My dog Riley has a suspected brain tumor that is causing him to have issues with some nerves not quite connecting resulting in drunken looking behavior, stumbling, weakness on one side and difficulty chewing and swallowing.

There are not good treatments for most brain tumors and Riley is an old dog so after careful thought we decided to not put him through the testing required to get a definitive diagnosis, since we would not be doing surgery chemo or radiation. We are pretty sure of the brain tumor scenerio because he has all the symptoms and two years ago he had a seizure that left him with paralysis and blindness on one side of his face. That gradually subsided but at the time blood work and a neuro exam strongly suspected a brain tumor. Combine that with what we are seeing now and it seems likely.

more info on brain tumors

There is another condition called Vestibulitis that can cause similar symptoms and that is caused by the middle ear and can be benign. The fact that Riley has the jaw weakness points more toward a brain tumor causing the symptoms.

Since we are not doing chemo, surgery or radiation the treatment consists of comfort care. Meaning we want to give him meds that will help his quality of life rather than ones to fight the disease. Prednisone seems to be the drug of choice and he was already on a low dose of that every other day for his allergies. The tumor can cause swelling in the brain which causes edema and worsening of symptoms caused by whatever the tumor is pressing on. Prednisone can reduce the swelling and ease the symptoms for a time. It may seem like the dog is cured but really the symptom is being addressed.

Before Christmas it got so bad that we nearly put him to sleep but we increased the prednisone to a daily dose which reduces the swelling from the tumor and that helped a little but he was still pretty affected.

I spoke with the vet last week and he suggested to increase the prednisone again to twice a day (1mg for a 24lb dog) Riley has been on prednisone for most of his adult life so it's possible that his body may have lost the ability to make any of his own. Normally you dose pred once a day but when a dog is getting none of their own twice a day dosing might be helpful.

After a couple days on the twice a day dosing we started really noticing a more energetic dog with less of the stumbling. We have now had 3 days in a row where he bounds out of bed in the morning sort of like old times. We are still taking it one day at a time but 3 good days in a row is the best we have seen in two months so we'll take it.

The photo is one I took this morning during our special "apple time" I started long ago sharing my apple with him each morning while I have my coffee and it's something we both look forward to.

When he was having issues chewing he could not chew the apple and I had to mush it up for him. He is back to chewing on his own thankfully and we hope that it continues for a day a week or whatever time we have left with our little guy.

---------- added after Riley Passed-------------
Riley first started having symptoms of a brain tumor almost 2 years ago. At age ten he had a seizure that resulted in blindness and no feeling on one side of his face. He had some abnormalities in his blood work also and at the time the vets said that he had a probably brain tumor. At that time we were also told that there is not a very good prognosis using surgery, chemo or radiation and we opted to not do the MRI to confirm because he would have to be sedated. Sedation can trigger a seizure and we did not want to risk it.

I took him back in a few weeks and his symptoms had gotten better and his blood work had improved some so we decided to take a wait and see approach. We waited and for almost 2 years we had a happy healthy dog.

The problems started suddenly in early November and went downhill quickly from there. He lived until February with decent quality of life and we made sure he did not suffer. Toward the end we noted that his eyes appeared to be a different size. While this was somewhat disturbing to me, the vet said that nearly confirms that what we were dealing with was a brain lesion. It took away any wondering if I should have had him tested to make sure it was a brain tumor and not something else.

Journal Entries since Riley started having Brain Tumor Symptoms
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Grieving The Loss of our Beloved Friend Riley
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+Riley +BrainTumor +Cairnterrier

photo by Becky Brooks