Category Archives: illness

Our Dog Has Epilepsy

Our dog is epileptic. This is not news to us.

Our five year old Labrador, Riddick, was diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy a little over a year ago.
This is also not the first time we’ve had an epileptic dog – our mixed breed rescue, Louise, crossed the rainbow bridge just over a year ago due to cancer, but she was medicated for epilepsy for a few years before she died. She was fairly stable, with occasional general seizures, but she picked up weight – a common side effect – and we had to put her on a strict diet.

Thankfully Riddick did not gain weight on the Phenobarbitone medication (AKA Phenobarbital, Pb), but he did experience a few of the other side-effects of the AED – lethargy, sedation, loss of coordination, increased thirst, a bigger appetite, and an increase in urination. Long-term use of Pb can also affect the liver, and this concerned me as he was only four years old when he started on the meds, but we monitored the levels of Pb in his system with blood tests.

The “fun” part about treating our Riddick (he’s diabetic as well) is that he doesn’t EVER react to meds the way the vet expects him to! He even has professors baffled! This means we have got to know our vets very well, and Riddick loves them.
Riddick hit an especially rough patch last month, where he seemed to develop a rare sensitivity to the Pb that severely affected his mobility – it made his hind end completely weak and it was about two weeks before he was strong enough to get up, walk, and busy on his own without assistance, and another two weeks or so before he was back to normal. We had to lift him and carry him as he got stronger every day, and during that time we weaned him off the Pb tablets (the only way to fix the hind end weakness) and started him on a new AED with fewer side effects, but it was really rough on all of us!
We are exhausted.

Living with an epileptic dog has proved to be really stressful, even when their epilepsy is relatively under control. If they hit a rough patch where their meds need to be changed or they are having seizures, it can be exhausting. And finding the right meds can be a challenge – especially if your dog is like Riddick! The majority of dogs are successfully treated for epilepsy with Phenobarbitone tablets (about 20c a pill), but as our Riddick has now shown he may have a sensitivity to the Pb, we have to switch to a new, imported option, Pexion, at R12 a tablet!

With the last month so difficult for our Riddick, it made us reluctant to leave him at home without someone to watch over him. And I find myself watching Riddick’s every move to look for his “aura” – the little signs he shows when a seizure is pending. I don’t sleep too deeply because I am listening for him… And as he can’t go everywhere with us, we have become a little home-bound…

Yes, I know – he’s a dog, not a child – but he’s my dog, and I love him very much.

Riddick’s epilepsy is also different to Louise’s. Where she would have a general seizure every other month or so, and be absolutely fine in between, Riddick typically has what is called a focal seizure. He is wobbly and disoriented, his head and front legs twitch, but he is still fairly aware, and this is when he paces and walks into things. These fits can last a few minutes and take him about an hour to recover from, or he can have a few of them in a row and they absolutely exhaust him.
Occasionally he has a general seizure, a grand mal seizure which is very scary to watch. He lies on the floor, thrashing and flailing, his jaws pulled wide in a grimace, and he pees himself. This kind of fit will exhaust him for half a day, and immediately after the fit he has no idea where he is, who I am, or how to navigate his house. This can last quite some time. At the same time he is super-hyper-excited, but also unsteady on his feet, and he wants water but he doesn’t know where the bowl is. He can be quite a handful until he is back to normal! And for several hours after this kind fit he is very insecure and will stay as close to me as he can get.
Hopefully his new medication will prevent him getting any fits at all.

With the help of many wonderful friends, we got a Holistic Vet disability harness for Riddick a few months ago, because when he is having a seizure – or recovering from a seizure – he tends to want to pace and walk around (also one of his “aura” signs). The worse he feels, the more he walks into things and falls over his own feet, so the harness helps us help him – we can stop him walking into things and I can keep him from losing his balance.
When he is having a seizure, the harness helps me pull him away from walls or furniture so he doesn’t hurt himself.
When we got the harness, we only needed the front half to steady him during and after a fit, but when we went through the days where he couldn’t walk on his own – the full harness proved invaluable in assisting our 35kg boy to walk and busy until he could stay on his own feet again.
I wish I could give each and every one of those dear people a big hug! I don’t know what we would have done without the harness!

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So here’s my two cents if you have an epileptic dog.

Whether or not they are on medication, keep a careful log of their seizures as this can be invaluable to your vet – or to a new vet. I have found this is a great way for ME to stay calm and focused during a fit, and I guarantee you won’t be able to remember every detail and every date when you get to the vet!

Try to note the time and duration of the seizures, and what your dog does during the fit. Note how long it takes for your dog to recover and how they behave after the fit. Try to note whether your dog was playing or sleeping shortly before the fit, or if something else happened that may have triggered it – maybe they were surprised by a sudden noise or some such.

Also record changes to your dog’s diet or environment (new house, new dog, new baby), as well as vaccination dates, vet trips, whether you missed a medication dose, even weird weather!

Make sure you know your vet’s hours, as well as where your nearest 24-hour emergency vet is. And if you go to the vet, take your log book with you.

If possible, get copies of blood test results from your vet that you can take with you if you have to go to a different vet.

Be aware of your other dogs while your dog is seizing. If you have more than one dog, a seizure may trigger an instinctive “pack” reaction causing the other dogs to try and attack the “weaker” animal.

Our Riddick’s Epilepsy

We started Riddick on 4 Lethyl tablets twice a day on August 29th 2016, so he’s been on meds for a little over 8 months now.

Two days after we started him on the Phenobarbitol I dropped his pills from 4 twice a day to 3 because he was so doped and zombie-like… It broke my heart, so I decided to decrease his meds a little in the hopes it would still work.
About two weeks later we did blood tests to see what levels the meds had reached in his system, and whilst it was on the lower end of the acceptable range, it was on target, and his seizures decreased and he was fine for almost 3 months.
December we hit a rough patch again, but it was short-lived and he seemed good again.
The earlier this year, based on what we had been through with him, we were all but convinced that our Riddick’s seizures were from his low blood sugar, not from epilepsy. So in February I decided to bite the bullet and see for sure. I started weaning him from 3 Phenobarbitone tablets twice a day, two 2 tablets twice a day. And from 1 March I reduced it further to 1 tablet twice a day.
Then he had a big seizure, and we increased his meds to three tablets twice a day again.

Then, two weeks ago, he started having the weird wobbly-twitchy fits (that we had thought were caused by low blood sugar).
On these graphs you can see how his blood sugar readings have stayed nicely on the low end of normal, but his seizures have increased.

And yes, I keep very detailed records of Riddick’s diabetes and epilepsy on excel, and in a book! My husband says I’m making our vet’s life too easy… 😛

We popped in to the vet after a week of daily fits, and he has recommended increasing the meds by half, so he’s getting 4 tablets in the morning and 5 at night (9 tablets a day).
Yesterday and today he had one very mild, and very short lived twitchy-wobbly fit early in the morning, but today he is VERY spaced out and quiet. This sedation is a side-effect of the epilepsy meds, and it should get better, but its SO not like our boy… 😦

I am determined to get his seizures stable again, so I am going to wait out the increased meds for at least a week… And luckily I now have putting his harness down to a fine art.

Our Riddick’s Epilepsy

Our precious Riddick woke me at 3:50 this morning, pacing our bedroom. 😦

Pacing is a big part of his pre-seizure “aura”, and the pacing gradually gets worse with him walking into walls and furniture, and falling over forwards. 😥
I quickly put his harness on, and he went outside for a busy. Then I took him to the living room (which has no furniture ATM) so I could let him pace without walking into anything, and have space to move him if he had a seizure. After a while I got him to lie down on a towel in the middle of the lounge and I sat next to him.
He had a seizure, but one of his weird twitchy ones, thankfully not a full grand mal.

He slept on the towel next to me for a while, and I waited until his twitching had completely stopped before I woke him and took him back to his bed in the bedroom.

He was still a little restless, but mostly he slept until my alarm went off at 5:45. He was still a little wobbly, but much more himself, and starving!

His blood sugar was nice and Riddick-normal, which I was glad about.

I took him with me in the car when we dropped my husband off for work – I don’t take Riddick every time but I wanted to keep an eye on him.
The fact that he was quietly sitting or lying in the back seat told me he definitely was not himself! Normally he stands with his head between the front seats, trying to rest his head on our shoulders, and squeak-groans almost all the time.

Last night, Riddick’s behaviour was a little “off”, so I was sort of expecting a seizure. He didn’t come when called, he barked a lot at nothing we could see or hear, and he didn’t respond to our emergency recall word at all – which is very unusual.

We were 32 days seizure free, and I haven’t skimped on his meds… If this trend continues I can live with one seizure a month. 😥

Chronicling Riddick’s Burn

So now I have a scary story to tell. Its not short – or over (yet) – but its one I have learned a lot from.
As I mentioned in my last post, we had friends over for a braai on Saturday February 25th. It started raining a little while the meat was cooking, so the guys outside moved the braai under the gazebo between the chairs.
Our Riddick, who has to be with his people as much as possible, squished himself between the braai and the chairs (I was inside) and the guys didn’t realise his rump was against the metal side of the hot braai until he squeaked and jumped away.
A few of us then had a look at him, but the hair wasn’t even singed and he seemed fine, so I wasn’t worried.
On the following Monday morning – two whole days later – I woke to find a bald patch and a shallow burn!  

I treated it with Germolene, but he was licking it a lot, so I took him to the vet on Tuesday morning to take a look. The vet was happy, shaved the area open a bit for me, gave me some Hibitane to clean it with, and said to keep an eye on it. You can see from the picture that there was no obvious injury apart from what we could see, and neither the vet or I saw more than that.

On the following Saturday morning (almost a full week after he got burned) it looked like it was healing nicely, and then I noticed a small, weepy, bald patch, just below the shaved bit. It looked like another burn, but I wasn’t sure and I couldn’t see it properly through his hair, so I headed straight to the vet. She shaved around it, opening the original patch up, and as she shaved we found more burned skin! I was horrified for my poor boy! How did I not see it!??!?

It was still a shallow burn, and he couldn’t reach all of it to lick it, but the actual burned area was much bigger than we thought – and it was only a shallow burn thanks to his thick fur.

The most amazing part for me, is how the scab continued to grow, showing how the burn was much bigger than we thought – the burn is all but invisible, and only as it heals do you see the whole thing!
Its healing now, although he is still licking what he can reach.

And this is today – 14 days after he burned himself.

Burns are dangerous – even a shallow burn can get infected.

And with our Riddick’s diabetes, he takes that much longer to heal and grow his hair back.

I’m A Bad Dog Mom… :(

I am feeling SO guilty and so bad for my poor Riddick!

I’ll start with his epilepsy.

Yes – start – its been that kinda week.

Since his seizures started, my Glugster and I have been all but convinced that our Riddick’s seizures were from his low blood sugar, not from epilepsy. So in February I decided to bite the bullet and see for sure. I started weaning him from 3 Phenobarbitone tablets twice a day, two 2 tablets twice a day. And from 1 March I reduced it further to 1 tablet twice a day. He seemed fine – we were on 70 days seizure free – and then last night he ahd a massive grand mal fit! 😥 He threw up first, and he was a little wobbly so I immediately put his harness on him, and then after a few minutes he lay down and had a proper epileptic fit. Thrashing on the floor and peeing himself. Thanks to his harness we were able to pull him away from the wall and lift him a little to put a towel under him. 😥
My poor boy seized for a good 5 minutes, and then he was exhausted as well as disoriented. After he walked around the house – like it was a new place – and went out for some water, he got on his bed and stayed there until about 3h45 this morning.
Today he seems like himself again, thank goodness, but he is still wearing his harness just in case – as we now have to increase the Phenobarbitone levels in his blood again.

Thank you – BIG TIME – to everyone who helped with a donation to buy the harness for him. It has been invaluable in aiding my boy. And I have now put bells on it so I can hear it when he moves around.

The other reason we were at the vet first thing this morning, was Riddick’s burnt rump.
Last Saturday, we had friends over for a braai, and when it started raining the braai was moved under the gazebo among the chairs.
At one point he moved between the braai and the chairs and the people sitting there didn’t realise he was leaning against the hot braai box until he jumped and ran away.
Luckily his thick hair caught most of the heat so its a very shallow burn, and we were treating it with some Hibitane and Germolene – but his incessant licking, and then lying on his burn during his seizure rubbed it raw again. I was looking at it this morning to treat it and found another wound beneath it that neither I nor the vet had noticed on Tuesday! The burn is shallow, but there are two sections!
We have a new cream, with some cortisone to help the itching, but if he keeps licking we’re going to have to cone him. :/

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Our #RiddickPup Has a Lump…

And if you know me – you know this means I am running every possible scenario in my head, and all of them are bad! 😦

He has a lump, just at the base of his rib cage, on his right side, where the fur starts to thin towards the stomach. It’s small, about the size of an M&M under his skin.
How did I notice it? He was scratching! Like something was biting him! :O

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They all got their tick-n-flea drops last week, so I wanted to make sure there were no fleas or ticks that had moved in between treatments, and there was the lump. And its bugging him.
Its not red. Its not a bite mark, from a bug or a dog. Its not inflamed from scratching or from him sticking himself with something. He didn’t like me touching it, and he got to chewing on it when I had done examining him for other bumps. And its only been there for a few days.

We’re going to the vet this afternoon.

As if my poor pickle needs more to deal with… And just when we thought we were on a good run with his blood sugar!! 😥

UPDATE 20 Feb The vet doesn’t think its a Lipoma, but we’re going to try a topical corticosteroid for a few days and see if that helps. Otherwise its back to the vet for tests.

UPDATE 21 Feb I found another lump! 😥 Its in his neck on the left hand side, a little behind his ear. He’s scratching there there too so I should have checked there yesterday!

Update on Riddick

We haven’t had to put his harness on every day in a few weeks now, and we haven’t had any seizures, thank goodness!
He loves his ball, and he loves playing, even when the other dogs get to the ball first!
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Its been weeks since he had blood drawn, but the hair on the patch on his leg that was shaved hasn’t grown back properly yet.
His sugar is kind of under control. Its fine for a day or two and then it goes up, then fine for a day or two again.
His vision has definitely deteriorated. 😦 He’s not seeing some closed doors – he sees a dark shape in a light wall, like it could be an opening. And the other day I put his bowl down in front of him and it wasn’t exactly in the corner like it usually is, and it took him a second to realise it was closer to him than usual.

He gets very disoriented when we have a house full of dogs. More than one extra puppy and he literally gets pushed out of the way when he tries to come for a cuddle. And when they play around him he tries to join in but he gets turned around and you can clearly see he’s not quite sure he’s facing the direction he wants to go anymore.
Sometimes he thinks there’s still a dog in the garden with him and he’ll stand facing where he thinks they are and bark, but they’ve already moved out of his way.
My poor baby.
He’s a happy, snuggly puppy, and he makes his face all soft for me when he comes and asks for a love, and he laughs like a seal when I play with him and cuddle him.
So we’ll be keeping the visiting dogs to a minimum from now on, and we’re going to be working on some ideas to put into place to help him find his way when he gets off track.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to get him one of these
The pictures are not really related to the news, he’s just so gorgeous I have to show off. 😛

I am officially in a toestand.

November 16th update: Blood tests and urinalysis normal so far. This is good news, but it doesn’t explain the weight loss… 😯 Fed him in small meals yesterday but last night his sugar was sky high again. Next is a specialist with her own ultrasound machine so we can look for growths or other weirdness that might be causing his diabetes. We’ll also be monitoring his weight with a couple of weigh-ins a week.
November 15th update: Back to the vet with Riddick first thing this morning… Drew blood to do tests and I left a urine sample. Riddick’s, not mine.  He’s eating his meals a little at a time through the day to prevent him puking again, and he had an anti-nausea shot last night which should last 24 hours. His vet has been chatting to a couple of professors since Riddick doesn’t respond to anything the way they expect him to, and they are all baffled. Now we wait to see what the blood and urinalysis says.
November 14th: Three weeks ago, my Riddick had hookworm, and was put on meds. It was a rough weekend, but he recovered. And he weighed 35.3kg (at his last sugar curve on September 12th he weighed 35.85kg). For Riddick, 35kg is our target weight, its healthy for him and he looks good.
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On Friday morning, November 11th I took him to the vet to weigh him ‘coz I thought he’d lost weight. I was right, he was down to 34.3KG. His blood sugar readings were looking great though, and in terms of behaviour, he was his old self, so I thought it might be as a result of the hookworm and subsequent treatment.
I increased his food with 150G/day to get him back up to 35kg with the aim of then reducing it a little to keep him at 35kg.
Yesterday he seemed a little quiet, not really wanting to play, but I put it down to the heat. Then this evening he threw up all his supper shortly after I gave him his insulin shot. And then he drank water, and threw that up too.
We headed straight for the vet, arriving shortly before they closed.
Riddick threw up in the car on the way there too, and he weighed just 33.8kg, which means he’s lost half a kilo in three days despite the extra food. That, plus the nausea, combined with his diabetes is not a good sign at all.
My daddy darling was an insulin-dependent diabetic almost all my life (he was diagnosed as an adult). I know how it works. If Riddick is losing weight but eating well it could mean that he is losing protein through dysfunctional kidneys.
When I first took him to the vet because I was worried about a diabetes he was not only peeing a lot and drinking a LOT of water, he had also lost a lot of weight.
He’s has been on insulin for a little over a year, since his diagnosis, but he could have been pre-diabetic for a while before that already. I know kidney failure is something that can happen to diabetics, and I knew when he was diagnosed that he would not live as long as a healthy Lab… But I hoped that getting him onto the right treatment would mean at least a few good years before real complications set in.
Tomorrow we’ll get blood for tests, to see what his thyroid and kidneys are doing, and I will try and get a urine sample.
I am so scared for my precious pickle… I can’t lose him already. He’s not even five years old yet! He’s my baby!

Riddick Missed His Vet…

So this morning we were back there! 😛 His weight is a perfect 35.25kg!

This post is all about pee and poop, so you can click away now if this will be TMI for you. 😛

Do you know how many times a day your dog – or dogs – pee and poo? Do you go with them when they go busy?
Would you know if your dog’s busies were not normal?
Much like checking a cat’s litterbox while you’re scooping it, a dog’s health can be quickly judged by the state of their busies.

Yesterday Riddick had a bit of a runny tummy. Not too hectic, but noticeable. Yesterday afternoon it was almost normal again, and when we went out this morning at 5:30am for first busies he had a big wee and what looked like a nice normal poo… He was out in the rain and I was too lazy to fetch a brolly so I could check (I checked it later after the vet amd it looked normal).

At 9-ish we went out again (we’re puppy sitting a youngster and he has to pee often), and Riddick couldn’t pee. He tried his favourite spots for lifting his leg, and he tried the puppy-squat that he still does, but not a drop.
BIG red flag for me. Huge.
Then he tried to go #2, and it was runny. He was straining and there were just a few drops, and it was quite dark. Unfortunately it was in a flowerbed so I couldn’t see it properly to check on it.

We went straight to the vet.

As some of you may have guessed -if you’ve been reading about Riddick for long enough- he doesn’t have “normal” clinical reactions, so he keeps us and his vet on our toes.
His bladder wasn’t too full when we got there so she couldn’t feel or hear anything odd, but a stool sample showed blood. 😦
She gave him some meds and an anti-inflammatory shot as she says he may be hesitant to pee if his bum is sore, and sent us home with more meds for him.

As soon as we got home we all went outside for busies (I didn’t take the little puppy to the vet, its too risky for him as he hasn’t had all his shots yet) and Riddick had a BIG wee against the wall.

YAY!

Now we’re going to keep an eye on his pooping to make sure it normalises, I have to wait for the meds to work, but at least we won’t be back at the vet today because he can’t pee!

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UPDATE!!

Its two days later. The vet diagnosed him with Hookworm!  I am sad and mortified, even though dogs can get Hookworm just from walking on “infected” sand as well as eating Hadeda poop.
Our dogs are regularly treated for ticks, fleas, and worms (they have to be, for us to be puppy raisers), but Riddick is immunocompromised because of his diabetes, and apparently some worm species are becoming resistant to treatment.
The vet recommends alternating worm treatments to cover all the bases (we’ve always used Milbemax because I’m worried about Spirocerca Lupi with Penny’s coprophagia) so now it will be Milbemax and Drontal in alternate doses.
Riddick is on meds to fix his runny tummy and get rid of the worms, and ALL the dogs we’ve had contact with – AND their housemates – need to have a preventive treatment! The knock-on is HUGE ‘coz we’ve been to GDA twice this week and we’ve had puppies at our house!
My poor boy… By Friday afternoon he was bleeding rectally from the worm, and really battling to poop, so we were back at the vet on Saturday morning with a stool sample. Thankfully there was no blood in the stool, just on the outside, so the bleeding is most likely in his rectum and caused by the worm. Blood mixed into his stool would have been much more serious.
We have to wait until Monday afternoon to see if the meds is working to clear up his runny tummy. Thankfully the bleeding had stopped by Saturday afternoon. That was very scary and very messy.
We’re making sure he drinks water and pees properly, and thankfully his appetite is unaffected. 😛
And no visiting puppies for a while.

Twister Piss Cat

Yes. Twister Piss Cat. That is his full name.

He’s not a piss cat because he drinks. He’s a piss cat because he pisses everywhere.

As adorable as Twister is, and as much as I love him and his snuggly talkative personality, I am THIS close to being one of those people who adopts an animal, and then hands it back after a while…   😥

Its been a little over a year and we’ve tried everything. He’s on special food. He eats away from the other cats. I’ve tried putting different things in his preferred litterbox to encourage him to use it, from shredded plastic bags, to gravel kitty litter, and even newspaper. He uses it once or twice and then he goes right back to peeing on the walls, curtains, furniture, and on us!

He is tolerated by Greebo and Magic, but he seeks out Minx and she can’t seem to stand him! She spends her life on top of a glass display cabinet that Twister seems unable to jump up onto.
Twister also guards to bathroom door to where most of the litterboxes are, so the other cats are harassed when they try to go in and out. I had to find a place to put a litterbox that Minx could use because she won’t go in that bathroom and she started pooping on our bed!    :/

I’m breaking up yowling-fur-flying cat fights almost daily, usually at 3am…   😦
I chase him out of our bedroom almost every time he tries to come in, because as much as he loves to curl up on my bed and cuddle with me – he purrs like a tractor – he also pees on my walls and curtains, and occasionally on me or my Glugster! Literally! He sneaks up behind us and sprays our backs!   :/

This is as close as Minx has allowed Twister to be to her… but she was asleep when he climbed up onto the bed.

For us, having animals is about quality of life. For us and for them. At the moment our cats and us are not having a lot of quality…
Twister is chased, by us and by the other cats.
Minx is constantly on tenterhooks.
My house literally reeks of cat pee. Constantly.
We literally have no furniture in our lounge anymore because it was ruined.

I don’t know what to do…    😥