Mazikeen has not been getting better. Try as we might, she wasn't eating, and the little she'd drink wasn't enough to keep her hydrated. This morning, about 4am, I heard her crying, so I went to see what was going on. The left side of her chest was swollen out, like an overnight tumor hanging off her chest. She seemed comfortable, and I sat with her for a while before heading back to bed. This afternoon it was clear she was going down hill fast. She was panting hard and had pitched herself up on her elbows with paws splayed out to try to breathe better. I talked to Tony at work and told him he had to get her to a vet today. I don't care if we pay more for emergency care. Once I was off the phone with him, I called our regular vet on the emergency line. I went over symptoms and our vet again suggested an emergency place an hour away. I told her I didn't have a car, and she was sympathetic, but said she was alone at the clinic and had no staff to run tests, and there's nobody there 24/7. The best she could do was make an appointment for tomorrow morning.
Three hours later I noticed that Mazikeen's right leg was swelling. Her head was shaking and her ankle (wrist?) was nearly three times what it should have been. I called the emergency clinic and told them we'd be in late in the evening. They had her history because I'd emailed them Friday. They said they'd be ready for her.
They did blood work, X-rays, and a physical exam. They took her history, asked questions, and went back to work on her. We waited. Initially we felt good that she was finally safe in the hands of experts. They came and said it would be twenty minutes for blood work. It was over 45 minutes later when we were called back to the exam room to discuss findings.
Mazikeen's lungs were so full of fluid that they could not find her heart on the X-ray. Her entire chest cavity was fluid. Her lungs were floating in more fluid. They could not find her heart beat with a stethoscope. They took an X-ray of her abdomen too. Her lymph nodes were all swollen, she had a fever over 106 degrees (while on aspirin), but all other (non chest cavity) organs were present and looked fine. Her white blood cell count was normal, and her blood work came back normal. No red flags or easy diagnosis, but the vet was pretty sure what she was seeing.
Juvenile cancer. Cancer. Our six month old saint bernard puppy was suffocating due to cancer in her chest causing major edema (fluid build up). Our only options were to put her down, or to bring her to the U of M for more invasive and intensive testing. We were told to expect $2,000 - $5,000 in testing and diagnostics alone. And once they biopsied, drained, re-X-ray, run echocardiograms and ultrasounds, then we could figure out a cost to start chemo, if chemo would even be an option. Some cancers do not respond to chemo. I know our local vet does not provide cancer treatment, which would mean weekly trips four hours away, at a cost that would probably see us homeless by spring. And if we opted to keep trying treatment, chances were poor that she'd survive anyway given how broad her symptoms already showed.
We talked about it. We talked a lot. I cried. I called my mom, he called the kids and woke them up (it was nearly midnight by then). Everyone unanimously agreed. It wasn't fair to Mazikeen to let her suffer any more. With a poor prognosis going in, we didn't want to force more invasive treatments on her. Even if we had a million dollars, the choice would have been the same. We opted to end her suffering. Tonight we put our six month old puppy to sleep.
We stayed with her during the procedure. It's important for owners to stay with their pets in the end. It helps them to stay calm, it makes them feel like they aren't abandoned. It eases their transition. Mazikeen died with my arms around her, my face pressed against the top of her head, as I told her she was a good girl.