jaw cancer in dog surgery

amyuberallesDecember 16, 2006

I wanted to post here about my experience with a partial mandibulectomy after my baby shih tzu, who is 13 years old was found to have squamous cell carcinoma. I found it very hard to find personal accounts of this except a posting in this forum. It helped me and I want to give back.

Greta, my dog, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and we were given misinformation about how fast it spreads. This cost us precious time. When we found out we were lied to when our vet said it is a slow spreading cancer..and that it actually is legendary for how quickly it spreads, we panicked. We found a cancer specialist in our area and made the appointment. We were nervous also because we had heard how expensive cancer specialists were. Boy, were we right.

Our current vet said he could do the surgery for a lot less and just remove part of her jaw without really knowing if they would get it all. The reason it is cheaper at a regular vet is that they do not do Cat Scans to see exactly where the cancer is. We thought we would do this and felt confident. At the last moment we got scared and decided to go withthe specialist. The specialist had warned us that doing the surgery blind without a cat scan could prove very dangerous because the cancer could come back within a short time if you do not get all of it. You would then end up losing your pet or paying a great deal of money on top of the original surgery. This was very good advice.

We thought she would have to get a hemi mandibulectomy..just one side but when the got in and did the cat scan it has spread to the other side already. They said they would have to remove the jaw all the way across leaving only one row of teeth in back. We agreed.

We were not prepared for what followed. They called and said she was doing well and even eating already. WE were overjoyed. They said we could pick her up the day after surgery. We opted to have her stay one more day to remian on the injectable pain meds. I am so glad we did. When we went to pick her up the second day after surgery...we were shocked at how she looked..and terrified of what we had just done to our baby.

She was out of it and in a lot of pain. She could not eat..she had not figured out how to do that yet since she had no lower jaw basically. She layed by her food bowl and when I would try to love on her a lot she would move away. They said to try to get food to the back of her mouth with a food syringe. When I would touch her tongue with food, she freaked out and ran away. One time before I could even try to feed her, she had a small burp and looked at me like I had hit her and ran far away into the living room. We were devastated. What had we done to her? Was this too cruel? I guessed her throat was so swollen and painful that when she burped it was intolerable.

My husband and I fought a lot that night fearing we had done an injustice to her and were very scared. You could not necessarily see that the jaw was gone, so that was good but tongue drooped very long with no jaw to support it. This made it look almost freakshowish.

That night she drank some..finding out how to with no jaw. TShe had to scoop lots of water up with her tongue to get it to the back of her throat.

The next day was better and by evening she allowed me to feed her a bit with the gruel in a syringe. I was so thankful. We slept out in the living room with her for two nights, afraid to put her on our bed for fear of injury the sutures. She was sleeping well by this point. The next morning she allowed more food through the syringe but only a bit before running away. She had had food dishes that were deep bowls on an elevated stand before but this seemed uncomfortable to her. I finally made the gruel more watery and put it on a plate and set the plate on top of the elevated food dish. This made it higher with no edge for her.

When I came back in she was attempting to slurp up the food on her own. My heart soared!!! That's my girl. She was very pleased with herself. So after this she would slurp up all that she wanted on her own. Each time learning better how to get it up. She started becoming herself again. messy, but herself.

She is doing so great now, it is Saturday and her surgery was Monday. She is eating and drinking..gruel and water. And today I helped her eat a piece of thinly sliced turkey by holding it in my hand until she could lick it hard enough to get back into her throat.

We are so happy we had the surgery and she is on the road to recovery. They do not prepare you well but we found our way and Greta is doing so good and back to her old routine. Last night she woke me up on the couch and wanted to be close to me so I took her back to our bad and we slept well in bed together.

If anyone wants advice or encouragement on this surgery and what to do after..please contact me. I am happy to help. You can do this..be there and be strong for your baby and they will come through wonderfully!

my email is amyuberalles@yahoo.com if anyone wants to contact me.



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I Hope everything continues well for you all. I don't know how you've managed. we will keep our fingers crossed for you that she now goes from strength to strength. good luck

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 8:39PM
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You've all been through a great deal of trauma. I certainly hope Greta continues to improve. It's amazing how animals adapt to new situations.
Please keep us posted.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 9:38PM
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Thanks for sharing. You made me cry thinking of what you went through for your baby. Best wishes for her continued improvement.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 11:12PM
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I am so glad that you filled everyone in on what you went through. Indeed, the experience has been a traumatic one for all involved.

Now, another perspective.

I had a dog that I loved beyond words. In January of this year, I found out my 14 year old Tara had cancer, plus other issues that simply made her life miserable. When I took her to my vet (who I trust with my life and that of my dogs) and she did emergency blood work on her, she told me that day that if Tara would stand a chance of living, she would need what she termed at least a month or two of intensive care after major surgury. Even after all of that, there would be no guarantee of a "good quality of life".

Please don't mis-understand how I feel about this issue. I truly believe when you have pets, decisions are individual.

After consulting with two other vets who could be considered true "country vets", and I was told all of the things that would need to be done, and what Tara could no longer do, the decision was made to put her out of her misery. It wasn't an easy experience, but for me, I am convinced it was the right experience.

One of my "country vets" who I have known for many years, talked to me for a long time about what I was going through. She was originally a city vet, and had two very clear perspectives about the issue. When she told me that she now thinks she put some of her patients through to much when she was a city vet, I knew very well what I had to do. I very much believe in a dog being able to live like a dog, and have dog experiences. That means, running, getting into mischief, barking, annoying me to go out, playing, waging their tail, etc. etc. My Tara couldn't do any of those things.

I, as well as you, take great comfort in the decision that I made. I am forever grateful that Tara died in my arms and I was able to feel her slip away. I definitely did not want the experience to happen in some emergency room with blinding light and strangers all around.

Good luck to you,


1 Like    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 5:11PM
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