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Since his discharge on 21 May 2014 from the Intensive Care Unit of The University of Queensland (UQ) veterinary hospital in Gatton, I have been taking Hobson to UQ for regular check-ups and tests at a minimum of every 4 weeks for the last 17 months. The UQ veterinary hospital is approx. 4 hours return drive, depending on the traffic. In the 4 weeks from 10 September to 8 October 2015 I visited UQ weekly because I was concerned about Hobson.
At his 4 weekly checkup on 13 August 2015 Hobson was the best he has been for a long time. I had recently found a registered animal chiropractor who uses gentle manipulation and she had enabled Hobson to get up easily on his own without assistance and to walk strongly again. His Demodex mites were under control. His blood tests had improved. His skin and coat had improved. His Orange belton colouring was coming through more and more and his new coat growth was healthy. Hobson’s weight was 34.5kg. His optimal weight when he was younger and healthy was 35.8kg.
I felt as if we had finally “turned the corner”. After his veterinary appointment Hobson wanted to go for a walk with Misty around the University grounds. Lots of people know us now after these 17 months. A lady who works for the University whom we met soon after Misty’s surgery last year came running up to me and she said she did not believe it was possible that Hobson could improve so much. She said he looked a different dog. She was amazed by the improvement in his coat and his overall health. She said: You are an inspiration to all of us because you never gave up on Hobson, and look at him now. I felt so very happy at the time.
Then, everything went “pear-shaped” but it could have been much worse. I am not going into details about what happened in the 7 weeks to 1 October 2015 except to urge owners to keep Wagner Ester C tablets on hand in case of an emergency and to never allow any veterinarian to rush you into any decision. Wait until you have been given all the test results and you have been provided with sufficient information to make an informed decision. Also trust your intuition and if you have concerns, keep phoning and keep going back.
On AM 8 October 2015 I phoned the UQ veterinary hospital and advised them that I was bringing Hobson back to see them after I had taken him to see his chiropractor. I organised for Hobson to be triaged by an ICU veterinary nurse. Hobson had not been well since 4 October 2015. I had been phoning and emailing UQ every day. I knew there was something seriously wrong. Hobson had stopped wagging his tail too.
The previous day Hobson lost the use of his hind legs which he was placing upside down on the ground at times. I wanted his chiropractor to check him out to ensure that he had not suffered further spinal damage. It was her opinion that this had not happened. She said Hobson still had good reflexes in his hind legs. She said Hobson’s weight loss over the last 2 weeks was noticeable. She agreed with me that there was something seriously wrong. She believed that Hobson’s sudden weight loss and ill health were temporarily causing the problems in his hind legs because he did not have the energy to also manage his chronic hind leg problems. She believed that when Hobson’s health recovered, his hind legs would become stronger. She did not believe Hobson had stopped wagging his tail because of a spinal misalignment.
On 8 October 2015 urgent blood tests were ordered for Hobson and the results were described by his UQ veterinarian as “unremarkable” except his anaemia had risen. She thought this was a good result. I was even more concerned because I knew that Hobson was too ill to have “unremarkable” blood results. I asked that the ultrasound be repeated because I needed to know what was causing Hobson to become so ill. Hobson remained in hospital over-night on IV fluids. Hobson’s previous ultrasound was done in March 2015 and revealed a tiny nodule on his spleen which was considered to be of no concern.
Friday, 9 October 2015 was the first time Misty had been left on her own. I had to go to work for several hours. I was very proud of her. She coped very well. On the way up to the UQ veterinary hospital in Gatton, a regular trip for us, Misty was uncharacteristically quiet. I became even more concerned.
Nothing could have prepared me for the ultrasound result. Hobson has 2 large masses in his spleen and some (? how many, 1 or 2? – I cannot remember) in his liver. Without undergoing a biopsy, which is not an option for Hobson, he was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma which is the most aggressive cancer a dog can develop. Hobson’s UQ veterinarian told me Hobson’s prognosis was very poor and she had no idea how long he was going to live. As she was giving me this terrible news, Misty had placed her head on my lap.
I am trying not to go into too much detail. The reason Hobson lost weight was not because of the tumours in his spleen. However, the reason Hobson became so ill on 4 October was because he suffered an internal bleed because I took him for a little walk the day before. I did not know what was wrong. I gave him huge doses of Ester Vitamin C every day and this helped a great deal. Many dogs suffer a massive internal bleed and die before being diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma. Many dogs only live days after diagnosis. It would have been much worse for Hobson, and for me, if I had not persevered and proceeded with the ultrasound.
Because human beings do not develop this type of cancer no advancement has been made in the treatment of Hemangiosarcoma for 20-30 years. Hemangiosarcoma has been described as among the most challenging and mysterious diseases encountered in veterinary practice. My beautiful boy, Hobson has fought so bravely for so long and has continued to astound the UQ veterinary staff with his progress over these last 17 months. For Hobson to develop this type of cancer is devastating and unfair. But what can one do, except to grit one's teeth and continue through another enormous challenge.
This is a photo of Hobson, at home with us again, after his ultrasound. I have given up work to be with Hobson. The 2 weeks after Hobson's diagnosis were extremely stressful. Hemangiosarcoma tumours are very vascular and fragile tumours which tend to rupture and bleed easily. I was taking one hour at a time, trying to keep breathing and trying to relax, to deal with the worry that one of the tumours in Hobson's spleen could bleed again. Because surgery and chemotherapy are not options for Hobson, his UQ veterinarian recommended I try to obtain a Chinese herb called Yunnan Baiyao that is being used to stop the bleeding in dogs diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma. Fortunately I obtained this herb that day, Monday 12 October. Thankfully this herb appears to be helping Hobson because he has not suffered another internal bleed.
Also through my research I came across a Chinese herbal extract which is being used to treat human patients with cancer. The Chinese company has opened a subsidiary in Brisbane. They have recently commenced using this herbal extract to treat dogs diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma to improve their quality of life. I spoke to the health consultant and decided there was nothing to lose and a great deal to gain if I purchased this product to help Hobson. They gave me another product FOC to help Hobson with his other health problems. The order only arrived last Wednesday. The health consultant advised me that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to see an improvement. I won’t go into details now but I will let you know if this natural treatment works. I believe it could also be used as a general health supplement to help older dogs.
We have “bunked down” in the living area so that Hobson does not have to walk far to go out onto the verandah to go to the toilet. It is very important that he is kept very quiet at the moment and he does not walk any further than is necessary.
After being on the Yunnan Baiyao for 5 days Hobson started to wag his tail again!! He has been wagging his tail every day since. I ask Hobson if he is okay and he looks at me and wags his tail furiously. He has been eating reasonably well. His bowels have returned to normal. His eyes are bright again. The hot weather is not helping him but he is coping okay so far. I would not say that Hobson is feeling well, but neither am I. Neither of us want to depart this life yet.
This is a photo of Hobson yesterday. Taking all things into account I believe he is doing extraordinarily well. Hobson is an amazing dog and I love him with all my heart. xxxxxxx