Maggie Faces Osteosarcoma Part 1

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IMG_1778We’ve had a tough week in the SlimDoggy household. Our Maggie developed a pretty severe limp over the last few weeks. Increasing her medication and rest did not seem to resolve it, so off to the vet we went. The initial diagnosis was not promising – the vet was concerned it was osteosarcoma, but he held out some hope that it might possibly be a fungal infection.
He showed us her xrays and while I’m not a radiologist, I did compare them to osteosarcoma xrays available on the internet and they sure looked pretty similar. We never recommend diagnosing with Dr. Internet, but sometimes it’s useful to get a frame of reference and educate yourself.
After a long weekend of waiting – the fungal tests take 5 days – we got the news today that those test were all negative. We had been hoping for better news, but planned for the worst and had already scheduled an appointment with a veterinary oncologist so we could get a plan together for Maggie and start treating her immediately. And I’m glad we did as the fungal results were all negative.
We increased her pain medications once again since the initial vet visit last week, but it didn’t really seem to be making an impact. She was limping pretty badly on the affected leg – left front – and even though her appetite was still good and she seemed to be in good spirits, osteosarcoma is a painful cancer.
Yesterday we met with the oncologist to discuss options. He had two basic options. He immediately steered us away from amputation, which is the most common treatment for osteo, stating that while we could confirm with an orthopedic surgeon, his opinion was that she was not an optimal candidate due to her age (11) and advanced arthritis in her other limbs. He suggested two other options:

  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery or CyberKnife Radiosurgery
  • Palliative Radiation therapy

The Stereotactic Radiosurgery is a fairly new procedure. It has been used in humans for many years, but only in the last 5-6 years has it been used in canines. The benefits of the procedure is the special technology which allows the radiation beam to be delivered with submillimeter accuracy targeting only the diseased tissue and not harming any of the surrounding healthy tissue. It utilizes CT Technology and targeted mapping procedures to identify and pinpoint exactly where the radiation beam should be applied. The ‘surgery’ name is a misnomer as there is no surgery, no cutting whatsoever. Our vet, Dr. Jeffrey Lyons, is one of only a very small number of vets performing this procedure in the US. He explained that the survival times for dogs undergoing this treatment vs. amputation are actually quite similar. It is a curative process – designed to kill the cancer.
Palliative Radiation is radiation treatment with the sole purpose of providing pain relief for your dog. It’s delivered in five doses on five consecutive days. It doesn’t address or ‘cure’ the cancer, it only helps to alleviate the pain. When our Becca was diagnosed with osteosarcoma three years ago, we choose the palliative radiation treatment with the addition of chemotherapy. We wrote about Becca’s osteosarcoma experience here.
Given it’s positive outcome, we’ve decided to try the Stereotactic Radiosurgery procedure. Before we can begin, we have to be as certain as possible that the cancer hasn’t spread, so today Maggie is scheduled to undergo a series of tests, including more xrays, blood work, a bone aspirate and and ultrasound. If she “passes” all of those test, she will have a bone scan, and then finally if no evidence of cancer is seen beyond the tumor in her leg, we will start the Stereotactic procedure.
We will be writing more about the procedure and our experience with it as we take this journey with our Maggie. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

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  1. OH NO!! I really hate to hear this. Sending lots of healing prayers!!!
    Rebecca recently posted…Black & White Sunday: What’s Down There?My Profile

  2. So sorry to be reading this- what a rough week for your family, for poor Maggie! Thank you, for being so brave to share your story and her journey in a ‘real-time’ fashion, so that we can both follow along, as well as become educated on canine osteosarcoma as well.

    Woofs and Wags from Bear and Scooter of SheSpeaksBark
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  3. Wishing you all the best success with Maggie’s treatment.

    I know that the excellent nutrition and care she’s received at home gives her tremendous benefits in fighting cancer. Thinking of you all.
    Pamela recently posted…8 Photos of HappinessMy Profile

  4. I’m so sorry to hear this news about Maggie. Sending you good thoughts and prayers and I’m really hoping she’s able to get the stereotactic radiosurgery treatment. You have a huge community of supporters sending prayers and like Pamela mentioned, Maggie has the benefit of having a healthy diet and being physically fit on her side.
    Elaine recently posted…How to Train Your Dog to Walk Off Leash – A Hiker’s GuideMy Profile

  5. I am very sorry to hear this. I hope the treatment will help her. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Senior Hunter Title Plus One~WaterMy Profile

  6. Sending positive thoughts Maggie’s way–and yours!
    Kristen–well minded recently posted…summer reptile adventures teach kids about #ReptileCareMy Profile

  7. Keeping Maggie in my thoughts and prayers – as well as you all too. How’s Jack doing with all of this? How does he perceive all this? Cousin Kylie sending kisses and hugs.

  8. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way.
    Diane recently posted…Show us your Natural CharactersMy Profile

  9. Even though many dogs deal well with amputation, I do think for a senior dog with arthritis it would be traumatic and not always the best option. We all hope she can qualify for the other treatment. She is such a sweet girl.
    Emma recently posted…How To Recognize A FavoriteMy Profile

  10. Sending lots of positive energy your way, and wishing for the best outcome!! My dog is undergoing palliative radiation at this time, and after lots of research and vet visits – incl. Holistic – I’m supplementing him with Pet greens, essential oils (frankinscense), and energy work (Reiki, Healing Touch, Jin Shin Juitsu) to help. So far so good – maybe one or more of these would help Maggie be as strong as possible….they are amazing with what and how their bodies can work!

  11. We have been thinking of Maggie a lot. We hope the tests go well so that she can have this treatment….it definitely sounds like the best option. Sending positive hopeful thoughts your way.
    Jan K recently posted…Luke’s “Pick Up” OuttakesMy Profile

  12. Oh no you guys, I am so sorry to hear about Maggie’s diagnosis and will be keeping her in my thoughts, prayers, and sending you all positive energy. I hope she’ll be able to get the Stereotactic Radiosurgery.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…8 Photos of HappinessMy Profile

  13. I was afraid of something like this when you described Maggie’s new habit of keeping more to herself. I’m sorry for her to be going through this. I lost my first Lab to osteosarcoma nearly three years ago. No one mentioned sterotactic radiosurgery when I had her MRI done. The cancer was located in her pelvis bones and inoperable. I had made an appointment with the radiologist, but they couldn’t fit us in for another week beyond getting the MRI results. My girl had no symptoms for I don’t know how long. Then, when she did show a symptom, it was constipation. From discovery of the lump through a digital rectal exam, to MRI, to having to let her go because she went downhill so fast (was completely blocked and even an enema was useless) and I was afraid she could rupture her intestines or colon, only 8 days passed. I hope that the stereotactic radiosurgey works wonders on Maggie. I will be closely following your updates. Best wishes!

    • You’re right – I never put that together – her withdrawal, but I bet it’s related. So sad to hear about your Lab – osteo is a beast, a fast beast. Thanks for your thoughts.
      mkob recently posted…Maggie Faces Osteosarcoma Part 1My Profile

  14. Praying that stereotactic radiosurgey will be possible for Maggie and be the right option.
    Sue recently posted…A Girl and her Jolly Ball | Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  15. The Bayou Gang is sending POTP to Maggie and your family. ♥
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Finding a Great Veterinarian is an AAHA MomentMy Profile

  16. So sorry to hear about Maggie. My female dog recently passed from the ‘fungal’ infection after going to 5 different vets who did not diagnose it in time – it was devastating. I hope you have better luck with your girl.

  17. Oh noooooooo. Prayers for healing and comfort for you all.
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  18. I’m so sorry about the diagnosis but will keep my fingers crossed the treatment will make a difference in the quality of Maggie’s life. Sending positive healing vibes your way.
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  19. You might remember that we faced the same thing, with our dog K. She had stereotactic radiation, and it was great for her. Her leg didn’t bother her for the rest of her life, except for the radiation burns that emerged after the treatment (aquaphor helped a lot – and they healed quickly).

    In retrospect, I’ve wondered why vets don’t use CT Scans to look for lung mets at the time of diagnosis. You might ask that question. Because K’s lung mets showed up on xray just 3 months after her radiation (they were clear before it), I feel sure that the mets would’ve been visible on CT scan before the radiation. I’m don’t think it would have affected our decisions but I’ve wondered why no CT scans were done at the time of Dx.

    That being said, stereotactic radiation bought us 7 very happy months with a pain-free K. It was worth every penny… so I’d do it all over again. I hope that your Maggie can get this treatment.

    My heart is with you and Maggie, hoping for the very best.

    As an aside, I found the “” community to be incredibly supportive and helpful throughout our osteosarcoma journey. They welcomed us with open arms even though K was not a true tripawd. And, their community has a wealth of knowledge about osa treatment.

    Hugs to all of you.
    KB recently posted…Summertime in the MountainsMy Profile

    • Thanks for your note. Was so happy to read about your journey with K and how successful it was. We are hoping for good results. Maggie seems pretty healthy other than this, so we’ll see. I will ask the vet about the CT. The did an ultrasound of her abdomen and xrays of her chest, but the CT they are doing next week I think is only of her leg to map the tumor.
      mkob recently posted…Canine Fitness Program with BiteMy Profile

  20. This SRS treatment sounds promising, especially for a dog like Maggie with arthritis in her other limbs. I wish it could have been available for Shadow’s littermate, Emma, a few years ago when my friends were given her OSA diagnosis! I’d have done just about anything to help them pay for it. I think it’s great that you’re sharing Maggie’s treatment journey. Imagine how wonderful it would be if every dog with OSA could be treated successfully with SRS! Maggie, you and Steve, and Jack will continue to be in my prayers and positive thoughts.
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  21. I am so so sorry you are facing this again in your family. This time there is new technology and more information on the disease so I hope Maggie has many many months left with you. I never heard of the sterotactic radiation so this will be a new process for me. I wish her all the luck in the world, this is a horrible disease and you have my heart and prayers. Hang in there and make each day the best it ever was! Hugs!
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  22. From my time on Tripawds (15+ months) I know a lot of folks with older, arthritic dogs that did okay with amp. But that was several years ago so would have been when the SR option was in it’s infancy so not well known. The SR sounds like a great option, especially since it’s aim is to be curative! I hope Maggie will be a candidate! If she’s not, you might want to consider looking into artemisinin. (Don’t want to sound like a crazy ‘hey, here’s this herb you can take’ person, but I did know of a few dogs that did great on it back when we were going through this. Of course, I haven’t looked into it in several years now so maybe there’s more research out there about it now. Feel free to email me if you want to know more about it. Not sure you can give it to a dog at the same time they are doing radiation – I know with Abby we couldn’t give it to her at the same time as her IV chemo, but she was on it after that and who knows if it was what kept her with us so long post-Dx. Always kinda wondered what would have happened if we’d gone the totally holistic route with her… But no regrets. Any decision that’s made for a sick pup is made out of love, so there can’t be a “wrong” decision IMO.)

    Fingers crossed that she’s a candidate and we’ll keep sending pawsitive thoughts out to Maggie – and to your whole pack.
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Spreading the HappyMy Profile

    • Thanks Jackie – we are going forward with the SRS…starting next week. We have a holistic vet and Dr. Patrick Mahaney is actually a member of the team at this hospital that Maggie is going to, so we plan to incorporate holistic options once we’re over the radiation hurdle. Thanks for reaching out – so many of this have been through this or going through it, it’s sure great to have the experience.
      mkob recently posted…Canine Fitness Program with BiteMy Profile

  23. I wish I was close – if for nothing else but to give you all a hug. Since I can’t, please know that what I can do is pray – and pray I shall. Because Maggie is yours – I trust that she’s in the best hands ever. Take care, hugs from me and the boys.
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  24. I was devastated for you when I saw this on Facebook. I hope all the tests show she is a good candidate and you can get started giving her some treatment quickly.

    Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Jodi recently posted…It’s Been a Three Dog HouseMy Profile

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