Anorexia in Dogs: Aspen’s Leukemia

Loss of appetite in dogs can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. When Aspen lost her appetite, it was the first visible sign of her leukemia. Here is her story.

Loss of appetite in Dogs. Anemia in Dogs. Leukemia in Dogs. Aspen's Leukemia.

Aspen’s story

We didn’t know Aspen was seriously ill. 

We had decided to take her to see Dr. B because she didn’t seem to be herself and she was beginning to refuse her meals.

On Monday, Aspen was wrestling with Rogue. On Tuesday, Aspen only finished half of her turkey wing. We thought her jaw might be sore from chewing beef bones and icicles. So Huib gave her a can of salmon instead, and she slowly ate it.

On Wednesday, Aspen seemed uninterested in interacting with anyone and was hesitant about eating both her breakfast and dinner. 

Assessing what might be wrong

I decided to brush her and look for any abnormal lumps or sores but found none. I did notice that her heart seemed to be beating a bit quicker than normal, but I thought it might have just been her hatred for being groomed. However, I sent Huib an iMessage and he suggested I try to make an appointment with Dr. B.

Thursday morning we woke up really early and piled everyone into the Orlando.

Further signs

Aspen seemed tired and was panting a bit, but again, it didn’t seem to be a cause for too much concern – it was 3 AM. 

When she went to jump into the back of the Orlando though, she didn’t quite make it and Huib had to help her – this did make us worry a bit. On the way, Aspen sat up a few times and panted, but she always laid back down and didn’t seem distressed. When we arrived in Guelph, we let everyone relieve themselves and Aspen did both, so we returned to thinking it was going to be okay.

At the veterinarian

As soon as Dr b entered the examination room and saw Aspen lying on the floor, panting, she said she was concerned. 

She checked her heart rate, temperature and listened to her lung,s before she told us she didn’t feel it was going to be happy news.

Her main concern was lymphoma or tumors on Aspen’s spleen, but when she shaved Aspen’s abdomen to do an aspiration (to check for blood), she found unexplained bruising and began to worry about anemia. She took some blood and sent it off to be tested.

We stayed in the examination room with Aspen until the test results came back because she wanted aspen to remain calm and relaxed. We sat with her for three hours, taking turns sitting on the floor to pet her.

The diagnosis

When the test results came back, it wasn’t good news at all. 

We had known something was wrong from the way Aspen had begun to have more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable throughout the day, but we were hopeful that Dr b could do something to help her.

Aspen was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of leukemia.

Dr b told us that Aspen’s white blood cell count was through the roof and her red blood cell count was beyond being anemic. She felt that Aspen wouldn’t make it through the night, let alone through a chemo treatment.

Treatment options

She said that if we decided to try chemo, she could have Aspen in for a round in the evening, but we all worried that she may die on the treatment table. 

It was so hard to get all this news. We were in complete shock and felt helpless. The last thing we wanted to do was giving up too early on our golden girl, but we worried even more about putting her through a treatment that could either kill her or cause her pain and suffering that wouldn’t even end up giving her back any semblance of a life.

We sat for two hours with Aspen, talking about the options and spending as much time as we could with her because deep down, I guess we already knew what our decision was going to have to be.

By 3:00 PM, Aspen was having more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable. 

She was so warm and it was heartbreaking to watch her struggle. At 3:20 PM, we told Dr. B that we had decided to let Aspen go. She felt we were making the best possible decision.

The lost battle

Huib and I sat beside Aspen, while Cessna, Rogue, and Canyon laid around us. Dr b began inserting the anesthetic and Huib said Aspen passed before she had even finished inserting half of it. We feel as though she must have been ready to go.

Her body was just having too much trouble fighting to stay alive.

Everything happened so suddenly, there were hardly any signs to warn us.

We all miss you little girl, and the paw prints you’ve left on our hearts will never be forgotten.

Aspen’s story is shared with us by Brook of ruled by paws.
Thank you, Brook, for sharing your story!

Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Loss of Appetite
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?

Further reading:
Low Red Blood Cells – Understanding Anemia
Acute Leukemia in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsLeukemiaReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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