17 May 2012

Blackie (the Brown Dog)

Blackie has been having some health problems.  Last summer when he was at the vet for his annual check-up I showed his doctor a lump just behind his upper right front leg.  I had done some research and suspected a fatty tumor (almost always benign) - the vet concurred.  At the time it was about the size of a tennis ball.  Her advice was to bring him back if and when it got larger, or if it started to bother him.  Late this winter it started growing at an alarming rate - here's what it looks like today - about the size of a small soccer ball.

So a few weeks ago I brought him in to see the vet.  She still thinks it is a fatty tumor but also thinks it should be removed due to its size.  In preparation for surgery she drew blood for pre-op testing.  A couple of days later she called to say that the blood work showed his red blood cell count was low (anemia).  We put a hold on the surgery; Blackie and I (with a stool sample) headed back so the vet could draw more blood.  The vet checked what she could while we were there - no lime disease, no intestinal worms, ... nothing obvious.  The vet wanted a urine sample while we were there.  Blackie and I went out with one of the assistants who followed us with a bowl - every time Blackie lifted his leg, she would stick the bowl under him - it took 4 tries (might have taken fewer but we were both laughing pretty hard) and at last she got some in the bowl.  The vet checked the urine and still nothing abnormal.  She then sent the rest of the blood to the lab for more analysis.  Two more days and she called - still nothing.  She listed 3 possibilities; the 2nd two were not encouraging.  Her first guess was an under-active thyroid - if this were it then it would be very treatable, and he seemed to have lots of the symptoms for hypothyroidism.  So back to the vet for more blood.  Blackie is a really nervous dog - he hates to have strangers touch him, so for safety the vet must muzzle him while taking blood.  She also lets me stay with him because she knows that he calms down considerably when I'm there.  This last time one of the techs drew the blood.  She came out to get him - I told her I usually go with him but she insisted that wasn't protocol.  I handed her the leash and off she went - she didn't get far when there was no more slack in the leash and she was pulled almost backwards - Blackie was sitting by me and had no intention of following her anywhere.  Some people have to learn the hard way I guess.  So about a week ago the vet called again to say that all of the thyroid tests showed normal function.  We were both disappointed because this was the one optimistic option on her list of possibilities.  She said that the next step would be ex-rays and that would require anesthesia.  She's a great vet and she knew that both Blackie and I needed a bit of a break.  So for now he is taking mega-iron supplements to try to give his blood a boost.  The main problem with the low blood cell count is a really low energy level.  I've noticed Blackie slowing down a lot in the past year - he used to love to run fast; just running made him happy.  Now he moseys along and sticks close to me, with an occasional ramble through the high grass or the stream.  I've credited the slowing down to age (he'll be 8 in July) but I guess low blood count is actually the reason.  I guess I'll have to subject him to the ex-rays soon.  The iron isn't hurting him and maybe he seems a little friskier, or at least he's less lethargic, or maybe I want to see that.  He does not under any circumstance seem to be in pain which is a very good thing.  And even the vet (who would not lie to make me feel better) admits that sometimes you never find a cause and sometimes the blood count goes back to normal levels.  Fingers crossed for a spontaneous recovery.

By the way, I once promised I would explain how Blackie (an obviously brown dog) got his name.  Lucy was my 50th birthday present, so I got to name her - I gave Dan 3 names and he made the final choice.  So when we got Blackie it was Dan's turn to pick the name.  He wanted either Buddy (for the chocolate Lab we had many years ago) or Blackie (for his first dog, actually a black Lab).  I wanted to remember the original Buddy as the only Buddy, so I selected Blackie because I never knew the original.  And OK, the irony appealed to me as irony often does.

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