Had a talk with the surgeon at the Veterinary Surgical Center who would be doing Cappy's LP surgery. Although they are a referral only service, he had seen Cappy for a left rear leg problem in 2006 therefore they already had some of his records. The surgeon has an older Lab and a Golden so he relates well to Cappy.
I explained that not long after season ended last January after Cappy turned 11, he underwent mast cell cancer surgery. The tumor on his right front shoulder area was removed with quite wide margins. The loss of tissue and some underlying muscle made another season this year questionable. Being the trooper he has always been, Cappy still wanted to train with Remi and the new pup every morning this spring.
When he was strong enough in early April, he began running 3-4 30 yards marks on the lawn each morning. By late May he was back up to 6 or 7 and out to 50-60 yards. He then started showing signs of respiratory difficulties that he first displayed last November. He'd hack when winded and sometimes gagged when making a water retrieve. I misread that as a lung or upper respiratory problem.
He had three different sets of X-rays over the six months since last fall and all came back clear. I'm not blaming the vet even though they missed the correct diagnosis. Nothing could have been done differently if they had caught the real problem earlier (other than save me some money for 2nd and 3rd unneeded X-rays).
Cappy KNEW something wasn't right and for the past 2 months as he's often been content to sit next to me in the morning while I ran Remi and Rusty through their morning routines. Even using live pigeons that didn't stimulate him much and this time last year he would have crashed through barbed wire to get at them. I had hoped he could tag along and make some easy short retrieves this season. But now the danger of taking water or debris into his lungs is just too high so he'll be in charge of posing for post-hunt pics at home this season.
Having explained all of that, the vet I spoke with hit me with some sobering facts to consider before we go forward with the surgery. The mortality rate for large breed (like Labs) dawgs over 8 years of age is around 30% during or following surgery. By Cappy's age 12, the rate increases to approximately 50%, including for dawgs in otherwise good health. I'm now having strong 2nd thoughts whether to have Cappy undergo the surgery or not. His breathing is NOT so labored as to be threatening to him and as long as he doesn't go in water or grass taller than ankle deep, there's not much chance of his ingesting anything into his lungs. He'll be a "house dog" with very moderate outdoor activities. We're going to sleep on this for awhile longer and seek opinions from owners and vets more experienced with this situation in older Labs.
Last edited by Cappy_TX; 09-16-2010 at 07:07 AM.
Jim, I don't know you or Cappy well enough. The mortality issues you brought up are more than enough to scare the hell out of me if it were Hershey Kisses. I think that Cappy is much more than a duck dog for you, I feel that he is your companion, your very special companion, partner, friend. That said, if he is not under stress with the breathing, if he is happy and enjoying your company without the adventure of the retrieve, why take the risk. Even if he were to venture into the water, he would probably be okay, whereas post surgery it might be a fatal adventure. Without knowing details or the risks w/wo surgery, exclusive of the surgery itself, I don't think I would risk losing my friend on the table.
On the other side, I have a friend that had it done to his senior Old English Sheepdog. It did relieve the breathing difficult the dog was having for the time they had left.
Hershey Kisses, In charge of getting Ed out to the dog park so that he gets some exercise.
The biggest problem with Cappy's breathing is (forgive me) that the panting was really bugging me. Now that I know what the problem is and what the alternatives are ... I barely notice it anymore. He does not pant while at rest or otherwise calm. It's only when he get's excited by my coming into the house, dinner being prepared, or other visual stimuli and he does the agitated panting. I've learned how to CALMLY shush him, and he's learned to relax. Two old dawgs learning from each other.
For what it is worth, I personally wouldn't put him through more surgery unless the condition was life threatening.
Jim, Mick was diagnosed with LP at a little over 11 years old. At that time, our vet told us if Mick were his dog, he would not have the surgery done. Obviously, he left the decision up to us. But he'd never given us advice we regretted in the past, so Mick didn't have the surgery. With life style changes and supplements,we had another 4 1/2 years with our wonderful boy. I'd be glad to share the things we did for Mick with you if you'd like. (((hugs))) for you, Carol and Cappy.
Jim, my heart aches for you two. I have no knowledge of this but just want to say that you and Cappy will be in my prayers. I know you will make the right decision, but I agree with Ed. I'd be scared to put a dog that age under antisthetic for a surgery that he might not make it through.
I have no advice or opinion... I just hope you are both ok and you'll make the right decision. I'll be keeping you in my prayers. Best of luck either way.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -- Gandhi
JIm - I'd be having 2nd thoughs too! Whatever you do, you know it will be the right call for you and Cappy. He is blessed to have you and vise versa!
I can't advise either but only wish the best to both of you.