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I think the end is near

November 8, 2016

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So last Friday (4th November ’16), 5mnths and 1 week post op Zuki started to show signs of discomfort with walking and maneuvering himself, especially getting out of the car. Even with us assisting him, I even think sometimes us lifting him hurt more and he would let out a yelp. But on the whole he was fine and still getting about quite well. Saturday he seemed a little weaker and a little less keen to move unless he had to, and again the same on Sunday . Just seeming weak and unbalanced on his back end. But absolutely good as gold in himself. Still coming in for snuggles, eating and toileting. But we knew he wasn’t 100% so booked him in to see the vet on Monday morning. It wasn’t his normal vet but he thought that the arthritis in his hock was causing him some bother and sent him home with some additional painkillers to help him out. He had TPLO cruciate surgery on that knee in June ’13 so some arthritis is to be expected and Zuki has always been a buggar for choosing to sleep on the cold hard tiles rather than the numerous comfy beds and sofa’s he has access to. We took him home, dosed him up and kept a close eye on him. By Monday evening he wasn’t weight bearing at all and choosing to drag himself around instead. Still keen to go on his night time walk and go to the toilet, still quite bright and still eating.

We even carpeted our entire kitchen so there were absolutely no slippy floors or rugs for him to trip on. Anything to make walking easier for him

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Fast forward to this morning (Tuesday 8th) and everything seems very bleak now. This morning he didn’t want to go on his normal morning toilet walk with his sister, so we left him in bed till a bit later and tried again. This time he went (dragging himself) with some coaxing although didn’t get himself up onto his back leg so no poo’s or wee’s. We have just come back from the vets again and its pretty clear its more than just the arthritis. There is clearly pressure in his lower back, either inflamed nerves and/or disk. He still has feeling and movement in his back end and foot which is the good news, so the plan is to give him plt tablets to try and reduce the inflammation and give him the strength to get himself up. My worry is what then….. mask the discomfort with pills for months? To get to the true route of the cause (slipped disk, spinal tumour etc) he’d need an MRI, there isn’t one of those in Jersey so we would need to put him on a boat for 5hrs to get him to a UK vets. Once you get the results of the MRI any corrective measures is going to be surgery isn’t it?! 2 more anaesthetics and potential spinal surgery!! On a 10yr old GSD with 3 legs and cancer???? I just don’t think I can do that to him, never mind the cost and logistics of it all. My heart is breaking and the tears rolling just writing this, but deep down I think I know what I need to do.

My parents arrive for a visit tomorrow evening and the vet has assured me although he is probably uncomfortable he isn’t in chronic pain and is still alert and happy to eat etc so it is worth giving the tablets a chance to help him. I’m hoping for a bloody miracle to be honest! If he hasn’t toileted by tomorrow morning he’ll be back in the vets tomorrow for them to help him. If there’s no significant improvement in his mobility with these tablets by Thursday/Friday I think I have to do the right thing for him…. I don’t know what other options I have for him. He’s fought such a proud and brave fight so far, he has inspired and wow’d everyone who has met him. I want him to go with dignity, with the awareness to enjoy his last days with all his pack around him, loving and doting on him and I want to know he didn’t suffer. God damn I thought I’d have longer….. I love that dog like you wouldn’t believe. He has changed my life in such amazing ways. Zuki Wuggafer you are just simply the best xxxxx

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Happy 10th Birthday!! xxx

October 3, 2016

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Well yet another reason for celebration! On the 30th September my baby boy turned 10, and after the year he has had it definitely deserved a party. We spoilt him rotten with love and toys and of course treats! I think he enjoyed himself, he absolutely knew the day was all about him and lapped it up. Its so fantastic that after all the fears and worries we had about what his life would be like after his cancer diagnosis that we can have days (and we are so fortunate to have lots of them) when his illness is a distant thought.

Me and my little boy had great fun baking doggy cupcakes for Zuki and his sister Phoenix. Once Zuki had blown out his candles (with a little help obviously) they both devoured their steaks and sausages!

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Here’s hoping we get many more times when we can create these wonderful memories with our beloved friends. Zuki really is the centre of our family and I treasure every special day I get the honour of being his mumma.

Love you baby boy xxxx

3 months post op

September 1, 2016

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Well I’m a few days late with my blog, but on the 26th of August we celebrated Zuki’s 3 month ampuversary! Wwwaayyy 🙂 We had a wonderful family picnic in a beautiful spot not far from our house. Zuki loved being out with everyone, being leader of his pack, it was like the good old days. In the last month I would say I have noticed a significant increase in Zuki’s stamina. We haven’t really done any specific rehabilitation, I had enquired about physio, but my vet said he never normally made a referral so I thought I’d see how we got on. For us, I think normal day to day activity is enough. Between moving around the house, getting in and out of the car, manoeuvring around whilst on walks and handling the differing terrains his body has adapted without too much intervention. He now manages comfortably a 15min loop we do, its flat and a gravel track (so easier than on the sand on the beach for example). I’m not sure what happens next though, will he continue to grow stronger and in another 3 months we’ll be doing 30min walks, or is this his max? Quite honestly though I don’t care, I didn’t expect life would be this normal when I looked into our future before the amputation. I genuinely couldn’t ask for more for my boy, he’s happy and seems healthy and that’s all I care about.

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Today (as I write this) Zuki is in having round 4 of 5 of his chemo. He was supposed to have it last week but unfortunately the vet couldn’t get a clean entry for the IV. You can see the 3 patches they’ve shaved on his legs to try and get the vein. It makes perfect sense now I’ve had it explained but when putting in the IV for the chemo it has to be on the first needle, otherwise the medication may leak through the holes created in the veins and damage the surrounding tissue. Apparently it wasn’t anything to do with Zuki’s veins (I was worried he may have been dehydrated or something) just a new vet who didn’t quite get it right. I’m not sure if its a luck thing or lack of experience by the vet, my normal vet was off getting married! How inconsiderate! So anyway we had to wait an additional week to allow the vein to heal and Peter is back today so I’m hoping we get this under our belts today. Then just one more dose, I’m really excited as I hate all these vet visits. Zuki is pretty good with the vets and seems to take it all in his stride, but its the constant reminder that he has cancer….

He truly is an inspiration to me, when we’re not in and out of the vets I can quite easily forget all about the C word, even with Zuki hoping around, I know he’s not dwelling on it and that’s infectious, we all just crack on, living life and loving each other! So much love for this boy xx

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Now we can look forward to our future! I really feel we have turned the corner this week. Zuki’s stitches came out on Friday, he finished his course of antibiotics, he’s down to one painkiller at night and the cone of shame has been returned to storage 🙂 Zuki no longer seems in any pain, he still gets tired after a walk but this is to be expected and we’ll focus on his stamina.

On Saturday we went back to the beach, it was only for maybe 10minutes as I didn’t want him to over do it, but you could tell by his whole demina that he loved it and felt revitalised. The dogs played together, splashed in the water and flung seaweed at each other. I am convinced Zuki’s missing leg was the furthest thing from his mind- I couldn’t ask for much more could I, it was a huge boost for us all!

 

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We start Chemo on Thursday, he’ll spend the day in with his lovely surgery of vets and nurses – they really do dote on him when he’s with them so I am sure it will all go smoothly and my vets assured me that dogs very rarely have any severe side effects to the drugs so I am pretty positive about the whole situation, but time will tell as with all these things.

At the moment I am looking into local physiotherapists who can also offer hydrotherapy treatment. My vets says he has never sent an amputi for this kind of rehabilitation as his view is that by adjusting to getting around the dog is using all the necessary new muscles and these will naturally strengthen themselves. I do understand this but I also think some structured exercises wouldn’t be of detriment to Zuki. We did free swimming hydrotherapy after his first cruciate repair a few years ago and he absolutely loved it. Zuki lives and dies by his tennis balls and as I couldn’t throw these for him to chase on land, the swimming pool offered us the perfect environment to play, he didn’t think of it as rehabilitation that’s for sure. Now although the research I have done so far suggests a watermill would be more suited to his case this time round I’m pretty sure he will still enjoy being in the water – do any of you have experience of this type of aftercare, pro’s and con’s? Its quite expensive so need to weigh up the benefits really.

Today is a big day for my dog walker. I work 3 days a week and so have my dog walker come in at lunchtime to take the dogs out, break up their day and let them toilet. But he’s not had a 45kg tripawd before! My husband has taken the dogs to work with him the last 2 weeks. I’ve given him loose instructions, but to be honest I’ve found that Zuki has guided me so far, so I have basically said – listen to the dog. He’ll tell you when he’s had enough. Which he does, just takes himself back to the car, some walks this has been after 15mins, others after a quick wee and a poo. We don’t have an agenda of what exercise will be anymore, walks are for fun now not for weight control (Zuki has always maintained a steady weight so I’m not overly concerned about him gaining as I appreciate this important now he’s a tripawd) or energy reduction, so whether we’re out and just sit together and look out to sea, or if we are having a blast though the shallows, it doesn’t matter, its quality time together and creates memories every outing. My other dog, well she still definitely needs the energy reduction walks, she’s only 2 and full of beans. But its ok, we just take her out on her own separately, at first she was a little weary as since day one she’s had her big bro to protect her, but she’s getting used to it and its actually doing her obedience some good. I think before she just followed Zuki’s lead, she knows all her commands but was easily distracted. Now that I can spend some one on one time with her she’s coming on leaps and bounds – every cloud has a silver lining right? 🙂

So all in all it feels like we’ve found our new normal, and I actually like it. I’m very content with where Zuki is at and its more than I could have hoped for at this stage of his recovery, I mean its still early days isn’t it. But he’s happy, he’s doing 100% of the things he did before his op, maybe just adjusted slightly, but from his perspective life is good I think. He gets cuddles and attention everywhere he goes now, he’s a local celebrity thanks to social media and everyone is amazed and inspired by his heroic story. It makes me extremely humbled and proud, I couldn’t ask more from my loyal sidekick, my protector, my guiding light.

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1 week post op….

June 2, 2016

Well what a week its been, an emotional roller-coaster is the only way I can describe it, but it has also flown by! There have been tears of extreme guilt and gasps of shear amazement, but that’s just been me. Zuki, well he’s been mostly just Zuki, a big goofy bear demanding constant cuddles and belly rubs!

I have to say the worst part for me was waiting in the vets surgery for them to bring him out to me. I felt sick to my stomach with the anticipation of what my beautiful pup had now become…. Well I didn’t have to wait long for the big oafe to come bounding (and I literally mean bounding!) through the door with his big drooling tongue swinging and his eyes bright with excitement 🙂 The nurses couldn’t get the door open quick enough for him. For those first few minutes of  ‘I love you mum’ whines and spinning circles round me, he seemed absolutely oblivious to his new stance. All that said when I saw him hoping around I just couldn’t contain the surge of guilt. I could see in front of me that he was already doing fantastically, the vets said they were delighted with his recovery over the initial 24 hours, but still I felt pity for what I had chosen to do to him, angry that I had been forced to make this decision for him and sad that he wasn’t the same dog.

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As each day passes I get a little more at peace with the situation, as Zuki heals physically I guess I heal a bit more emotionally. Maybe the sleep deprivation is making me a little more sensitive, actually who am I kidding, I just love him so much its horrible to see him struggling. Now let me clarify that statement. Zuki is absolutely not struggling with his mobility – he’s around the house, up and down the step to the garden, maneuvering around my young son and our other dog without really much thought. But his surgery wound and the stitches….. they are causing him discomfort and grief, he just cant help himself fussing with it. Its been a changing scenario each day really as I suppose different things are hurting, itching, swollen. Its gone a bit like this;

Friday night – Still very spaced out from the anaesthetic and intravenous painkillers, he was quite relaxed and settled until 3am, when I can only assume some of the meds wore of and he just cried and cried. It broke my heart as I couldn’t really do much other than sit with him and comfort him, which I did for most of the early hours of the morning. In between my young sons night time feed. So safe to say there was very little sleep had.

Saturday – His medication dose was prescribed as 3 tablets every 12hours (7am and 7pm) but about 2 hours after I gave him his morning dose the crying started again, I think it was making him feel queasy and strange. He wasn’t interested in food yet. As long as someone was close to him he was quite relaxed and would sleep, but if on his own he was fidgety and whimpering. This makes me think it was more that he wanted company than he was in severe pain or discomfort. Again at 4am the crying started.

Sunday – Very similar to Saturday. Although he still wasn’t very interested in food, he would take tip bits if fed by hand but wouldn’t really entertain his bowl until dinner time when he took a small portion of his wet food. I was starting to think that changing the dosage of his pain meds might help him by having a lower dose more regularly. 1) to stop it wearing off and 2) to minimise the side effects on him, but I needed to speak to my vet on Monday morning before doing this. We had him on 3 times a day icing to help with the bruising and swelling, he suffers quite badly from razor rash where they shaved him so wouldn’t let me ice the top of his stump, thankfully the majority of the bruising was below the incision, travelling south around his boy bits. After an ice pack I apply arnica cooling gel and aloe vera to help with the skin as I think that irritates him as much as the wound and the stitches. I have been amazed at how quickly the deep purple bruising has reduced to a slight mottled redness now.

Monday – Time for the cone of shame! Now all the anesthetic has worn off, Zuk’s is really getting back to his normal self, although still very clingy, following me around like a shadow most of the day. Not a bad thing really as little and often movement is the best thing for both his strength and to shift the fluid from the swollen areas. But now he’s paying more attention to the stitches. I have literally had one eye on him and one eye on my son all day, its amazing what you can do as a mum! 😉 He hates the cone and it makes him look so miserable so I only put it on him when I’m not able to monitor him. He’s now on 3 walks a day, literally just a few minutes to do his business. I drive him to our local spot of greenery that he’s used to, he hopes around, has a sniff and when he’s tired he either sits down and rests or takes himself back to the car. I was really worried about how he’d toilet but his been coping fine since day 2.

Tuesday – Much of the same. Chilling out. We had a lovely sunny day, so spent a lot of time outside playing and relaxing. Here’s a little snapshot – What every poorly pup and little boy need, each other! xx (you can see here Zuki has put his paw into my sons hand to hold)

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Wednesday –  A small disaster. Zuks woke about 6am crying, I took the cone off as he’d had it on all night. Shorty after my son woke up so I went upstairs to see to him. I was maybe 15/20mins, when I came back down Zuki had managed to pull one of his stitches out leaving an inch long gaping hole (big lesson learnt on my behalf). It didn’t seem too bad at first, but as the day went on and he moved more the wound started to open up and bleed, not dramatically, but enough to worry me and feel it best to take him back to our vets. They were fantastic, squeezed him in without an appointment and put 3 small sutures in to replace what he had taken out. So now he’s on strict cone usage. He actually seems to have accepted his fate with it a little more and is just getting on with things.

So hopefully that’s given you an insight into my initial experience of being a mum to new tripawd. Every thing I read prior to the surgery and everyone I spoke to said how quickly dogs adapt and how its the humans that suffer more – I absolutely concur with this. I tried to prepare myself mentally, but its still shocking to see at first, its scary to watch them fall on occasions and its hard to know how best to keep them comfortable while they heal. But as each day goes by I’m quickly realising that my pooch is still my loveable pooch. Its been inspiring to see how my son and my other dog have treated Zuki. Phoenix (our young retriever x) has been a lot quieter around him, typically she’s constantly nipping at his ears and feet to get him to play fight with her, but this week its all been about snuggles and companionship. Although my son is only 15months old it has been incredible to see how affectionate he has been with him, he clearly has picked up on the fact that Zuki isn’t feeling quite himself and knows that he needs a little extra love at the moment.

We will take the next couple of weeks to get the wound healed up nicely and then we start chemo. I’m hoping this is as straight forward as it can be for Zuki, with minimal side affects, but only time will tell. I’m just focused on the day I can get zuks back onto the beach and swimming in the sea. For me and him, that will be normality and will assure me that he is getting the best quality of life I can offer him. Until then its slow and steady progress day by day, we’re all doing it together 🙂

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