Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rocco's 2nd Chemo post poned

I brought Rocco in today for his 2nd round of Chemo. They drew blood first to check his white blood cell count and unfortunately it is 1500 which is too low for the Chemo. They require 2000 minimum and Rocco last check up in March showed his normal level at 10000. The vet said this is common and the second treatment sometimes has to get postponed because the first treatment is so strong. He figured by next Tuesday Rocco's count should be almost normal and he can do the Chemo then. The vet also said that Rocco's lack of wanting to play has to do with the effects of the drugs. The Chemo kills of millions of cancer cells and they have to be metabolized back into the body after they die. Poor Rocco, he is trying to hang in there the best he can. He still loves going to the vet, and he still has a good appetite and still likes to chew bone. The vet said the first couple weeks are usually the worst. I hope so for Rocco's sake, he is a strong and stoic dog and I know he is really bothered by the Chemo just from the subtle signs he gives; not wanting to play, laying in the hall by himself (which he never EVER does) and getting out of bed at night which he never does as well. I ordered some homeopathic medicine called Vetri-DMG which is supposed to boost immune system response. Worst case I'm out 20$ if it doesn't work but I think it's worth a try.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, March 30th

Lets see. We haven't mentioned yet but Rocco's weight at the start of prednisone treatment was 59.1 lbs. We brought him in last Tuesday for his first Chemo and he was 55 lbs. That is 4lbs lost in 6 days!! We had increased his food and by Friday, 3 days later he was up to 57lbs so I was happy about that. Rocco played yesterday but did not want to play today. He goes in for another Chemo treatment tomorrow as long as his white blood cell level is up to par. He isn't yawning much (One of the chemo drugs has jaw pain as a side effect). He is chewing a good amount of bone though. Maybe it just hurts to extend his jaw all the way? Anyway, his stool had some blood this morning but not this afternoon so we'll just keep taking it one day at a time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vet Visit

Alicia pretty much covered everything. Rocco wasn't taking to the chemo well and the diarhhea and blood stool was a direct result of it. It was painful for me to watch him get swabbed for the stool sample because Rocco is very stoic and look on his eyes and his yelping was a true sign of the pain he was in. The vet said this side effects were possible because the chemo attacks fast growing cells. Cancer cells are fast growing but so are the cells in the G.I. Tract. The medicine he was prescribed seemed to work quickly and Rocco wanted to play of all things a couple hours later! He hasn't wanted to play tug in about 5 days so that brought a great smile to my face. This morning he didn't want to play so I was a little disappointed but his stool is better and he was grinding a lot of bone. The prednisone being cut down helped him sleep better and he didn't need to get up to pee for the first time since he began taking it. I can't wait for it to be phased out completely in 3.5 weeks or so.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Return to play!

Rocco had a rough morning. After calling the vet about his bloody stool and shallow breathing, we took him in. As usual, he was excited to see everyone and kept trying to lick the vet tech's face while she was holding him for the doctor. They had to take a stool sample by using a long swab and oh boy did Rocco hate that. He let out a few yelps and there was quite a bit of blood on the swab. The doctor ran some tests and said that there were no parasites, but some extra bacteria. Lungs and heart sounded good.
For the diarrhea, Rocco got an antiobiotic and a GI protectant. Also, he'll be getting some high-fiber soft dog food. The doctor thinks this is most likely caused by the prednisone, so we are going down to one pill a day over the weekend. As for the breathing issues, this is apparently caused by prednisone as well and should go away as the dosage is lowered.

But the great news is that Rocco wanted to play tug today! This is something he hasn't done since Sunday. Around 5 o'clock, he went over to his 'toy box' and looked up at it, which is his signal that he wants to play with his rope toy. We tugged for 10 minutes or so, but it was just so joyful to see him have the desire to play. We figure that he's probably been having an upset stomach for some time, and the medicine is helping already.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday 3/26

Rocco seemed in a little better spirits this morning. He was chewing some bone and played briefly. He is having some issues with the chemo. His stool has been loose which the vet says is expected but today he had diarhea and Alicia said later she saw some blood in his stool. We'll be calling the vet in the morning. The other issue I think that is a problem is his rib cage seems to be puffed out. I don't know if this is from the changing of his food/diet. He is more gaseous and I wonder if that is all gas. I'll ask the vet what he thinks. I really don't like what the prednisone and the chemo have done to him. He is definitely not comfortable but he is hanging in there. He enjoys going on his walks and has a voracious appetite still. He still does his training and chews some bone. The vet said all his symptoms will go away once the prednisone/chemo is phased out. So I guess having him go through a rough few weeks will be worth it if he can get a year of being his healthy, happy usual self. His sister Havana doesn't know why Rocco doesn't want to play anymore. Well, that's all for now.....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Chemo Treatment

Rocco had his first chemo treatment yesterday. Kevin took him in the morning and picked him up in the afternoon. Our vet is using the University of Wisconsin-Madison protocol which will last 25 weeks, with about 18-19 of those weeks requiring drug treatment. The other weeks are breaks. For the week prior to his first treatment, Rocco started on Prednasone which drastically reduced the size of the lymphnodes. From Wed to Mon, he was on 50mg a day. As the vet told us, this made him extremely thirsty, so he's been having to go out to pee more. The Prednasone seemed to make him less playful, but up until Mon, he was at least wanting to tug some in the evening. Mon was probably his worst day, as he moped around and seemed to want to be alone. We also noticed that he has not been yawning very much, something which he used to do all the time. 

When he went in Tues for the treatment, he had lost 4 lbs since the past week. We're not sure exactly why this is, but we have him on extra feeds now. The Tues treatment was Vincristine which disrupts cancer growth by affecting cellular reproduction and Elspar (L-asparaginase), which is used to get a quicker remission. The Elspar is apparently the strongest drug in the protocol and is only given during the first session. The doctor said the first week is usually the worst.  As of Tues, the Prednasone dose  is down to 35mg and will continue to taper off for the next few weeks. So far, we have not noticed any of the serious side effects of the drugs, although Rocco's stool is looser. The main concern is allergic reaction to the Elspar which luckily did not occur. 

Rocco's mood is not great; he doesn't want to do any playing, but he has been chewing a little more bone today which is good. And he still perks up for walks. As always, he was super excited to see everyone at the vet on Tues, but at home he is quite subdued. We are just monitoring him one day at a time and hoping to see progress. 

Getting the news

Last week we learned that our 4 year-old pit bull, Rocco, has lymphoma. We were absolutely devastated. Rocco is such a sweet, fun-loving boy that losing him was too much to take. Lymphoma is an extremely aggressive systemic cancer, and we were told that without treatment, he may only have a few weeks to live. The thought was absolutely incomprehensible, especially when Rocco was outwardly the picture of good health. The vet explained that chemotherapy treatment could give us another 6-12 months of good quality life with Rocco. We learned online that some dogs even make it 2 or 3 years in remission. Most dogs respond well to chemo with little side effects. That was extremely important to us since we did not want to put Rocco through misery just to keep him with us. We are keeping this blog for a few reasons - 1) to keep all of Rocco's family, friends, and fans updated on his progress, 2) to keep track of his responses to the various drugs in the treatment, and 3) to be a resource to others who may be going through a similar situation.