Willow – our German Shepherd – lost to Canine Lymphoma


Early this December, Willow, our sweet, 5-year old German shepherd dog, began getting feverish and she lost her energy and appetite.

She had been itching her ears so we thought this was caused by an ear infection. When we took her in, the vet confirmed her ear infection, but also told us she had lost 10 pounds (unnoticeable under her thick fur since she is a long-haired German Shepherd and often skipped meals) and that we should do blood work right away.

The blood work came back with possible results of lymes, antiplasma, or lymphoma. Since lymes is an epidemic in MN, we began treating with antibiotics and pain killers for the lymes and antiplasma. Over the next week, Willow still had little appetite. Each night was spent making meal after meal to find anything she would eat. We would try the canned dietary food the vet sent home with us, ground beef and rice, kibble, chicken, hot dogs, or treats. She usually would eat the meal the first day and turn her nose at it the second. I also struggled giving her the two antibiotics plus pain medicine she was on. She clenched her jaw shut when I held the pill up, and my fingers got caught between her back teeth a couple times as I pushed the pill as far as it would go down her throat so she would swallow instead of spitting it out.

Over Christmas, we drove 5 hours to my family’s house. Willow continued to struggle with food, but she did eat chicken and the food my parents’ German Shepherds were on. She was even less active now. One morning, Kevin and I played in the backyard with our nephew, Dylan, and our German Shorthaired Pointer, Nova, while Willow laid in the yard watching us. Dylan made sure she had a ball near her to be part of the action, and occasionally would give her a pat on the head and tell her it was ok. During our stay, Willow also began breathing more heavily, especially at night.

The Tuesday after Christmas, we took Willow in to the vet again as she was still not eating and her health had not improved. The vet was extremely concerned and did an x-ray to find that her stomach was surrounded by 5 pounds of fluid. We were referred elsewhere (to the Metropolitan Veterinary Referral Services), and the next day Willow had an ultrasound and a sample of the spleen, which revealed lymphoma.

We were given hope that if the cancer had not reached other organs, we could do surgery. However, the research we did that night told us that once the lymphoma cancer reaches the spleen, it is at stage IV and has most likely reached other organs.

The next day on Thursday, the vet confirmed our fears. We were told the cancer had also reached her liver. She was also anemic with red blood cells at only 20%, which told the vet that the cancer had also reached her bone marrow. We saw Willow the last time on Thursday from 3:30 to 4pm. Willow was very weak now. She could barely stand to leave the room. As we sat there, her beautiful coat was speckled with blood. She panted heavily and her heart beat very quickly.

We agreed to give Willow a blood transfusion and start her on the first round of chemotherapy and a steroid, which would make her more comfortable and buy her a few more weeks with us to say goodbye. Further chemotherapy was not an option for us since remission would likely be only 6-8 months and then she would become sick again.

At 8pm, our vet called and said the blood transfusion did not work. Willow was puking up blood now but the vet was hopeful that the chemo would start working and Willow would recover. We contemplated euthanizing her at this point, but the vet asked that we not give up on Willow. At 10:30pm, she called again to let us know Willow had stabilized: her heart was beating slower, but platelet levels were still low. At 3:30am, we received a call that Willow’s lungs were slowing down and she was not receiving enough oxygen. 10 minutes later, as we made our way to the vet, we received a call that Willow had passed away.

We arrived to a peaceful puppy and we brought our German shorthaired pointer, Nova, along to say goodbye as well. The vet told us that she understood that her big sis, Willow, was no longer here.

Willow had died from canine lymphoma cancer only 2 days after her diagnosis, giving us little time to come to terms with the cancer that was invading her body. She was a strong girl who hid much of the pain and stress her body was under. We had hoped to make her comfortable again and have the chance to say goodbye in our own home with family, but Willow could not hold on any longer. We are very sad and miss her like crazy. I cannot believe she was taken so suddenly from us.

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4 thoughts on “Willow – our German Shepherd – lost to Canine Lymphoma

  1. The German Shepherd Dog truly is a wonderful animal and not only do they make
    good working dogs, they also make superb family pets. They are however very
    different from other pet breeds and need to be handled and trained with a different
    approach to say your average labrador or poodle for instance.
    Carmelle Snowden

  2. I am so very sorry for your loss Jennifer. Your girl Willow is a real beauty. I’m so sorry she got so sick and you lost her to that disease.
    As each day passes, my tears become less, but my heart has a hole in it that cannot be filled. I contemplate saving a rescue GSD or getting a puppy also. My dog Jack was staying with my ex-husband while I relocated and found suitable housing for him. He was a very powerful GSD and obviously evoked fear in people so the right place was very important. But he was a champion animal in love and spirit and he couldn’t hurt a flea. He was very tender with small animals and children. His heart was so big and I know that the day he died, he was thinking of me.At 3 o’clock that afternoon I felt very woozy and sick to my stomach. He was not sick. He was the picture of health. My ex murdered him one month after I set out in my relocation process. There was no reason for doing this other than pure selfishness. He had just turned 6 in November. I only wish he had been sick so I could find solace in his death. I have none.
    The love we share for our animal companions is very deep. Many people don’t understand this. They say, “he was just a dog”. I say,there is no such thing as just a dog. They are our best friends and love us unconditionally. They give us total loyalty and expect the same. Something no human being can truly give.
    I hope your pain lessens as does mine.
    All the best to you and your family.

  3. Pingback: Infertile | Linds of MN Blogtog

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