Found out this week that our 11-year-old dog with other significant health issues has a melanoma on her foot; the vet wants to do surgery to remove her toe at a cost of $1300. Our dog was a rescue and we've had her since July 2007, so we are only estimating her age; she could be a bit older as she was full-grown when we got her. In March 2010, she ruptured a disc in her back and lost the use of her hind legs and control of her "potty functions". We spent a couple of thousand dollars over the next months at the vet's office, animal chiropractic visits (which I didn't even know existed -- she HATED that guy!!), not to mention some sleepless and sleep-interrupted nights taking care of her, etc. She was in a very bad way for several weeks and it was a consideration at the time to put her to sleep. But we kept on trying to get her better; my DH even made a wheeled cart for her.
Gradually over time, amazingly, some function in her back legs came back to where she can walk, for the most part, although she sort of looks drunk sometimes. I don't think she has any feeling in her back feet; sometimes a paw will drag top-down on the ground until she can get it back the right way. She has never regained full control of her potty functions; she will squat to pee outside, but oftentimes the pee and the poop start before she is aware of it. She is mostly an outside dog, so most of the time that isn't a problem, but in cold or stormy weather, she's in the house. Because she can't feel those nerves in her back end, she has been almost continuously on antibiotics for the past several years; she gets bladder infections at the drop of a hat and once she finishes a round of antibiotics, she may go as long as a couple of months before the infection returns.
Now, we find out about the melanoma. If she was a younger dog, or if she didn't have these other ongoing, long-term health issues, we'd do the surgery in a heartbeat. But she is an old dog, she's already been through a lot of pain and suffering with the ruptured disc, and making her have surgery on one of those already-wobbly back feet isn't something we want to do.
When DH told the vet that we had decided against the surgery, but that we'd continue with antibiotics for the bladder infections and will keep her comfortable as long as we can, the vet said she understood. By the way, even with all her problems, she still eats, sleeps, drinks water, poops (!!) and plays.
Anybody else who's had a cancer diagnosis in an older dog who maybe can offer us some insight?