Monday, March 30, 2015

A Rather Tough Few Days

A few readers have emailed to ask how the critters are doing, and it is only right that I bring you up to speed. I shall relieve your anxiety by prefacing this post with "All the critters are okay for now!"

Eddie's seizure, mentioned in the previous post, happened on Wednesday.  On Thursday, he was right as rain. But Shiloh wasn't.  She went for her morning walk as usual, but ate hardly any breakfast and refused all dinner.  Not a good sign in my food-loving gal.  And she was getting stuck in strange places, falling over, restless, and just not herself. She didn't want her evening walk.

On Friday, she didn't get up until I woke her and had to carry her outside for a pee.  She was unable to stand or walk, disinterested in food or water.  She did not have typical signs of vestibular disease, something that often afflicts old dogs - no head tilt, no circling, etc.  By noon, she displayed all the signs of imminent death - signs I am all too familiar with from the many senior dogs I have loved:  lack of coordination, extreme fatigue, complete loss of appetite, vomiting bile, confusion, bladder and bowel leakage, tremors.

She's not usually a cuddler, but her tremors settled down and she slept deeply, with no fussing or obejections, when I held her.  So we spent Friday night curled up together - first in my recliner, then in my bed. She was completely limp and nonresponsive to touch or voice - I could touch her paws, put my fingers in her mouth, play with her ears - things that usually either make her shake the body part or try to nibble me.  I doubted she would last the night, certainly not the weekend.  Since I had the mobile vet coming to see Eddie on Monday, I gave Doc the heads up that if Shiloh had not gone of her own accord over the weekend, I may be wanting her to help Shiloh pass when she came to see Eddie.

Saturday morning, I noticed her licking her lips and making smacking noises in her near comatose state, so I used an eyedropper to place a few drops of water on her lips and tongue - which she swallowed!  A few more, and a few minutes, and she was trying to get up from her bed.  And throughout Saturday, several times she got up staggered, drank some water, went outside with help, before going back to sleep again.

Sunday was better still - in fact, in the morning she seemed almost back to normal!  She even went to the gate as if she expected our usual sunrise stroll.  But we got no further than across the street and down one house before she collapsed again and I had to carry her home.  All that day, she alternated between being up and alert for progressively longer periods of time, and sleeping.  She even showed interest in chasing the cat - the spirit was willing but the body was weak. She drank water, but still didn't eat - her last meal had been Thursday morning. Only a small bite of toast (one of her favourite treats) even tempted her, and she was unable to propel it to the back of her throat. I was pretty sure today would be her last.

And this morning?  She popped up at first light.  She trotted outside for a pee. She drank water. She chased the cat,and managed to get a few tail hairs in her mouth.  She ate a little breakfast , though most of it fell back out. She was alert and following me around the house and garden  for at least a couple of hours.  And all day long she got stronger and stronger.

When the vet came at 3:00, I was still undecided.  Was this a swan song?  Was she going to recover fully from whatever it was that had nearly taken her Friday?  What to do, what to do?

The vet examined her and observed her and decided one of two things (or possibly both) had occurred. She had suffered a stroke or similar neurological event and/or she was coming into heat.  Okay, that may sound strange - dogs come into heat all the time without exhibiting harbingers of death.  But some of you may recall we almost lost Shiloh last spring/summer when she had a two-month heat with discharge that just wouldn't end,  she stopped eating, stopped going for walks, just lay in her bed sleeping, day in and day out.   (In case you are wondering why she is not spayed - since coming to live with me in October 2013,  three vets have advised me not to spay this old girl who will be 17 years old in six more weeks - the risks of her dying during the spay, given her age, overall frail condition, and boggy uterus, are as great or greater than the risks of her dying from another prolonged heat.)

If what happened was a stroke, she will likely have another one from which she will not recover.  If it was heat, she may or may not make it through. But she might also have several weeks or months of good living left to do.  So we decided, based on how well she was doing when the vet was here and the fact that her heart and lungs sound good and she's drinking lots of water, that we would wait and see. She was simply not ready to go today.

I do have another tentative appointment booked for Thursday in case this is but a swan song  (we are heading into a four day weekend here when my favourite vet will not be available) - but I will cancel it if she continues to regain her quality of life.

For now, for today, she has improved exponentially,  and she ate a nearly normal size portion of dinner tonight before jumping up onto her favourite raised dog bed, unassisted, and settling down for a nap.  She is one amazing sheltie.

As for Eddie, he has developed at serious heart murmur - minimum grade 4, possibly a 6 on the six-point scale (with his anxiety and panting and barking it was hard to hear the nuances that differential 4, 5, and 6 beyond knowing it is very, very noticeable).  However, that only explains his recent fatigue on hikes and is not related to his seizure.  For that we have taken blood tests and stool tests and should have some results Wednesday.  The results will likely not tell us what caused the seizure, but may help us rule out some things like renal failure, liver disease, and thyroid problems.

The bad news is that dogs his age rarely suddenly develop epilepsy, which shows up in young dogs and can be controlled with medication.  Grand Mal seizures in an eleven year old dog are more often caused by a brain tumor. The good news is there are many cases where a dog of any age has one seizure and never has another one. However, between the seizure and the serious heart murmur, Eddie's hiking days are pretty much over - gentle short walks for now at least.

And that's life at my house with the critters.  I'm sorry there's no pretty picture to accompany this post.  It has been an emotionally and physically exhausting few days.


Brigid said...

Exhausting is right! I feel for you, Jean - holding fragile lives in our care is not for the faint of heart. Healing thoughts and prayers to you all

Unknown said...

You have given all your critters the best home and the best care and they are in the best hands, my heart goes out to you having to make these decisions, hugs and prayers for all of you.
Kate D.

CarolineA said...

Oh my gosh, you need a hug and a stiff drink. I can provide only the one


I know I know, you were hoping for the other

Jean said...

Ha ha ha Caroline, you cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh - it was as good as a hug and a stiff drink. Well, maybe not quite as good as one of those.....not sayin' which. :)

EvenSong said...

Goodness! You HAVE had a week!
I'm glad the various critters are holding their own for now, but please take care of yourself as well!

Anonymous said...

It sure has been a rough week for you my friend. I'll come for a visit with that stiff drink.


King said...

BIG (((HUGS))) from everyone of The Royals extended pack.
You are so strong Aunty Jean!
We love you ♥

ruth said...

Oh, I had worried about Eddie, but what a week of worry and anxiety this must have been!
I'm so glad there's some calm right now.
Sending you strength and peace and snuggles for the critters!