If you read my last blog entry you will already know about our dear Alfie. This post is for anyone who like me had a need to read more about this terrible disease, and to share the experience. Sadly, we did loose our beloved boy, but this is just our own experience, every dog is different as is every situation. First I will talk about our experience, then add a few general observations.
We adopted Alfie when he was 18 months old, he came to live with us on the 31st October 2009. We adopted what we assumed to be a normal healthy Labrador as we were told nothing else. It very soon became apparent he was not so healthy, he seemed to tire easy and struggle with his back legs, we arranged xrays were it was revealed he had very poor hips, and was suffering from hip dysplacia. Our vet advised we could let Alfie be a Labrador as long as he could, his legs would probably not be so good by the time he was 6 or 7, but he was still young and not the type of dog to remain on lead walks, he had to enjoy his life while he could.
Alfie also had total leg failure every six weeks? this was never diagnosed, despite my keeping a diary of events and food etc, there was no pattern. The condition was very similar to 'Spikes Disease' a condition more common in the Border Terrier. His legs would fail for about 5 - 15 mins, when he would then stagger round like he was drunk, then return to normal.
In January this year I was on a regular dog walk with three dogs in my boot, when I arrived on the walk they all leapt out of the car together and Alfie fell on his hip and screamed, he then continued on his walk with no problems. In early February he started to cry with his back leg (same leg) we went to the vet and got some pain killers, then some more pain killers.... things were not getting better if anything I felt they were getting worse... So we opted for xrays. The xrays showed a marked deterioration of his hips, which did mean continued pain killers.. but also a suspicious shadow on the top of the femur, but not a defined thing (hard to explain without seeing it), we were told this on the phone so went to vets to take a look - I asked then, " Could this be Cancer?" it was unlikely, Alfie was after all only 4 years old? but there was an outside chance.
It was decided we would wait 4 weeks for another xray, meanwhile change of medication to help ease the obvious pain he was still in. For a day or so this did seem to help, but then it didn't - I started a face chart on the calender, if there was more bad days than good things had to be done, the bad days got to be more, I was becoming ready to end the suffering, as was the vet. My husband wanted to wait for xrays to be certain. The xrays were brought forward on the 19th March 2013, they revealed it was indeed bone cancer, there was no doubt now. As the hips were so bad amputation was not an option, the other treatments might give us a few more months? but what good was that for Alfie? could he still be a normal happy dog? We made the very painful decision not to wake Alfie up and to end his suffering before it got any worse.
One of the main things I want to mention here was what I could not understand myself. Alfie looked fantastic, his coat gleamed, he had a fabulous appetite, he was still trying to play with our other dog, and still wanted his walks each day. How could this be? This is one of the things I tried to research, the only answer I found was one other person on-line, they were told by their vet "Because you love and look after him so well" I liked that.
In truth a lot of it is because of animal instinct, showing weakness is dangerous for an animal in the wild, they would become a target. Even in my home, my other dog who is also a dominant male was bullying Alfie, as he knew he could not defend himself as he once could. We did make sure this didn't happen often, and the dogs were not left alone.
My other observation is knowing your own dog, I knew something was very wrong - but I listed to others, I now feel I should not have done this. Despite how well meaning people may be, you know your own dog and if you have a vet you can trust, as we do - it is between you and your vet and nobody else.
Lastly, there are many many Labradors in the rescue centres - you do not know their history, but they still all deserve a good home. Before Alfie I had two Labradors, both lived to 12 years old. One lost to cancer, and one to kidney failure. Both rescue.
BUT - If you choose to buy a puppy, do your homework - you MUST see both parents, the parent dogs SHOULD have been health checked, they should have an excellent hip score and eye check, or they should not be used for breeding. There are some good breeders out there, often they charge highly for their pups, and will grill you before they 'allow you' to have one, this is good.
There are also bad breeders, often advertise in free ad's - the dogs are cheap, they have no papers and you will not get to see the parents, they will sell to anyone with the cash. The pups 'might' be ok. Worse still are the places were you do not see the parent dogs at all.
Anyone going through this who I can help I am happy to answer any questions if I can, I am not a Vet though, I can only share my own experience. If you are not happy with your Vet - change and find one you are happy with.