Liver Cancer in Miniature Schnauzer
by Jacqueline Blanks
Nelson 18.04.01 to 06.06.12
I thought that I would share my experience with other dog parents about Nelson, my much loved Miniature Schnauzer of 11 years who I had euthanized about 4 weeks ago.
He seemed as healthy as could be until about 6 weeks ago when he started vomiting up his food, was lethargic and very unhappy. I had him at the local vet who couldn't seem to help him so they suggested I send him to a specialist clinic for further testing. He spent nearly 2 weeks with the specialists who tried everything to make him better. In the end, because he couldn't hold any food down and was completely miserable, I decided, with more agony that you could possibly imagine, that I should put him out of his misery. That was the hardest decision of my life but nothing was working to make him better and all the vets were scratching their heads to try and understand what was wrong with him.
Fast forward to today ... I finally received the results of his autopsy - he had full blown liver cancer which had spread into his lungs - it was termed a "miliary" cancer which means "microscopic" which was why the cancer was not picked up in any of the testing that the vets did and, believe me, they did every test possible and gave him every medication they could think of which cost me all of a small fortune but I loved him and I wanted to make him better. As it turned out, the cancer he had was extremely fast spreading and it's most likely that it would have only been present for a month before he died - I guess dogs are smaller than humans so it would have been equivalent to when a human is told they have 6 months to live.
Prior to the vomiting, Nelson had a blood eye which I had always thought, later in the piece, was connected to the his vomiting and illness but all of the vets, specialists included, felt it was unrelated to whatever it was that was making him sick (I did try to have the eye treated, for the record, prior to him becoming really sick - the pressure in his his eye was tested, he was given antibiotics and creams, etc, but nothing seemed to work to remove the blood). When he got really sick, I again asked if the eye (which by this stage had become blind) was related to whatever was going on and I think I even suggested liver problems (as his blood tests showed increased enzymes) but I was told no, the eye problem was separate and probably caused by an infection (an eye specialist checked him out also). I had always thought that liver problems can cause eye problems which is why I made the correlation.
When the vets rang me today to give me the autopsy report, they conceded that, yes, the eye problem was an immune reaction to the liver cancer. Personally, I think that they should have looked more into the liver when he was with them given the blindness of the eye ... mind you, I think the cancer was too full blown by then so nothing would have made a difference and he would have died anyway.
Anyway, I'm sharing this story for anyone who's wondering whether they made the right decision about euthanizing their pet when they've found out that they have liver cancer. Personally, if I had known that Nelson's problem was unfixable, at the start of his illness, as hard as it was, I would have put him at peace earlier because the last 2 weeks of his life were very unhappy for him and me - I was an emotional wreck hoping against hope that each day would see an improvement. We just didn't know what we were dealing with given the fact that the cancer was microscopic. I just don't know if there's a likelihood of a dog coming good after such a cancer be it microscopic or visible.
I chose to have an autopsy on my dog so that veterinary profession would have more knowledge if a dog was to present with the same symptoms as my boy did. At least then, an owner would have a better idea of what they are dealing with. I miss my dog with every part of me and I think it will be awhile before I get over his death. He was my best mate.