Submitted by Kim and Jeff
Our beloved Ruger was a Christmas present for my husband in 2005. I purchased him from a breeder. He was the last pup left in the litter and he looked like a little polar bear! He was perfect. I brought him home and from day 1, he was the most well behaved, smart dog any family could ask for. Never was sick, never showed a bit of aggression - always the inquisitive, happy, beautiful boy.
A little over a month ago, we noticed Ruger had dropped a little weight. Also, we started to wonder if he was getting hip dispasia - he was having a hard time getting up from a seated or laying position & he wasn't able to jump up on the bed as easily as normal.
One weekend, I noticed Ruger had an unquenchable thirst. He was constantly drinking water.
Normally we shave his coat in the summer, as we live in Texas and the summer months can be brutal w/ the heat. Akitas typically have a thick coat, so this task takes patience on both owner & dog's part. For one reason or another, we did not get around to shaving him down during the peak summer months this year.
Around the same time we noticed his slight weight loss, hip trouble, and thirst, Ruger had a pretty bad flea problem, so we decided to shave him. As the fur fell to the ground, we were shocked at the amount of weight he had lost. You could see his ribs and backbone. Both me & my husband felt so bad we did not realize he had lost THAT much weight. This was on a Sunday night. We decided to take him to the vet the very next morning.
First thing the vet did was weigh him - he had lost exactly 30 pounds since the previous vet visit in March (six months before). He weighed 125 in March and he was down to 95 in October. The vet checked him for heartworms and he was fine. Once he did the physical exam, he stopped when he got to the abdomen. He told me he felt a mass. He called the other vet into the room & he agreed - mass. I was basically told to go home and love him as much as possible and there was nothing they could do. They offered to give me a number for another vet nearby who could do more tests. I scheduled him the following day.
The second vet performed an ultrasound of the kidneys and said they looked abnormal. Cbc showed elevated calcium. I was told this could mean many things. Several blood tests were done to rule out hypothyroidism & Addison's disease. She was unable to make a diagnosis and referred us to a specialist to go on either a fungal or cancer hunt.
Specialist did a chest x-ray & 4 view ultrasound. Kidneys and spleen looked abnormal. Needle aspiration was done of the kidneys & spleen. Results came back malignant histiocytosis.
Today we wait for the inevitable. Ruger is not showing signs of pain or illness. He just reminds us of an old dog. He is only 4 years old - still a puppy in my eyes!! This situation is so heartbreaking. We feel so helpless. We have decided not to do treatment at this time. We do not want to cause him any pain or risk him having bad side effects from medication.
UPDATE December 2009
We started Ruger on prednisone a few weeks ago. He was taking two pills a day for the first two weeks and now he's at one pill a day every day. He has really packed on the pounds! I'm not sure how much he's gained since we haven't taken him to the vet, but it's obvious by looking at him. His appetite has really increased.
He has not shown any outward signs of pain & has not gotten sick (i.e. vomiting or diarrhea). He's just still kinda moping around and acting like an old dog.
We had the family over for Thanksgiving & no one could tell by looking at him that he is sick. We know he is and only time will tell when the disease starts taking it's course. We're enjoying every day we have with him.
He is waking me up several times a night to use the restroom. When I get aggravated, my husband reminds me that he can't help it & to be patient w/ him. His breathing has also increased. He pants a lot and when he's sleeping, he breathes really rapid.
UPDATE September 2014
Ruger was euthanized on Saturday, September 13, 2014. He took a sudden turn for the worse and the cancer had spread. We noticed a very large mass developed right above his right, front leg. It almost seemed to develop overnight. He was very lethargic on Friday evening and would not get up from a laying position, his breathing became very heavy and rapid, his gums were very white and we was extremely thirsty. I could look in his eyes and see something was not right.
We took him to an urgent care vet and that night and the vet ran some labs on him and said he was very anemic. He hooked him up to an i.v. and gave him some antiobiotics and vitamins and he seemed to perk up. We took him home at 1am and when we arrived home, he layed in the living room floor and never moved from that spot or position all night. We slept in that room with him to watch him, and I am fairly certain he did not sleep all night – only laid there looking up at me periodically.
We decided to take him to our normal vet (who originally discovered the mass in 2009). He reviewed the bloodwork and he agreed that the mass on the shoulder area did seem suspicious, so he aspirated it and the syringe filled quickly with very dark blood. The vet relayed to us that he was positive that area was the cancer and it looked like it had developed another large, quickly growing mass. He agreed that we should put him down at that point to end his suffering. When we loaded him up that morning, we knew in our heart of hearts that he would not be coming home with us, so we were somewhat prepared. The vet administered the drugs to end his pain and he went peacefully and quickly surrounded by his family. He was not alone when he went and he knew we loved him and did not want his pain to continue for one more second longer. He lived with this horrible illness for over half his life and now he is resting peacefully with no more pain.