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 He was withdrawn and you felt as though he was asking, “What happened and why did this happen?”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 He was very lethargic and withdrawn.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.
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.