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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi, I'm new to hedgehog central, just signing up to post as I'm completely desperate for my poor Penelope.

Penelope is a little over 2 years old. Within two weeks she's went from completely normal, normal poops, wheel running and thirst/hunger to completely immobile besides shuffling her lame legs around that have lost most control, peeing blood on and off, and not eating or drinking whatsoever.

I visited a Dr. Nolan at Cedar Creek Veterinary in Michigan. After telling him the symptoms and saying I had been giving her .2ml of Baytril, he ruled out an infection. He felt her and told me she had a very small abnormal lump in her reproductive area. He said he thought possibly it was uterine cancer, it had spread and was pressuring her spine, which is more than I've been told thus far by other vets. Very exceptional care. He provided me with a steroid to diminish the tumors a little, possibly help her legs and return appetite and thirst.

Basically buy her some more time until she needs to be put down. And if it doesn't work...as heartless as it may sound, I go to classes and work. I play with her and love her more than anything, but I can't afford to keep the syringe feeding up or watch her shuffle helplessly on her legs. I love her more than that. She was limping to get on her wheel a few nights ago, and I burst into tears.

So, my question is: What should I do? Should I put her down if the steroids don't work in a couple weeks? Or is there something I can do other than keep her comfortable?

She's my little girl. I'm so torn.:(
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
He did offer surgery to spay her, as that's what I thought would solve it. But he also explained that it was very high risk as shes lethargic and loss of the back legs isn't associated with only the uterine cancer; he was thinking it spread through her lymph nodes, and there's possibly a tumor that stemmed from the uterine cancer pressing on her spine causing her loss of mobility and feeling in her legs. I couldn't afford the ultrasound and surgery and I didn't want to put her through the stress of surgery just to say there was nothing he could do for her as the cancer had spread to her spine, which would be inoperable. In short, the vet stated the spay could possibly rid of the cancer in the uterus, but not where it had spread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
He said if it was just the blood in the urine (which is either straight blood or clean urine), he would feel extremely confident in surgery being the fix for her as he's seen uterine cancer being the cause of that. But the fact her legs were very limp and purple...I suppose it was a risk I didn't want to take. And the vet was fairly certain he was going to cut her open just to say there was nothing he could do as far as the nerve/legs were concerned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I suppose I'm hesitant on if I made the right decision not doing surgery and how long the steroids the vet gave me will work. He was very experienced with hedgehogs, so I felt inclined to take his word on his professional opinion...but. I guess I just don't want to lose her, if there were other options other than getting a little more time from the steroids then putting her down?
 

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If you really can't afford the ultrasound and/or surgery (and keep in mind that you can apply for CareCredit, which may be something to look into), the main concern here is her quality of life. If she's still willing to eat via syringe for you, still able to scoot around and get some exercise around her cage, etc., and her pain is being managed, then holding off on euthanasia for a bit longer is probably fine. If you're struggling to get food into her, if she seems lethargic or you're having a hard time managing her pain, or if she's getting secondary issues from the loss of motion in her legs (such as sores, hurting herself trying to get around, self mutilation, etc.), then it might be time to say goodbye.

Ways to help her maintain quality of life while you see how much steroids help - make sure you're changing bedding more than usual so she isn't dragging her legs through any waste, take her wheel out so she's not tempted to run on it & possibly hurt herself more, if you take her out, make sure she's on smooth/soft surfaces so she doesn't give herself rug burn or anything on her legs. Try to work out a regular schedule for syringe-feeding, which will help her learn when to expect the food & may help that go more smoothly. I'm syringing a hedgehog right now as well & we're doing before work (5am), after work (4pm), and before bed (9pm) for feedings and she seems to have caught on to the process. Try leaving a few options for food in her cage as well - whatever you're syringe-feeding, plus her regular kibble. You could also try offering her regular kibble ground and/or soaked to make it easier to eat & see if that perks her interest.

Dr. Nolan was my vet when I lived in Michigan, and if I were in your position, I would also trust his opinion & advice. He was the one who helped me figure out what was going on with my first girl, Lily - I followed his advice on euthanizing her versus exploratory surgery & he checked for me afterwards to find that he'd been right. Her liver was 2/3 covered in tumors and surgery would've done nothing for her. Obviously every situation is different, but he's experienced & always does everything he can for his patients.

Unfortunately, if what he says is right, I can't think of any other options for you either, other than making sure she has good quality of life right now & see how she does with the steroids. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for replying. I just wanted I guess confirmation I made a good call not doing the surgery to spay her since he advised strongly against it due to his suspicions it had spread to her back. Even without an ultra sound, he seemed pretty confident he could tell me what was happening. I've been giving her morning and night doses of baby food/carnivore care and steroids. I haven't seen an improvement but it's only been a couple days.

Anyways. She doesn't even shuffle out of her hut at night, which makes me super sad. But we'll see how she progresses. If a few weeks go by and there's no improvement...I guess I have to make the hard decision. Syringe fed and hardly being able to move is not a good quality of life...not from how she was.

On that note, I hate to ask this now but just to kind of prepare for the worst in case: was Dr. Nolan comfortable and professional with putting down your Lily? I mean, making her not suffer and let you in the room...he was a bit of a drive for me but I got the impression he was very good with hedgehogs. Also, I heard any gas form for euthanasia kind of chokes them painfully.
 

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I'd say he's worth driving to for when you have to say goodbye to her. I could tell he was very upset about Lily's diagnosis too, which kind of made me feel better (that at least I wasn't alone in being upset about losing her). He was always very gentle with Lily as well, and there was a noticeable difference in her behavior with Dr. Nolan versus the other vets at the clinic.

When we realized the extent of her problem & I decided to go with euthanasia, Dr. Nolan woke her back up so I could hold her & have a few minutes to say goodbye alone. This was in their back room, where they do surgeries, procedures, etc. - he was always awesome about letting me come back anytime they needed to take Lily into the back for a procedure. She was never actually apart from me when I went to that clinic. Then we sedated her again (typical anesthesia) and he gave her an injection for euthanasia. The whole thing was very calm, he was very gentle, and gave me plenty of time before & after, no rushing at all.

Keep him updated on how she's doing - that was his one downfall, communication! He's so busy that he has a hard time remembering to keep contact up & such sometimes. But if you let him know that you're not seeing improvement, he'll likely have more advice on how long to wait, when you should be seeing improvement if you're going to, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I know! Penelope was super calm the second he picked her up and extremely mellow. Never happened before with other vets. Also, i called earlier today to ask about the steroids and he never called back. But I think today is the day he does surgeries, so...I'll have to call again. Haha.

And that's how euthanasia should go. I'm sorry about your Lily. I'll definitely be making the long drive if it comes to that. No vet in my area came close to him in how sympathetic and caring he was.

Obviously I'm going to keep my hopes up for my little Penelope and update Dr. Nolan if she doesn't improve or anything else. I got her in a very horrible time in my life, and she's always been there for me. I'm going to keep trying for her as much as I can.

Thank you so much for talking with me and laying to rest the doubts I had in Dr. Nolan and his opinion on Penelope not going through with surgery. I'll hope for the best.
 

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Dr Nolan is a good vet. I used him for a while when my vet moved further away. He was a great alternative.

He always listened to me, considered alternative treatments, and discussed why they may or may not work. He always allowed me to the back room. I think he was surprised when I asked if I could attend a necropsy. Always explained things when doing procedures. And always took his time, I never felt rushed in his office. Which as you know patience is a major quality we need when working with hedgehogs.

Normally, I'd go with surgery just because its the only chance to cure. But if Nolan is saying he recommends against it, there is something driving that. I'd keep her comfortable. Ask doc about pain medication if you aren't using already and give her lots of extra cuddle times while she is still here. And if you aren't against it, ask him if he would like to do a necropsy after she is gone to allow him the opportunity to confirm his original diagnosis.

Oh and side note. Keep calling. Unless it has changed, getting him on the phone was always horrible, he was always very busy. I think he has voicemail, so ask if you can leave a message.
 
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