Desi and the Cyber Knife
Until Valentine’s Day I’d never heard of Cyber Knife. I’d noticed Desi had started snoring in his sleep and was sneezing and congested. At first I thought it was related in some way to the rectal Valium he has to have for seizures because every time he had a syringe of the Valium he’d start sneezing. When the congestion appeared only on his left side and the sneezing continued regardless of whether he had Valium or not, I was concerned there was an obstruction and brought him in to be checked.
The only way to determine what is causing the obstruction is to do a CT scan or an MRI. Because of Desi’s previous inflammatory brain disease we opted for the MRI so the brain could be checked at the same time. There was a mass – a nasal tumor pushing toward his brain. It was so far back the biopsy to see what type of mass it was wasn’t successful. He came home very uncomfortable with lots of discharge so he needed some pain meds – which make him very unsettled. I sat with him all night until he slept and again the next day until he felt better. For the next week I had to constantly wipe his nose because of all the discharge which the biopsy made worse and it made him nervous.
The options for treatment for nasal tumors in dogs are all radiation therapy. The choice was two approaches of conventional radiation or the Cyber-Knife. After talking to the doctors at both facilities and discussing options with Desi’s wonderful neurologist, we decided on the Cyber-Knife. It can give the same amount of radiation in three treatments as fifteen conventional radiation treatments without as many side effects. It’s much more precise and it requires less anesthetic episodes. It did however require travel to NY – no Cyber Knife in MA- and bringing everything we might need should Desi not do well during treatments. So I packed up all Desi’s necessities, food to prepare for he and my husband who both have special food requirements and all the general stuff we’d need for a week away.
We arrived in NY on Sunday and on Monday Desi had a CT scan. The MRI can’t show the density of the mass and to plan the treatment a CT was needed. After the CT scan a physicist and radiation oncologist develop a plan for the treatment. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Desi had his treatments. Each took about an hour plus time for sedation, anesthesia and recovery. Desi has a certain anesthesia protocol becasue of his GME. I stay with him until he’s sedated and then as soon as the tube is removed and he begins to wake up he’s brought to me and I hold him in a private room. It’s the only way he can relax and not panic. He survived and recovered from the GME but has serious anxiety at vet visits so to avoid seizures and make him as comfortable as possible I stay right with him.
Each treatment day was different for him in terms of how quickly he recovered from anesthesia and how groggy he was. By the afternoon back at the hotel he was able to eat and his tail was up – that’s a great barometer with Desi to tell me how he’s feeling. On the drive home on Friday he stayed awake in his carrier which is unusual for him. Normally he sleeps in the car. When we got home I cleaned him up and gave him dinner and he was wobbly but seemed very happy to be home.
Except for a lot of coughing he continued to do pretty well Saturday and most of Sunday and I was thinking wow- that was pretty easy. By Sunday night however he started showing signs of being extremely tired. It was as if it suddenly hit him. He needed to be hand fed and the coughing wasn’t subsiding. Over the next week he was so tired and reluctant to eat on his own he lost close to a pound which is significant for such a small dog. He trembled a lot and was concerned he was going to have a seizure but thankfully he didn’t. By the following week an oncologist here recommended a small dose of prednisone and clavamox based on his coughing, difficulty keeping his legs under him, foul breath and weight loss symptoms. Radiation can sometimes cause inflammation and with his GME history the last thing we want is for treatment to cause more seizures. Whether it’s just time or the med, he does seem to be feeling stronger. He’s still sleeping a lot but I have seen an improvement.
Cyber-Knife treatment is expensive and not readily available. It’s an approach for brain tumor treatment and other tumors when surgery isn’t an option and chemo doesn’t usually give a good enough result. As for the cost, guess when you compare it with multiple conventional treatments generally needed it isn’t all that much more expensive, but treatment is costly. With all the pet parents my business brings me in contact with I’ve never found another person who has been through the Cyber – Knife experience so my purpose here and with the updates to come is simply to let you know about it and tell you our experience. We are very hopeful it will give Desi a great result and more time to enjoy his life. Our goal is to keep him pain free and comfortable.
I did find a great blog about a dog Max who has had Cyber-Knife treatments. Here’s teh link http://maxck.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=18
Please email at Service@JoyPetProducts.com if you need more information.
All the best,
Patti and Desi