Campy has now had his two Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine injections. The first one was on July 14, and Campy showed no reaction to it at all. His second injection on August 5, is turning out to be quite eventful.
Within a couple of days Campy became very tender at the injection site, on the right side of his neck. He cried out when he tugged on his leash and put pressure on his neck from his collar. A lump soon developed on his neck, which was an expected potential side-effect of the vaccine in some dogs.
A significantly larger lump that developed on Campy’s back between his shoulder blades was a mystery and quite concerning. The first injection was done on the left side of his neck. Neither injection was done on his back.
I started applying warm compresses to both swelling sites in the hope of getting them to open up and drain. This is the recommended protocol from Yale to deal with these “sterile abscesses.”
The lump on Campy’s neck soon opened up and started draining. It didn’t appear to cause him too much discomfort. So that much was going pretty much by the anticipated side-effects playbook. But the lump on his back remained hard as a rock and continued to grow. I made an appointment for Campy to see our local vet and reached out to Dr. Mark Mamula at Yale, who is in charge of the vaccine trial. He told me that the neck abscess looked quite typical of what he’s seen in other dogs in the study. He also said that it is very rare that a reaction to the vaccine would occur at a location other than the injection site.
Having dealt with two dogs in 10 months having cancer, I’m hyper-leery of any lump, bump or mis-step I notice on my dogs now.
Dr. Mamula suggested our local vet do a needle biopsy of the big back lump. That was the plan for our August 12, appointment. But the lump was too hard to yield any fluid. It was also very painful for Campy. It turned out Campy was running a fever of 103.5, so we came home with antibiotics and Gabapentin for his pain.
Campy was to go back to the vet in two days for a follow-up and to have the lump excised, if it hadn’t opened up on its own with continued warm compresses.
The next day, I noticed the lump finally starting to soften up. Sure enough, it opened up with a vengeance in the middle of the night. Campy was in major discomfort and paced around the house trying to get comfortable, despite the Gabapentin. The next morning our house looked like a crime scene, but at least the giant lump had opened up on its own and wouldn’t have to be surgically excised. The vet did what he could to shave Campy around both accesses to help with their draining.
This weekend I have been continuing with the warm compresses and making sure the wounds keep draining and don’t scab over and start swelling again. I’m continuing with the Gabapentin and the antibiotics. Campy seems to be more comfortable now.
Two positives on which to end this: One being that based on the study results so far, dogs that have experienced abscesses after one or both of their vaccine injections have typically produced antibodies…which is the ultimate goal, to attack and kill malignant tumor cells. So fingers crossed that Campy’s discomfort the past two weeks will have been worthwhile. He’s to have his third and final blood draw on August 31, which will be sent to Yale, along with the previous two to be tested for antibody production. For more on the Yale Canine Cancer Vaccine Study check out my last blog post or click on the highlighted link.
The second good thing to happen recently is the installation this weekend of Campy’s Wheel.
This is original artwork created by the son of an old radio friend of mine, just for Campy. It is inspired by Campagnolo cycling components, for which Campy is named. It is an incredibly beautiful and thoughtful gift. And a random act of kindness for a very special dog who has been through a lot of tough times and has touched a lot of hearts with his story.
Thank you Don Calkins!