Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Love Is Still Sleeping At My Feet: An Unexpected Update

by Penny

I came upon this blog several months back. I hadn't been here for awhile and my immediate thoughts were so happy to see how active it still is, to know that Jana is as passionate about dogs as I am. I looked around and read about Jasmine. Tears of sadness that the battle was lost. I then searched for the story of My Love. It took me right back to those tough days, recovering from CCL complications and why I found the Dawg Business blog the first time. So much info shared here. It was good to know I wasn't alone in my struggles to get My Love well.

I sent an email with a couple pictures and an update. It had been 5 years an My Love was doing well for 14 1/2. We had done PRP therapy (platelet rich plasma) earlier this year for his not unexpected arthritis and he had responded well.


Was walking and even running easier and was taking less pain medication.

Jana responded that she did remember me and My Love and if I wanted to write more of an update she would gladly post it. I sat down quite a few times to do so but the words just weren't there. Several weeks passed and I knew why.

Overnight, everything changed.

Almost from the beginning I have always called him My Love. He truly is just that, my one true love. I wish for everyone to have that one pet that you find yourself so connected to like I am to My Love. My heart dog, my animal soul mate. Ive heard it referred to in many ways. It really is a special connection.  The lessons he brings into my life are never ending. The challenges, physical and mental have been many. Traveling my path in life, the heart break, the failures, loss, sadness, triumphs and success. He has been an integral part of that. Yes he is a dog but he is My Love.

I came home from work early evening. It wasn't uncommon these days that I wasn't met by a wagging tail at the front gate as My Loves hearing is limited. He sleeps hard. But he usually gets up when I enter the house.

He was laying in his chair with his eyes open but he didn't move at all. 

I greeted him with a couple of pats on the head and went to let out his brother and change clothes. When I returned I realized he still hadn't moved at all so I sat and started to check him from head to toe. His left front leg, elbow area, the one with the worst arthritis, was warm and slightly swollen. Everything else seemed OK so no need to get to the ER vet right away. We had a similar episode 2 years earlier with this same leg. I helped him out to do his business that evening and put him to bed checking on him through the night. At 8AM and one second I had my vets office on the phone.

By morning the swelling had increased and he was now lethargic. 

He refused to walk, crying in pain when I touched his leg. I carried him to my car and straight to my vets. He had a fever.  X-rays and a CBC. We decided this was another immune mediated arthritis attack on a very bad elbow. I was sent home with Clavamox and Prednisolone. My vet, Dr. N, carried him out to my car and we came home.

The next few days were horrible. 

The swelling was getting worse. His entire leg was close to three times normal size. The pressure in there was severe. He refused food, was barely drinking water and wasn't walking.  I had to carry him out to the yard. I am not a huge fan of Prednisone but in this case I knew it would be beneficial for the inflammation. The problem was he has been on Meloxicam an NSAID for a long time and he needed a few days for this to get out of his system before I could give him the steroid.

I spoke with Dr N. He told me if it was his dog he would take the chance and give the Prednisone.

The risk of him taking Prednisone and Meloxicam together was gastric perforation. In other words, it could blow a hole in his stomach and this most certainly would mean death. It was hard for me to hear my vet tell me to take this chance and maybe kill my dog. I waited 24 hrs. He was getting worse not only the swelling and pain but he was mentally shut down.

I was losing My Love. 

I gave the Prednisolone with Pepcid. I prayed.

Slowly the swelling started to subside. 

He took a little food and was drinking. He still refused to use that leg but at least was now hopping on the other 3. We went back to Dr N office after 10 days for a recheck. He was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping now, but not using that leg. Still extremely painful.

He then told me after almost 13 years of taking care of My Love, getting him through so many issues over those years, he didn't have anything else to offer. 

He's a very kind and compassionate man. I know that hurt him. My heart sank a little. The reality of possibly losing My Love had become real. But I wasn't ready to give up.

I asked him what his thoughts were about acupuncture and he said yes I should try.

He's known of good results so he started giving me names of other veterinarians that he knew offered it. Most were far away from me. Then it dawned on him. He was going to be away from the clinic and the vet that he uses for coverage does acupuncture. They would call and see if she would see him. They messaged me the next day and my appointment was set.

Alternative Measures

I try to be prepared  for most things so I went looking and discovered the vet we would be seeing had a website. She was a CVA (Certified Veterinary acupuncturist) and also studied TCVM  (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) which is something I knew very little about. That was a good thing actually, as I felt we may have even more options.

We met with Dr. T exactly 24 days after I found My Love unable to walk.

He was still not using that leg.

The first thing I always observe is how my dog acts around someone new. If he's uncomfortable that's a deal breaker. That wasn't the case at all. We both liked her right away. She is so kind and calming. She had the luxury of being able to read his history since she was filling in at his clinic.

She asked other questions to fill in the blanks she needed from a holistic point of view. We talked about acupuncture and how the results could be remarkable, mediocre or negligible.  I appreciated the honesty and was willing to commit to 4-6 treatments. I had nothing to lose. He sat like a champ during that first treatment, curious about what was going on.


Acupuncture with stimulation and laser. 

He seemed to like it all so we set another appointment for the following week.

After 3 sessions with Dr T. She was able to get most all of the swelling out of the leg and he started using that leg again. 

I was very pleased with those results. During this time we also had conversations about nutrition as his body condition was looking poor. He was losing weight every week. Using her recommendations I started to make some changes in his diet. I always fed high quality dog food but now added whole foods. Meat, veggies and fruits. Also added bone broth and a Chinese herbal blend.

He can't catch a break

Just when his leg was starting to do well My Love began having theses coughing spells and then reverse sneezing. It was odd. Almost like he was choking. I took some video of what he was doing to show both vets.

We did another X-ray to check for megaesophagus or any kind of tumor. Sent it to be read by a radiologist. It didn't look like megaesophagus, which left two possibilities, either laryngeal paralysis or Myasthenia Gravis. The Myasthenia Gravis test was sent off to UC SanDiego and when the radiologists ruled out a tumor we planned a day to sedate and check for laryngeal paralysis a few days later.

Laryngeal paralysis now referred to as GOLPP.

I read everything I could. It's such a horrible condition, almost cruel as essentially the cartilages that open and close for air intake become frozen in one place. It makes it hard for the dog to breathe and there is also risk of aspiration since theses cartilage should close so food passes down the esophagus and not into the airway.

It is a polyneuropathy so other symptoms such a rear end weakness occur. We sedated My Love and took a look at his cartilages.

One side had no movement the other side still fluttered a bit. 

I wasn't surprised as during that week he had more symptoms appear aside from the coughing. Choking every time he ate or drank. His bark got hoarse. Lots of muscle atrophy. He was very unsteady in the rear, falling on occasion from being weak. He was also down to 43 lbs, an all time low weight. During his years he maintained 52-54 lbs. My heart was breaking.

Was it time?

I shed many tears after that day. Most friends told me I was being cruel that I needed to do the right thing and let him go. I even talked with Jana about how she knew it was time. She told me he would let me know. I have always thought that. Sleepless nights. This really hurt. On July 7 I sent the following to Dr N

Doc,

My Love has now lost strength in his hind legs. He is falling down. He is tired and life seems so hard. I know you are going to be gone until next week. I will nurse him and spoil him until you are back but if his quality of life doesn't show signs of improving I need to to do the right thing for him and let him go. It is difficult watching the struggle and just not fair. You have done all you can and so much more. The last thread of hope is a positive Myasthenia Gravis test but I am not counting on that. My heart breaks. I'm sure yours does too. If you can find a few minutes today to call me that would be appreciated.

He called. We talked. I cried some more.

Two days later, July 9, My Love's rear legs gave out.  

Dr T was again filling in at my clinic (there are no accidents) so off we went.

I carried My Love in. She did his treatments and he walked out. Dramatic but the next day he was down again. Another acupuncture/laser treatment. Walking again. The weekend was better but because she was available I took him again Monday for another treatment.

The rest of the week My Love stayed mobile.

I started to notice him making improvement. When Dr N returned, he called to let me know he was available if I needed him. He was a little taken aback when I told him My Love wasn't ready to go.

Every day he was a little better physically and mentally. 

Even the GOLPP symptoms have decreased. I certainly was amazed. Dr. T saw him again on July 23 and he actually was running and was a very happy-go-lucky dog again. Even she was pleasantly surprised and pleased and when she sent Dr N a report from that day he called me. I told both of them I knew he was feeling much better. I had been using roast beef slices from the deli to wrap his medication in. I had just brought home a newly purchased pound of this roast beef. I thought I had put it back in the fridge after he took all his pills. I went outside and when I came back in I noticed an empty bag on the floor. When I picked it up I realized it was a deli bag....with the roast beef label. I checked that date. Today. My Love counter-surfed for the first time in many months, stole that bag and enjoyed a pound of deli roast beef.


All I could do was laugh. Dr T and Dr N laughed too!

It's been 3 months since this roller coaster ride of one crisis after another started. With the help and support of my two veterinarians Dr Tom Newland  and Dr Tabitha Thompson,  My Love is not just surviving, but a thriving senior citizen.

Dr Newland has cared for my animals for 12 plus years now. To have him recommend another vet and be supportive of their alternative care shows what his heart is all about. Dr Thompson has been invaluable in this recovery and still ongoing. I am learning so many new things from her. It's such a treat to be empowered with knowledge that makes sense to me. My Love actually enjoys seeing her as she makes him feel so good! I feel fortunate to have found her.

My Love is  14 1/2. I know I don't get him forever. 

More things will come up. I take each day and am thankful for my time with him.  I am cooking for both my dogs these days. Even baking homemade treats. I am open to more new alternatives. I have a wonderful supportive team. I thought the lesson was to expect the unexpected. While that is true and pertains to the last few months I realized what the true lesson was the other night. I have been experiencing some personal challenges with my life path aside from My Loves issues and while simple this is what I so needed to be reminded:

Never give up!

More gray hairs. A little slower. We swim and play with toys together. The weight is returning. My Love not ready to go. My Love is still sleeping by my feet. Happy tears.

Penny

I would like to make a side note regarding holistic medicine. I have used many holistic methods over the years for myself. Some have helped and some haven't. When it comes to our dogs, alternative treatments are worth exploring but it's important to have someone with the proper knowledge and training guide you. 

In this age of unlimited information available on the web, it's tempting to try anything and everything on our own. The latest and greatest. It's supposed to be all natural so what's the harm? That is OK for yourself because you have the ability to know what you're feeling and if something is helping or hurting. Our pets cannot vocalize what is happening. If they are hurting or nauseous or dizzy or ... you get my point.  I have seen so many online posts about giving a dog or cat something "natural" and now they are behaving strangely or seem to be in distress.

I can't stress enough the importance of at the least consulting with someone who is experienced in whatever modality you wish to try. Holistic veterinarians, in my opinion, have the advantage as they are DVMs- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have added holistic therapies and treatments to that training. Holistic encompasses many things. Don't be afraid to ask questions until you are satisfied. Results. I found some great ones. Hope you do too!

Related articles:
My Love Is Sleeping at My Feet: ACL Surgery Complications


Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!

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