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Post Mandibular Surgery Recap

Beamer jaw
October 24, 2013

We are posting this information to share with others who may be experiencing the same type of cancer and surgery options for their dogs as well as to share Beamer’s status with his many friends.

It was a little over a week ago (October 15th) when Beamer had part of his lower jaw surgically removed to excise a Hemangiopericytoma (Soft Tissue Sarcoma) located on his lower gum.  The surgery was done at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  We took Beamer home the very next day with instructions to give him 75mg of Tramadol every eight hours for pain.

We have to admit that seeing Beamer after surgery with part of his jaw removed was startling.  We only had two choices in this situation: leave the cancer to grow and spread until such time as it was too painful and then put Beamer down; or surgically remove the section of the jaw and take as much of the jaw as necessary to assure “clean margins,” meaning that they believe they cut out all remnants of the cancer.  Now, after seeing the affects of the surgery, it caused us to question, did we do the right thing?

We did our homework prior to making this decision.  Around the world various dog owners online spoke of the fact that their dog did well after the surgery.  The vets and surgeon assured us of the same thing.  They adjust.  The question was more about us adjusting than Beamer, or so it seemed.

At home, Beamer was obviously in pain.  He was withdrawn and you felt as though he was asking, “What happened and why did this happen?”  He looked depressed, and he wouldn’t raise his head or look at us.

The first day we hand fed Beamer.  Small bites.  He was hungry.  We felt that his appetite was a good sign.  He struggled with drinking water from his bowl, but we held his bowl up to his mouth to make it easier.

The second day home the effects of the anesthesia from surgery, shock of the situation, and pain meds really kicked in.  He was very lethargic and withdrawn. His eyes were sunken and hollow.  It was if the life had been taken out of him.  His face was obviously very tender.  We accidentally brushed it as we dried his face to keep his sutures dry and he yelped in pain.  What was even more concerning is that he refused food and water.  Despite trying many times, and cutting his food in to very small bites, he refused everything we gave him.  We thought baby food might be the answer, given his sore jaw, but he would have no part of that either.

The third day was more of the same.  No food, no water. We were becoming very concerned.  It looked as if he was saying, “I’ve had enough.”  We began to think that he was telling us that he wanted to go.  Dogs have a way of telling you their ultimate decision.  The trouble was, we weren’t ready.  So, with consultation from our vets we continued to try to feed him and give him water off our fingers to keep him going.  We did manage to feed him small pieces of dehydrated chicken breast that was purchased at the local pet store.  We rehydrated the pieces to make them moist and shredded them so he could manipulate them with his tongue to swallow.  He refused everything else.  Most of all, we showered him with love and affection.

On day four there was only a modest improvement.  He began to drink a little water out of a bowl and we were able to get him to eat a few bites of cut-up meat (bison is his favorite).  We supplemented with fresh cooked salmon.  At this point, it was five days since he last had a bowel movement.  His urine was very concentrated and had a strong odor.  He was obviously not getting enough water or food.  The anesthesia and meds had constipated him as well.  We had thought of returning to the veterinary hospital but decided to wait another day.  We knew the trauma of traveling an hour and a half away and seeing the hospital could be even more distressing to him.

Day 5.  Beamer woke up after a very long night’s sleep.  Sleep heals, so we let him sleep as long as possible.  To be honest, it was hard to watch him while awake.  For four days he hung his head, wanted to be left alone and hid in very unusual spots in the house (corners, behind doors, etc.).  But today, when he woke up, he was different.  He began to follow more of his old routine.  He asked for a treat, went outdoors, went to the bathroom, and came back inside asking for more treats.  He even ran and jumped while outside.  It seemed as if he had turned the corner.

It was nice to see a full belly and the TT pose

It was nice to see a full belly and the TT pose

With encouragement and persistence, he began drinking water out of his bowl and is now actively looking for food (and treats).  It’s almost fair to say, Beamer lives for his treats.  Unfortunately, his normal treats are very hard and he cannot possibly chew them with his jaw.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want them.  We have substituted very soft treats (Buddy Biscuits and some homemade pumpkin cookies).  We have also been soaking the harder biscuits in water and broth and breaking them into tiny pieces so he can basically swallow them once they’re softened.

So, at just a little over one week after surgery, Beamer is beginning to return to normal.  He enjoys lying out on the deck or sitting in the grass at night and smelling the fall air.  He is alert and is somewhat back on his schedule.

His hair was shaved from his neck and chin for the surgery.  It will take some time for his long locks to return, but we have a feeling that with a little more time we will hardly notice the reconstructed jaw and he will learn to eat without his lower front teeth and canines.

We want to thank Dr. Amy Mathews at Village Vets in Buckhead for her constant support and concern throughout this ordeal.  She has been extraordinary.  Her care and guidance was as much for us at it was for Beamer.  Also, thanks goes out to the doctors and interns at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  Lastly, to Dr. Susan Wynn for her assistance on a second opinion for the surgery and help with Beamer’s diet once he’s able to eat more normally.

We will keep you posted as we now expect a full recovery and many more years with our sweet and truly remarkable boy, Beamer.

Lots of sleep and time heal almost anything

Lots of sleep and time heal almost anything

28 responses »

  1. Pauline Bissett

    Our Smudge had the same surgery. We found it more distressing than he did and it was a very short time after that he was able to pick his treats up from the floor.(I cried the first time!) His coat hid the deformity of his shortened jaw and few people realised that the bundle of life had had cancer at all. We had him for many happy years after it.
    I hope Beamer has the same rapid recovery.

    Reply
  2. Does Beamer need chemo also? My husband asked. My two nieces live in Buckhead. My son just flew there for a wedding. He is at Microsoft Research in Seattle and did a tri flight. One niece is OB GYN and husband head of ER at Grady. WE live in the Palm Beach area. Give him time. If he goes down hill some do accept fate. Pauline’s dog did well. It’s a stressful operation. Again good luck.

    Reply
    • Hi Dianne,

      No, Beamer does not need chemo after this surgery. That was actually one of the determining factors in deciding whether to have surgery or not. We do not want to put the dog and ourselves through that. It’s also not proven to really prolong most dog’s lives.

      Thank you for your well wishes and we do believe that Beamer will be with us for quite some time. :-)

      Gwen

      Reply
  3. All the best to you and brave Beamer. I cannot imagine how hard this must be for all of you.

    Reply
  4. Eggs are also a good option for treats. An well-cooked omelet with some chicken bits and cheese in it would be a good protein option. Just cut it into bite-size pieces and it will be gentle on his front teeth when he takes it. Hoping for a speedy recovery.

    We just had a massive tumor removed from my son’s dog last week. It was on her belly, she is also 12 and is recovering nicely.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,

      I’m sorry to hear about your son’s dog, but glad she’s doing well. There are too many incidents of cancer in our pets these days.:-( Beamer does enjoy eggs and I will often scramble him one with a bit of cheese. Whatever he will eat is what he gets these days.

      Gwen

      Reply
  5. Hi– How big was the tumor? I have a dog with a tumor coming out of his upper gum that is about 1 inch across. Will be seeing surgeon soon. Don’t know if it’s malignant or what will be recommended, but regular vet thinks it may be.
    So they think your dog may be able to live out a regular life span?

    Reply
    • Hi Sara,

      Beamer’s tumor was probably close to that size. They first did a biopsy at UGA and then based on the type of tumor it was, recommended the aggressive jaw surgery.

      Of course, nobody knows what will happen, but if Beamer doesn’t have another tumor, then his life expectancy is about what it was before the tumor. He has a number of other medical issues, so all things considered, he is doing well.

      Best of luck to you!

      Gwen

      Reply
  6. Dear Gwen, thank you so much for sharing this story about Beamer! I’m from the Netherlands and am looking for similar stories and tips for our Jack Russell dog, but could not find any in Dutch.

    A week ago our dog Riffy was diagnosed with the same tumor in his left lower jaw as Beamer and as it was so aggressive he has been operated last Monday. It’s very hard to see how much pain he is experiencing and is missing half a jaw which makes it almost impossible for him to eat. Yesterday he ate like he hadn’t eaten in days or weeks, but today he stopped eating, which makes it also impossible to give him his pain medication. When we try to help him, he starts to panic and runs off.

    Your story gave us some hope and learned us that Riffy just needs his rest and sleep to get better! And will have to get confident with his new mouth.

    Thank you again and should you have any other tips regarding feeding him, please let me know.

    Best regards,
    Daniëlle

    Reply
    • Hi Danielle,

      I’m glad that you found my post and I hope the advice I can offer helps with your dog’s recovery.

      The process of recovery with this surgery was slow. It was as if Beamer had given up and didn’t want to live for a number of weeks following his surgery. I literally had to hand feed him soft foods and his water, oftentimes from the tip of my finger.

      Beamer still needs encouragement to eat much of the time. It is a challenge for him to eat from a bowl and he scoops his food, but many of the pieces are pushed out of the bowl, so I feed him from a large vegetable bowl with high sides. Since he has become even fussier with what he will eat now, I’ve found that meatloaf made with either ground bison, chicken, or turkey is a good choice. I can sneak in other things that are good for him since he won’t eat most of the homecooked food I have always made him. I add organic whole oats, eggs, cottage cheese, and grated carrots or broccoli, bake it and then slice and freeze the individual pieces so they can be thawed for meals one at a time.

      I’ve also found a good freeze-dried food that comes in a round biscuit-like shape that I use as a supplement and a snack. that way, when it’s hard to get him to eat, I at least know he’s getting additional nourishment.

      Hang in there and I promise, it will get better. It takes time and I know it’s a big adjustment for everyone.

      Please leave me a comment sometime soon with an update. Good luck and hugs from Beamer.

      Gwen

      I am still feeding him sometimes by hand as I do think he gets frustrated with trying to eat, although at about 8 week,s he was able to enjoy hard treats again and that makes him happy. I do have a recipe for pumpkin treats that are soft that I fed him in tiny pieces after the surgery. they were a big hit. Here’s the recipe

      Reply
      • Karin Rittenberg

        Our 7 yr old Aussie, Neyo had this surgery today.

        He was supposed to have a less invasive procedure to remove teeth and scrape the bone and the tumor was much worse.

        He ( and we) are pretty shocked and scared. He’s home. On drugs but in pain.

        I’m happy to hear of your dogs recovery and will happily hand feed him.

        I’m nervous about the next week.

      • Hi Karin,

        I wish you the best of luck with Neyo’s recovery. It’s a long process, but it does get better every day. I promise.

        Gwen

  7. Karin,
    We did this surgery three and a half weeks ago for my lover dog and are starting radiation tomorrow. I wish I would have offered this consolation before, but here it ts late.

    We live in Columbus, Ohio. We are blessed with one of this country’s premier veterinary hospitals at Ohio State and by MedVet. Experts at both said we could do nothing else than do this surgery. You have done the right thing.

    Sloppy eating and wild drinking you are used to by now. But today, on a lovely, rainy afternoon, I got to doze quietly with my best friend. Actually thanked my surgeon for the gift today.

    Best of luck,

    Dee

    Reply
  8. Gwen, Hello. Our 11 year old sheltie, Misty, had her lower jaw removed a few days ago due to a malignant tumor. We think they got it all so should be fine now. Fortunately, she seems to have recovered amazingly well. She is active and alert and does not seem to be in pain (she is on pain meds). She can only eat canned very soft dog food – slurping with her tongue. Drinking water fine but is having trouble learning to eat on her own again. Probably more me having trouble watching. I hand feed her when she starts to struggle. I want to be able to help her along in the learning how to eat on her own process. She clearly wants to do on her own. Any advice on types of food that are easiest for your dog to pick up? Treats? We have always given hard treats and I’m not sure she will ever be able to eat those or learn how to grab onto them. Our other dog isn’t getting treats either unless we sneak to him. He’s a bit upset over that! I’m going to try your pumpkin cookies (although I’m not much of a cook). Thanks for posting – searched the web to try and find someone who has been through and can talk about more than just the immediate impact of the surgery. Our best wishes to Beamer. Thank You, lisa

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for leaving a message and I hope Misty continues to improve. It’s amazing how resilient these dogs are!

      Beamer is able to eat his hard chew treats and biscuits. We waited about 10 or 12 weeks before trying them, but he manages to chew them in the back of his mouth. He loves them and it’s good for his teeth. There are some soft chew treats from Buddy Biscuits and a few other brands that are natural, so look for those, in. You may have to order them online. In the meantime, the pumpkin ones will be perfect. I even broke those up into tiny pieces at first since he couldn’t chew at all.

      It is hard for Beamer to grab things when they fall on the floor, especially on the hardwood floor. Carpet is easier. Since I cook his food, he gets a soft diet anyway, so it wasn’t a big transition. There are things he will no longer eat, but I think that’s by choice and unfortunately, rice is too small to scoop up, so I can’t give him that for an upset tummy. One thing I still do is make bison, chicken, or turkey meatloaf and load it up with eggs, organic oatmeal, grated carrots and broccoli, and cottage cheese, so I can sneak good stuff in.

      Let me know how Misty does down the road and good luck!

      Gwen

      Reply
  9. I hope Beamer is still doing well. My wife and I were recently thrust into a similar situation with our almost 9 year old German Shepherd Max. She felt a lump on his jaw on February 1st and was at the vet’s office with him the next day. As with Beamer, we got a referral to UGAs Veterinary Teaching Hospital. After 2 days of testing we’re both numb with the feeling of impending loss. Max is back home with us now. My wife has always cooked for him so he’s eating a little and drinking some water so we’re hopeful that we’ll have more time with him. I can’t see him going through the surgery though. We will keep him comfortable and enjoy every minute we have with him until such a time come when we can’t stand it any longer.

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Yes, Beamer is still doing well and hanging in there. He’s slowed down, but he’s also past 13 years (December was his birthday). He has actually been quite perky with the cold weather and eating nonstop!

      I would highly recommend the surgery if cost is not an option and the surgery is. Beamer recovered well from it and apparently, most dogs do. It’s better than watching them suffer while the tumor grows and we were told, it also is very painful when it grows into the bone. Dogs are resilient and Beamer has proven that again and again.

      Good luck with your decision and I wish the best for Max.

      Gwen

      Reply
      • Thanks for your reply Gwen! In Max’s case his jaw bone is very much affected all ready and one or two lymph nodes as well, although we won’t know the specific form of cancer until next week. Until then we’re weighing Max’s options. We love him so much but we can already see how the illness has changed him. We’ve got our fingers crossed. As my mother said shortly before she died from cancer years ago “cookie crumbles”. Neil

  10. Hi, Please let Beamer know that his experience has been inspriational to others. My little girl Savanah, 10 year old Boxer, was diagnosed as having a jaw eating tumor. When I noticed the red bump under her lower canine the first vet said she needs to have a teeth cleaning. I knew something else was wrong since she was a pawing at it and trying to rub her face all the time plus I get Savanah’s teeth cleaned every 3 years. After consulting with a different vet a biopsy was done and the conclusion was either she would need to have 1/3 of her lower jaw removed to stop the bone from being destroyed or to do nothing that would eventual cause her more pain and eventually she would stop eating. I wanted to make sure I did the right thing that would cease any pain and still allow her to be functional. I had never heard about jaw removals on dogs so that went google was my best friend. I read stories and thought about the options day and night. Having an older dog comes with a lot more complications under surgery so I decided I would go to one of the best places in Florida. I drove 5 hours to Unviersity of Florida small animal hospital. I wanted to go to the place that trained the surgeons and that had the most advanced equipment. When we got there I knew I made the right choice, the place was great and Dr. Vincent, oncology surgeon, could not be any more patient and informative and yes I am a control freak when it comes to my little girl and well almost anything in life.
    Savanh had the surgery 5 days ago. They treated her and me with some kindness, even sending me pictures of her the night she had to stay over. They said she ate within hours after surgery and the next moring the same thing. I picked her up on Wed and we made the 5 hour drive home.
    When I got home I think I had more of an issue with her inability to eat and how helpless she looked. My heart broke every time I looked at her and still does. I thought ….how cruel of me and what did I do to her…second guessing my decision. The first time I had to feed her was so hard, I tried to have her eat her soft food by herself but she couldn’t since she used to scoop her food now she would have to learn how to eat all over again. I fed her by hand for the first 3 days but yesterday I made sweet potato mashed with water’d rice and canned dog food. I made a nice little pile on a plate and she ate it, yes it was very messey but she tried. Savanah did look at me like what did you do and why did you do this to me. I even told my friends that she is mad at me and I know she could pick up on my difficulty in dealing with her post surgical look and helplessness. She is coping at the same time I am coping. She did stop drinking water and I was concerned so I put a little cashew milk in water and she drank it. I like your meatloaf idea and I think I will do the same plus pumpkin cookies will be a good snack.
    I think it is important for others to read the stories to know what to expect. Even though it WILL STILL be a shock when they see the baby for the first time but they will know they are not alone.

    Thank you Beamer…..Hopefully savanah will do as good as you :)

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle and Savanah,

      Beamer says hello and sends his wishes for a full and speedy recovery! :-) I can promise you that with time you all will almost forget this happened. Beamer has adjusted really well to the way he now has to eat and is a proud member of the clean bowl club for almost every meal.

      He still loves his meatloaf, chicken and rice or veggie pasta, and scrambled eggs. He’s not a lover of veggies when I cook them, but will eat them when they’re in his chicken, turkey, or bison meatloaf. He also really loves his snacks and the hard ones are great to hep clean his teeth since he can’t chew quite like he did before.

      While it’s a tough decision and really rough for awhile, it is the right decision if your dog is otherwise healthy. We’re so happy we did it, although it was very hard to see him like that right after the surgery. Hus surgery was in the fall of 2013 and he’s still here with us. I know that would not have been the case had we not done it.

      I’m glad that you were pleased with the University of Florida vet school. We were happy with UGA, although during the surgery, the head surgeon called to tell us they would have to take his lower canines since their jaw blade was not small enough. That was a little upsetting since the surgery was booked for a week before, but there wasn’t much we could do about it as he was already under anesthesia. :-(

      Each day gets better, so I know things will improve. Good luck to you both!

      Beamer & Gwen

      Reply
      • Hi Gwen and Beamer,
        I just wanted to say thank you for posting your story. Our dog just had this surgery yesterday and we still haven’t gotten him home or gotten to see him.
        Reading your story really helped my husband and I feel some sort of comfort in this crazy situation. I just wanted you to know that you’ve helped a lot of people cope with a very difficult decision.

        Thank you,
        Sara

      • Hi Sara,

        Thank you for your kind words. I hope all goes well with your pup. It’s hard, but it does get easier. We’re thankful every day for the additional time we’ve had with Beamer. It would not have been possible without the surgery, even though it wasn’t easy.

        Please send me a message and let me know how things go once your dog is home and settled.

        Best of luck to you all!

        Gwen & Beamer

  11. HI,
    A follow up to Savanah …4 months post surgery.
    She is doing so good it is amazing. She is still a messy eater…but nothing stops her from eating. Her bottom jaw droops a little but she is still as cute as ever.
    Beamer’s storry helped me and I would be happy to help others.

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,

      I’m so happy to hear that Savannah is doing well. We’re also glad to know how much Beamer’s blog has helped others going through the same surgery. We wish you the best going forward!

      Gwen

      Reply
  12. Hi Beamer, Gwen and everyone. An update on Misty the Sheltie, 10 months after her surgery. Doing well, eats great. She takes more time to drink her water and can not pick up food off the bare floor (or other dog is happy about that). I have to aim her cookie treats to the back of her mouth where she can grab on to it. She still seems to think she should take at the front of her mouth. Her little tongue hangs out which is really adorable. Misty has aged since the surgery, although considering she is over 12 years old that is probably to be expected. I worry about her arthritis but no longer about cancer. Starting Light Therapy next week – has anyone had a dog that has received that? Wish I could post a picture, would love to see the photos of the trooper dogs who have recovered from surgery. I am amazed by how well Misty adjusted. Best Wishes to all. Misty & Lisa

    Reply
  13. Hi Lisa,

    It’s so nice to hear that Mystie the Sheltie is doing so well at almost a year after the surgery. Beamer has some challenges with eating, too. I feed him in a large deep bowl so that he has plenty of room to scoop up his food. He has no trouble eating hard chew treats, but does struggle with regular meals a bit.

    Beamer is 13 1/2 years old so we also have some typical old-age issues combined with the compromised immune situation from the surgery and his earlier paralysis, but he is an amazing boy. We enjoy every day we have with him.

    If you’d like to see recent photos of Beamer, you can see some on my Instragram account https://instagram.com/bunkycooks/ or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Bunkycooks.

    I hope all continues to go well for you and Mystie!

    Gwen

    Reply
    • Hi Gwen, With Misty I found that a flatter bowl with slightly curved edges works best for her to eat her meals. I use the cover to a Japanese soup bowl. That way she can put the top of her nose across the plate and has an easier time getting the food into the back bottom part of her mouth. A couple bites fall on to the bathmat towel we use to easily clean up after her messy eating but she seems to have an easier time this way than with a bowl. Beamer looks great, the food looks awesome as well. Best, lisa

      Reply

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