Devastating Diagnosis - Lung Cancer in My Chocolate Lab

Devastating Diagnosis - Lung Cancer in My Chocolate Lab

by Mike
(White Lake, MI)

Lucy

Lucy

Hi everyone:

It has been a rough 4 days for me and my 11 1/2 year old beautiful chocolate lab Lucy. About 1 month ago Lucy lost her appetite and stopped eating. We did not think much of it initially as she has always been a finicky eater (strange for a lab) -- sometimes going a couple days without eating or just eating one meal. She had been eating really well -- a full two meals a day for a long time -- even when we left her for a week for a family trip to Disney in November.

When she stopped eating, we did what we usually did, trying to coax her to eat with treats in her food. She also was acting a lot more lazy which we attributed to age. After a couple weeks of coaxing her to eat something, I really noticed that she looked really thin and has lost what seemed a lot of weight. I took her to our vet. We had always kept her on the thin side to avoid hip and other issues. Her normal weight was around 61-62 lbs. Last May when I took her for her yearly check up, she weighed 58 lbs. I attributed the difference to being weighed in the Spring having lost her winter weight (I usually took her to the vet in February with her winter weight on). She was down to 52 lbs on that visit. Everything about her check up was fine - no pain, blood work perfect, urine fine, stool fine. Our vet recommended the next step was to take x-rays or do an ultrasound.

We decided to wait and try a different food and see what would happen. I bought some canned food that she loved. Ate every drop. Over the next few days we fed her that and mixed it with her dry food and she was doing great. I could tell she had put a couple pounds back on. Then she started to pick around the dry food so we went just to the can, then she stopped again. These were her only symptoms - lack of appetite and the weight loss. No cough, no wheezing, nothing.

I took her back to the vet last Thursday and had a set of x-rays taken. I was shown one large mass on the front left lobe, 2 other medium sized masses and at least 1, maybe 2 small masses in her lungs. Our vet told us that because of the advanced state in the chest cavity that there likely was nothing that could be done other than to make her comfortable. She offered to refer to an oncologist, but I refused at the time. We decided to start her on prednisone. My vet told me one advantage in finding out was we could cherish the time we had left. I was devastated. I switched foods again and she has been eating again thankfully.

Lucy was my birthday gift back in November 2000. A wonderful 10 week old puppy at the time. She has always been there for me, sleeping with us, playing with our kids, taking walks, playing catch (I taught her how to run pass routes and threw little plastic footballs to her) and her love was frisbee. I was full of grief wondering if we had done these things enough, and I can't stop thinking what it will be like not to have her. She does not sleep with us anymore - choosing to sleep under the bed even though she can still get up on it.

I decided to take her to an oncologist today. We had our visit and she confirmed the diagnosis. She was up to 55 lbs. The vet told me she had no function left in the front left lung lobe. We discussed alternatives including chemo and alternative medicine. Surgery is not an option due to the number of masses. She believed, based on the large size of the one mass, that the lung cancer was primary and metastasized to the other areas of the lung. I don't see the real value in putting her through tests to confirm or dispute this. We have decided to just let nature take its course and hope we get as much time as possible. I firmly believe in quality over quantity, no matter how much it hurts me.

I was told that predicting a time was hard, that additional x-rays would need to be taken to measure how the tumors have grown in the 5 days since the other set. Otherwise, if it is an aggressive cancer, we could expect 2-3 weeks up to 2 months. If it is slow, maybe up to 6 months. I am optimistic that given she has no other symptoms that maybe we'll get the max. I will make it the best time she ever had no matter what. We have been going on walks (albeit short ones) every day. I even pulled out her old favorite frisbee (I had put it away for the last year or so because of arthritis issues after we would play) and threw some to her. She looked like she was in heaven (of course we only got about 7 throws in before she got tired, but we loved it).

As I write this she is sleeping on the couch next to me. I thank you all for listening as just writing this has been helpful to me. I have been having an incredibly hard time with it all because she is such a sweet dog that she does not deserve this. She deserved to go on her own terms of old age years from now.

We haven't told our kids (one is 9 1/2 and twins that will be 7 in a few weeks) about this yet and I welcome any advice on when and how to handle that.

Thanks again. I have included a picture taken the other day.

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Aug 07, 2016
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Comforting poems
by: Teresa

Dear Mike,

I found this forum today while searching canine lung cancer.

We adopted a rescue English Pointer in March 2016. He had a big mass on his hip and 2 surgeries later to remove as much as possible was doing well.

About 2 weeks ago he started coughing a lot and we took him to the vet last week. X-rays shows fluid on his lungs and a tumor in his lungs. His appetite is decreasing and he's not plaything as much as he was just a few days ago. I'm hoping for the best since we are consulting the oncologist, but I can see him going downhill.

He is very young, about 3 years old. It feels very unfair for this to happen to him. His name is Rocket and until a few days ago he was a rocket dog! So much energy and joy! We will love and play with him as much as we can.

The two poems you shared really helped comfort me. We just lost our 13 year old black lab Jackson in May to cancer. It was very sad but Jackson had a long happy life!! I wish and pray the same for Rocket. Thank you for the loving poems.

May 07, 2016
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Roxy-My best friend
by: Russ

Very touching stories to read.

I write this one week after I lost my best friend of 10 years and 2 months, Roxy. She was a beautiful silver lab, so energetic and especially loving towards me and my three kids.

She had had three surgeries over the last three years to remove lumps, I never had them tested, didn't want to pay the extra couple hundred dollars to find out, figured either way, the lumps were gone. Well, I believe the last one she had removed about a month ago was cancerous. Last Thursday morning she was her normal puppy dog self, came home from work and it had started. I thought possibly she had a stroke, lethargic, barely could walk, not drinking water. Took her to her vet Friday morning, there on iv all day, blood tests were normal but x-rays showed a 7 cm mass in one lung and a 3 cm mass in the other. Radiologist report said they probably metastasized from another area. Vet said it didn't look good but possibly just benign tumors.

I hoped for the best. Scheduled an ultrasound for the following week. Took her home Friday night, she was still sedated, not breathing great. Fell asleep with her about midnight, woke up at 3 am for some reason, checked on her. My sweet beautiful girl was gone, just like that, died in her sleep.

It tore my heart out, she went so fast, two days, gone. She made the decision to go so I didn't have to, always did everything for me. I'm glad she died at home, my kids said good night to her, told her they loved her, as did I but I didn't get to say that final goodbye, that part hurts. She didn't suffer, so I can't be too upset.

I had her cremated on Tuesday, was there for the whole process to finally have her at peace. I got to make a clay paw print too. I picked up her engraved urn today, there's room for her, her collar, pictures and a tennis ball (her favorite thing to chase).

Please check every lump on your dog, have the vet aspirate it, don't wait - she had the lump on her back for several months before I took her in, now I'm thinking that's where it started and spread to her lungs from there. Have any lumps removed tested, it's worth the money. I can't bring her back to change things but hopefully can help someone else.
I've accepted her being gone and I'm at peace with it but I'm so sad, my heart is broken, the daily reminders of missing her hurt. It does feel good to write this though.

In honor of my Roxy 2/2/06-4/30/16

You will always be part of me and my life, you brought me the greatest joys. Thank you for being my best friend. I will cherish the memories we shared for the rest of my days. Until we see each other again.

I love you Roxy,
Your daddy

Mar 09, 2016
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My heart...
by: Nancy

It is more than 1 yr later that I read about your Coopers passing. I can tell you through my own experience that there is no worse pain than losing a family member. I truly believe that animals go to heaven. Your Cooper is there safe, healthy and happy waiting for you to come someday. Cooper had a wonderful life w/ your family. He passed at such a very young age. I am sorry for your grief. I will give mine many extra long hugs today.

Thank you for sharing your very toughing story.

Nancy in Virginia

Feb 19, 2015
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Our sweet boy Cooper
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for sharing.

On 2/13/15 we had to have our Chocolate Lab Cooper put to sleep. We had taken him to the vet the week before because he was not eating much and his stomach was gurgling a lot. He had a severe infection and the vet suspected parasites. She felt no masses during the exam.

We took him back Friday because he wasn't improving and seemed uncomfortable. As they were getting him on the table he started coughing blood and x-rays showed a mass on his trachea, a mass on his stomach, and his chest cavity was filled with fluid. There was nothing that could be done and we are heart broken. We had just celebrated his 8th birthday on 1/18.

Jan 30, 2015
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Bear
by: Anonymous

This week I took my 11-year-old dog Bear to the vet right after a major storm because he was unconfortable and was not eating much.

I was not too concerned at first about his appetite as I was watching a friend's female dog who Bear is in love with. He followed her, cleaned her and sat with her on the couch. I made him special food and had to hand feed him but felt things would be okay.

When I took him to the vet I thought it might be for an infection and was shocked when I heard it was not looking good because he had a lot of fluid in his chest. The do I took him to the vet I noticed that he could not get comfortable and when he laid down he would moan, and get right back up.

The vet felt the fluid was caused by a mass or he had congestive heart failure but it was hard to tell because of all the fluid. I knew it wasn't his heart because I had lost a dog five years earlier who had a tumor on his heart and kept passing out.

Bear is an escape artist and still at his age got out of the yard. He always pulled on a walk. He got out of the year a week ago during an ice storm and I had to run back and change shoes trying to get him back. He was gone about seven minutes and I asked the vet if maybe he was hit. But there were no signs he was hurt when he returned.

So we did more tests and they drained two liters off his chest but he was still having trouble breathing. the vet said he could give me medication and I could take him home to spend the night with him, but I could see he was in pain and since there was no hope, I could not do that to him.

the dog was a young 11. Healthy, no sign of arthritis. His teeth were in good shape and he was not overweight. He loved life. He didn't bark much, and was pure love.

The hard part is coming home to no dog. He was my cleaner-upper. If I dropped food he was there to pick it up. I would buy chicken to make a broth for him and he loved it. I would make him eggs Sunday morning.

I miss him so much and wonder if he was hit and that caused all the trouble. I just don't know.

Jan 25, 2015
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Just diagnosed
by: Anonymous

I'm so sorry for you and Lucy. Cole is our 10 1/2 year old male black lab. He was recently diagnosed with a lung mass. They believe it to be cancer, but won't know for sure until they perform a CT scan. So far, it is the only mass they see, and he acts healthy except for an occasional non-productive cough. He plays, he smiles, he is still enjoying life.

Cancer is a very evil thing. I've lost several people in my life to cancer as well.

I pray for your recovery as well, as I know that when we love and lose, we need closure and healing. I send a big hug to you, and thank you for your post.

Oct 07, 2014
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Very Sorry But Grateful for Your Words
by: Anonymous

Dear Mike,

I am so incredibly sorry about Lucy. She was such a very beautiful and loving dog, and I'm so sorry about what a tough period for the both of you.

Thank you very much for having courageously shared your experiences no matter how painful it all was. My brother's Chocolate Lab was born in Sept 2000 and had to be put down in Mar 2012 due to spleen cancer. I really hate cancer...

Anyway, thank you again and take care.

Oct 04, 2014
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So sorry
by: Anonymous

We lost our beautiful girl a few weeks ago. Quite suddenly she was only 5 half years. X ray showed cloudy mass on her lungs. 3 days later she deteriorated and passed away just as they were taking an X ray. Both lungs had collapsed. I never got to say goodbye. I'm just so grateful I had the most wonderful 5 years with her.

Nov 28, 2012
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Dewey's Diagnosis
by: Mary

My 8-year old Great Dane Dewey has just been diagnosed with a primary lung tumor, about the size of a golf ball right now.

He's suffered from Addison's disease since he was a puppy and has been on prednisone daily with percorten shots monthly. We have lovingly referred to him as our "money pit" since he has a long record of vet visits for a number of issues and other surgeries. They love him and he actually loves going to the vet because they spoil him rotten and he gets treats galore. Needless to say we are devastated by this diagnosis.

Mike, your postings have mirrored the thoughts and concerns we have now, and the poem you posted 'If it should be that I grow weak" brought more tears to my eyes. We have always had dogs and I'm the one who has always been with them at this final time. As sad as it was for my other dogs, it will be sadder, I think, for Dewey because he's been such a trooper during all the medical procedures he's had and not complaining (as far as I know) about anything. He is a gentile giant and will always have a special place in our heart.

We don't know how long he has and will have to consult with the vet on the signs that his time is near... But, like you, we are planning on spoiling him even more to make his time with us more meaningful. This is so tragic. And I am so sorry for your loss of Lucy.

Apr 09, 2012
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Thank you
by: Mike

Well, as expected, we had to put Lucy down today. Our vet assured us that our timing was right -- she was starting to suffer. I take solace in knowing we were strong enough to do that for her. It has been a rough day. We were with Lucy to the end and I held her while she went to sleep. To be honest, the time we spent with her alone in the room before was beautiful -- she had her IV in but for the first time in weeks seemed at ease. I could have looked into those eyes for hours -- the love she gave me at that moment assured me she would be ok and we were doing the right thing. It was so very hard to leave afterward though. But I know she is no longer suffering.

Here is another beautiful poem (I am not usually this into poems but these do seem to hit the heart and help):

We have a secret:

We have a secret you and I,
That no one else shall know,
For who but I can see you lie,
Each night in fireglow?

And who but I can reach my hand
Before I go to bed,
And feel the warmth of you,
And touch your silken head?

And only I walk woodland paths,
And see ahead of me,
your small form racing with the wind,
So young again, and free!

And only I can see you swim,
in every brook I pass.
And when I call, no one but I,
Can see the bending grass...

(author unknown)

Apr 09, 2012
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Update
by: Mike

Thank you everyone for your support. It is with heavy heart that I write this as in the morning we are likely taking Lucy in to be put to sleep.

She has had her good days and bad days over the two plus weeks since we received her diagnosis. More good than bad thankfully.

Today, however, was a very bad day. Yesterday had been pretty good -- I thought the immune system boosters I had been giving her were kicking in (but she only ate one meal). But today she was really struggling in her breathing. She had been having trouble walking. She would not eat (though I eventually got her to eat her favorite -- a hot dog by hand feeding her -- bad for her I know, but at this time who cares). She would not even take a treat which made it hard to get her meds. Then she vomited a couple times. She has been very restless, looking at me with sad eyes. (I believe they know and feel as sad as we do). So unless she is suddenly feeling better in the morning we are going to take her in and talk to the vet and if she is in any discomfort, do our duty and loyalty to her.

It is heartbreaking to us, but we have some solace in that we had two plus weeks to spoil her and say a long goodbye. I found this poem recently that has helped me in reaching this decision:

If it should be that I grow weak:

If it should be that I grow weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle can't be won.

You will be sad I understand.
Don't let your grief control your hand,
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears,
You'd not want me to suffer so,
The time has come, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they'll tend,
And please stay with me until the end,
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see,
The kindness that you do for me,
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Please do not grieve it must be you,
Who has this painful thing to do,
We've been so close for all these years,
Don't let your heart hold back your tears.

I love you Lucy!

Apr 03, 2012
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Coconut Oil
by: Andi

Hi Mike,

Lucy should be just fine with adding the coconut oil & flax. My lab Emma has been on Coconut Oil while she was on Pred & she never had any issue with that. Does she eat twice a day? If so, maybe you could add one of the oils in the morning & one in the evening. I hope Lucy is doing well. Take care!

Apr 03, 2012
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Lucy, the chocolate Labrador.
by: Heather

Hello there. How absolutely tragic for your beautiful Labrador Lucy! My heart goes out to you and I feel so very sad. You are are a very kind and loving person and I feel that you have done all the right things for Lucy. I am sure that Lucy will enjoy the time she has left with such a wonderful family.

I have a little Lhasa Aspso called Cindy who has lymphatic cancer. She is on chemotherapy and is lucky that she is reacting well to the drugs at the moment. Unfortunately she gets very tired and has lost a lot of her beautiful coat but she is still very pretty to me and I absolutely adore her. I don't know how long Cindy will carry on but all that matters is that I make her life as happy and as comfortable as I can. She is so precious to me and we go everywhere together.

I am thinking of you, Lucy and your family. God bless.

Mar 28, 2012
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Question for Andi
by: Mike

Andi-- do you know if the prednisone we are giving Lucy will adversely affect any of the positives the coconut oil or flax seed oil could provide? Also, do you know if we can do both the coconut oil and the flax seed oil? Thanks for any input you may have.

Mar 28, 2012
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Thanks Karen
by: Mike

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I am glad to hear you still have your Samson and hope that he remains with you for a long time to come. Cherish him.

I realized this morning that much of the cause of my hard time was selfish -- feelings for my loss and what I'll be like without Lucy. I am trying my best to refocus from that to Lucy and her needs. We will enjoy these days and I am not giving up hope without a fight.

Mar 28, 2012
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Hope and Consolation to You
by: Anonymous

My prayers are with you and Lucy.I feel your sorrow. We too have a similar scare since Jan. 2012.

We have an 8 yr. yellow lab and to make this story short Samson lost 20lbs over a 2 yr period. Thought he was not absorbing his food and tried probiotics with digestive enzymes but still losing weight and not interested in his food.

In January we took him to the vet and was tested with results showing very high liver enzymes. An ultrasound showed no cancer or liver shunts but our family pet was very sick. They diagnosed him with chronic active hepatitis. I almost put him to sleep that day because I could not afford the testing involved and the vet did one test a step at a time so to respect what we could afford and trying to balance out what the future prospect may mean if we were to keep him alive and his quality of life. This broke my heart and that day in the office weighing everything out I prayed to God to give me wisdom and direction as to what to do.

I felt it unfair to keep him alive if he was going to be suffering as he was up that point. The vet was very understanding about all this. I shared from my heart how much I loved our dog and assured myself to him that he would be in good hands and we would be together one day. I was sincere about this. I placed him in God's hands and said to the vet can we do this today. She said yes and I knew I had to call the family members and with each call I cried and each family member arrived to be with me and Samson.

My husband and 5 children adults leaving their work came that day. I had already paid the euthanasia bill and she had given him his first sedative shot. I was one needle away from putting him down when we as a family said do the next test that ruled out cancer.

Samson's life ws spared that day. I believe God's wisdom took over as I surrendered Samson up. He is doing better and is still finicky about eating. He still weighs the same 48lbs. I pray a lot and I have others pray too. The day I came home from the vet I read on my facebook a picture of a cat being held with a caption by Mother Teresa that said "We are responsible to take care of these animals as they too are made by the same creator who made each of us." That gave me much hope and comfort.

Your story touches my heart and Ii would like to assure you of my prayers and well wishes for Lucy and your family.

Love and prayers,
Karen

Mar 28, 2012
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Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you everyone. I am doing my best to get through this -- the hardest part is the anticipatory grief -- dreading what it will be like without her. She has greeted me at the door coming home from work every day for over 11 years. I say hi to her in the morning before I do to my wife. She was always hanging around outside with me when I would work on the yard. For the last 5 years or so, after we stopped crating her at night, she has slept on our bed (she has since stopped and now sleeps under the bed, no matter how much coaxing I do to get her up).

I also have those feelings of guilt creeping in for possibly taking her for granted a little over the last couple years. Not enough walks, not enough ball and/or frisbee, not enough cuddles. That is what happens when you have young kids too. I'll work through them and make whatever time she has left the best time ever for her. As I said, right now she is basically symptom free, so we are hoping for the best and maybe get more time than expected. Whatever it is, we will enjoy it -- walks, ball and frisbee (if she is up to it) and just hanging out bonding even more.

Mary Ellen -- I am so sorry for your loss of Coco. I know how you feel.

Yuki -- I am doing my best to stay positive and will definitely enjoy Lucy's remaining time.

Andi -- thank you for your thoughts. I may give the coconut oil a try -- I have been reading so much online about all these potential alternatives and supplements that I am trying to keep it all straight.

Thanks again everyone. It really does help to write down and share thoughts.

Mar 28, 2012
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I share your heartbreak
by: Mary Ellen

Hi,

So sorry to hear about Lucy. I too lost a chocolate lab October of last year. My beautiful Coco had Lymphoma and Leukemia - he was only 9 years old. So heartbreaking to watch your best friend go from energetic, happy full of life to very sick. Although we have Sadie who grew up with Coco and is a very loving pet, he will be in our hearts forever and will never be forgotten.

My heart goes out to you for I can relate to your heartbreak. You are so lucky to have Lucy as long as you have because our beloved pets are with us for just a short time.

Mar 28, 2012
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Lucy
by: Yuki

Hi, Mike,

I am so sorry about Lucy. I also have a chocolate lab.

I can't imagine how you feel right now, but please stay positive for Lucy's sake. Make the time you have with her as memorable and as joyful as you can.

I hope you can have a long time yet with her.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mar 28, 2012
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Thinking of You
by: Andi

Hi Mike,

I am so sorry to hear of Lucy's diagnosis. It must be so awful for you & your family.

I know the cancer is pretty far along, but organic virgin coconut oil might be a nice addition to her food. It's great for boosting the immune system & has been known to stop the spread of cancer. It's very nutritious & might help her get some weight back on. It smells & tastes great & I think she would love it. You can find it in the natural foods section of the grocery store & at most Target & Walmart stores. 1 TBS per 30 lbs. You can also get coconut water, which might be a nice way to keep her hydrated if she starts to have trouble with that.

It's so hard to explain death & pet loss to kids. We had a little bird fly into our window & it ended up dying. The kids wanted to know why & I explained that sometimes our bodies get so sick or so hurt that we can't get better again. The kids asked about Heaven & I explained that once God takes you home & fixes you, that he gets to keep you. That was hard for them to understand, because they thought once you were fixed you could come back. I've just tried to be as honest as possible with my kids who are 4 & 6. They were really sad when our cat passed away, but they keep a picture of him in their room & they know they will see him in Heaven. He's buried out back under a nice shady tree & we always stop to say hello when we're playing in the back yard. That's what works for us & I know everyone has different beliefs & ways to handle loss. I hope I've been somewhat helpful.

I hope you have a lot more wonderful days with Lucy. Much love to you & your family at this very sad time.

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