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Report On This Week’s Visits To The Veterinarian

Yesterday didn’t go exactly as planned.

Those of you following our Facebook page have read about the bump on Ty’s nose. It first showed up a few weeks ago, and we thought that maybe he’d been stung or bit. We treated him with Benadryl, and after a couple of days the swelling disappeared. This week it came back in exactly the same place, so clearly we weren’t dealing with a allergic reaction. We decided it was time to have the vet take a look.

This is also the time of year that we do the boys’ annual physicals, so I got a recommendation from the friend we’re visiting in the Houston area, and we scheduled appointments for Ty and Buster to see his veterinarian. Dr. Stevenson at Western Hills Animal Medical & Surgical Clinic was able to see both dogs on Monday – and thank goodness she did!

Ty and Buster on the sofa

Monday’s Appointments

Our primary concern with Ty was the bump on his nose, but he’s 11 now and he’s gotten a few other weird growths that we wanted the doctor to check out at the same time. We also needed to do blood work to check his general health and confirm that his medication is still controlling his hypothyroidism because we’ve noticed he’s had a bit less energy lately. Finally, we wanted to do x-rays of his spine to confirm that he’s completely recovered from the discospondylitis he had last year, and that arthritis wasn’t setting in where his vertebra had been compromised by the infection.

Dr. Stevenson gave Ty a very thorough once over, took blood and urine for analysis, and aspirated the bumps on his nose, head, and shoulder. She could tell under the microscope that the bump on Ty’s nose was caused by some sort of infection, but it wasn’t clear what might be causing it. An abscessed tooth, a foreign body that he might have inhaled, or an infected cyst were the most likely culprits.

We decided to start him on antibiotics to help reduce the infection and scheduled him to go back yesterday for a dental cleaning, which would also allow her to ensure that it wasn’t an abscessed tooth creating the bump on his nose. While Ty was sedated for the dental she could also do a thorough examination of his nostril to rule out foreign bodies, and we’d get the x-rays of his spine at the same time.

With Ty squared away for the moment, we moved on to Buster, who’s been pretty healthy lately – other than that ulcer on his cornea a couple months back. We did let Dr. Stevenson know that Buster sometimes drags his back foot, and trips once in a while. We also needed blood work to see if the dosage of his seizure medication needed to be adjusted.

During her exam, the doctor could see that Buster has some decreased neurological activity in his back end. That might be caused by a number of things, including bulging discs, lesions on the spine, or Degenerative Myelopathy. We got his blood and urine samples and decided that Buster would also go back yesterday for x-rays of his spine and a dental cleaning.

Tuesday’s Discovery

So, we dropped the boys off expecting pretty minor procedures yesterday morning and came back home to wait. It wasn’t long before Dr. Stevenson called and said that she’d gotten all the blood work back and everything looked good, but the lump on the top of Ty’s head turned out to be a mast cell tumor and needed to be removed. So Ty’s relatively straight-forward day became a more complicated surgery. The tumor was the size of a small walnut, and it’s been sent off for analysis to be sure that we got clean margins and to determine if it’s a slow-growing or more aggressive type of cancer. We’ll be able to decide on any further treatment for Ty once we have those results, which should be early next week.

The good news is that Ty’s in otherwise great shape! His teeth are healthy, there was no abscess, and he didn’t need any extractions. Dr. Stevenson was also able to do a more thorough examination of his nose and found no foreign bodies. At this point, it seems that an infected cyst is causing the bump on his nose, and we’ll continue treating it with antibiotics. She was also able to get some good x-rays of his spine, and it’s healed nicely from the discospondylitis. Those vertebra are clear of arthritis, but she did see some arthritis in his hip, so we’ve started him on a supplement to help with any discomfort that it might be causing.

Ty came home with quite an incision on his head, and he’s shaved in several spots, so he looks a little “ruff” at the moment. But he’s comfortable, and the fur will grow back in a few weeks. With some luck he’ll not need any additional treatment for the cancer, and we’ll be able to put all of this behind us relatively quickly.

Buster’s blood work also indicates that he’s in great general health. His teeth are in very good shape, and that stunning German Shepherd smile will be a little extra sparkly now after the cleaning. While he was sedated, they also got very good images of his spine and back legs. They noticed some arthritis in his right knee, so we’ve started him on the same supplement as Ty, and they saw some mineralization, or hardening of the inner layer, on two of his discs. It’s something that happens in older dogs, and there’s no evidence at this time that it’s the cause of the decreased neurological function in Buster’s rear legs.

Ultimately, we could keep testing to see if we can diagnose what might be causing these changes in Buster, but right now the symptoms we’re seeing are very minor and aren’t slowing him down at all. Even an MRI may not provide a clear diagnosis, and  testing for Degenerative Myelopathy will only tell us if Buster’s genetically disposed to the disease, not whether he currently has it. And regardless of what’s causing these changes, the treatment is the same: keep the muscles in his rear legs and back as strong and healthy as possible, which means Buster needs to go for walks, hikes, and runs on the beach … all the things he loves anyway. So we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and enjoying every day.

It’s been a lot to digest in the past 24 hours, but watching the boys snooze gives me strength, and I know that we’ll all get through this together. Thank you all for your support and well wishes for the boys – knowing that so many people care about them and are sending their love makes the dark moments brighter.

We also want to thank Dr. Stevenson and all the staff at Western Hills Animal Medical & Surgical Clinic for taking such great care of Ty and Buster while we were here in Montgomery. You’ve all been wonderful!

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