Species: Dog Breed: Mixed Breed-Beagle Age: 8-11 years
I'm wondering if we need a set of fresh eyes about this ongoing situation, perhaps a visit to a different vet. Our vet is stumped after several visits, tests, xrays and almost $1,000 spent so far with no diagnosis.
Our 11-year old mixed breed Beagle Smokey started having some problems several months ago with pooping, holding his tail at an odd angle and/or arched, crying out most times but not always. He often tucks his tail between his legs now. While trying to poop he walks around the entire time, acting like he's straining and uncomfortable.
His stool is normal according to the vet. We noticed several months ago that it was smaller and sometimes has hair in it but he licks himself quite a bit so that's not unusual. This week his stool is quite large. The vet got us prescr diet digestive dry and canned food and we started giving him a little canned pumpkin to try and make it easier for him but his stool is not really hard most of the time. We noticed this week that it is much larger and firmer than it was before.
Other things the vet did - checked glands, they are clean. Internal exams, which on first exam could feel a lump where the prostate may have been but Smokey is neutered. On the second exam the lump was not found. Blood work ok. Urine, found sheets of cells which vet did not like. Sedated xray showed nothing out of the ordinary except an oxalate stone at the base of the penis but there is no urinary issue or symptoms at this time. The vet wondered if the stone had moved down and irritated something higher (the lump he felt previously?). They attempted to break up the stone unsuccessfully. For 3 weeks he was then on anti-inflammatory meds, antibiotics along with stomach meds to prevent problems and no change.
After the sedated xray he was put on anti-inflammatory again with another antibiotic. During the first couple weeks after this visit he acted more normally and stopped crying but then it started all over again.
Along with these problems he has lost a lot of muscle mass in his hind quarters over this period of time and is having trouble getting up on the bed sometimes. He's always had what seemed to be arthritis in his rear end but the xrays did not show anything to support that.
Smokey has had megaesophagus for years with no real health issues, but I thought it worth mentioning to you just in case.
Smokey whines in recent weeks a lot so we wonder if he is in pain. He seems to ask to go out much more often and if we don't let him out he will pee in the house, occasionally poop. We used to be able to leave him inside without accidents but he is getting older now so that may explain it. We are giving him a baby aspirin with his food twice a day with little change. Wondering if we should try the meds he had last time again and/or see another vet who may have different thoughts?
His appetite and thirst are still good. He shows little interest in his favorite toys any more. He still goes nuts for Greenies like they are dog version of cat nip. Sometimes I think he is getting senile, but again he's old. He whines like he wants to go out, goes toward the door and then runs back into the house and refuses to go out. Sometimes he just lays there and whines for no apparent reason. He will go on short walks with me when the weather permits but he gets lame quickly. We've had old dogs before but this situation is unique and has us stumped.
Dr. Marie replied:
This sounds like a really difficult case. There is no particular diagnosis that is jumping to my mind but I can give you a few of my thoughts.
I don't like the fact that you are seeing a loss of muscle mass in the hind quarters. This can sometimes be a sign of a serious condition such as a cancer somewhere in the body. Severe arthritis pain, such as in the back, could cause muscle atrophy also, but if this was the case then it should be fairly easy to diagnose on the xrays.
Do you know if your vet has checked for a perineal hernia? This is a problem where stool can collect in a pouch to one side of the rectum. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose. Not all of the symptoms fit, and it is not as common in neutered dogs as in unneutered dogs, but when you described the odd tail angle and difficulties pooping this is something that came to mind.
How long has it been since you had bloodwork done? If it was a while ago, it may be worthwhile to have a general set of bloodwork rerun. Some of the symptoms such as having a stone and having weakness in the hind limbs could be a sign of high calcium. High calcium can be present in certain types of cancers. Or, another reason for high calcium and a weak back end is a relatively uncommon condition called hyperparathyroidism. It's worth asking about.
Some beagles can get something called beagle pain syndrome which can have odd symptoms like this but I usually see more neck problems than back end problems.
Another thing to ask your vet about is a condition called myasthenia gravis. This is something that often accompanies megaesophagus. It would be a little unusual for symptoms to just come on now at this stage in life, but it's possible. Dogs with myasthenia gravis have muscle weakness that gets worse and worse. There are medications that often can help if this is the case.
I hope this has helped. If you do get a diagnosis, I would love for you to come back to this question and let me know.
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Those are all great suggestions to explore. It's been 2 months since bloodwork. The vet is concerned there may be some cancer. Particularly with the sheets of cells noted in the urine. Nothing obvious in tests to date though. Vet says any dog over age 7-9 is higher risk for cancer too. Smokey does have a large cyst on his abdomen next to his penis that grew slowly at first then has stopped. It does not seem to bother him. A needle test showed only fatty cells but it was a tiny sample. He also has bumps all over his body but that's not unusual in older dogs in our experience.
I will gladly follow up with you after we consult the vet or see any changes.
You are very thorough and caring. Thanks, Ronda
Wanted to update you on Smokey. His battle ended last week but at least we had some answers finally. No more pain for that sweet soul... The previous mystery of pain while pooping and odd tail position for several months was a combination of oxalate stones and cancer.
The vet removed the jagged stones and a suspicious lymph node during exploratory surgery. There were numerous tears in urinary tract which repairs were attempted. The lymph node was sent to Utah for pathology. Two days after surgery his BUN readings were rocketing so there were more leaks. We waited a few more hours and the lab rushed the test for us. It came back stage 4 aggressive cancer with less than 6 months to live even if the leaks could be stopped. If it had been just the leaks we may have attempted more surgery. The pathology report was the deciding factor. Rough week but we've been here before. We put our hearts out there, have the joy of sharing our lives with them, but it hurts when they are gone.
I hope this follow up response will help others, and thank you much. If I could do something different I would have perhaps had the vet open him to explore sooner and remove the stone we could see in X-rays. But without the rapid urinary escalation we would not have found the cancer and his suffering could have gone on for months longer. He was not really living any more. He was going through the motions but was in more pain than he ever indicated. Now we know why he would not get interested in favorite toys any more and so much pain in his hind quarters with no evidence of arthritis. He was 12 and had a good life until this. We were blessed. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have to help others.
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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