My boys (puppies) have been under the weather since mid January. As such the extent of their care has been all-consuming and I apologize for my absence with the blog.
My little one, a Yellow Lab, started exhibiting signs of something going wrong on January 15. His eyes were really droopy and bloodshot and he was lethargic beyond what is normal for him. During the course of a week I noticed a dramatic change in his behavior.
I took him to the vet on January 28 and he got a check-up and a thyroid panel. Nothing was revealed. He continued to get worse and could barely hold his head up. Then he started trembling all over like he was extremely cold - all the time.
On January 29 he got chest x-rays, a Chem Panel, and a Valley Fever Check. Then on January 29 he had a seizure. He has never had seizures but my Siberian Husky is epileptic – so I knew exactly what I was seeing.
I started giving him scrambled eggs and yogurt in the mornings and Milk Thistle for his liver.
He began to sway back and forth and was barely able to even stand up on his own. The swaying resembled a really drunk person. His breathing seemed labored and there was wheezing and he was panting constantly.
Next vet check – his temperature was elevated and the vet noticed all of the symptoms I had been noticing.
On January 30 he had another seizure. I took him to the vet again. Blood pressure and Heart rate were normal. They drew blood for a copper and lead screening.
I started to notice that he had lost some of his peripheral vision and was bumping into things (when he could stand and try to walk).
On January 31 I took him to the emergency clinic. They kept him overnight for observation and gave him IV fluids and did more blood work and additional x-rays.
Feb 1 – I picked him up at the clinic. Still no answers. Same symptoms since Jan 15 and the laundry list of added symptoms plus now I was noticing “frozen” stare-like seizures.
I opted out of a planned trip to stay at home with my dog.
On Feb 2 he started having (in addition to everything so far) Parkinson’s-like head shaking. The “head" seizures were intermittent but continued for 2 days.
I called the vet and he said to check his pupil responses. I did. I shined a flashlight into his eyes and one eyeball rolled upward and the other rolled down. This was disturbing to say the least.
Finally I made him an appointment with the puppy neurologist (My Siberian Husky goes there for his epilepsy).
The neurologist reviewed all of the data, the blood tests, the notes from the regular vet, the notes from the emergency clinic, and looked at my copy of both sets of x-rays.
She said it was definitely neurological and gave him a steroid shot. We scheduled a MRI for the following day.
Once home – I could notice an almost instant improvement from the shot.
Feb 4 – He went in for the MRI. (They had to put him to sleep to do it). I talked with the neurologist later that day and she said that it was amazing that my Lab was still with us. She had found a huge amount of swelling in his brain surrounding a lesion.
They started him on IV drugs and kept him overnight.
Feb 5 – I picked him up and talked with the doctor. She thinks it is either an auto-immune disease or Valley Fever. Mind you the VF tests had been negative. She sent off another one. All of the neurologists in her office all reviewed the brain scans and they all agreed that it is most likely Valley Fever. Sometimes there are false-negatives and sometimes the infection skips the initial phase of pulmonary infection and can go straight to the brain.
We started drug therapy at home on Feb 5th.
He is taking 20 mg of Prednisone twice daily
64.8 mg of Phenobarbital twice daily
100 mg of Milk Thistle twice daily
425 mg of S-Adenosyl twice daily
400 mg of Fluconazole twice daily
On Feb the 11th he somehow hurt his foot. He was limping and licking his paw. I took him to the regular vet and there was a substitute filling=in for the regular doctor. This sub said that my Lab had Cushing’s Disease. I assured her that the regular vet and the neurologist had checked this as well as a host of a million other things I had inquired about. She wanted to do a bunch of other tests and change the medicines that the neurologist had put him on. I declined.
I discussed this with the neurologist and she said that the Prednisone was causing Cushing’s Disease and that, theoretically, this should improve once we begin lowering the dose.
By the way, Cushing’s Disease manifests as muscle wasting. Currently, my Lab is showing definite signs…you can see his spine and virtually every single bone in his head is showing. The muscles have just depleted. The neurologist is not alarmed. We are in between a rock and a hard place – because we need to get the brain swelling down fast.
As far as the foot – they are putting him on antibiotics (the Prednisone lowers the immune system response so this is important).
I am to unwrap- soak in warm water- blow dry with a hairdryer and treat with a prescription cream – then put cotton balls in between his toes and under his pad and re-wrap with wound dressing and then over-wrap with self-sticking dressing on top…EVERY SINGLE MORNING.
The pad seems to be getting better. Although they did say that he might (let’s pray that he doesn’t) lose the pad on that toe.
Now this is going to throw you…the same day I took my Lab in for his foot – My Siberian’s leg was bleeding. After I got back home with the first dog I took the Siberian to the vet as well - to see about his leg. There is a gaping, open wound. I have no idea how or what has happened to him. They said it doesn’t look like a bite and that it resembles a laceration. I have scoured the house and yard and found nothing that could have caused this.
Anyway, now my Siberian is on antibiotics...In addition to the Phenobarbital, Zonisamide, Milk Thistle, Ursodiaol, and Sam-e that he already takes for his seizures and his liver.
The wound is draining and there is absolutely no way to wrap it. It is on his hind quarter and everything just slides down. Also – they don’t want it covered – they want it to drain. So I walk around the house trying to wipe it occasionally and then run around with a swifter and some carpet cleaner to clean up where he has been. I finally figured out how to secure a half of a sock on his ankle to catch some of the drainage.
My Lab is now on another (different) round of antibiotics for his paw after taking him to the vet to check the paw again on Feb 18.
My Siberian keeps licking the wound and I keep trying to get him to stop – I do not want to put a cone on his head…he is already dealing with enough and I don’t want him knocking into the walls and scratching them up…also he can’t fit through the puppy door with a cone.
The regular vet also just changed the Siberian's antibiotics to another type that is, mind you, three times a day instead of twice.
On Feb 22 – we started to lower the Prednisone for my Lab, by half a tab in the mornings and the regular dose at night. I am to watch for any neurological signs.
Throughout all of this I have declined many events, trips, and dinners…to stay at home and care for the boys. I cannot trust a kennel to do all that I am doing. Even asking our wonderful puppy nanny is really too much to ask of anyone.
On Feb 26 I took both of the boys to the neurologist (an hour away) to have their blood work checked and do liver tests and check the Siberian’s phenol level and do another Valley Fever test on the Lab.
Got the results on Feb 29.
The Siberian’s liver seems to be okay and we are taking him off of the Ursodiol. We are also continuing to lower the Phenobarbital and rely mostly on the Zonisamide for seizure control – which is less harmful to the liver. You have to lower Pheno very slowly because it could actually cause seizures if you lower too quickly.
My Lab’s results are that the Valley Fever is still negative…yet we are still treating with anitfungals because that is the most likely causative source. His liver levels went from 720 (already high) to 11,000. Yes, you read that correctly. 11,000! The neurologist said to give him the Siberian’s leftover Ursodiol that he is no longer taking and we will continue to monitor. Still, she is not surprised…he is on a lot of meds that are metabolized through the liver.
She agrees with me that the added easily digested daily protein of scrambled eggs, yogurt, and lean meats is good for him now. I started this due to the muscle wasting…also I am giving him cooked carrots and green beans for readily available carbs – i.e the body is catabolic (Cushing’s Disease) and is eating the muscle to get sugar basically. I give them all of the above on top of a small amount of kibble for breakfast and dinner. The kibble is Natural Balance Duck and Potato. Yes, I scramble them eggs and cook them carrots every morning. And, yes, my husband grills them chicken and beef.
On March 2 we started lowering the dosage of Phenobarbital for my Lab by one-half of a pill in the morning and a full tab at night.
I’m glad we have started to lower the doses.
Throughout all of this – I have become quite proficient at using a pill cutter. (Not just in half – but some quarters even for my Siberian) I have also become rather good at dressing wounds.
I have notes, records, med schedules, vet schedules, and protocols listed everywhere. I have to check the calendar for med changes every week.
As I was writing this – my Siberian started bleeding from a new wound 6 inches above his other two leg wounds. It seems to me this may be what I asked the vets about – a serious skin reaction from the Zonisamide anti-seizure drug…they had informed me that we would have seen something before now – yet these wounds are quite mysterious. In my opinion, it is coming from within...whatever is causing it.
I have confined him to the garage and laundry area – he is bleeding everywhere and will take him to the vet tomorrow. I just sent the neurologist an email to ask, yet again, about the possible reaction to sulfa drugs (Zonisamide)causing this skin issue.
This is just getting ridiculous already.
Tomorrow we will see what the regular vet and the neuro have to say about the skin issues in the Husky.
All in all, I have to say I only want my boys to healthy again. It has been stressful and exhausting to say the least. Not to mention expensive.
But I love them so very much and am doing what I must do to help in their healing process.
Please send loving, kind thoughts and prayers our way.
I know there are plenty of horrible issues that people are facing and dealing with everyday. And the issues I am dealing with currently with my dogs do not even begin to compare to the heartbreaking situations happening world wide.
My heart goes out to those suffering illness, loss, and destruction in its many, varied forms.
Hopefully - things will be back to normal or near normal before long and I can start posting recipes and the like again!
And while I have your ear-
Please send prayers for my Sister (An Ovarian Cancer Survivor) who is recovering from a recent surgery.
Keeping the Faith, Always
– TR Hughes