By Dr. John De Jong / Ask the Vet | Sunday, December 9, 2012 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Lifestyle 

Dear Dr. John,

We just received some deva-stating news about our 10-year-old husky. We noticed a while ago that our dog had started to have trouble getting up and down and occasionally seemed to have a hitch in his walk. He has been healthy until now. We took him to our vet expecting to hear that he simply had arthritis but instead were pointed to a bump on the back of one of his rear legs, just below and to the side of his tail, that we were told might probably be cancer. With limited funds and the outlook we were given, we have chosen not to do surgery. Instead, the vet did blood work and gave us pain medicine for the dog if the results were normal. We were told that everything seemed normal or close to it except a high level of calcium. What does that mean? The dog seems quite a bit better taking the medicine but how long can things last? We hope to share the holidays with him. Thanks.

 H.L.

Dear H.L.,

I am sorry to hear of your mis-fortune, especially now. It seems that I see and hear about a lot of animals that seem to succumb to health problems at this time of year. While I a™m glad to hear that the blood work seemed good enough to take the medications, the elevated calcium tells another story in that the most common cause for increased calcium in dogs is cancer. Only a biopsy will tell for sure but my guess is that your dog may have an anal gland tumor based on the location you have described. These masses are hard, and depending on how they grow, they may or may not be the cause of your dogs ambulatory issues. In other words, it may well be that your dog has arthritis or bad hips as well as a cancerous lesion. X-rays may determine the relative health of the hips and spine. As to how things play out, its anybodys guess. I suspect that your dog was given a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is significantly improving things for now but without a more thorough work-up one can only guess as to what may cause his ultimate demise. The tumor may cause problems going to the bathroom, it may bleed by rupturing or it may grow into an area causing trouble walking. How long things last is un-predictable, but I will keep my fingers crossed that you can have him around for the holidays. Youll do what is right when the time comes.