Kimba is a 15 year old Foxhound who had become a little thinner and lethargic of recent months. All of a sudden he collapsed one day and we were called to his house for potential euthanasia. Our examination revealed a mass high up in his belly around his liver or stomach, or possibly his spleen. In these sorts of situations, cancer is always unfortunately on the list of concerns along with partial obstruction, abscess or inflammatory lesions etc.
Often owners are reluctant to go forward with workups, diagnostics and treatments due to a pets age (as Kimba’s owners were). They felt that at 15 and having already had a great life, they didn’t want to put him through major diagnostics and surgery which may be very painful and protracted. However, nothing could be further from the truth. We asked Kimba’s owners the following:
“If for “x” price there was a certain percentage chance of either curing Kimba such that he lives another 1-3 years; or at least return him to excellent health for 3 to 12 months before such a concern returns, would you consider that worthwhile? Especially seeing as 1 year for our canine friends is equivalent to 6 years for us! And also given that these patients often recover from major surgery extremely quickly and well, in the hands of experienced high quality surgeons?”
Kimba’s owners contemplated this and agreed that they would consider what we asked, so long as Kimba did not need to go through a lot of suffering to regain optimum health. We agree with their concerns and consideration.
Kimba’s scenario: The most treatable differential that we felt Kimba had, was what is called a splenic cancer, or more specifically, a hemangiosarcoma. When we find these tumors in the spleen, so long as blood tests and chest rays are clear, the following usually applies:
Removing these tumors results in 90% of patients sailing trough surgery and walking out of hospital the next day, tails wagging and feeling better than they have for months. A very small percentage may not make it through surgery, or may struggle to recover the next few days following, but the chance of this is less than 1 in 10. Of those who do go well and get home, they are often brighter than they have been in months, and about 30% are cured for life. Of the other 70%, they are well and happy for 2 to 12 months before the cancer may return, a which time we decide to end their suffering.
The only other consideration here is that we can often give likely advice as to the above, but there always remains a chance of other possibilities existing. You never quite know until you either do a lot of time consuming expensive diagnostics, or, what we much prefer, a quick exploratory surgery so that we know for certain. With this in mind the following advice was given to Kimba’s owners.
“We feel there is only about a 20% chance that he has a splenic mass which could be removed. If this is the case, and the rest of Kimba is clear, the following are the facts.
- There is a 90% chance of coming through surgery and being home within 24-48 hours and having a bright and happy dog.
- There is a 30% chance of him being cured.
- If this is a nasty cancer that will return (only determined by histopathology after removal), then it will likely return anywhere from 6 weeks to 12 months. But until it does, Kimba is likely to be really happy, and enjoying life.
- The total cost, if successful, will be less than $2,000.
However, there is one more consideration.
- To actually do the exploratory surgery to have a look inside and know exactly what is going on, (and what our chances are), only costs $650 and gives peace of mind that if there isnt much hope of a successful outcome, we are letting him go because we had no choice.”
With all this in mind, Kimba’s owners said their goodbyes as they knew his chances were slim, but they wanted to give him that 20% chance of a significantly happier life, or possibly even a cure. Blood tests were all normal and chest and body x-rays were clear of potential cancer spread. So we went to surgery.
Surgery revealed a single splenic mass that was complicated by being significantly adhered and involved with numerous other abdominal structures, including, worryingly, the pancreas. However, in Dr Seung Kang’s hands and assisted by Dr Melyssa Cotton, in over approximately two hours, this mass was separated and successfully removed.
This is our video showing Kimba the day after surgery, jumping in the car and wagging his tail!ARVE Error: src mismatch
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src gen org: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/zqATXHO_iIw
The very next day at home, Kimba’s owners described him as being happier and healthier than he had for many months. We are currently awaiting his pathology results, but, in the meantime, Kimba is simply adoring life at home on the couch! Kimba has hope. His owners are delighted. And Kimba sailed through surgery.ARVE Error: src mismatch
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As we always say, age is not a disease! Cancer is.