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Diagnosis and Treatment for Hachi

$810 of $800 goal

Raised by 25 people in 7 months
Hello, my name is Dominique (Dommi to most who know me), and my best friend and soulmate of the last 11 years is my Shiba Inu mix, Hachi.

Hachi and I do everything together. I work from home so we spend most of our days together, we've traveled together. He has out of state buddies in my friends' dogs, as well as some besties in our neighborhood.

The other night I noticed that Hachi's left cheek seemed sunken/caved in. I googled to get an idea of what I could be facing, and it didn't look promising. Then yesterday in the day time, I realized it's not just his cheek but a spot towards the top of his skull. It's basically the left half of his face caving in.

My veterinarian asked for photos from more than one angle plus gave me a lengthy questionnaire to fill out. Upon the receipt of the photos, she said Hachi is very handsome (which is true), and that he has unilateral facial atrophy due to loss of muscle mass on his left side. 

There are several likely causes for this: an unusual presentation of an inner ear infection, inflammation or infection along the nerve(s) that go to those muscles, a tumor along a nerve(s) that goes to those muscles, or trauma of some kind to those nerve(s).

As Hachi is elderly by canine standards, the tumor is an unfortunately likely cause. 

It could be simple as prednisone for a month or it could be cancerous. Extensive testing and diagnostics are necessary in order to give him a proper diagnosis as well as treatment protocol. However, I spent much of the last three years unemployed and only recently acquired a stable income in August. I haven't been able to rebuild any savings, and my job is also only currently part time. Full time hours will be coming soon, but for the meanwhile, the estimate given by my doctor for the first few tests is half my take-home pay for an entire month. 

I know I have to say goodbye to Hachi someday, but it's too soon. I lost my longtime cat not even two years ago, and the idea of losing Hachi right now is more than I can bear.  At the advice of a friend (who has worked in several different vet clinics and has reviewed my doctor's preliminary estimate as well as the photos of Hachi and agreed swift steps should be taken), I'm making this campaign to afford the testing and any initial treatment strategies. 

The campaign is set at slightly less than double the estimate to account for the fees for using GoFundMe as well as should any surprise expenses come up during this first round. Hachi will be anesthetized during her examinations, and talk of a CT scan has been mentioned in addition to what's itemized on this estimate. 

I understand this is a hard time of year, but Hachi is everything to me. There's not much I wouldn't do for him if it means saving him. If you can help, donating or signal boosting, please do so.

Thank you.
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I did take Hachi in today and here is the advice from Dr. Smith.

"Hello Ms. Brooks,

As we talked about, Hachi has atrophy (weakening) of the muscles on the left side of his face. Muscle diseases (such as masticatory myositis [MM]); trauma to the muscles or nerves in that area; and trauma, infection, or inflammation somewhere along the pathways of the nerves that go to this area are possible causes of this.

Through my own research, and from both talking to a neurologist at the veterinary school and seeing how he appears today, the first thought would be a condition affecting his trigeminal nerve. This nerve supplies the muscles of the face and sensation of the face around the eyes. In older dogs, the most common problem is a growth somewhere along its length, which affects its function. Usually this is a nerve sheath tumor. These are not visible with an exam or X-rays, which is why it was so important for us to discuss a reasonable, doable plan for him.

From our discussion and your own reading, we know that MM rarely is a one-sided problem and that an MRI is the single best way to find an answer. There is a blood test to look for this, but the $300 it costs would, I feel, be better spent on other approaches given the unlikelihood of its presence. It is also possible, but again unlikely, that skull and neck x-rays would show another type of issue, be it trauma, a bony growth, or source of infection.

Given that currently it just looks as though the muscles are affected (no ear, eye, nose, and mouth involvement) and that further diganostics would likely not yield much information, I feel we are fine to watch and wait. Since he has a strong right side of his face, I do not feel that he will have trouble eating. There are other things to watch for that might indicate the process is progressing:

* decreased blinking ability, which can cause dry eye. Dry eye can produce a dull-looking eye surface, increased discharge, and redness. Eye drops would be needed if this happens.
* rubbing or pawing at his face. You mentioned he was doing this, so see if it something that continues or worsens.
* difficulty closing his mouth. Drooling, holding his tongue in a weird way, or food falling out of his mouth may show this.
* other signs that can mean problems with nearby nerves would be ear, eyelid, nose, or lip drooping; elevation of the third eyelid (corner eyelid); problems seeing; or problems hearing

The steroid prednisone is used for MM as well an inflammatory conditions that can cause these signs but its use is typically not considered unless signs become more severe or if other neurologic signs arise. This would happen if a tumor enlarges to the brain, causing seizures, incoordination, or other problems.

Please keep in touch with me as to how he is doing and if you think more needs to be done. We certainly still can sedate him and re-try for labwork if needed but I am not certain how much relevant information it would give us. It would help to ensure that medication choices are the best for him but we must balance this with cost and difficulty handling that strong, stubborn boy.

Doctor: Katie Smith, DVM"

Below I've attached screen caps of the email for proof of the recommendation above.

Basically...I will be spending far in excess of this campaign to find out that it was the tumor the entire time anyways given that he has no symptoms aside from the sunken half of his face.

His quality of life is not diminished, he is not in pain, can walk, run, and play, can eat, etc. She has, in our face to face discussions as well as in this email, urged me to hold onto the funds raised for when he begins to deteriorate. She also said that should I take a few days to consider my options and find I do want to begin the testing so I have a definitive answer, she will support this, but as Hachi gets incredibly stressed at veterinary clinics, she wants to mitigate his anxiety by utilizing as few visits as possible.

The tl;dr of this is that signs point to the worst case scenario, and all of the expensive testing would likely lead me that route anyways. I'd essentially be burning money according to a canine neurologist at NCSU's veterinary school, including what I've raised here to where I would have to keep up an indefinite fundraising stream in the thousands.

He's still doing well and until such time comes that he visibly deteriorates, she suggests that I put the money aside so I can pay for treatment and to make his end of life as comfortable as possible.

I'm devastated, but I will be fine in a few days. He seems to not notice anything at all besides his mom is really sad.

I sincerely thank you all for your help, signal boosting, and donations.
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Hachi goes in tomorrow morning for his x-rays and testing. Fingers crossed we get answers quickly!
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We did it, thank you everyone! I also received some help through my Paypal directly that helps to defray the fees as well.

First thing in the morning, we're getting Hachi set up for appointments and to find out what's going on.

Again, thank you all so much!
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Wow! Only $25 left!

Dr. Smith is back in the office tomorrow, so I'll call her first thing for a time to take him in. Thank you all so much, you're so wonderful!
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$810 of $800 goal

Raised by 25 people in 7 months
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