Time for an update on Bravo’s cancer journey and canine chemotherapy – and the short version is that Bravo’s doing well. Fantastic, actually.
Our last update shared Bravo’s new status as a tripawd doggie. It has taken him some time to adjust, naturally, and his youth and athleticism helped. Also, the inspiration, agitation, and instigation of Bravo’s Shadow probably accelerated his learning curve.
This coming Wednesday, it will have been six weeks since his amputation. He’s had two rounds of canine chemotherapy, on June 30 and again last week on July 31. He’ll have three more chemotherapy treatments three weeks apart, finishing his fifth and final round the end of September.
Prior to his first chemotherapy treatment, we had to entice him to eat his food. He’d lost his appetite, and not even spiking his meals with a bit of Karma-Kat’s food seemed to help. We’d wanted him to lose a few pounds anyway—extra weight isn’t good for four-leggers, and it can really tip the scales (pun intended!) for tripawd pets.
I know that chemotherapy treatments for humans include risks, as well as potentially serious side effects. Thankfully, the doses for canine chemotherapy are lower for pets—smaller body size, and also we aim for QUALITY of life, not cure, in most cases. As a result, we were warned that Bravo *might* suffer some lethargy for a day or two after his treatment, but that feeling sick and losing fur wouldn’t be an issue.
How Canine Chemotherapy Works
The specialty center, in Dallas, is an hour drive each way. Thank goodness, Bravo has outgrown carsickness. He’s not a fan of car rides like Magical-Dawg, but now tolerates them well. He gets no food before chemotherapy treatment, but can receive any Rx he needs. We still have on hand the Rimadyl, Amantadine, Trazadone, and Gabapentin, but Bravo has not needed any pain medication in two weeks. His incision has healed, and no longer seems tender, either.
I drop him off in the morning between 7:30-8:30 (which means leaving about 6:15 am). I’m glad that all the technicians and staff wear masks, and require me and others with furry patients to also be safe during this time. Then, I drive home and muddle around—who can concentrate when a family member’s at the hospital?—and run to pick him up once the oncologist calls to release him. We’re usually home by around three o’clock.
On June 30 for his first chemotherapy treatment, Bravo received 380mg Carboplatin, as an intravenous (IV) injection in his right lateral saphenous vein (that’s in the outside of the hind leg near the hock). In fact, Bravo came home from his first treatment with a spring in his step, chowed down with renewed appetite, and felt absolutely great!
We were told to treat Bravo’s feces and urine as contaminated for 48 hours post-treatment and to use gloves to dispose of any accidents. He’s a faithful outside potty-boy, so routine pick up from the yard wasn’t any different.
After Canine Chemotherapy Treatment
A week to ten days after each chemo treatment, Bravo has blood drawn for a CBC (complete blood count). Chemotherapy can depress white blood cells and predispose to infection, or develop anemia. The post-treatment CBC allows the veterinarian to monitor status and make adjustments to future chemo dosage. Bravo visited his local veterinarian and “girlfriends” after his first treatment, and they shared the results with his oncologist: NORMAL!
Last week, July 21, Bravo received his second round of chemo. Because his CBC remained normal, he got the same dosage of Carboplatin. This coming Wednesday, we’ll also take Bravo for another blood draw. Based on his energy levels, appetite, and interaction, we expect him to continue to do well. UPDATE: Just back from getting Bravo’s CBC results, and again, it’s NORMAL!
In fact, this past weekend, for the first time since his amputation, Bravo began again to play with Karma-Kat. Oh, he’s chased, played tug, and had bitey-face fencing sessions with the puppy, but mostly because Shadow gets in his face. Karm-Kat, though, is his special friend and has been patient, waiting at a distance, only approaching to snuggle and nose-touch when things quiet. But now, they’ve begun to invite games of mutual chasing once again. Bravo can’t play “pin-the-Karma” anymore, with only one foreleg, but they’re back to chasing each other. It makes my heart glad because Karma recognizes Bravo feels well. Just check him out in the video!
Next Month’s Chemotherapy Marks Halfway
Bravo’s third treatment on August 11 puts him midway through his course of chemo. At that time, before receiving his treatment, he’ll again be X-rayed to check for any other lesions. Prior to his amputation, the radiographs of his lungs were clear. If cancer had spread, the instances were too small to detect.
Our oncologist Dr. Wright explained that in osteosarcoma, the primary lesion typically suppresses the growth of cancer, but often it has already metastasized to other locations, most typically the lungs. Once the primary cancer goes away (in this case, by amputation), secondary tumors begin to grow. Chemotherapy aims to delay the growth of these secondary tumors. So the X-ray of Bravo’s lungs and torso next month help determine how well the chemotherapy has worked, and what else (if anything) we can do. Paws crossed nothing scary-bad is found!
Life Moment By Moment
We don’t know what the future holds. But then, before Bravo’s cancer journey began, we didn’t know anything, either. Today, we do know to treasure every moment we have with our big boy. Bravo defines joy in his every tail wag, goofy grin, noisy growly-game, and head-butt snuggle.
My husband and I look at each other, smile, and say, “Aren’t we lucky to have him?”
And Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup agree.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!