As mentioned in my last post, I have been taking Sadie along on Sam's longer, brisker strolls. (Sam is an energetic 17 year old dog I am looking after for some friends). We worked up to it gradually, and for the past three days Sadie has been doing the approximately 1 mile loop morning and night with no problems. She slows down toward the end, but so does Sam.
Today, however, we had a scary event. Sam, Sadie and I headed up the hill through the town at a fairly brisk (for me - moderate for a more fit person) pace, then travelled about four blocks on level ground before heading back down to the ocean. While on level ground, I noticed Sadie stumbling a bit, but didn't think too much of it as it is not the first time I've had old dogs who trip over their own back feet.
However, after going about a block downhill, it was clear there was something seriously wrong. She started staggering as if she was drunk, and her back legs were getting tangled up and her rear would buckle under her. We stopped to rest, then she stood up and we continued. I slowed the pace considerably and suddenly she staggered again and had a complete collapse, simply falling over on her side and lying there, conscious but unblinking and unresponsive.
Of course, I didn't have my cell phone with me. And the skies chose that moment to dump a sudden heavy shower upon us. And there wasn't a soul in sight. I sat on the sidewalk, Sam's leash wrapped tightly around one arm, and cradled my twelve year old Sadie on my lap. She lay there a bit, then as I stood up to look at the homes within shouting distance, she got up and continued to walk. She had a few more staggering episodes and her back end collapsed a few more times, but after a moment's rest she would continue.
We reached a bench at the top of the path to the beach, and I sat there with the two dogs for about twenty minutes. Then we very slowly meandered down the path, along the beach, and back home, stopping frequently for rests for Sadie, though she showed no more signs of problems and even managed to snag a crabshell for a little snack along the way.
She has been fine since we got home, though tired as she always is after a walk. She ate a normal dinner, she barked loudly at someone daring to walk down our street, and she jumped up on the couch with no hesitation.
My first thought was her heart, though she has been to the vet recently and has always had a sound heart. My second thought was the very large lipoma on her chest might be pushing on her lungs and/or interfering with her blood flow - but all three vets she has seen in the three years she's lived with me have counselled against removing it and felt it wouldn't cause problems. My third thought was a neurological issue triggered by a tumor - you may recall she has had a weird problem going on with one eye (though it has been a lot better lately), and she has also recently gone deaf, very suddenly. It could be any of those things.
And then I remembered a blog I had read about another dog that did this, and I went searching, and now I wonder if Sadie has EIC - Exercise Induced Collapse - which is a fairly common genetic disorder found in border collies. Some things don't fit: it isn't warm out today (EIC is more likely to occur in hot weather); she used to have long runs/walks without exhibiting it (though perhaps not as fast as today's walk, as Charley has always been a much slower walking companion for Sadie than Sam is); and she wasn't panting at all.
But when I watched some videos on youtube of dogs with EIC, it was very much like what I saw. EIC is also likely to occur about five minutes AFTER the exercise (Sadie's collapse was about five minutes after our uphill hike). And, after an episode, dogs are back to normal in 5-30 minutes, which Sadie was.
Here's a couple of links to videos/articles on Exercise Induced Collapse:
Youtube video on dog experiencing EIC
Article by University of Minnesota
Sadie has recently been to the vet for a full checkup, including blood tests, but I will likely take her back again next week - or sooner if any more episodes occur. Meanwhile, she is on house arrest, and will go back to short, painfully slow walks with Charley. Sam and I shall do our longer treks unaccompanied.
This weekend is the SPCA garage sale, for which I am on the coordinating team. It was while I was working that sale last year that my Oliver was taken ill due to a misadventure with a petsitter, and passed away two days later. You can be sure my friends checking in on my dogs this year will have strict instructions not to walk the dogs. I don't want history repeating itself.
Stay well, Sadie. I'm not ready to say goodbye to you yet.
Sadie and Charley