Zeus Our Great Dane Dying of Bone Cancer
We have a Great Dane named Zeus who is 6 years old. He is built so gracefully with shiny black hair; he holds his tail up like a scorpion as he runs around. He is a majestic creature. He had a beautifully-shaped head with what I call "the smart knot" - the bump at the top of the head, just perfect! We taught him tricks such as sit, shake, lay, bark for a treat, etc. He can catch popcorn faster than you can throw it to him.
He loves life, and our family. He loves to go camping with us in our R.V. He sleeps on the top bunk bed, he knows it's his bed.
A lump appeared on Zeus's head this May of 2012, it seems like it appeared overnight. I had not noticed it before, so I felt it, showed it to my husband, and looked it up online. I thought he may have bumped or hit his head, got a thorn or something stuck in it that caused it to swell around the object... I waited to see if it would go away, after about 10 days, it was getting bigger instead of smaller.
So I took Zeus to the vet. It felt soft so the vet stuck a syringe into it and sucked a bunch of fluid out that caused the middle of the lump to sink in. He was not real sure what it could be either. He told me he needed to open it up and see if there was a foreign object in the lump causing it. He let my husband and I come back while he put Zeus out and a breathing tube down his throat. He covered all but the lump with a dressing, and began cutting into it. He had to cut a lot harder than he thought and once he got into it he knew. He told us "this does not look good", not at all what we were thinking it was.
The vet said he had never seen a tumor form on the skull like that before. He took as much off of it as possible but it was tough - very hard cutting, once close to Zeus's skull you could see holes in the bone that this was growing out of. He finished and stitched him up and inserted a tube for drainage.
After the surgery the vet informed us he was 90% sure it was Osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. He said it is usually formed on a leg and they could amputate the leg, but not a head.
I was crushed, at first I thought let's just put Zeus down right now before he can ever suffer, I love him so much. The vet had to send off a sample to verify the result. He also told us Zeus still had a a couple of good months in him and he could enjoy life and we could enjoy him, he was not suffering yet.
I am so thankful we found the vet we have now! He is a rare type to find that truly cares about the animal. So when Zeus woke up we took him home.
The vet called a couple of days later and said his suspicion was correct. Zeus has Osteosarcoma. On a scale of 1-10 aggressiveness it's an 8! I was crushed again. I also thought about getting him radiation or chemo. I guess it's still experimental with dogs, and costs thousands of dollars and would only maybe give Zeus a year or two more of life, if he survived it being the cancer was right on his skull!.
Right now I am so glad to have Zeus with us as long as we can, he had no idea at first. Then the tumor grew toward his left eye and pushed the eye back in to where he no longer has sight out of that left eye. I have taken him back to the vet and he says he is doing okay. The best thing for Zeus is to not do more surgery, he would just be recovering as it rapidly grew back the last month or so of his life.
The tumor has gotten very big and I know it must feel heavy, as he takes his bug paws and rubs on it. I get a soft towel and rub it for him sometimes. The skin is so stretched, it is uncomfortable to him. He can still eat, drink, run, and bark, but is starting to bump into things, then will look back with his good right eye to see what it was he bumped. He sleeps a lot more, and the cancer has started growing down into his sinus, the left one especially, and he gets on sneezing fits. It must feel like something that needs to come out to him in his nose.
I know the time is nearing, he looks thinner. He snores very loud now, and his head looks horrible with this growth on it, but I could care less, I love him, and so do my teenagers, and husband. He is a member of our family. It's the middle of July 2012 now. I will not let him suffer, the vet said it could get to the size of a soccer ball - it's about half that size now. I love him to much to make him live because we don't want to be without him.
Things I should have known and did not want to face before this lump occurred:
1) My aunt had an Irish setter that got a bald spot on his tail and he had cancer and had to be put down.
2) Years ago while I was growing up we had a standard "Royal King" Poodle that started throwing up for no reason off and on, he had cancer, and had to be put down.
Zeus had both of these, he threw up clear fluid and has a bald spot where hair won't grow on his tail. I did mention these to my husband, before the lump ever formed, but we both decided it just couldn't be the case. Zeus is so active, and his fur is so shiny, he looked and acted to healthy so we concluded it was not.
Little did I know those were the first signs!
I have been reading up quite a bit online since the cancer diagnosis. I found if a purebred dog is neutered they have a 65% increase of getting bone cancer. "The risk of bone cancer is slightly higher in male dogs than females. In addition, the risk of osteosarcoma is about 65% greater for neutered males and 34% greater for spayed females. For dogs spayed or neutered before one year of age, the risk seems to be even higher." (Bone Cancer in Dogs). I could kick myself because I had Zeus neutered and dew-clawed at 4 months old!
Most vets tell you how good it is for the dog and cancer prevention to get spayed or neutered. With a mixed breed that can be true or as they get older, but for a large purebred dog it leads to cancer if they get spayed or neutered in their young years!
I didn't want him to learn to lift his leg, he still does not! But at the cost of him getting cancer! The hormones that they have if not neutered protect them from the bone cancer! I had never read this before and had no clue! Now I know!
It's good to still have Zeus around to try and except the fact that we are going to lose him, and spend as much special time with him as we can!
I cry though sometimes when I see him rubbing the ball on his head, and he gets upset I can tell, so I try not to for his sake. Dogs may not be able to talk but they know how to communicate and DO FEEL emotions, from others and their own.
I will put my final post on when Zeus is gone. I hope it's not too soon, but I have a bad feeling it may be. That dang tumor seems to grow bigger overnight! I still love this breed and someday will get another Dane, I will not get them spayed or neutered until later in life.