Postcard from Arizona- 13

2 August 2018
Benson, AZ

Now an update that’s actually up to date… both of us eventually got over what I now presume was the flu. The Admiral got some cough medicine that allowed her to sleep and to get some relief from the constant hard coughing, but not before she broke her back.

Apparently all the coughing stressed the T-12 vertebrae to the point it cracked. Or maybe she twisted wrong. Or… ???

Her health insurer (United Healthcare) wouldn’t approve her going to an orthopedist till she had at least 2 weeks of physical therapy (huh? for a broken back?!) which she did. The 2 weeks stretched into 2 months during which time she was told the repair is an easy procedure involving injecting a cement into the crack. After the 2 months the Admiral felt like she was learning enough to protect her back. A follow-up X-ray showed the crack was either healing or had healed. So off she went to see an orthopedist.

His response was “Why are you coming to me now? You should have been here months ago!” He also told her “…you’ve survived a broken back. It’s a miracle you aren’t paralyzed!” Later, one of his support staff (another MD) said the repair process using the cement hardens the repaired vertebrae to the point it can damage the softer adjoining vertebrae above and below the repaired vertebrae. Sounds like a slow motion chain reaction. Apparently their office has discontinued the procedure.

The root cause is osteoporosis. The Admiral will be seeing an endocrinologist to manage the bone loss.

So it appears that, even though I think the delay was nuts, it did keep her from doing further damage. But if this ever comes up again I believe I’ll try to convince her to head immediately to the ER.

Sadly our dogs are no longer doing well. Bernese Mtn. Dogs have an average life span of 82 months… slightly less than 7 years. They’re now 11 years old and we’ve speculating they may make it to 12 or 13 like their mom Missy. But Kelly started stumbling occasionally, then it started happening more frequently. The local vet gave us some Meloxicam to try (an NSAID). I thought it might have helped a tiny bit, but it wasn’t the miracle cure it had been for Annie’s arthritis.

Things kept degenerating and we thought we’d try another vet for a second opinion about Annie and it worked out well to have Kelly seen at the same time. We found a vet an hour away in Bisbee, about the same as the drive to Tucson. The new vet, Dr. Tyler, immediately stopped the Meloxicam which is a no-no drug for dogs with kidney problems. Kidney problem? What kidney problem? In the 3 or 4 weeks since she had last had blood work, Kelly’s kidneys had started showing signs of not working properly.

Doc Tyler immediately sent us to a canine neurologist in Tucson who did a CT scan. No apparent problem with the spine, no obvious sign of tumors on the spinal cord (only detected indirectly in an X-ray). Kelly’s symptoms were those of degenerative spinal cord disease (kind of a canine version of ALS), but he thought it was progressing faster than he’d seen before. And the kidneys were a bad complication. On the chance there was a tumor he couldn’t see he prescribed some prednisone which might offer a little relief if there was a tumor somewhere. 10 days later her kidneys were degenerating to the point she wouldn’t eat and it was clear it was time to say goodbye to our lovable pain in the ass who never failed to make us smile or laugh. Trust me- it’s hard to live with a dog that is sometimes smarter than you! So yesterday, 1 August, we lost Kelly.

The primary reason we wanted a new pair of eyes was because of Annie. She was exhibiting signs of anemia except supporting symptoms weren’t there. The test for Addison’s came back negative, so we were sent down the road for anemia. We’d given her 6 weekly injections of vitamin B12 (that was a story in itself!), added Lixotinic supplement and went thru de-worming her in case she had whip worm which can produce similar anemic symptoms. The first thing Doc Tyler found was a huge lymph node. She wanted to scope her (endoscopy) to see if there was a large tumor in the gut but she doesn’t have that device.

So she sent us to a vet in Tucson who had been working with Kelly’s cardiologist. Dr. Bachman was someone we already knew and had confidence in. She didn’t do an endoscopy but instead did a sonogram. Not good news. It appears Annie has tumors in several locations including the spleen and against the outside of the lung explaining perhaps the enlarged lymph node. She did a needle biopsy on 2 locations which came back positive for a very fast growing type of sarcoma.

The prognosis isn’t good. Surgery is out because it’s so widespread and, in light of that, we decided we weren’t going to give her chemo in order to extend her life a week or so. That leaves us waiting for Annie to start showing signs that things are going bad for her… probably as much as a 2 or 3 weeks, maybe less, maybe more.

On top of that Annie still has her arthritis to deal with. Since she can’t have the Meloxicam any longer, our new vet suggested trying something called cannabidiol (CBD). It’s derived from cannabis but lacks the THC (the psychoactive component marijuana is famous for). So now I’m rubbing 3 drops of CBD on Annie’s gums twice daily. It’s too soon to tell but so far I don’t see it as a direct replacement for Meloxicam. I will say that Annie’s appetite (which has always been good) is now similar to a shark in a feeding frenzy. It’s pretty scarey to watch. Yikes!

I can’t believe how fast our world turned upside down with the dogs. A Bernese Mtn. Dog owner should expect joint problems and/or cancer. And that’s where we are with Annie. In a short while we’ll be without either of our best friends.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in southeast AZ. Our 2 Bernese Mountain Dogs, Annie & Kelly, prompted the name of this blog but sadly are gone because of kidney failure. They will live forever in our hearts.
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