Xaros was always healthy. In April of 2002, he fell onto a cactus and had to get some antibiotics, but generally, he never had any real medical problems. He would invariably sit or lay on an ant bed, get bit, and need some topical treatments, but never anything major. I never noticed anything out of the ordinary, and he always ate well, had plenty of energy, and appeared healthy.
Around his tenth birthday, I was reading a magazine and saw an ad for pet health insurance. I had considered it before, and now at age 10, I figured it was a necessity. For less then $40 a month, he was covered for a variety of "senior" illnesses, with coverage up to $2,000 for certain conditions. He officially was covered on April 7, 2003.
In May of 2003, I noticed him slowing down a little. He was, after all, 10 years old. He took his time getting up after a nap, and twisting his neck to look at things sometimes brought a yelp. I carted him off to the vet just to be sure it was nothing major (this was on May 31, 2003. He had just had all his yearly shots on the 20th).
The local vet examined his neck and his hips (they looked OK), and thought it was probably arthritis. He suggested we put Xaros on carprofem (Rimadyl). I gave him one dose, and by evening, all the stiffness and pain seemed to be gone. A wonder drug!
The next day, Xaros didn't want to eat anything (even his favorite, chicken) and seemed very tired. I thought he might be having a reaction to the drug, so I didn't give him any more. By evening time, he was wanting to eat "good stuff" (chicken, dog biscuits, but not regular food) and by the next morning (June 2), he was back to his old self.
I thought his condition was due to the drug; actually, it was probably the first sign of the cancer. The type of cancer he was ultimately diagnosed with causes bleeding internally. If the bleeding is only a small amount the dog won't want to eat and, among some other signs, will be lethargic. The bleeding stops on its own, the blood is reabsorbed, and the pup is back to normal. In the event of a large bleed, it is immediately life threatening and would be fairly obvious.
Nearly three weeks later brought another day of not wanting to eat (June 21); by late evening, though, we were back to the "good stuff" and the next day, everything was fine.
Two days later, not wanting to eat again, but would do the "good stuff." By the next morning, Xaros wasn't fine. He still did not want to eat. He looked a bit pale (check the gums), so it was off to the vet again (June 25).
The vet checked him out, and thought he could feel something in his abdomen. We did a couple of x-rays, and could make out something "suspicious" in the spleen area. The vet said it could be several things, but they were not equipped to diagnose or treat some of them; I would be better off taking him to a specialist.
We called the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center in Dallas and set up an appointment for the next day (June 26). Xaros and I got up real early (he ate some biscuits and "good stuff" the night before, but wasn't allowed anything past 9:00 pm) and drove to Dallas (about a 60 mile trip).
We consulted with the surgical docs, they felt we should go over to the Animal Diagnostic Clinic of Dallas (across the hallway) and have full diagnostics run before anything.
Dr. Susan O'Neal examined Xaros. I was impressed with her credentials - DVM, MS, and Diplomate, American College of Veterinarian Internal Medicine. I felt that Xaros was in the best hands possible. She also felt a mass in his abdomen, and also thought he was presenting with possibly a tick borne disease. Blood was drawn to be tested, and Dr. O'Neal decided to perform an ultrasound on Xaros's belly right then.
I stayed with Xaros during the procedure. As usual, he did what he was told and lay still. Dr. O'Neal and her staff were impressed with his behavior.
Yes, a mass was there. Dr. O'Neal showed me the mass on the ultrasound screen. Xaros was taken to get a chest X-Ray and Dr. O'Neal told me what that mass meant.
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