A Cautionary Tale of Greyhounds, Osteosarcoma, Hyperfibrinolysis and Amicar By Dalton Weems
Cracker Jack's Story
Cracker Jack, (WWW Firecracker) is a New Year’s Day Greyhound, whelped January 1, 2010. With 35 races under his belt, he sustained a compound fracture to a toe on his left hind leg. It was a career ending injury that required amputation, so his retirement started in February of 2012. He was placed in a foster home through the adoption group Greyhound Adoption League of Texas (GALT). My wife Amanda and I met Cracker at our very first meet and greet and he immediately stole our hearts. There was just something very special about Cracker, so we decided to adopt him and he came home with us on February 2, 2013. Over the next few months we learned what all first time greyhound owners learn, that these dogs are a very special breed. They are so loving, caring, and smart that they will change your life forever, and he has. Because we loved our Grey so much, we started looking for a second Greyhound to go with Cracker and our Bassett Hound, Oliver. In May 2013, I went to a meet and greet alone and instantly fell in love with a 3 year old female named Bessie. I told my wife about her and we went back the next week and decided to adopt her.
For three years Cracker had absolutely no health issues. Then in mid- September 2016 Cracker started limping. Out first thought was that he had a corn, so we looked over his foot very carefully and found nothing. I made the decision to watch him closely for a few days to see if it got better. After a few days the limp didn’t go away so we set him up an appointment with our vet, Dr. D. When we looked for a vet 3 years prior, we knew we had to find a vet that understood the medical differences between Greyhounds and other breeds. We choose Dr. D because he assured us he was greyhound savvy and had had some recommendations through friends and from Greytalk. We were not able to get an appointment until September 23rd another 3 days wait. While we were waiting his limp was definitely getting worse.
Over the time from first limp to the 23rd he had gone from a slight limp to not wanting to put weight on it at all. When we finally did see Dr. D, he diagnosed it as most likely a strain of the ACL and put him on tramadol (a pain killer) and Carprofen (an anti-inflammatory). He assured us it was not cancer and to give him the medicati ons for 2 weeks to give the leg time to heal. He told us if it was not better in two weeks, we would do X-rays. I know now that we should have had the x-rays done immediately at the first signs of the limp.
Over the next two weeks we gave Cracker his medication exactly as prescribed but his limp kept getting worse. By the end of the 2 weeks he was holding the leg up all the time and would not stand on it at all. We did as the vet had instructed and called him back expecting him to say bring him in for x-rays. Instead, he told us that he can’t do x-rays at his facility and recommended we take him to the emergency animal clinic because it might be osteosarcoma. At this point we were very confused and heartbroken. I knew the emergency vet was not likely to be Greyhound savvy so that was not an option in my mind.
We decided to look on GALT’s website for a recommended vet in our area. One vet was only 30 minutes away and came highly recommended by a lady we knew from GALT. We will call him Dr. W. We set up an appointment but Dr. W could not see Cracker until October 18th, a full month after he first started to limp.
While waiting for the appointment, we continued the medications. On October 18, the x-rays were done. Once Dr. W had reviewed them, he came back in and told us the bad news. Cracker Jack had osteosarcoma in his right rear leg. He told us our options were to either amputate the leg or manage the pain until the cancer spread and it became too painful, then at that point, we would euthanize. Dr. W also told us that based on the healthy state and age of Cracker, if we amputated, Cracker could live another 18 months while without amputation he would probably not last until Thanksgiving. Dr. W also stated that there was no evidence that chemo extended either of these time frames. He informed us that if we choose amputation, he would have a surgeon come to his facility and perform the amputation with a total cost of around $2,000 dollars. He suggested we go home and think about our options and when we make a decision just give him a call.
It is at this point that I started doing my own research on osteosarcoma and first came across Dr. Couto’s articles. The first thing I found was an article entitled “Bone Cancer in Greyhounds”. This three page article by Dr. Couto and his colleagues, was very informative and it explained everything very well. It also let me know that what Dr. W was saying may not have been accurate. My wife and I spent several days researching and debating what to do. At first we were thinking not to amputate because we did not want to put Cracker through that for our own selfish reasons. Then as we were discussing it we looked at Cracker and he looked back at us with a look that said "I’m not done. I’m ready to fight! We decided to go ahead with the amputation and called Dr. W back to schedule it. Dr. W said the surgeon would come to his clinic, perform the amputation and that Cracker would go home the same day. From the research we had done we knew going home the same day didn’t sound right, and it was a big red flag to us. We scheduled an appointment but cancelled it a short while later.
Crackers foster mom from Galt is truly a wonderful lady. She has always stayed in touch with us and wanted to know how Cracker was doing. She also was there to answer questions when we had them, since this was our first greyhound. At this point we were confused, devastated, and felt lost. When we contacted her, she gave us some advice and connected us to another wonderful lady at Galt. As we continued to research osteosarcoma, we spoke with these ladies at length. One had recently lost a grey to osteosarcoma that was two years post amputation with chemo. Needless to say, she had a lot of knowledge on the subject. She told us who Dr. Couto was and about the programs he ran through Ohio State University. She also told us about the greyhound blood disorder and that Amicar was absolutely necessary if we were going to amputate. Through our research and conversations, we decided the best plan would be to take Cracker to the same surgeons group that Galt used. We set up an appointment for as soon as possible but that appointment was 6 days away and they said if necessary they could do the surgery that day.
The next 6 days were horrible. My wife and Cracker never slept more than 30 minutes to an hour at a time. Cracker cried out in pain almost constantly, and occasionally with a greyhound scream of death. Anyone who has ever heard that heart wrenching sound knows exactly what I’m talking about. I continued to research osteosarcoma, now armed with the information from GALT about the greyhound blood disorder and knowledge of Dr. Couto. We looked up everything we could find about osteosarcoma and its treatment options. We found most of it involved Dr. Couto and his OSU research. The problem was, every time I found a link to any of it at OSU the link was dead. I believe this is why we did not find much on the blood disorder other than that he should have Amicar.
On the day of his appointment I had to work so my wife took Cracker and met with the surgeon Dr. B. and his assistant, Dr. L, a vet student in residency. During the consultation, my wife told the vet what we had learned about Amicar and also gave them the generic name for it, aminocaproic acid. Dr. L went into the hall to talk to Dr. B about it. When she came back in, she told my wife that Dr. B had been doing surgeries on Greyhounds for 26 years and had never used that medicine. Dr. L told us that it was not necessary, that our friends were over reacting and they could not even get Amicar in time if it was needed. Given the amount of pain Cracker was in, we went ahead and trusted Dr. B and Dr. L and left Cracker there to have the surgery later that day. The whole drive home it kept bothering Amanda that they said Amicar was not necessary. I say somewhere deep inside she had a mother’s intuition and knew this was not good.
My wife’s concerns and strong feelings about the blood disorder led me to continue to dig even deeper, focusing specifically on the blood disorder. Maureen, one of our GALT foster moms, mentioned we should join The Greyhound Health Initiative. Julie, our other foster mom, and Maureen were a constant source of information and support as we went through this journey with Cracker. I looked up GHI as suggested and found that Dr. Couto had retired from OSU and had since founded The Greyhound Health Initiative to continue the research and programs he once ran at OSU. This was the start of a tidal wave of information. I read a research paper by Dr. Couto that had been published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine entitled “Post-operative Bleeding in Greyhounds“ about the blood disorder. Although I had to google a lot of words, I was able understand most of it. A google search on that paper lead me to an article written by John E. Dillberger, DVM, PhD, Chair of the SDCA Health and Genetics Committee, entitled “Post-Operative Bleeding in Greyhounds, and What It Means for Deerhounds.” He had taken Dr. Couto’s published paper and explained it in a way your average dog owner could understand. I wish I had found that sooner. That article also had a follow up article that explained some more recent findings by Dr. Couto on Hyperfibrinolysis. I had learned a lot in a short amount of time and now we were even more scared and concerned that he would not be given the Amicar. But now we were armed with the research to back up the need for Amicar.
November 1 - Cracker’s surgery finished up around 5:30 pm and we received a call that everything went well and we would be able to see him the next day. They called us again around noon the next day and told us we could come see Cracker but that he would be staying one more night at the hospital. I got off work early and we made the hour and fifteen-minute drive to see him. We arrived at the hospital around 4:30pm and we were greeted by Dr. L, the student resident. She took us to see Cracker, and told us she had good news. Cracker was doing amazing and would be able to go home with us that day. She also told us that she had done some research on Greyhound bleeding and we were right, it is necessary in some cases to give Greyhounds Amicar. We then made a comment about how red his belly looked and she said it’s because it’s a major surgery and that was “just normal bruising”. Keeping in mind that I had learned Hyperfibrinolysis typically shows up 12 to 48 hours post-surgery with the bulk of greys showing signs around the 24-hour mark, and it had been 23 hours. They let us take him out to potty and he looked amazing and the pain he had been in was absolutely gone so we took our Cracker Jack home.
11-3-2016 Redness and Swelling Begins
We arrived home around 7 pm and noticed the redness on his underside had spread a little bit and we were very concerned that it could be Hyperfibrinolysis. We decided to watch it closely and I started franticly doing even more research, looking specifically for pictures of Hyperfibrinolysis. By 9 pm the “bruising” had spread up to his ribcage and we were positive it was Hyperfibrinolysis. We called the on-call number and DR. L answered. After I explained what was happening, she told me to take some pictures and she would call me back. When she called back, to my surprise, she told me she thought we were correct and we needed to get Cracker to a 24hr hospital that had Amicar and plasma, fast. It was now 10:30 pm and we were in complete panic mode. We called several hospitals and luckily found one that had both, and it was only 35 minutes away. I printed out several articles about Hyperfibrinolysis, including the study Dr. Couto had conducted, and we raced to the hospital.
When we arrived the vet techs met us outside and helped us get Cracker onto a gurney and into a room. When the doctor came in we asked her if she knew about the blood disorder and she said she did, but it was clear she didn’t. We proceeded to tell
her about it and she just kept rolling her eyes. It was obvious she did not believe us. We demanded that Cracker be given Amicar and begged the vet to read the articles I had brought. I believe the only reason she even considered reading them was because one of them we gave her was from the Journal of Veterinary Medicine of Dr. Couto’s published study results. The vet took Cracker to the back and told us she would give him the Amicar. It seemed like forever before she came back in. I think it was because she was reading the articles. She told us she had put Cracker on an IV of fluids and Amicar. She said initial test were good and she did not believe he needed any plasma. Her recommendation was to leave him overnight and call the in the morning to see how he was doing. Reluctantly we left and headed home.
As my wife drove us home and, using my cell phone, I continued to search the internet for anything I could find on either Hyperfibrinolysis in Greyhounds or the Greyhound blood disorder. When we got home we put our daughter back to bed and continued to research everything we could find on the subject. We stayed up all night reading, taking notes and printing articles. We also called the hospital a few times to see how Cracker was doing. We realized we were probably annoying them, but we were so concerned and scared we didn’t care. Every time we called we were told the same thing which was that he was resting well and still receiving his fluids and Amicar. During our overnight research marathon, we kept coming across the same research over and over, along with a few stories from greyhound owners that had experienced the disorder. For the most part, every bit of true research data we found we had already found posted on the GHI web page. It was clear the only real research that had been done was by Dr. Couto and even the anecdotal stories were mostly from around the Ohio area.
In the morning, the hospital called us and told us it was best to wait until noon to come see him so he could rest. First thing that morning we also called Dr. B’s office and told them what had happened, asking that he call us as soon as possible. Dr. B called back a few hours later as we were headed to see Cracker. He told us that their surgery center happened share the building with the hospital Cracker was in and that they had taken over his care. We told him again of the need for Amicar and that we felt this was their fault since we told them he needed the Amicar and he said Cracker didn’t need it.
Dr. B then asked us what we wanted him to do and I begged him to do some research on the disorder and treatment. I said it may be too late for Cracker, but for all the future greyhounds, would he please look up Dr. Couto and read the article in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. I even gave him the exact issue it was in. Dr. B responded by telling us he would “look into it, but he had done thousands of greyhound surgeries in his 26-year career and he had never heard of Amicar being given to greyhounds”. He also stated if I was correct he would cover the emergency hospital visit, but he highly doubted there was anything he didn’t know about greyhounds. I said “well sir, with all due respect, prepare to be surprised and I will wait for your call”.
We arrived at the hospital to see Cracker and spoke with a colleague of Dr. B’s, another surgeon named Dr. R. I again explained the blood disorder and encouraged her to please do some research on it. She was much more receptive than the other doctors and said she would. I asked what dosage of Amicar Cracker had received overnight and she gave me some numbers that didn’t match anything I had read about Amicar dosing in Greyhounds. They brought Cracker into the room and he looked about the same as the night before with one exception being, his two front legs were swollen. Dr. R told us that was probably from the IV and it was in both legs because they had to move it from one leg to the other that morning. While my wife and daughter were visiting with Cracker, I was using my phone to try to make sense of the dosage information the vet had given me. I eventually figured out that because it was given to Cracker in an IV with fluids and the dosing info I had from GHI was in milligrams. I would have to do some conversions. I found out how to do the conversions and discovered overnight Cracker had been given the equivalent of 2650 milligrams of Amicar in an 8-hour period. That’s 3 to 4 times the amount GHI and Dr. Couto recommended be given every 8 hours.
When the vet eventually came back in I told her my findings, she dismissed what I was saying and told us they were out of Amicar but had ordered more that morning and it should be in by 4 pm. Dr. R also told us to find a compounding pharmacy to get Amicar from for when he went home. This turned out to be a lot harder than we expected. The last thing she told us was “some Greyhounds are just excessive bleeders” and that the redness was just “normal bruising for a Greyhound.” I again urged her to read the articles I had printed and she said she would. Why weren’t they listening?
We stayed with Cracker a bit longer then decided it was best if we left so he could rest, knowing that the treatment would be 3 days at a minimum and could take up to 5 days. When we arrived home, I began calling pharmacies in the area to find one that could supply us the Amicar. I called dozens of pharmacies and when I finally found one that said they could compound it. I told them the dosage and the pharmacist told me that dosage was so high that a 3 day supply would be 850 dollars. I was in complete shock but, it should be noted, I found out weeks later the cost for the generic Amicar is more like 60 dollars total. Late in the afternoon, we called the hospital back just before 5 to speak with Dr. R one more time before she left for the day. She told us the blood work looked normal and he was resting. I do believe she read the print outs though, because she told me Cracker would be given 850mg of Amicar every 8 hours. That is the exact amount Dr. Couto’s paper suggested. We called the hospital again right before bed and were told Cracker was resting comfortably and doing ok.
Early the next morning, we called to check on Cracker and were told he was still resting comfortably by a vet tech. A few hours later we received a call from DR. R. She told us that when she saw Cracker that morning the swelling at the incision site had increased and was starting to rip the sutures out. She said she had to remove the sutures and replace them with staples. Since Cracker had just basically had another small surgery we decided we would go see Cracker until that afternoon around 4 o’clock. We received a call from Dr. B that afternoon, and to my surprise, he told me he had done some research on the disorder, and thanked me for bringing this disorder to his attention. Dr. B also told me that given the fact it is estimated to affect 28% of retired racing greyhounds, and the low chance of side-effects, he would be giving Amicar to ALL Greyhounds he operated on from now on. Hearing this was a major victory for us and gave me the strength needed to continue to push the other doctors treating Cracker towards the proper diagnosis.
November 4th - We went to see Cracker that evening. It was almost exactly 72 hours post-surgery. When they brought Cracker in it was clear he was worse. His whole under side was very dark red in color and his left hind leg and stomach area had swollen up immensely with fluid. It felt like a half full water balloon, but with less elasticity. The vet had also put him on Deromaxx and Gabapentin to go along with the Amicar and Tramadol he was already on. We spent 2 or 3 hours with Cracker that evening and he was very out of it, which we chalked up to the meds. We could tell though, he did not want us to go. Eventually we had to leave, but we told him we would be back in the morning.
November 5th – When we saw him on the morning of the 5th, the vet told us they had decided the redness may be due to a mild allergy to the Amicar so they added Benadryl to the growing list of medications. Amanda and I thought that didn’t sound right because he came in with the redness, but we didn’t object because a little Benadryl couldn’t hurt. When saw him again that evening, the swelling was worse. Cracker’s front legs had started swelling and we noticed a small amount of blood coming out of the pores on his back leg. This of course made us even more concerned because he had now been on Amicar for 3 days and we weren’t seeing any improvement and he was now bleeding through his pores. The vets assured us all his bloodwork was still normal and he was doing ok.
11-4-2016 Continued Swelling
November 6th - The following morning the vet’s office called us and told us they did not like the way the swelling all over his body looked so they ran more bloodwork and now believed he may have vasculitis. This too, did not sound right to us at all. We knew form our research this was all from the blood disorder and probably not vasculitis. We went to see Cracker that afternoon and he was a lot more swollen. We knew that although the vets cared and were doing everything they could think of, they simply did not understand the greyhound blood disorder Hyperfibrinolysis. We knew from the GHI website that you could request an email consultation with Dr. Couto for a very reasonable price. We decided we needed to do just that and hoped he would be able to respond in time to save Cracker Jack. We were afraid we were losing him.
That afternoon, I composed a novel of an email to Dr. Couto explaining what was going on with Cracker and sent it out. To my surprise at 6:30 the following morning Dr. Couto replied. He told us he would be glad to help but he was flying out shortly to do some lectures abroad so communications would have to be via email. Dr. Couto asked for pictures and his most recent lab results. We were ecstatic to hear from Dr. Couto so soon and worked quickly to get him the requested information.
11-5-2016 Leg Swelling | 11-6-2016 Swelling and redness
November 7th - I can honestly say Dr. Couto is an amazing person. He and I emailed back and forth all morning even though he was about to fly out of the country. We went to see Cracker and sent Dr. Couto the lab results as well as some current pictures noting he was slightly redder. Dr. R told us they had lanced him that morning and drained some of the fluid to do a culture. She also told us she had put Cracker on Prednisone and the Chinese herb Yunnan Baiyao which is supposed to help with bleeding issues. Dr. Couto looked over everything and told us the blood work looked surprisingly normal given his current condition and the severe swelling. We had now began including Dr. R on the emails so everyone could be on the same page. Dr. Couto told us to stop the Prednisone and not to lance him anymore, saying “this is NOT LIKELY vasculitis. I have biopsied dozens of Greyhounds like Cracker and have never found any evidence it happens.”
He asked us to send him a list of medications he was on as well. He said he should be on an antibiotic because “a lot of the rear limb amputations in hounds develop secondary bacterial infection due to fecal contamination.” and that as long as he is stable to “ride the wave.” By the time we left the vet office that morning Dr. R. was telling us she thought Cracker would be able to come home in 1 to 2 days.
All the emails that morning had confirmed exactly what we thought. The vets in charge of Crackers’ care truly did not understand what was really going on. We felt so grateful that Dr. Couto had taken the time to help us because without him, we felt we would lose Cracker. With Dr. R. saying Cracker may go home soon we were finally starting to feel Cracker may make it through this.
That evening I went back to see Cracker and noticed he was bleeding from his stump to the point it had seeped through the bandages and was actually leaving drops of blood on the floor. Over the last 6 days we had never seen his stump bleeding like this so once again, we began to get worried. I sent another email to Dr. Couto, not really expecting to hear from him for several days. I was again surprised as Dr. Couto responded the very next day. He told us to have the fluid looked at under a microscope because it could be an infection.
November 8th - When we saw Cracker this morning, we were pleasantly surprised to see the redness in Cracker’s chest had lightened up some. He was still bleeding from the stump area just like the night before, but for the first time in a week we saw improvement in the blood disorder. Were we finally going to turn the corner and start the road to recovery?
November 9th - We had another mixture of ups and downs. The redness had lightened up more in his chest but his legs were still swollen with blood. He was also still bleeding from the incision area. While we were visiting, he seemed to be more awake and even rolled over into a “roach” position and laid his head on our daughters lap. When we spoke with Dr. R she told us they were concerned that the incision was still bleeding and they were going to watch it for another day or two. Over the next two days there was really no change in Cracker’s condition. The incision had not improved but it hadn’t gotten any worse either. The culture they had done was starting to show signs of growth and his temperature spiked so we assumed he was probably fighting a mild infection.
11-9-2016 First Roach to Recovery
November 12th - We were told both Dr. R and Dr. B were concerned that the incision area was still bleeding and it may be an indication that the skin around the incision may be dying. They told us if that was the case they would have to perform a 3rd surgery on him to open the incision, cut the dead skin off, cut more muscle back and re-staple the skin. They decided to continue to monitor the incision over the weekend.
The biggest question now was that if this surgery is necessary, when would be the best time given Crackers’ weakened state. I had received an email from Dr. Couto asking how things were going and I informed him of the developments. He told us that due to the fever we should have his white blood cells checked. The following day, the intern overseeing Crackers care over the weekend, told us they were still concerned about the skin because now it was getting soft and mushy, and that the surgeons would evaluate it on Monday morning.
This felt like a major setback to us, and raised a lot more questions than answers. We started thinking that it had now been almost two full months since Cracker first started limping.
We knew how fast osteosarcoma could spread to the lungs and that at this point, his lungs were surely covered in cancer. Now he may need another surgery and it would be even longer before he could start chemo. We began to question ourselves. We wondered if we should we put him through another surgery? Was there a chance the chemo could still be successful? Were we putting him through all this just to lose him? We once again emailed Dr. Couto with our concerns, and a copy of the latest blood work. I was thinking he was back in the states by now but that was not the case. He did email us back that evening though. He said he was in South America doing more lectures and would not be back for another week. He told us the blood work looked good. Once again it only showed minor inflammation. I had asked him his opinion on what we should do given how long we knew Cracker had had the cancer and he emphatically told us we should continue with the plan. This once again gave us a small ray of hope as we waited to see what the surgeons said on Monday morning.
November 14th - Now full two weeks after the amputation we met with Dr. R and she informed us that the incision was not healing and another surgery would be necessary. They decided to schedule the incision repair surgery for that Wednesday the 16th. It seemed the blood disorder was continuing to improve, the swelling had reduced some and the redness had lightened up even more, however the incision was still bleeding a decent amount.
November 15th - There was only one odd development that day. The middle toe on his remaining hind leg had swollen up to about 3 times its normal size overnight. Dr. R was not too concerned about it so they would proceed with the surgery the next day.
11-10-2016 Less Redness, but Stump Bleeding
November 16th - We received a call from Dr. R as soon as the surgery was completed. She told us that it went well but there was a lot of dead tissue and muscle that had to be removed. She also said that there was a pocket of puss at the back end of the incision. They put a drain tube in and did not staple that area so it could drain.
Just as Dr. Couto had suspected a slight infection had developed due to its proximity to fecal matter. They told us that during the surgery they also took a biopsy of the toe and sent it off for analysis. We went to see Cracker that evening and the swelling on his toe had gone down some but it was still about 2 times the normal size. Over the next several days, Cracker continued to slowly improve. He had less redness in his skin and the drain tube was continuing to drain well.
11-21-2016 Cracker Going Home!
November 20th - I received an email from Dr. Couto letting me know he was back in the states and asking what the current status was. I told him about the toe and the drain tube. The most amazing thing though was given how bad the blood disorder was during the first surgery without Amicar, this time there was ZERO bleeding under the skin because he was already on it. In fact, he was doing so well that we were told he might he might go home soon.
November 21st - Three full weeks after Cracker’s amputation and ten weeks after he first started limping we were finally able to take Cracker home. They had removed the drain tube but left it open as there was still a small amount of drainage. The toe biopsy had come back as completely normal, which left only one question. When should we start chemo?
We again emailed Dr. Couto and asked him what he thought. Dr. Couto responded and told us chemo could start “as soon as he is fully healed.” Cracker was doing amazingly well considering what he had been through. I think our hardest issue at this point was trying to keep his e-collar on him so he couldn’t lick the staples.
Cracker was once again happy, energetic, and playful. Over the next 7 days the incision continued to drain, sometimes it was clear and sometimes it was red like straight blood, which of course made us concerned. That led to more calls to the vet’s office and an email to Dr. Couto. Everyone agreed this was normal and Cracker was doing great.
November 29th - We took Cracker in to have the staples removed and were told everything looked to be healing up nicely. The section of the incision that was left unstapled had begun to close and was no longer draining. I began to think what constitutes “fully healed” so I could get him in for chemo. We had our first appointment with the oncologist the next day, and we wanted to make sure Cracker was ready for the chemo. Once again, I emailed Dr. Couto for clarification, and to ask what chemo medications he should receive. About 10 minutes later he responded to me and said as long as the incision was closed and not puffy we should be good. His recommendation was to only give Cracker carboplatin for chemo therapy.
November 30th - We meet with the oncologist and gave him Cracker’s complete story. He was already familiar with the blood disorder and knew exactly who Dr. Couto was. When we told him we were consulting with Dr. Couto, he was really eager to hear what Dr. Couto opinions were with regards to the treatment. He told us there was some debate about how many rounds of chemo to give an osteosarcoma patient. Some doctors’ say 4, some say 5 and still others say 6. Again, we contacted Dr. Couto one last time to get his opinion on the number of rounds cracker should receive. He responded by suggesting that we do 6 rounds of chemo.
Cracker started chemo treatments on December 7th. He did remarkably well as it turns out, dogs don’t have near the side effects humans do when going through chemo. For the next 2 months, we repeated the same process every three weeks. Cracker would get treatment and for about 3 days would be very tired, then back to normal. One week after treatment he would have blood work and two weeks after that another treatment. Everything was going GREYT!! at his 3rd treatment. He was x-rayed again and still showed no signs of cancer in his lungs. Then after his 4th treatment his blood work came back showing his white blood cells were too low so we had to delay his 5th treatment by a week. We felt like this was not a good sign but the oncologist assured us it was common. After he received his 5th, and 6th treatments, another set of x-rays were done. Just like before there were no signs of cancer anywhere in his body and he was declared to be in remission!
Besse Jade, Cracker Jack, Nova, Hazel & Pyrite
That was March of 2017 and since then Cracker has shown no signs of the cancer returning. He is a happy 7-year-old greyhound. The missing leg has not slowed him down at all. He still runs and plays with our other greys and has just as much energy and excitement as our 4-year-old grey, Pyrite.
We recently started fostering a puppy and Cracker runs, plays, barks and wrestles right alongside her. We truly hope and believe Cracker can beat the odds and remain cancer free for many years to come. I strongly urge you to become an advocate for your animals, because sometimes the vet doesn’t know everything.
Crackers story is a cautionary tale for all of the Sighthound community to learn from. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for explanations or demand answers. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to do your own research and don’t be afraid to give it to your vet. If your vet does not want to hear you out or rolls his eyes at your concerns, find a new vet. Use your resources! But above all, be your hounds advocate the way you would for any other member of your family.
Our family worked very hard and with all of our heart on behalf of Cracker an if it were not for the guidance and work of Dr. Couto and the wonderful people of both GHI and G.A.L.T, I know our Cracker Jack would not be with us today. Words cannot express how grateful we are to all of them and those who supported Cracker and our family through this frightening journey. What we know now about Hyperfibrinolysis today, we know solely because of Dr. Couto, and for that, we are forever grateful.