Because You’re a Golden Retriever

“Come with me,” the vet said to Jana. “I want to take a look around with the ultrasound. Because you are a 13-year-old golden retriever.”

Jana’s having surgery. By the time this gets posted, she’ll be well into her recovery, demanding that treats be brought to her in bed, thumping her tail imperiously as her army waits on her.

As a dog of a certain age who takes Rimadyl, Jana needs regular checkups. Her very thorough vet likes to get that “look around,” and has been tracking what turned out to be a small mass on Jana’s spleen. Luckily, Jana can live just fine without her spleen. Even more fortunate — additional tests show no sign of cancer anywhere else.

You see, because she’s a golden retriever, the most likely kind of cancer is hemangiosarcoma, which can spread quickly to the lungs, the heart, throughout the body. If the mass is cancer and if the had spread, the prognosis is very poor. So, no sign of spreading is very good news. The mass could also be benign. The problem with spleens, I am told, is that they are very delicate. Rupture can be fatal. A mass, an attempt to biopsy a mass, or an attempt to remove part of the spleen can all cause massive internal bleeding. So out it came in its entirety.

If it’s not cancer, or it is cancer that hasn’t spread, Jana will be just fine. She’s enjoying the pampering that comes after the surgery; she enjoyed the beach day that came before the surgery even more!

Jana’s recovery has been surprisingly smooth. She’s taking some pretty good pain drugs, but she’s not taking that many pills. She has been leaving her stitches alone, and was eager to go for a (very short) walk a couple of days post-op. She’s one tough cookie!


I ♥ Senior Dogs

Christine_Crissy Field_smallI’m writing this on the 13th birthday of a good friend of Jana’s. Happy birthday, Christine! I was present at the birth of Christine and her siblings, and was lucky enough to work with one of Christine’s sisters for several months. She was very smart and went on to work at a facility for children who have been removed from their homes.

Anyhow, back to Christine. She’s been the best friend and companion of a good friend of mine since the day she was born. Christine’s mom lived with another good friend until she passed away a few years ago.

Christine, Jana, and I, along with an ever-changing supporting cast that now includes Cali, have spent many mornings at the beach at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Christina likes to find the biggest stick on the beach and then carry it all the way down the beach. That is a better beach habit than Jana’s — rolling in the sand over and over, to make sure that several pounds of sand are stuck all over her body.

Like Jana, who is only a few months younger, Christine is showing her age. She’s having a harder time walking, so we haven’t had a girls’ beach day in a while.

I’m thinking about Christine today and also about Leti, a good friend of Jana’s and mine who was a regular visitor at the park where we play each morning. I just found out that Leti, who was 15, passed away recently. My enduring image of her, as she enters the park and is released from her leash, is of an obviously happy golden bounding across the grass. She and Jana used to tag team the people at the park, begging for treats. I’ll miss her a lot … she was such a sweet and happy girl. I hope Jana is as happy and playful when she’s 15.

A couple of my local friends volunteer at a senior dog sanctuary, Lily’s Legacy. I’d love to get involved, but I’m afraid to. Their website is full of photos of elderly golden retrievers, and I am afraid I would scoop them all up and take them home. Two dogs more than fill my small apartment with toys and fur!

Happy birthday, Christine … and hugs to all the wonderful senior dogs out there!

10 Years Young — Laser Treatments Reduce Jana’s Arthritis Pain

Jana enjoys Dog Swim Day in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Jana enjoys Dog Swim Day in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Jana has just finished a course of cold laser therapy. With the zeal of the newly converted, I am here to sing the praises of this treatment for arthritis.

Let’s back up a little. Jana has had arthritic elbows and back and, unknown to me, hips, for a while. In the last several months, she has been noticeably more stiff and sore more often. She’s had regular chiropractic adjustments for years, and these have been very helpful. But it was no longer enough.

Very reluctant to put her on medication for the rest of her life, I started checking into other therapies. A vet in California mentioned cold laser therapy. It sounded promising; it is not invasive, has no side effects, and has helped many dogs with painful injuries or arthritis. But, I was about to drive back to Florida, so I decided to wait until we got back to Florida to start.

Fast forward to now. Our vet here in St. Petersburg does laser therapy in his office, so we scheduled some X-rays to see where Jana needed attention and took the plunge.

The X-rays showed a lot more damage than I expected and explained Jana’s morning stiffness, reluctance to walk or play, and general grumpiness of late. That was about 3 weeks ago. Six laser sessions later, Jana is actively soliciting play, swimming, and catching balls, and she is happier than she has been in months. She’s less stiff and more cuddly. She is clearly in less pain.

Each treatment takes about a half-hour. The vet tech programs the machine for hip, elbow or back, and waves the wand over the targeted body part. Jana got lasered in both elbows, both hips, and much of her spine. The vet techs have treated wounds, post-surgical sutures, muscle sprains, and a variety of other ailments with the cold lasers.

The laser stimulates blood flow, which helps injured tissue to heal. The idea is that it will improve blood flow around the arthritic joints, reducing inflammation and therefore reducing pain. It seems to be working on Jana.

I am giving her small amounts of Rimadyl, as well as other anti-inflammatory supplements, but I am hoping to be able to reduce the pharmaceuticals further. She’ll now go to a maintenance schedule of treatments about once a month. I am sure that each dog reacts differently to treatments, but I have to say this one is worth trying if your senior dog is stiff or painful.