Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just When You Think Everything Is Going Your Way, the Universe Tells You Otherwise

Xena had a seizure early this morning. I woke up at 4 a.m. to the noise of her nails on the bare floor. Now that isn't unusual, because she paces sometimes and she's also one of these dogs that chases rabbits in her dreams and will twitch. But this was something else. It was like a herd of elephants was chasing her in her dream.

I ran out to the living room - she always sleeps there like the good guard dog that she is - and Xena was lying on her side, running in place. Her eyes were wide open, her jaws contracted and she was foaming at the mouth. She had also peed on the carpet. The worse part was her breathing, which was almost like a roaring instead of panting, because she was panting so hard, so quickly, and so loudly. And it would not stop. Her breathing was spasmodic and it went on for at least a couple of minutes, completely out of control. She continued to run in place. The whole time I was calling her name, trying to get her to even just look at me, to no avail. I thought she was going to die.

And then it slowed down and eventually stopped. Suddenly, she sat up and stared at me, her face so close to mine that we could almost touch. But it was if she didn't see me. With me trying to talk to her and calm her down, she eventually stood up and started walking around the house, as if she had never seen it before.

Very scary stuff.

For the rest of the morning Xena was very subdued, and it looked as if this episode had taken a lot out of her, as if she had aged a couple of years overnight. But now, 12 hours later, she has improved to the point where she has eaten some of her dinner - not all of it, but then she never was a big eater. These pictures of her were taken this morning, about 4 hours after the seizure.

As soon as I had calmed down somewhat, I looked her symptoms up on the internet and the running in place, contracted jaw, foaming at the mouth, and the loss of bladder control are all classic signs of a seizure. Apparently many dogs experience blindness after the seizure is over, which would explain the strange way she was looking at me afterwards. I also spoke to my sister who, with her husband have owned at least four Labrador Retrievers over the past 20 years and has had to deal with two of them experiencing seizures. One of her dogs ended up on medication for recurring seizures.

Apparently there are several things that could be the cause. The most obvious is that she has epilepsy, but she's nine years old now. Would an older dog contract that so late in life? Another is distemper. But she is vaccinated against that, as all dogs should be. Another reason, according to one website, is that she could be reacting to "environmental causes." But it's not like we live next to a toxic waste dump. Another reason is a brain tumor. I choose to not think about that one right now.

I'm wondering if stress and big changes could be a cause. We just moved to a new house two weeks ago. My day job has been busy lately, and I think my animals pick up that vibe (I work at home). In addition, last night my best friend brought her puppy over, a lovely and very energetic puppy who ran circles around my girls for about three hours.

As for treatment, from what I read and from talking to people like my sister, it seems to be a "wait and see" kind of thing. One vet on YouTube said that he will always do blood work, but unless something shows up in the results, most of the time it's a waiting game to see if it happens again.

Have any of you had this experience with your pets? I'm just wondering if this is a common occurrence in dogs, especially as they start to age.

It certainly has shaken me up.

On the bright side, I was able to get all three animals in one picture, which I think is a first.

Xena and the cat are finally getting along. In fact, after the episode this morning, kitty went over to her at one point to sniff her. THAT was a first.

Annie was also very quiet this morning - she knew something was going on, and also went over to Xena afterwards to sniff her and lick her ear.

It's as if both of them were saying "it's ok, your sisters are here for you."

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Bill Crider said...

Quite a scare, all right. I hope Xena's fine and doesn't have another episode like that one. She's looking great in the photos.

David Cranmer said...

I'm glad to hear Xena is doing better. That would shake me up too.

James Reasoner said...

I don't know anything about the medical side of this, but I wish Xena all the best.

Ron Scheer said...

I have an elderly dog who had a spinal injury six months ago. We gave her up for gone, and the vet kept saying, wait and see. Eventually she recovered use of her legs and can get around again. For a time, she lost her hearing, and now seems to have recovered it too (though selectively).

I probably told this story here before, but what I learned is that a dog can have a tremendous will to live and be well. Sometimes with some help from meds. Wait and see seems like the best advice, and try not to worry.

Joanne Walpole/Terry James said...

Really sorry to hear she's not well but glad she's improved a bit. I'm sending positive thoughts all your ways. It's strange, I might look up an illness for me on the Internet but where my dogs are concerned it's straight to the vet, no questions asked. :-)

Steve M said...

Best wishes that Xena recovers ok, and soon.

I had a friend who suffered from epilepsy and he had a fit in front of me. Your description of what happened to Xena is virtually the same. Even the way she came round and looked at, but didn't see you - that happened with him and me too. It took him a while to come round from his fit, so hopefully this will be the same for Xena.

Deka Black said...

Scary stuff. My dog (was a she) had a problem... to make it short: after that, she lost his vision. Right, she become blind :(

I hope this was a one-time thing, really.

Barry Traylor said...

To people that have no pets for whatever reason, they have no understanding of the connection and bond you have with them. So I empathize with how you reacted about Xena. It has always been a bit the way I felt when my children were small and became ill.
I would just want them to be better, but little to nothing I could do. I do hope this was a one time thing with Xena.

Laurie Powers said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. She'll be going to the vet this week for a checkup.

Ron, that is a great story. Usually it's the vet that says there's no hope, but not in your case.

Jo, I was contemplating taking her to the vet right away, but knowing my sister's experiences with the situation I decided to do some research right away. Plus in this case I would have had to take her to an emergency vet, and sometimes I don't trust them.

Steve, man, that must have been really scary. I think being witness to that must be one of those times when a person feels truly helpless.

Deka, I thought of you and your dog yesterday, because I know you had mentioned it before. I hope your dog is ok otherwise. She is lucky to have someone who takes such good care of her.


Hope everything comes up OK

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm sorry to hear that. Is she on medications of any kind? Seizures can be a side effect of some meds.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

What a horrible experience. I hope it's a one time event and she'll be fine from now on. I want to adopt a German Shepherd when I retire and Xena has the exact look I'm hoping for. Best of luck to you and all the critters.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Hope Xena has come completely right and stays that way. Perhaps there are no worse worries than when small children and pets are unwell.

Deka Black said...

Laurie, i'm afraid i explained myself wrongly: She died many years ago, Blind, yeah, and very ill. But still i think of she. i miss her.

Anyway, hope the vet says Xena is OK ;) That's the important thing right now

Laurie Powers said...

Thanks for your well wishes, Archavist.

Charles, she isn't on any meds, but it's been a stressful couple of weeks and people are telling me that could've done it.

Bob, she really is a great dog. German Shepherds are wonderful. I hope you get one. Xena had puppies way back before I got her - too bad you couldn't get one of those.

Chap and Deka, thanks. She seems to be doing better. She's also going to the vet tomorrow.