Thursday, September 20, 2012

Conan's Canine Lymphoma: Chemo Day 4 + My Hungry Hungry Hippo


Famous last words, blogged on Thursday, September 13: "Today Conan will receive a vincristine IV. That's what we had the first week and he didn't seem to have any issues with it, thank goodness, so perhaps I'll get a week off from worrying."

Reality: "Hahahaha. A week off from worrying?! What planet do you live on, silly girl?"

Conan seemed to be in pretty good shape when I dropped him off for his chemotherapy treatment last Thursday. But shortly after we got home, as if by magic, we were suddenly afforded the lovely opportunity to get acquainted with the not-uncommon chemo side effect of bloody diarrhea.

Whenever I'd seen bloody diarrhea on the list of potential side effects in the past, I always breezed over it and assumed it'd just be regular diarrhea with a little blood. No, nonono. Bloody diarrhea can also apparently refer to a river of straight blood -- sans poop -- its only relation to actual diarrhea that it's coming out of your dog's behind. Naturally, I was terrified. And after an evening of wiping blood off Conan's butt half a dozen times and getting yet another terrible night's sleep because of the pit of anxiety in my stomach, I called the vet first thing in the morning Friday. They didn't seem concerned and told me to give Conan an anti-diarrhea pill (;sidfh;) and call back later if it persisted. When I came home from work on my lunch break Conan had another rather gruesome episode so I called the vet again. They still didn't seem concerned. Apparently bloody diarrhea is a fairly frequent side effect of chemo since the drugs target any and all rapidly regenerating cells regardless of whether they're good or bad, and the cells in intestines just happen to fall into that category. (So do bone marrow cells, which could be a whole other issue at some point.) Luckily, the "diarrhea" finally cleared up that night, though I've continued giving him the SDGDH every 12 hours to avoid another bout.

We finally got past that hurdle, and suddenly Conan -- who's always been pretty ambivalent about food -- has become ravenously, insatiably, frantically hungry, which is a side effect of prednisone, the steroid pill he's taking. In his former life, Conan would gently take a treat out of my hand, then chew it into pieces, spit the pieces out and eat them one by one. Now, in addition to literally inhaling his food, he will hoover up anything remotely edible he comes across including vast quantities of cat litter, cat food, tissues (both used and unused) and bits of fluff on the floor. I can't tell you how many times he's knocked Lily's food dish down in the past few days and snarfed up her kitty kibble. And it doesn't matter how many times I yell at him -- he's going to keep eating and eating and eating because his body is telling him he's famished. All the time, without respite. I know it's absolutely not his fault, but I have to admit that it's hard not to be frustrated with him. My poor, sweet boy.
To top all that off, today's chemo treatment is the scariest drug of the regimen -- doxorubicin. Thank goodness he only gets it four times. Doxorubicin has been known to cause heart failure so Conan had to undergo a cardiac ultrasound to make sure his heart was healthy enough to handle it, and it's so harsh that if it leaks out to the IV catheter or vein it is likely to eat through Conan's flesh all the way to the bone. Our vet even told me she gets nervous administering it. So tomorrow promises to be a nerve-racking day.

But if we can survive today, we'll be rewarded tomorrow with pure happiness when Jarrod/Daddy comes home from his six-month deployment. It promises to be the best day of Conan's life and I'll be sure to record the blissful reunion.


  1. How did his doxo treatment go? So sorry to hear about his bloody stools! Dom had to take a break from chemo for a week. He had his first treatment of vincristine last Wednesday (the 13th) and handled it like a champ--had some loose stools over the weekend, but nothing major. Then Sunday night/Monday he started pacing, circling, and acting restless like he does before he has a seizure (he has one maybe every 6 to 8 months). So of course we didn't get any sleep. Tuesday he went to the vet for his CBC to make sure he could start cyclophosphamide pills Wednesday. They also put him on doxyclin bc they thought he might possibly maybe be getting kennel cough. I gave him one pill when we got home and it was like it flipped a switch. He stopped eating, stopped drinking, and stopped sleeping. It might also be the pred, but it's like he's a different dog. We went to take him outside and he walked four steps and laid down like, "Nope, I'm done." I called the oncologist Wednesday and said he's not drinking or eating, so I'm not comfortable starting the pills. I told her what was going on and she said she's never heard of side effects like those, but we started to decrease his pred dosage. Our vet put him on anti-nausea meds and that helped the circling, but he's still not eating. The oncologist mentioned a chance that it could have crossed into his central nervous system. If he feels better Wednesday we'll start the cyclophosphamide, but I'm almost nervous to start another drug!! Glad to hear Conan is feeling better, though, and I hope the doxo treatment went well!!

    1. Hi Heather! I'm so sorry Dom has had a rough time with the cyclophosphamide. Poor boy. It's interesting that your cyclophosphamide is in pill form. Ours is administered via IV every few weeks. I don't know if I mentioned it when I wrote about Conan's week 2 chemo on the blog, but I read on another blog detailing the family's experience with canine lymphoma that their dog got so sick on the cyclophosphamide that they ended up cutting it from the treatment plan entirely. Hopefully that's not Dom!

      Conan wasn't able to get the doxorubicin last Thursday because his blood cell counts were on the low side. The vet said if it were any other drug on the regimen she'd probably go ahead with it, but she didn't want to take any chances with the doxorubicin. I agreed! Conan is doing pretty well... his poops are mostly back to normal, but he's still pretty fatigued. Even with his Daddy finally home, he's still feeling more snuggly than playful.

      Hope Dom is feeling better (and you guys can have a break from the stress and worrying)! :)


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