Category Archives: my furry masters

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!


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. 😥

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. :/


How Things Change.

A while ago, I overheard a snippet of conversation in a supermarket. A couple was discussing what bowl to get for her Labrador, who would be spending time at his house in the future.
Being the “mingler” that I am 😛 I suggested they get stainless steel as Labs can’t chew it and its easy to keep clean. As I walked away, he responded with something along the lines of “Don’t the dogs just lick it clean?” and it made me think of how differently my dogs live, in comparison to the dogs we had as kids.

We had a few pet dogs when we were kids, but I wasn’t terribly attached to any of them.
Unlike my own dogs now, the dogs we had as kids lived outside, they weren’t really trained or properly socialised, they were fed a couple of times a day and that was it. We certainly didn’t research breeds and go to puppy classes and play with them every day. Thinking back it makes me a little bit sad for them. Yes, they were loved, they weren’t mistreated, but they could have had better lives had we known more and known better.
And the vast majority of pet dogs live like that now. They are acquired because “…the kid needs to grow up with a dog…” or “…the breed is great with kids…” but they don’t put in the necessary work to turn that puppy into a well behaved family pet – like the ones they see in the movies – and in the best case scenario the dog is banished outside, behind a gate.
In the worst case scenario, they are neglected, abused, and deserted.

My own dogs live in the house with us. If I could, they would go everywhere with me too, but thats not always possible. 😛
Their stainless steel bowls are washed out after supper every day, and they go through the dishwasher twice a week. I play with my dogs every day, they get fresh water at least once a day, they get brushed, dewormed, tick-and-flea dropped, and inoculated, and I know exactly what their tummies are doing because I go out with them several times a day so I can see them pee and poop. They have the added benefit of me working from home instead of heading for the office every day, so I can spend as much time with them as I do. I know which dog is barking because they all sound different, I know what their favourite toy is and how they behave in different situations. They’ve had obedience training, and their socialisation is ongoing. Granted, they’re not the most spectacularly well behaved dogs around, but they’re not a complete nightmare either.

Isn’t it amazing how things change? My family still can’t get over my attachment to my furchildren!

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…    😥

Wow… Its Been A While!

I have a few updates for all of you – Riddick, Penny, Twister #PissCat, Nimble, and Guide Dog puppy Xander!

I’ll post news and photos soon. 😀

My Kitties Are Unhappy

I desperately need help with our Twister…

He’s on a special diet, so the crystals in his urine have cleared up, but he’s still peeing everywhere, and spraying!
I don’t know how to fix it.
I’ve tried different litter, adding shredded plastic bags to the litter ‘coz he’s peeing on any packet he can find, I’ve tried closing him in my shower with a litter box to force him to use it! But we need to use the shower. And while he’s out- he pees! And I have a huge problem with ants invading my shower. I don’t want risk him getting bitten by ants, and I can’t have him in there with ant poison.
I don’t have any other place that’s crate-like to isolate him in.

He spent his first few months as part of our family in our bed, in our room, because the other cats weren’t very welcoming of a new kitty. He slept between my husband and me at night. He napped on top of my hubby and followed him around…

And now I can’t bear to have him in our bedroom because of the peeing! My curtains, bed, towels, walls, bags, the dog beds… Even us! He has even sprayed me, and my husband!

Everything gets pissed on.

I’ve taken to calling him “pister” instead of “Twister”, and I keep chasing my sweet, talkative, lovable kitty out of my room.

It doesn’t help the rest of my house, though… Which reeks… And Minx and Magic are constantly in the wars with Twister because he literally chases them around! Minx spends all her time on top of the fridge or the bookshelf, ‘coz Twister can’t get up there.

I am THIS close to wanting him out, but I don’t want to get rid of him because we love him. And I cannot even consider finding him a new home unless I have done everything in my power.

What can I do!??

Funny Twister

Both Twister’s eyes have opened a little more and they are now pretty much the same size, where the right eye was considerably bigger than the left for a while. Even so, he definitely doesn’t see as well as a kitty with normal eyes does. He still can’t jump up onto the dishwasher – where his food and the cats’ water is, or onto the chest freezer – where the grownup cats’ food is, without a step-stool, which is a good thing in a way ‘coz he’s not eating adult cat food yet.

At night he sleeps on our bed, usually between us, and he loves the faux fur on our bed! He also likes to make a nest and have the duvet or the throw wrap around hm. And yes, he’s still a daddy’s boy.

In the late afternoon, our dining room table is bathed in sunshine and usually has at least one cat lying on it, baking in the warmth. Twister loves it too.


Twister Has Grown Into His Ears… Sort Of…

I think he thinks he’s a dog! And he’s so affectionate and cuddly!

He spends most of his time on our bed, where the dogs usually are too, or on top of one of us. And when its near supper or breakfast time he runs down the passage to the kitchen along with the dogs! He sleeps nights curled between my hubby and I on our bed, and he loves the faux fur throw that we use in winter.

He’s not at all intimidated by the dogs, even though our blind Labbie, Riddick, regularly stands on him when he jumps up onto the bed!

As he’s grown, his one eye seems to have opened more than the other, so now he really lives up to his name – twisted tail, malformed feet, and now odd-sized eyes! I can eve see a little of the iris in his right eye and they look like they may be a beautiful shade of green.

Sadly I think his gums are inflamed and sore again. His breath smells a bit – although not as badly as before the vet sorted him out last time – and when he yawns I can see his gums are very red. It doesn’t seem to affect his appetite in the slightest thank goodness, and I have yet to find evidence of an upset tummy in the litterbox.


In a week’s time we’ll be bringing home our new Guide Dog puppy – a little female black Lab named Nimble – and I am very curious as to how Twister is going to get on with a little pup.