How We Discovered Rita’s Lymphoma

One evening this past January, we went to bed not knowing we would wake up to what would lead us to later “accidentally” discover that our Margarita has Lymphoma.

In the middle of the night, on January 7, 2019, Margarita jumped-up out of a sound sleep and hopped off our bed.  She went to the bedroom door and proceeded to urinate on the floor.  This was not like her at all.  We questioned ourselves – “Did we forget to let her out before bed?” We took her out into the yard, and watched her urinate several times… “Must be a urinary tract infection!” we said.  The next morning though, she seemed fine, and was not urinating more than normal, so we did not think a call to our veterinarian was necessary.  The next night, we were woken up once again by the sound of Rita frantically jumping up and running for the bedroom door.  This time, she defecated on the floor!  We didn’t know WHAT to think at this point.  You may be reading this thinking – “What’s the big deal?” – dogs have accidents, end of story.  NOT this dog, and NOT in the middle of the night.  Rita lives for her beauty rest.  Rita does not EVER get up in the middle of the night, other than to switch sleeping positions.  By the end of the night on Tuesday, January 8 and into the morning on Wednesday, January 9, Margarita again began to urinate very frequently – much like the symptoms of a urinary infection.  She also seemed lethargic, and less interested in food (DEFINITELY not like Rita at all).  Wednesday morning we called our veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, and made an appointment for that night.

I drove Margarita to the vet on Wednesday evening expecting for a quick appointment with Dr. Campbell telling me that Rita had a urinary tract infection.  A urinalysis was conducted at the visit – and Rita did, in fact, have blood in her urine.  However, when I began describing other some of the other unusual-for Margarita-behaviors, Dr. Campbell asked if I would be OK with her doing a quick ultrasound on Rita.

When Dr. Campbell returned to the exam room with Rita, I could tell by her face I was not going to like the news of her findings. What was seen on the ultrasound was what looked to be a mass on her spleen.  Dr. Campbell immediately referred us to get an ultrasound with a specialist at Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC).

During this time, I had elected to put Margarita on “temporary retirement” from visiting my school as the District Therapy Dog.  I had not given any of the details to the students, but I did tell them she was not feeling well.  One of my very thoughtful students brought in a gift for her.  Inside the bag was a bone and sweet get-well note.

Margarita enjoyed her treat when I went home for lunch that day.

Rita was seen for the ultrasound at VSEC on January 10, 2019, where a full abdominal ultrasound was done by Dr. Ana Caceres.  A splenic mass measuring approximately 2.5 cm in diameter was seen, but Dr. Caceres felt like the mass was unlikely to be the primary cause of Rita’s symptoms.  We were then referred to see an Internal Medicine doctor.

In the mean time, Dr. Campbell, our primary vet, did chest x-rays on Rita, which thankfully came back clear.

January 16, 2019

Margarita saw the head of the Internal Medicine Department at VSEC, Dr. Alan Klag. Dr. Klag did an exam and ran some blood work and took a sterile urine sample.  Margarita’s tests showed mild anemia, mild hypoalbuminemia, and a mild increase in her ALT (liver values).   Dr. Klag suggested that considering the symptoms we are observing, Rita could be experiencing some small repeated bleeding incidents from her splenic mass. It was suggested that we consult with a surgeon to discuss the biopsy of the splenic mass and/or a possible splenectomy.

January 25, 2019

Margarita had some more blood work done with Dr. Campbell to re-check her liver levels.

January 30, 2019

Stool samples were sent to Texas for a Fecal Alpha Proteinase Inhibitor test because we were observing some bloody discharge coming from Rita’s rear-end. This test came back negative.

February 14, 2019

Margarita was still exhibiting the same symptoms, and saw the surgeon on February 14th.  We met with Dr. Jennifer MacLeod to discuss Margarita’s case.  After discussing her case with Dr. Klag and Dr. Campbell, Dr. MacLeod suggested we do a splenectomy, and biopsies of Rita’s liver, and intestines.

February 21, 2019

Margarita had her surgery and biopsies.

The day Margarita went to the hospital for her surgery, a friend of ours sent her a Get-Well-Soon package from Chewy.com!

I could not believe this HUGE package of goodies for Rita!

Margarita had to stay the night at VSEC for monitoring, and was able to come home the next day.

February 22, 2019

On her way home from surgery:

Settling in at home after surgery:

Margarita had some difficulties the first few days, but overall, recovered well, and in about 2 weeks seemed more like herself again.

We set up a special “recovery room” so that our other fur-kids would not bother Rita while she was healing.

During her recovery she received gifts, flowers, and well wishes from so many people!

We were overwhelmed with the support, concern, and love our baby received.

Margarita with her card and gift from our neighbor:

Margarita’s “main-man” Mr. Spock the English Pointer sent her a beautiful bouquet of flowers:

 

February 27, 2019

On the morning of February 27th, we received the news that no one ever wants to hear.. there were malignant cells found in Rita’s spleen.  They were round cells, which indicated a type of Lymphoma. Additional tests would have to be run on the biopsies to identify what kind of Lymphoma it was.  But that wasn’t all.

Although malignant cells were not found in Margarita’s liver and intestines, she also had concerning diseases in both.  Her liver showed inflammation patterns that represented chronic hepatitis.  Despite her prior negative Fecal Alpha Proteinase Inhibitor test, her intestinal biopsy showed a severe degree of inflammatory bowel disease, causing the loss of proteins.  Without these two significant issues under control, Margarita would not be able to handle cancer treatment, if needed. Margarita was put on steroids, and her diet was changed to a GI specific diet. The symptoms we had been seeing in Rita were not necessarily from the cancer itself – so we were very lucky in a way to have discovered ALL of this before it was too late.

We ordered the additional immunohistochemistry, for all previous biopsies, and anxiously awaited the results.

March 13, 2019

The detailed results and diagnosis came back to us in the afternoon on March 13th.  It was then that we found out Rita has Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. We also learned her lymph node, liver, and intestinal biopsies thankfully did not show signs of the cancer spreading at this time to those areas specifically.  Since the cancer was detected in the spleen, which filters the blood, there is a concern that the cancer could now be present in her blood and bone marrow.

Dr. Campbell referred us to see the oncologist at VSEC.

 

 

 

Mini Carrot Cakes

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp organic ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp organic ground ginger
  • 1  1/2 cups organic grated carrot
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 c organic unsweetened apple sauce

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and ginger
  • Stir in the grated carrots, and combine until the carrots are coated with the flour mixture and are not longer clumped.
  • In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs
  • Next, stir in the eggs, water, olive oil, and applesauce
  • Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the applesauce mixture.
  • Stir all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  • Spray a mini muffin tray with organic non-stick cooking spray
  • Pour the cake batter into the cupcake tray.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

**Optional:  When cupcakes are completely cooled, top with Cauliflower Cream Cheese Icing

This recipe can also be used to make an 8-inch round cake.

 

Recipe modified from Dog Cakes: Recipes for Every Occasion

Cauliflower Cream Cheese Icing

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz package of frozen organic cauliflower
  • 2 oz cream cheese

Directions:

  • Cook cauliflower according to package directions.
  • Drain all excess water (be sure to drain well or the icing will be too watery).
  • In a food processor, combine the cooked cauliflower and cream cheese.
  • Pulse for approximately 15 seconds, scrape the sides.  Repeat.
  • Pulse the food processor for another 30 seconds, or until completely smooth.

 

Recipe modified from Dog Cakes: Recipes for Every Occasion

Rita’s 9th-ish Birthday

Happy 9th(-ish) birthday to our Sweet Reet!

Today also marks 3 years since the day we met Margarita when we brought her home as our GSP Rescue of NJ foster dog (Then known as Penelope/Penny), so we picked today to mark her annual birthday celebration!

Margarita didn’t get to do any fun activities for her birthday celebration due to recovering from her splenectomy, so we will ensure to make up for that after she gets the “all-clear” from the surgeon at her follow-up exam later this week!

Birthday weekend meals included a breakfast of:

  • egg-in-a-ham-basket topped with cheddar cheese
  • sausage patties
  • kiwi
  • homemade blueberry muffins

Dinner was:

 

Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Chicken Quarter

Ingredients:

  • Chicken quarter (skin removed)
    • NOTE: We choose to only use chicken that was raised to top standards (strictly vegetarian fed [no by products in feed], with no added antibiotics , no physical alterations, no supplemental growth hormones, have appropriate litter provided for comfort and to satisfy natural foraging instincts AND are 5-step® Animal Welfare Rated.
  • 2 tablespoons of organic olive oil
  • 2 ounces of organic raw pumpkin seeds
  • Juice of 1-2 organic limes (we used 2 small limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400° F
  • Add all ingredients except for chicken to a food processor, and pulse until desired consistency (we pulsed just until all ingredients were mixed so some pumpkin seeds were left whole – but you can pulse until all seeds are in smaller chunks, or completely ground).
  • Remove the skin from the chicken quarter.
  • Press pumpkin seed mixture on to top of chicken.
  • Place chicken in skillet or pan and cook for 50-60 minutes,  or until internal temperature of chicken reaches a minimum of 165° F, chicken is no longer pink, and juices run clear.
  • *****PLEASE NOTE: Chicken meat should be removed from the bone before serving to your fur-kid.  Please also check all removed meat for small bones before serving.

BONE appétit !