Category Archives: vet visits
The next morning he was a hundred percent back to normal thank goodness, and his adventure earned him a spot on dogshaming.com!
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.
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 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We’ve had a rough few months with our Riddick! Wow!
Around July, Riddick’s diabetes was no longer under control. We’d been going great guns till then, but things were going downhill fast.
We went back to the vet to do a sugar curve – as we do every month or so, just to make sure he’s still stable – and we had to make the decision to switch to the special prescribed diet for diabetic dogs. We didn’t switch when he was diagnosed as Riddick wasn’t overweight, and we didn’t want him to be starving while we worked to get his blood sugar under control.
We did a nine-day switch from the Supreme Pet Elite to the Hills Prescription Diet W/D, and while we were switching – I ended up in hospital for a week and my poor husband had to take over everything!
Once the switch was complete, everything seemed to go so well for a while… And then his blood sugar was dropping way too low, and he was having seizures.
Unfortunately, it turned out some of the seizures were epileptic seizures, not just due to low blood sugar! We’d sort of been expecting this diagnosis, having seen one or two fits in the last few months, but now he needed medication for that too. Putting him on the Phenobarbitone tablets made him dreadfully groggy and unstable, and recovering from a fit made him groggy and unstable, and it made him thirsty and it made him pee more – just like diabetes symptoms… It was a dreadful few weeks! 😦
I was so worried about him! He couldn’t find his way around the garden or the house, after his worst seizure one Sunday night, he didn’t even recognise me! 😥
Here’s one of my Facebook updates from that time (I took this picture on one of his worst days – he barely moved that day).
When he was coming out of a fit, I was trying to support him and help him find his water and have a pee, but I wasn’t coping – he has no handles! Then I did some late-night Googling and found a harness that would come in real handy for him, but the one I found at a local supplier cost R900… And then our friends blew us away by “crowdfunding” the cost of the harness! We are extremely grateful, and it made such a huge difference! I could actually help him walk, find the water bowl, have a pee – without breaking my back or hurting him!
It took a few weeks for the side effects from the Phenobarbitone to settle down, and to get his sugar back on track. He had back-to-back sugar curves that left his ears full of little pin-prick holes from the glucometer blood tests – its the best place to get the little blood sample needed for the glucometer test strip!
Thankfully we’ve now reached a point where I don’t have to put his harness on when he wakes up anymore – I have mastered clipping it on the second he shows signs of a seizure!
We seem to be finally on the road to normality… His weight is holding steady at about 35.5kg, which is perfect for him. Apart from when he feasts on fallen mulberries in the garden and pushes his blood sugar up, it seems to have normalised. We now have not had a seizure in 12 days. His blood tests showed the Phenobarbitone levels at the lower end of the scale for his size, but no seizures means its working.
We also got him a big Nylabone to chew on and play with, because he can have it as much as he likes without affecting his blood sugar!
On Wednesday our Riddick spent the day at our vet again, to do another sugar curve.
It was about time for him to do another one (we do one more or less once a month to make sure his insulin dose is working properly) and I check his blood sugar at least once a day – usually before supper. I would prefer to do it before breakfast as well, but this winter his ears are just too cold in the morning to get a little pinprick blood sample for the glucometer!
Riddick has never been crazy about going to the vet, often slamming on the breaks and refusing to even enter the exam room, and even with regular visits he is hesitant, but he has gotten to know the incredible people at VVAH so well, that he is quite happy to go into the exam room with one of the two vets who are treating him, and even head down the passage to the hospital kennels where he spends the day. The vet’s staff are even playing with him as they get to know him better, and whilst it’s kind of sad that he knows his vet so well, it makes my heart glad that he is okay being there, and getting some attention too.
He’s been on insulin twice a day since last September, after being diagnosed with diabetes, and I have been checking his blood sugar at least daily since April, but his blood sugar is still not properly under control (the pink lines are his supper readings, the yellow is breakfast, the green line is our target). 😦
We have decided, with the vet’s advice, that we will now have to put him on a specialised diet as well. We’re opting for the Hills Science Diet W/D rather than Eukanuba or Royal Canin’s diabetic food, simply because its a little cheaper. And at between R915 and R980 for a 12kg bag of this specially prescribed diet food (which is most likely only about 25 days’ food for Riddick), we really do have to find an affordable option!
His insulin already costs over R1600 a month, add to that the cost of the insulin syringes and the little test strips for the glucometer we’re spending a fortune at the vet!
Hopefully the specialised diet will help get his blood sugar stable, and perhaps even decrease his insulin dose.
A couple of people have asked why we don’t just leave things be, since he looks and acts like a perfectly healthy Lab, and you’d never guess there was anything wrong with him to look at him.
Part of my determination to make sure his blood sugar is stable is having grown up with many diabetic family members. My human family, yes, but diabetes has just as great an effect on a dog’s body as it does on a human, and I want my Riddick as healthy and happy as I can have him for as long as possible.
He’s a mama’s boy and I adore him.
So what can happen if we don’t properly treat his diabetes? Or if we wait-and-see?
Riddick has already proved to be atypical in his diagnosis, and when he developed the cataracts we should have thought to check for diabetes, but Labs are not classified as high-risk when it comes to diabetes.
Wikipedia: Dogs can have insulin-dependent, or Type 1, diabetes; research finds no Type 2 diabetes in dogs. Because of this, there is no possibility the permanently damaged pancreatic beta cells could re-activate to engender a remission as may be possible with some feline diabetes cases, where the primary type of diabetes is Type 2. There is another less common form of diabetes, diabetes insipidus, which is a condition of insufficient antidiuretic hormone or resistance to it.
This most common form of diabetes (type 1) strikes 1 in 500 dogs. The condition is treatable and need not shorten the animal’s life span or interfere with quality of life. If left untreated, the condition can lead to cataracts, increasing weakness in the legs (neuropathy), malnutrition, ketoacidosis, dehydration, and death. Diabetes mainly affects middle-age and older dogs, but there are juvenile cases. The typical canine diabetes patient is middle-age, female, and overweight at diagnosis.
The number of dogs diagnosed with diabetes mellitus has increased three-fold in thirty years. In survival rates from almost the same time, only 50% survived the first 60 days after diagnosis and went on to be successfully treated at home. Currently, diabetic dogs receiving treatment have the same expected lifespan as non-diabetic dogs of the same age and gender.
Managing diabetes is very important. Too low blood sugar leads to seizures and coma. Too high blood sugar leads to ketoacidosis which can quickly be fatal. 😦