By Joe and Margy Johnson

- Recycled Racers Greyhound adopters and volunteers.

 

Thorne's Story
A Greyhound's Fight Against Bone Cancer

- November 2002 -

(please read the October 2003 Update on Thorne's progress)


Joe and Thorne. Our names are Joe and Margy Johnson, and we have two Greyhounds.  Cody (*please read Web Master's note at the end of story) who will be 10 years old, and Thorne who is eight.  The following is Thorne's story of being diagnosed and treated for a quick growing and very aggressive form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma.

This journey began in 2002, when we noticed Thorne was favoring his left hind leg.  This continued for several weeks, so we thought that perhaps it was the result of an old racing injury.  Our older Greyhound, Cody is on Rimadyl for arthritis in his hind quarters resulting from his racing days, so we treated Thorne with an anti-inflammatory medication too.  Even with this medication Thorne's limp, over time, did not get better.  Our vet, Dr. Burge at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital, suggested an examination, X-rays, and a surgical consultation.  At the end of the day we got the call that Thorne had a bone tumor in his distal femur (lower thigh bone) that was probably osteosarcoma.

My wife, Margy is a nurse and knew that osteosarcoma was a possible diagnosis and had done some research on this particular type of cancer.  She asked Dr. Burge to do a chest X-ray and arranged for us to meet with her later that evening to discuss our options.  Thorne's chest X-ray showed no apparent metastasis.  The tumor was large and very easy to see on the X-ray.  You or I would have been screaming in agony from the pain, but Thorne (in true Greyhound form) was very stoic and still seemed to enjoy his daily walk.

Our options, as we understood them, after a careful and thorough explanation by Dr. Burge, were three: do nothing, but because of pain Thorne would soon have no quality of life; amputate the hind leg with no additional treatment and Thorne would probably live about three months; or amputation and chemotherapy, which statistically would give Thorne another year to live.  Since Thorne is a healthy, active eight year old, and the chest X-ray was clear we decided that amputation and chemotherapy made the most sense.  The cost for surgery and chemotherapy was high, but we felt it was worth the investment (as I�m sure all of you Greyhound lovers can understand).  We took Thorne home to await his surgery which was scheduled for three days later.

Cody, who is definitely the alpha Greyhound, seemed to sense that Thorne was in pain.  Instead of laying on the sofa he would lay on the floor next to his "brother" and tolerated Thorne doing things he would not normally have tolerated, i.e. being stepped on, giving Thorne first choice of beds, treats, etc.

Thorne�s leg amputation was on Friday, 11/08/02.  When we went to visit him that evening he was in a great deal of pain and had trouble standing and walking even though we supported his back end with a towel sling.  It was so hard to see him in pain, incapacitated, and wanting to go home so badly.  But the hardest part for us was leaving him there that evening.  However, when we went to visit him the next afternoon he was greatly improved.  He was already beginning to get around on three legs, seemed to have better pain control, and was more determined than ever to go home.

We were able to bring Thorne home the next morning, Sunday Nov. 10th.  The stump was swollen and bruised looking as were his stomach and chest.  He was able to move around our main floor and out into the backyard.  We covered all of the uncarpeted floors with throw rugs and blocked the stairs since the surgeon didn't want him trying stairs or possibly slipping on a smooth slick floor.  Due to his pain and pain medication his appetite was poor, so Margy supplemented his regular food with high calorie "Life Saving Meatballs" (see recipe below), fried eggs, boiled chicken, etc.  We knew it was important to give him nutritious, high calorie food to keep his weight up and help with the healing.  Our other Greyhound, Cody, put on a lot of weight because he ate the leftovers and got a treat each time Thorne was offered food- we now call Cody, "Wideload".

One week after the surgery we returned to Alameda East Veterinary Hospital for Thorne�s first chemotherapy treatment.  Side effects from chemotherapy can include: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Even though we gave him medication to prevent the worst of these symptoms, Thorne acted sick most of the weekend.  He was also still having post-op pain so this turned into a very long weekend for Thorne and us.

By early December 2002, Thorne�s stump had healed and the surgical staples were removed.  Slowly his old behaviors and personality began to re-emerge.  He started to once again run up and down the basement stairs and jumping up onto the sofa and our bed.  He is also playing with his favorite stuffed dog toys again.  Thorne's chemotherapy treatments continued every three weeks, his last treatment being on January 13, 2003.  Thorne had relatively mild side effects from the chemotherapy and tolerated it quite well.  Gradually his right hind leg has become stronger to tolerate his body weight and our daily walks are back to the same distance (about 1 1/2 to two miles) as they were before the cancer.

Margy and Thorne. Dr. Santen, the veterinarian at Alameda East who handled Thorne's chemotherapy, wanted to take another chest X-ray and to have more lab work done three months after Thorne�s initial diagnosis.  This follow up visit, which was on February 12, 2003 showed no further signs of cancer and no damaging effects on any major organs from the chemotherapy.  Dr. Santen and Dr. Burge, believe this is a promising sign for Thorne's future prognosis.

Now it feels like we have our old Thorne back again.  Even Cody acts like Thorne is back to normal, no longer giving him special favors (even though when Thorne was sore, Cody would try to help support Thorne when he was mastering walking on just three legs).  Although it was a rough period of time for everyone it was definitely worth it.  We can see it in every treat eaten, every wag of his tail, all the playing with toys, and all the excitement when its time to go for a "W"- "A"- "L"- "K".

We would like to thank everyone for their support, thoughts, and prayers throughout this ordeal.  If anyone faces a similar situation with their Greyhound and would like to talk further or discuss the various options, please feel free to contact us at margandjoe@comcast.net.  And we send a SPECIAL THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE WONDERFUL STAFF (to numerous to list individually) at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital!!!

 

Life Saving Meatballs
(Recipe for weight gain in dogs.)

2 lbs. raw hamburger or ground turkey, the cheaper and fattier the better
3-4 raw eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup Karo corn syrup
1 cup wheat germ or oatmeal

 

Dump it all into a large bowl and mix together with your hands or wooden spoon.  Form into balls about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and feed up to 10 meatballs per serving.

These meatballs are great for putting weight on thin or sick dogs and for enticing ill dogs to eat.  I freeze the meatballs on a cookie sheet and then store the frozen balls in a zip lock bag.  I can microwave the desired number of meatballs as needed.  Cool before serving.


 

*Web Master's note: I am very sorry to report that Margy and Joe's other Greyhound, Cody passed away on 11/18/03.  In December 2003 they adopted a female Greyhound, Wendi, to keep Thorne company.

If you are interested in learning more about canine cancer, please read the article, 'Canine Osteosarcoma' written and published by Mar Vista Animal Medical Center or you can contact a local veterinary oncologist.


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