’s Sick: Bone Cancer in Dogs

by | May 28, 2020 | Dog Training & Care | 27 comments

Dogs sniff out all kinds of hidden mysteries, hear at levels undetectable to humans, and reach deep, deep into human hearts to heal the hurt. They don’t know or care about issues that keep humans awake at night, dissolve us into tears, or drop humans to their knees in anguish. Like bone cancer in dogs. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for people–breast cancer affects pets, too–and November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month, but cancer strikes anytime. Even during a pandemic.

Many people today suffer through horrible situations with health and/or financial challenges. That also affects the pets they love. For many of us, our dogs and cats lift us up and support us through all the angst.

And I thank God for that.

canine osteosarcoma

Bravo loves his life, rambling the fields and catching all the good sniffs.

Bravo Doesn’t Know He’s Sick: Early Signs of Bone Cancer

About six weeks ago, we noticed Bravo limping. Nothing serious, just a slight favoring of his right front leg especially after playing outside. The limp got better with rest, and he didn’t act tender. He let me check him out. But since he’s a giant breed (now 125 pounds), I worried about elbow dysplasia or a shoulder injury. So when the limp returned after a long day outside “helping” us in the garden, we had him examined by the veterinarian. With social distancing terms in place, Bravo got an escort to the clinic while I waited in my car in the parking lot.

Of course, he didn’t limp for the veterinarian, just licked everyone’s faces and pranced around. The doctor didn’t recommend X-rays since they don’t show sprains or other soft tissue injuries. The doctor prescribed rest and pain medicine—sort of a glorified aspirin designed for dogs—once to twice a day. Rimadyl tastes like treats, too, so value-added for Bravo-Dawg.

The meds helped, but the limp never completely went away, except when cursing squirrels invited chase games. Nope, he never limped when loping through the field after bunnies, tag-the-cat games, or playing keep-away with socks. But still, I worried.

Dogs don’t worry about what-ifs.

Annual Wellness Check: X-rays for Bone Cancer

A month later with the medicine nearly gone, and Bravo’s annual wellness check due, we returned for a follow-up. One of his favorite technicians escorted him into the clinic. He got his vaccination and a clean bill of health—other than he should drop a few pounds (oh, he won’t like that!). We refilled his prescription and scheduled radiographs. And I worried he’d need orthopedic surgery, a pretty big deal in a big boy like Bravo.

The veterinarian’s call came earlier than expected. He’d taken pictures of Bravo’s shoulders, legs, and even chest—why the chest? When nothing wrong could be found where expected, they looked further, and found a lesion on the medial aspect of his right humerus. Translation: a bone tumor in his shoulder. Bone cancer typically spreads to the lungs, hence the chest pictures.

Bravo doesn’t know. And he doesn’t care what it means. Bravo-Dawg feels good, loves his people, and only knows how he feels this moment, this hour, this day. And it’s our job to make sure that continues as long as possible. For weeks, for months. He may not have a year.

bone cancer

Karma-Kat doesn’t know, either. Not yet. But he will, probably before Bravo does. I’m already mourning that day.

Praying For the What If? . . .

As a longtime pet journalist, I’ve written about this subject and interviewed pet owners as well as the top veterinary oncologists about diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Sometimes it’s a curse to know just enough to understand the possibilities. Yet I still pray for the what if?…

You see, our veterinarian submitted the radiographs to a specialist. And it turns out, Bravo’s age and the location of the lesion are not typical for osteosarcoma (the most common and deadliest bone cancer). Therefore, the radiologist recommends a bone biopsy to rule out a bone infection—which might have the possibility of a cure. That’s the what if I’m praying for, even though my veterinarian cautions that’s a long shot. I have to believe in miracles. Bravo-Dawg gave us a miracle when he came to live with us.

Bone Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

This morning, the veterinary surgeon consulted with my doctor, and explained the location of Bravo’s lesion offers challenges to even getting a bone biopsy. The biopsy isn’t always conclusive, but has a 90% accuracy. So now, we’ve been offered options to figure out next steps. A bone biopsy? Or CT scan and fungal titers? Chemo to control the spread of the cancer? Amputation to manage his pain? Or will the next steps we choose mean other choices must be made?

Will we have Bravo for another 4-6 months? Can we keep him happy and pain-free for a year? We just don’t know. The unknowns create a special kind of hell. My family and friends have offered much-needed support via Facebook, phone calls, messages, and even Zoom meetings. For that we are incredibly grateful. During this horrific time for so many people around the world, all dealing with the unknowns, or the tragedy of knowns, my heart and prayers go out for all.

This is our own personal pandemic tragedy. I keep asking myself, would we have taken him earlier if not for the @#$%TY!! disrupting our world? Would that have made a difference? Probably not. But I remain grateful for this:

Bravo-Dawg doesn’t know he’s sick. There are squirrels to chase, a Karma-Kat to tease and snuggle, and human tears to clean away. And I thank God for that.

UPDATE: Consult with the surgeon yesterday, and bone biopsy scheduled for tomorrow morning (June 5, 2020). More details to come. THANK YOU to all for your prayers and support.

UPDATE JUNE 10: Bravo had his bone biopsy on Friday, June 5, and today we received the devastating diagnosis: sarcoma. He has a consult with an oncologist–the earliest appointment available is June 15th.

His cancer journey continues in this update.

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27 Comments

  1. Beth Cox

    I am so sorry! Prayers with you and Bravo

    Reply
  2. Jackie

    I lost my 14-year-old cat suddenly last June. He had CHF and couldn’t breathe without oxygen. I am crying as I type this and I miss him terribly. I know I will adopt another kitty at some point, but with the pandemic and some family issues, I have not been able to do that yet. Gizmo was so much company and the ache of his loss is made worse by the necessity of sheltering in place. I never got to say a proper goodbye to my boy and I hope that how ever long you have with Bravo you will treasure it. I will pray for a miracle for you and Bravo.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Jackie, I want to give you a big hug! (virtually sent…) I’m so very sorry for your loss of Gizmo. It’s always so hard, especially under these horrible circumstances. Thank you for your prayers and support. We never intended to adopt another pet, but now… well, a little stray pup showed up last Sunday and now Bravo has a play buddy and comfort pup. I hope your next furry love comes to you soon, and helps heal your still broken heart.

      Reply
  3. Andrea

    Amy, I’m so sorry to hear this and hope for you that it is just an infection. I agree that 2020 has been a horrible year. Before all this virus stuff, I returned home after surgery only to find that Two-y my ex-feral cat was ill. He died only a couple of days later. This year is just such a bummer. I’m praying for you.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh I’m so sorry, but I’m glad you were home with him. Thank you for the prayers.

      Reply
  4. chris

    Make sure you get a second and a third opinion. My vet diagnosed my gsd with bone cancer and if I had not questioned it and asked other vets to look at xrays, I would not have found out it was not bone cancer. It was osteo arthritis . So we did a lot of worrying for nothing.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      We have an appointment with our 3rd veterinarian expert next week. I’m glad you advocated successfully for your dog.

      Reply
  5. Bernadette

    I’m so sorry this was the result for Bravo. I missed the beginnings of his issue and didn’t know the whole story so I’ve been trying to follow. I’m going to hold onto the “what ifs” for him too. It takes very little energy, doesn’t hurt a thing, and actually helps to dispel stress. It’s gotten me through some very painful times with my cats. And, really, you just never know.

    Reply
  6. Martha

    While hearing about Bravo is heartbreaking, the positive comments you included are so important, so life-affirming, & so full of the joy you’ve shared. We all need to balance our thoughts and feelings at these difficult times. Thanks for showing us how.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you Martha. My husband helps a lot, keeping us grounded in THIS moment and what we can do one day at a time. And Bravo models joy every single day.

      Reply
  7. Patricia H.

    😪😪😪 Omg Amy I’m just heartbroken for you, M, Karma and Bravo. I know exactly the anguish and pain you and your family is in right now. I’m going to continue to pray that God will heal Bravo. Only God knows the outcome here and I’m sending positive and uplifting vibes to all of you. Please keep us updated. Love to all of you. 🙏🙏🙏

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you so much, Patricia. I just wish God would clue me in on the plan. *weak smile*

      Reply
  8. Deborah

    😥😥😥

    Reply
  9. Terry Zarsky

    Amy,

    So sorry for this added stress. You caught it as soon as you could. I lost a dog to this but he had his best year at the last. Praying for all of you.

    My brother-in-law just was told this weekend his 7-year-old Australian Shepherd has a brain lesion and there is nothing they can do. Prognosis is less than two months.

    Terry

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Terry, so sorry you went through this and that your BIL’s Aussie has such a horrible diagnosis. Thanks for sharing your experience. We must live in the moment and do our best.

      Reply
  10. Sandra Toney

    Amy, I am heartsick right now for you, M, and Karma. Wish I had wise words but nothing is coming to me. Just many prayers for you and your family and, of course, Bravo. Please know Ray, Angel and I will be praying you.🙏

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much. The notes and prayers and support means the world.

      Reply
  11. Feline Opines

    I’m praying for wisdom for the veterinarians and for your worried heart. I understand the “what ifs”. I had to make the decision to say goodbye to my 17-year old cat Tucker in March. Despite regular vet visits and blood work, I found out he was riddled with cancer. When we receive news like this we stand on the precipice of “Is there medical intervention to help him?” and “Am I selfishly prolonging his suffering because I can’t bear to say good-bye?” In the end, for me, faith and Tucker himself, led me to the right decision. It was too late for Tucker but I am praying and trusting that Bravo will have a better outcome. I have Tucker’s sister and at 17, with kidney disease (fluids every other day) and hyperthyroidism medication she is still living her best life. Every fur kid is different, every situation is different. My prayer is that Bravo’s story will be a happy one.
    Anita

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Anita, I know Bravo will help us choose what’s best.

      Reply
  12. Ranny Green

    Hi Amy: I went through this about 15 years ago with Becka, our beloved greyhound who became a Seattle celebrity of sorts when I wrote her story in the Seattle Times and continued battle with the Big C. Bottom line: We caught it early enough before it spread outside the left shoulder. We opted to have her left front leg amputated and she lived three more quality years. But the first two weeks following amputation were sheer hell for her and the family. She had that phantom leg syndrome and cried and cried and cried. But after that she was on fast forward. BTW, most greyhound amputations are the left front leg, which undergoes the most pressure on the race track. — Ranny

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh I’m so sorry, Ranny. But thank you so much for posting, this helps enormously.

      Reply
  13. Catwoods

    I’m so sorry about Bravo’s medical problem, Amy. it’s so hard when a pet has an illness. I hope he can stay happy and comfortable with you as long as possible.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much, I really appreciate the encouragement and support.

      Reply
  14. Karyl

    Oh geez. 🙁 Your Bravo, my friend just lost her dog due to lymphoma… just coupled with everything else, what even is this year?

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Karyl, so sorry about your friend’s dog. Agreed, 2020 sucks.

      Reply

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