For some time now, I’d noticed Jed’s breath wasn’t smelling as fresh as it usually does. Well, at least as fresh as a dog’s breath can be. I mentioned it to Eileka the vet who treats our other rottie Diesel with acupuncture for his arthritis and she said I need to get him checked out.
So I made an appointment to see our own vet in November. I mentioned the smelly breath to her and she asked me to open Jed’s mouth (she was obviously a bit nervous of him) He was fairly happy for me to open his mouth but she said “No, I don’t want to see in his mouth, just lift his lips, so I can see his gums” I did this and she said he had a bit of tartar on his teeth, then sent me off with a free sample of toothpaste.
I didn’t feel too convinced that this would sort out the problem. By now his breath smelt like really rotten fish. Anyway, from then on, Jed started to behave differently. He would sit and stare at me, like he was trying to tell me something telepathically. I said “Jed, talk to me. What are you trying to say?” Then he would put his front paw on my leg and dig his claws into me, as though he was desperately trying to get his message through. And me, being slow on the uptake, didn’t think to look in his mouth myself. His behaviour got more naughty than usual. He’s always gone round the house stealing objects. Usually important ones, like lottery tickets, pairs of glasses, important letters, underwear from the laundry bin etc., and hiding them in his cave behind the sofa. But not only did he steal things, he started destroying them, especially the week before Christmas. I thought he was behaving like a naughty over excited child waiting for his Christmas presents. And he started taking Christmas presents from under the tree. All this made Christmas extra stressful.
Christmas day came and he opened his presents as normal but didn’t want to eat his chews. He also didn’t want to play with our eldest son when he came round. Anyway, two days later, I took the dogs for a walk. It was the day after Boxing Day. We go to a bridle path up the road which is a lovely wooded area where Jed likes to go hunting small animals like rabbits and squirrels. Unfortunately, he does occasionally catch a rabbit. But kills it instantly – thank goodness. The other dogs join in half heartedly and find it very exciting to watch Jed. But today, he wasn’t interested. He just came up to me as I sat on a fallen down tree trunk. Again, he was looking at me in earnest and pawing at my leg. I said “Jed, what is wrong? Can I look in your mouth?” I opened his mouth and then saw this horrific growth on the roof of his mouth at the back, looking like it was about to cover his throat. I said “Oh, Jed, I’m so sorry. Let’s go home”. I rushed home with tears rolling down my face. My lovely Jed. I thought he was invincible. So lively for his age. I just couldn’t believe it. I rang the vet and he was seen that afternoon with a suspected Melanoma. My heart was breaking.
A few days later, he had a biopsy and a vet rang us up on New Year’s Eve in the evening with the dreaded news. I’d already prepared myself for the worse, so it didn’t come as much of a shock but we didn’t sleep very well that night and were certainly not in the mood for celebrating the New Year. I was really worried that every day we had to wait, the outcome would be worse and I was also worried that the growth would fill his throat and he’d suffocate.
Jed was referred to Fitzpatrick’s Oncology and Soft Tissue hospital in Guildford. But it was over a week away. A couple of days later, Jed started shaking his head and I thought he had an ear infection. So, off we went to the vet and saw the one who gave him the toothpaste. I had to mention to her that I wasn’t very happy that she hadn’t examined him properly before and she was very apologetic, saying it wouldn’t have made much difference if it was any consolation. She couldn’t find anything wrong with his ears, so we went back home. Then I worried that he was shaking his head because the growth had gone upwards into his head. I phoned Fitzpatrick’s and spoke to a lovely helpful receptionist, who told me someone had cancelled their appointment two minutes before I rang, so I could have that one in two days time. I was so relieved.
So, Jed and I set off to see the Oncologist vet to see what could be done. I was so worried, they’d say it was beyond repair. I just wanted that horrible black mountain removed from his mouth. By now, Jed was drooling and slapping his lips a lot. He also drank and incredible amount of water.
We saw Professor Nick Bacon, Clinical Director of Oncology and Soft Tissue / MA VetMB CertVR CertSAS DECVS DACVS MRCVS
and he gave me 3 alternatives.
1) We do nothing (that wasn’t an option)
2) Radiotherapy – would reduce the tumour but not get rid of it
3) Remove the tumour, take a piece of the inside of Jed’s cheek and fold it over the hole like a door fixing it in place. Then when he recovered from the operation, he would have vaccine therapy, which could at best give him 12 months before the Melanoma returned – probably in his lungs.
Not the greatest choices in the world but we went for Number 3.
I left Jed with them and he was operated on the next day. He had 5 lymph nodes removed from his neck to test for the disease and the operation went well. Jed became their dog of the week as he just wanted the nurses to cuddle him all day. They drew hearts on his glass wall and were so lovely to him.
He had to be fed through a tube into his neck, so as to not disturb the repair in his mouth – and obviously, it was very painful. They had him on strong painkillers. But then he started to be sick after eating. They put him on anti emetics but still he was occasionally sick.
He wouldn’t let anyone look in his mouth without sedation as it was so painful and he’s already scared of vets.
He was kept in for a week and they looked in his mouth under sedation to see how it was healing. Unfortunately, because he’d been sick, a small flap hadn’t taken to the hole so he might have had a hole up into his nasal cavity.
The results of the tests were really good. The margins around the growth were free of cancer cells and his lymph nodes were also free of cancer. Apparently, I’d noticed it quite early, which gives Jed more of a chance of living longer.
He came home and, totally unlike my normal aloof Jed, he just wanted to be cuddled all the time and looked panic stricken every time I had to leave the house. I only went out briefly and ordered my groceries online for the first week. I also had to feed him by hand as he coughed and spluttered when eating by himself. I was told to watch out for food or drink coming out of his nose. Jed wouldn’t drink for a few days, so I added gravy and water to his dinners on a spoon to get fluids into him. But after a few days I thought I’d offer him some goat’s milk, which he lapped up. Unfortunately, it came straight back out of his nose. I immediately got on to the phone to Fitzpatrick’s Referrals and they said they’d see him the next day. We were so worried that he’d have to go through another operation to mend it.
Another sleepless night and we set off to Guildford again. Jed leapt out the car when we arrive, he couldn’t wait to see all his girlfriends again and went off with the vet quite happily, so that was a relief. Thankfully, the hole wasn’t too big. He thought he might be able to repair it with a couple of stitches but it was still too raw, so we were sent home for a couple of weeks to see if it would heal up on it’s own.
And that’s where we are now. As long as I put a dish up on a small table at head height, Jed can feed himself without choking. He coughs and splutters occasionally but manages very well like this. He is also drinking water this way. Each day he seems to cough less often whilst eating, so I’m hoping the hole is gradually healing over.
Watch this space …