Lilly – the Foxhound with a very unusual lameness
Lilly, a 4 year old Foxhound first became unwell in December, shortly after the other dog in the household had sadly died. At first her owners thought Lilly might be missing her old friend but they soon noticed that poor Lilly was lame and that all four of her legs were swollen.
Lilly was treated for suspected immune-mediated polyarthritis (IMPA – a condition where the pet’s own immune system attacks the tissues in the joints and causes lots of inflammation) but despite using multiple medications she remained lame and was very lethargic. When she didn’t improve and the swelling got worse she was soon referred to the internal medicine service at Northwest Surgeons.
When she arrived Lilly was very quiet and subdued. Her owners felt her appetite hadn’t been good since she became unwell and Lilly had lost a significant amount of weight. Most importantly though, when I examined Lilly there were a couple of clues that gave me some idea of what might be going on – the swelling in her legs actually seemed to be affecting the bones rather than the joints, and she had also developed quite a nasty cough! Together, these signs were suspicious of a condition called hypertrophic osteopathy or Marie’s disease, a debilitating disease where bony swellings develop secondary to disease elsewhere in the body, often in the lungs.
Lilly was admitted for further investigations. Sure enough the chest x-rays showed a large mass, suspected to be a cancer, in her left lung. The x-rays of her limbs showed lots of new bone formation with a very irregular surface – this was the cause of the swelling her owners had noticed!
The reason for the strange bony reaction associated with some cancers in the chest is not well understood. Thankfully, though, treating the underlying disease usually helps a great deal and we discussed with Lilly’s owners that the best thing we could do would be to operate to remove the lung mass. They decided to go ahead and the next day Lilly was operated on by our soft tissue surgery specialist, Prof. John Williams. He was able to successfully remove the mass and, although Lilly had a few difficult days while recovering (and gave those of us looking after her a few scares!) she was back at home and doing well a week later.
Follow-up tests revealed good news and bad news. The bad news is that the lung mass was, as we suspected, a cancer. The good news is that dogs with these types of cancer can do very well for several months or years following surgery and hopefully this will be the case with Lilly – a few months down the line her legs are no longer swollen and she is back to her normal bouncy self – long may it continue!
Karen CrawfordKaren graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2005 and then spent time in first opinion practice in Worcestershire. Having enjoyed her medicine rotations as a student, she then decided to return to Glasgow to complete an internship, followed by a year in a large first opinion and referral practice in Yorkshire.In September 2009 Karen moved south and undertook a 3 year residency training programme in small animal internal medicine at the University of Bristol. She successfully completed the first part of the Diploma exams for the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2012 before moving to Northwest Vet Specialists.Karen enjoys all aspects of canine and feline medicine, but is particularly interested in immune mediated diseases, transfusion medicine, and emergency and critical care. Her research interests include immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia and portosystemic shunts.