Rapid Deterioration in Beagle Mix Due to Liver Tumor

Rapid Deterioration in Beagle Mix Due to Liver Tumor

by Elizabeth
(Lansing, MI)

Wow...I've been reading the stories and comments about liver cancer, and it seems to be the same story over and over again: The dog gets sick and deteriorates really fast.

About three weeks ago, our 12 year old Beagle/Setter mix started drinking lots of water and then peed in the house three times in one week (and he hadn't had an accident since he had blown his hip and needed it reconstructed two years prior).

We took him to the vet (two and a half weeks ago), and his urine showed some signs of a UTI, so we figured that was the cause of the incontinence. CBC and urinalysis showed that his kidneys were normal. His liver enzymes were slightly elevated, but the vet chalked that up to old age and the pain killer for his hips (Tramadol). She didn't think we should be worried, or stop the Tramadol (because then his quality of life wouldn't be as good, and we were giving him much less than the allowed amount anyhow).

He was put on Amoxicillin for 14 days. During those 14 days, he stopped peeing in the house, but he was still drinking lots of water. He was reasonably energetic and eating OK. Towards the end of the 14 days (the beginning of this week), his appetite plummeted. At that point, he deteriorated rapidly. He was still drinking water and going outside to go to the bathroom, but he seemed uncoordinated when he walked, and his back legs kept slipping out from under him when he tried to walk on tile. We thought (a) the antibiotic had upset his stomach so he wasn't eating enough and was weak as a result, and (b), he had strained his hip while chasing a possum (which he did one week ago).

By yesterday, he would only eat if we fed him with a syringe. He seemed weak but not critically ill this morning — he even went outside to pee, although he dripped a bit on the way out. He still refused to eat, so I called the vet and asked if I could bring him in. They said they could board him and see him sometime during the day. By lunchtime, when I took him in, his gums were shockingly pale. I had to carry him in to the vet. I laid him down on the examination table, kissed his face, and then left (because I still thought they were going to board him, maybe give him an IV to fix his weakness and pallor, and all would be well until his tummy recovered from the antibiotic).

A minute later, the vet's office called and said to return immediately. I turned my car around right away and went in. They informed me that his abdomen was full of blood, and that he was dying. His gums were both pale and yellow at that time, so the vet concluded that he had a liver tumor that had ruptured. I'm not sure if he was conscious at that time (and now I regret leaving him for those few minutes, and I feel stupid that I didn't recognize that he was dying). He did blink when I cleaned the crusties out of the corners of his eyes, but his pupils were dilated.

They gave him oxygen and waited about an hour for our family to congregate (I was petting him and kissing him the whole time). By then he was breathing laboriously and his legs were twitching violently, and I'm fairly certain he wasn't conscious. We all finished kissing him and saying goodbye, the vet injected him with an overdose of anesthesia, and his body relaxed and he looked like he was sleeping. Some solid, relatively healthy-looking poop came out at that point, which was bittersweet because I had been wondering if he was impacted or constipated (he didn't poop much over the past couple of days).

I think I want to do an autopsy, to find out what kind of tumor he had, how big, etc. I feel like I won't have closure until I can figure out exactly what happened. Does an autopsy bring as much closure as I hope it will, or will it just lead me to play a million "what if" scenarios in my head?

And can someone answer me this: how come he didn't vomit once during this whole ordeal?

Note: I'm writing this as if it's Friday evening, but it's actually 7:00 AM Saturday! I never went to sleep. :( It's so odd to think that less than 24 hours ago, I didn't anticipate losing him any time soon.

(Submitted Saturday Dec. 08, 2012)

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Mar 18, 2013
Good luck to your beagle!
by: Elizabeth

Hi Ellen,

I hope the surgery goes well for your beagle. From what I have read, if your doggy has a single, large tumor, then her prognosis is really good--as long as you get it out before it ruptures. By the time I got my dog to the vet, the vet said there was no point in attempting surgery because of how unstable he was (he had lost a lot of blood). We would have somehow had to get a blood transfusion, and our vet wasn't equipped for that. MSU's vet clinic could have done it (they keep donor dogs and cats that they draw from monthly, until they find a permanent home), but not in time. It's only 15 minutes away, but he might have died on the way there. I suppose I could have taken him to MSU to begin with (instead of the regular vet), but I didn't realize how dire the situation was. Plus, at that point, even MSU might not have been able to save him, and his last memory would be of being poked and prodded by unfamiliar people, in an unfamiliar place (whereas he was comfortable and familiar with our vet).

Anyhow, I'm happy that you found the mass in your doggy before it ruptured. Regarding your kids, I'm sure your teens suspect that the situation could be serious, even if they aren't saying anything. It is pretty difficult at that age to face losing a beloved pet (it's difficult at any age!). I'm sure you know them well enough to know how much you should say. I wouldn't want them bawling over her before she goes in for surgery, because that might make her scared and weaken her. But perhaps at least have them all hug and kiss her before the surgery, for good luck. If (heaven forbid) something goes wrong during the surgery, your kids will be very thankful that they gave her the hug and kiss, even if they didn't think it was a goodbye hug and kiss at the time.

Mar 17, 2013
So true!
by: Ellen

Lost a 9 yr old beagle on Christmas day. So fast! The gums seem to be the thing to keep an eye on.

Now my younger 11 year old beagle has been scanned and a large mass seen on liver. She had a mass in her chest removed a month ago, vet said it was a tumor but was hopeful that he had got it all. Just said to bring her back every month to check. She recovered so well, stealing food, jumping up on table. In one day as this writer says she just changed, looks okay but not eating, sleeping, drinking loads.

She is being operated on on Tuesday (it's Sunday now). Vet said if it was the one big lump he would remove it but if he also found a scattering of smaller lumps throughout liver then that was the worst! I have told my teenage kids that there is a possibility of it being cancer but have not said much else yet as one had an important exam yesterday.

Don't suppose I will get a reply in time from anyone but I know they should be prepared but...

Dec 09, 2012
Thank you.
by: Elizabeth

Billy and Willy,

Thanks for commenting. I looked at Pappy's story, and it definitely seems very similar. We decided not to do an autopsy because it would require transporting his body to the animal diagnostic center at the local university. Also, while the diagnostic center cremates the body afterward, they don't provide a paw imprint, which we all really wanted. They said they could do the imprint if I found a kit and brought it, but I just don't have the emotional energy for that right now. Another option would be to have the company that is scheduled to do his cremation/imprint pick his body up from the diagnostic center. We did consider this. But after talking to a family member who is an experienced vet, she said she could tell me what they would find during a necropsy: A lot of blood and a liver that's a mess. I guess we don't need to know exactly what type of tumor he had.

Thanks again for your kind words. The biggest thing I'm dealing with is guilt that I left him alone and probably scared for a couple of minutes. He's familiar with the vet, but it's not the same as me being there. I'm hoping he was conscious enough to recognize my presence when I rushed back. I had a momentary comforting thought--even if his vision and hearing were dimming, he would have smelled me. But then I remembered with horror that they put an oxygen mask over his snout. Although, at the moment I rushed back in, they hadn't yet gotten it on. I'm not exactly sure how to deal with this guilt. If it doesn't subside after a month, I may see a grief counselor.

Dec 09, 2012
Pappy dog died of same illness
by: Anonymous

Hemangiosarcoma is most likely what killed your beagle mix. It is a blood vessel tumor that is highly aggressive.

I have had 2 dogs die of this cancer. One at 10 years 10 months and the other at 5 years 6 months.

The first was so sudden as he went bolting out in the yard full speed and suddenly became weak and lied down. He died on the way to the hospital. Autopsy showed hemangiosarcoma on his heart.

Pappy the second one you can read my story on here.

I am so sorry for your loss and these dogs are like our kids! I know how you feel! Time will take care of the grief and you will find another friend but it DOES take time!!! These animals should live as long as humans!

Take care.

Billy n Willy

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