Okay, I may be one of two things:
a) Pathologically skeptical; or
b) Grasping for straws.
Lemme tellya…I think there’s something mighty fishy about all this Cassie Standing at the Gates of Heaven narrative. My sense about this is that either there’s something MarvelVet isn’t telling me, or there’s some part of his story that just plain isn’t straight.
Let us consider what the story is. Or rather, what the stories are. Or were.
First, the dog comes down with a cough. I call the vet’s office and am told not to bring her in because something is going around, they know what it is, and they’ll give me a drug to ease it. I drive over to his place and pick up a bottle of Temaril-P, which is a combination of an antihistamine and prednisone. Its purpose is to suppress coughs.
She goes through the prescription, administered according to his instructions, but is still coughing.
If the human had been a bit less trusting — as it should have been, already, it would have come across this warning:
Do not give Temaril-P to your pet if the pet has a serious viral or fungal infection. Temaril-P can be given in the presence of acute or chronic bacterial infections provided the infection is controlled by antibiotic. Temaril-P may weaken the pet’s immune response and its ability to fight infections.
When I report that she’s still hacking, he has me bring her in. He does a blood panel on her and then, with no evidence in the results to prove this, tells me she has Valley fever. He then tells me to keep her on the Temaril-P and give her fluconazole.
Folks. Valley fever is a serious fungal infection. If he knew what he was doing (or believed what he was telling me…), why would he have me continue to give her a drug that is specifically contraindicated? And if she’s not getting better, why put her on a drug that reduces her ability to fight an infection? Assuming it is an infection.
The fluconazole makes her extremely sick. So much so that twice I think she is about to teeter over into the grave.
When I look this stuff up and discover a list of a half-dozen dire side effects, a couple of them life-threatening, he tells me oh, those are symptoms of Valley fever. By now I know that…well, no. No indeed, they are not symptoms of Valley fever. Not by a fuckin’ long shot.
I take the dog to another vet, who says it’s pretty ambiguous and there’s good reason to doubt that she has Valley fever. But by now she’s very sick, indeed. It appears she’s not going to make it. And by now, too, my skepticism is fully aroused. I decide to take the dog off the fluconazole on the chance — which I think is pretty good — that she doesn’t actually have this dread disease. Show me some empirical proof, and I’ll reconsider.
As the fluconazole clears out of her system, she slowly improves. You can’t just stop taking prednisone: you have to titre off of it. But before long I have her eased off that stuff, to no ill effect. The incontinence stops. Prednisone, as it develops, can cause incontinence in dogs. Meanwhile, I happen to know that you can give Benadryl to dogs — have done so before. She’s wheezing, as though she has asthma. Of course, asthma has many causes…but one of them is allergies. She gets markedly worse on a day when heavy winds and rains blow through. Why not? think I…
Put her on a couple of doses of Benadryl, morning and night. Within a couple of days, she’s markedly better. Meanwhile the vet has me bring her in for this supposed “free” ultrasound scan.
Free? Really? Hm. Well, whatever.
Not surprisingly, the result is dire: he tells me she has adrenal cancer.
I say, “Well, then. We’d better put her down right now.”
His response is to say that it’s not necessary, because she seems to be doing all right for the moment. (Benadryl is some kind of chemotherapy, is it?) He says we should wait until she seems to get a lot worse, and remarks that she’ll have her ups and downs.
I ask how long she’s likely to live.
He says, “About three months.”
I now look up this new drama and find a number of things out.
• You can’t know whether something that looks like a tumor on a dog’s adrenal gland is malignant without doing surgery to biopsy it.
• If the dog actually does have a tumor on her adrenal gland (I’m beginning to wonder; see below…), it may be harmless. About half of such growths are what is known as “nonfunctional,” meaning they just sit there and do nothing. Half are malignant and cause the dog to exhibit symptoms that look like Cushing’s disease. This dog does have a few such signs: thirst, vigorous appetite (which she’s always had: a corgi will eat until it explodes!), unusual lethargy. Alternatively, the mass may be an adenocarcinoma: an aggressive malignancy that indeed will spirit the dog away sooner than later. Interestingly, though, when you look that one up you find she exhibits exactly zero symptoms of it.
Hm. Day by day, she gets a little better. The Benadryl — or tincture of time, could be either one — seems to be bringing her back to normal. She still chokes and wheezes when she drinks water…but she’s always choked on water. Corgis do that: Ruby does the same thing. She’s now barking in her accustomed excessive way, and not wheezing every time she yaps. Or even any time she yaps. She’s beginning to lose the “tragic” expression and looks far more normal.
I’ll tellya what I think.
I think MarvelVet made an incorrect assumption on the fly. Chances are his original diagnosis — a bronchitis that was going around at the time — was right. But the assumption that a week on Temaril-P would cure it was incorrect, because of her age.
If you believe those silly dog-to-human-years charts, this dog is the same age I am. The last time I got a cold — apparently a fairly ordinary cold — it took me six months to get over the cough. A 12-year-old dog is not going to get over a bug as fast as a two-year-old or a five-year-old or even a seven-year-old dog. If my theory is correct, the cough hung on because it would take her longer to throw it off. And if she actually has a symptomatic cancer of the adrenal gland, she would not be steadily improving.
If my alternative hypothesis is correct — that she had asthma from the git-go — then what happened was the storms aggravated allergies that were developing and growing more bothersome as she has aged. One way or the other, the reason she did not show signs of Valley fever in the blood panel was that she did not have Valley fever.
I think he realized he’d misdiagnosed the dog, and that the meds he put her on made her extremely sick. May even have caused permanent damage. And between you and me and the lamp-post, I think this scan thing is a diversion.
He probably figures that if I don’t put her down and she gets better over the next three months, he can claim a miraculous cure. Or simply say the alleged tumor is of the “nonfunctional” variety and so, whaddaya know! It didn’t kill her…
Tellingly, his office has not responded to Second Opinion vet’s requests that they send the scan over to them for a look-see.
I wonder, really, if his alleged colleague even did any such thing…if they simply shaved her belly and told me this story. Even though I asked, I was never given a chance to see the scan — and when he was telling me she had Valley fever, he did show me an X-ray that he alleged to be her lung and heart.
Now admittedly: all of this speculation may be the product of a fevered brain. Or some part of it may be and some part may not be. We all know I’m a crazy little woman, and what we see here may simply be a manifestation of that, eh?
BUT…for a dog that’s pounding at death’s door with cancer, Cassie seems to be surprisingly well. Once she got off the toxic drugs, she began to come back to normal. Right now she’s barking without coughing, eating cheerfully, bright-eyed, and alert. Under the influence of 1/2 Benadryl in the a.m. and 1/2 in the p.m. (she only weighs 20 pounds!), she seems kind of sluggish and tired. But lo! Look it up and you find Benadryl has the same sedating effect on dogs as it does on humans:
The most commonly reported side effect is drowsiness. This is so common that many people give Benadryl to their dogs to help them calm down. (Diphenhydramine is even marketed and used as a sleep-aid by many people.)
The second most common side effect is mild disorientation. We recommend paying attention to your dog’s behavior after giving them Benadryl to make sure they don’t experience this before giving them a second dose.
Hell, I weigh more than six times what that dog weighs, and a half-pill of the stuff will knock me out all night! I use it as a sleeping pill.
Dollars to donuts, once she’s off that stuff, she’ll be her same old normal self.
Will she die within three months? Maybe. But that wouldn’t be surprising: I’ve never had a dog that lived longer than 12 or 13 years. And she’s at least 12 right now.