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A Great Dane named "Quack"

What a good boy!

A Great Dane named "Quack"

Quack’s life changes in one instant at the vet.

March 11th, 2018 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

We hate the cone!

Quack’s journey began February 18th, 2018. That was the day his vet said he thought Quack had osteosarcoma. I guess strictly speaking his journey began in January when he first showed a slight limp. Off to the vet we went, just a sprain they thought. It made sense Quack is one active guy. We kept him from doing too much and he got previcox and his leg got worse. We returned to the vet and the vet directed my hand to his right femur.
“Feel that”? Dr W asked me. I did.
“What do you feel?” he asked.
I felt it, and I felt Quack’s other leg, “It feels hard!”
Then the worst possibility came right out of Dr. W’s mouth, “I think he has osteosarcoma.”
I was floored. It was just a sprain a couple weeks ago? My eyes filled with tears and I choked it all in, not just because I didn’t want to cry in front of the vet and the tech but I didn’t want to cry in front of Quack. Great Danes are so sensitive, if I cried he would worry. I made it to the car called Andy my husband and then sadly I lost it. I knew in my heart Dr W. was right. The mass had appeared so fast.
The frenetic quest for information began. My husband Andy and I are both college professors so we dove into empirical research on canine osteosarcoma. I found a really good review of canine osteosarcoma research and the news was grim. Untreated Quack had on average less than 2 months, amputation only and he’s have 2-4 months but his quality of life would be better. Amputation plus chemo got him maybe 10 months to a year and if he was very lucky 2 years on the very outside. The bad thing with osteosarcoma is by the time it is diagnosed it has usually already metastasized with “micro-mets” into the lungs. It was all so hard to read. I knew that people called Great Danes the “heartbreak breed” because of their relatively short lifespan but Quack was only four.
Was there anything out there that could change the game for Quack? Andy remembered his friend Jonathon who had lymphoma and had gotten into various clinical trials and was doing really well. Both Andy and I started looking for clinical trials for canine osteosarcoma. We found a very promising one on an immunotherapy therapy vaccine right in our own backyard at Cornell. We also found one at U Penn. The problem was they couldn’t see him right away and we were worried about the progression of his cancer. Andy called the company that was making the immunotherapy vaccine used in new trials and they were sponsoring a trial near where we grew up in Pennsylvania about 3 hours away. The vet practice there could see Quack the next day. He had to qualify for either trial meaning, confirmation of osteosarcoma and no obvious mets in the lungs. We made the drive to PA and Quack was so excited! He loves going for rides in the car. This however at 3 hours was the longest ride of his life. We got there and everyone was so nice. X-rays showed his lungs were clear and his blood work was good he qualified! They could do his amputation surgery that day! But then the information on the methodology of the trial came, it was a “double-blind” study meaning half the dogs got a placebo. This would mean there was a 50/50 chance Quack would not get the promising vaccine. Andy actually started crying, we had been so hopeful. The oncologist assured us it would not endanger Quack to wait for the spot he had to be evaluated for the Cornell trial. The oncologist was so nice and so sweet with Quack, she really gave us such good information and you could tell she wanted what was best for him.
Last week Quack went to Cornell for evaluation, given the parameters of the study he had to have all the same tests again. More x-rays, more blood work and this time a biopsy of the large mass in his right hind leg. Tentatively he qualified although the biopsy was inconclusive. His amputation was scheduled for 9 days later. If it went over 10 he’d have to have all the tests again.
Waiting for his surgery was hard, his pain increased daily. Every time we saw another vet they added a pain med. Dr W put him on previcox, the vet we saw for a second opinion put him on gabapentin. As we were preparing to leave Cornell the oncologist there handed us a bottle of oxycodone. We were shocked! Andy had just fallen on the ice a couple weeks back and wrenched his back and bruised his ribs badly. His doctor told him to take Tylenol. Here was Quack with 3 meds including oxycodone. For me it let me know how bad the docs thought the pain was going to get. Each day that went by Quack limped a little worse. The oncologists emailed us daily to find out how he was doing. How was his pain?
Another hazard of osteosarcoma is the bone becomes fragile and breaks. Our house is big and rambling. Quack sleeps with us upstairs down a long hallway and up on a high bed. We were very worried he’d break the leg. We were worried the pain was already getting problematic. They moved his surgery up one day.
The big day arrived. I realized a couple days before we were freaking Quack out. We hadn’t been outside much, we all were sleeping in the living room. It confused him and he didn’t understand why our routine was so messed up. Two days before the surgery we went for a walk. That night Quack broke the gate to the stairs and went up to “his” (translation our) bed and stretched out. He slept well for the first time in days. We kept to his routine the next day taking a short walk, letting his sleep upstairs. He was so happy.
His check-in for surgery was 7:30am. We left our farm in the dark for the hour-long drive to Cornell. There is no quick easy way to get there, instead it’s a beautiful drive through farm country. Dawn broke and we were just coming through a winter “Nor’easter” there was fresh snow on the ground and in the trees. We didn’t see it we saw only Quack.
Quack had his surgery March 8th, 2018. The mass in his leg was in his right hind femur. When they amputated his leg to prevent reoccurrence they had to take it completely. We were waiting by the phone the whole day; They called that night and said it went really well. Then the next big question: When could he come home? They wanted him to be walking fairly well and he had to be able to pee. It took him until Saturday to accomplish both things. I was absolutely shocked when I saw him, his entire undercarriage was badly bruised and swollen, he “walked” with his back leg bent kind of like a frog hopping. He tired easily. I questioned if this had been the right decision. The first night home was rough. He was so happy to be home but he couldn’t get comfortable and he couldn’t easily go to the bathroom. We put icepacks on his bruises and incision.
The next morning, he was remarkably improved. The bruising had faded a bit. He was stronger and more stable, he was re-learning how to walk and sit. Things were looking up.


8 Comments so far ↓

  • bOBBI

    My dog is getting ready to go through the same thing on March 14th. Unfortunately, we live way too far away for any clinical trials for the vaccine. I pray for a speedy recovery for Quack and good response to the vaccine!

    God Speed

  • jerry

    Oh we are SO glad you decided to share Quack’s story, THANK YOU! And of course we are extra hoppy that he is doing well and on the mend!

    Did you know that we started Tripawds all because of a Dane named Moose? Yep! He had osteosarcoma and we knew if he could be happy on three legs, so could our Jerry. Moose (and Jerry) ended up living 2+ years after diagnosis, and that was before the vaccine. So even if Quack can’t get into a trial, there is still a good chance he will outlive those prognoses. Don’t let them get you down. You never know with cancer.

    Keep us posted and don’t forget to share photos, we would love to see your boy!

  • annfelter

    Thanks so much!!! That is so encouraging.

  • benny55

    WOW! You really we t through a stressful time, thats for sure!!

    I broke out in a big smile though when I read how Quack decided he was getting HIS bed back and he could do just fine on some walks!! 🙂

    As you already know, recovery is no picnic and, as you already know, Quack’s sparkle will start to come back slowly but surely!! It took me three weeks before I could finally say I did this FOR my Happy Hannah and not TO her!

    Keep us updated. We’re all cheering for your stunning Quack!

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  • rikntracy

    Welcome, Quack! Please keep us posted on your progress. And please post some more pictures – you’re gorgeous!!!

    Tracy & Warrior Angel Zatoichi

  • annfelter

    Thanks! I’m still getting the hang of posting pictures. I have some video of him too. I hope I can post that too.

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