Archive for August, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

dukebwDuke, my 7 year old Miniature Pinscher, has been sick lately.  It all started about 2 weeks ago after I gave him a flea bath…

Just like last year at about this time, my house has become inundated with fleas.  It seems like nothing I do will keep them at bay.  As if ticks weren’t bad enough, both my dogs are covered head to toe with flea bites and Duke unfortunately is allergic to them.  He’s developed a severe flea allergy dermatitis and chews at himself constantly.

It all began with a flea bath, or so I assumed.  I did Duchess first, lathering her up with some Scratchex Flea and Tick shampoo.  Once she was done it was Duke’s turn and he suffered through the experience stoicly.

I toweled him off and he did his ‘after bath routine’ which includes running around the house like a madman, rubbing up against anything that’s made of fabric, rolling around on stray pieces of clothing on the furniture and rooting around through piles of blankets.  About fifteen minutes after this I noticed he was acting funny.  He jumped up on the couch next to Dan and sat there hunched up and shivering.  We thought he might be cold so we put a blanket over him, which didn’t help.  He was hesitant to move and with his ears down and his demeanor so subdued, we worried what could possibly be wrong.

Since the only thing that was different about that day and any previous was the flea shampoo, I assumed he was having a reaction to the chemical in the bath.  I put him back in the sink and rinsed him for another 15-20 minutes hoping that it would remove any traces of the pesticide from his skin.

About an hour later he seemed to come out of it so I shrugged it off as a coincidence and didn’t worry too much.  He was completely normal acting the next day.  I let him sleep in bed with us as a treat and shortly after he woke up the next morning I noticed he was acting funny again.  He had similar symptoms from the first night except this time he was panting and acting as though he was in pain.  Dan held him in his lap and a few minutes later he began crying out in pain.

I panicked and called the vet.  They asked us to come in that afternoon and even though we had a few hour wait, I agreed.  About 15 minutes before we were due to leave for the Vet, he started to act normally again.  We went anyways as a precaution and during the examination the Vet found nothing out of the ordinary.  She told us that he was probably having a neurological reaction from the pesticide and to watch him closely for any sign of deterioration.

The following day he was fine and I think even the next.  On Monday he was having episodes again.  The attacks had worsened and he would literally be writhing around in pain for 30 minutes or more.  It looked like he was having a muscle spasm that started on the left side of his neck and traveled down his shoulder and into his paw.  His attacks would start with a change in posture, then lifting that leg, then he would become rigid and starting screaming.  Depending on the severity of the attack, he’d either just scream or sometimes he’d lift both his front legs straight out in front of him, arching his back back with his head pointing towards the ceiling.  It was heartbreaking and terrifying.

A trip to the vet that afternoon revealed that the pain he was suffering from originated in his neck along with the fact that he had a slight case of pancreatitis and dehydration.  He showed no sensitivity to having his abdomen touched.  The vet declared that he had a slipped disk and that he’d need a myelogram or an MRI; both having to be performed at a referral clinic and both more than likely resulting in a very costly surgery.  She sent us home with Prednisone, Morphine and something to protect his stomach.  I felt like she’d sent him home to die.

Over the next few days he got worse instead of better.  I placed numerous calls to the vet who kept telling me that if it was his disks he should be responding to the steroids.  Nothing we gave him seemed to help and the attacks that were happening once a day became three or four times a day.  He stopped drinking and eating, increasing my anxiety exponentially.

One night, in desperation, I even called my Dad begging him to come with me to the vets so I could have him put to sleep.  I couldn’t bear to see him suffering so much and felt like it would be a cruel existence for him to  suffer like that every day of his life.  Daddy told me that although he didn’t want to see Duke suffer, that I had to give him at least a chance to get better.  He explained how he’d had back problems that had been excrutiating, but that it took time to heal.  I’m so glad I had that conversation because I was convinced that I had no other choice.

The past few days have been a little bit better.  Confining him to his crate, while upsetting his willfulness, seems to be the key in regulating these attacks.  We got sly and would fill his water bowl with water and just drop in a few nuggest of food.  In order for him to eat, he’d have to drink too.  His lethargy has decreased since he’s been taking fluids and he’d resumed regular bowel movements and peeing.

Internet research has helped turn up some other possible causes which we’ll be exploring this upcoming week.

My last conversation with a new Vet was enlightening.  She explained that if in fact he had disk disease severe enough to warrant the amount of pain he seems to be in that he’d more than likely be displaying other neurological symptoms like rolling his paws when he walks, being unbalanced, even incontinence.  Duke isn’t experiencing any of these accompanying symptoms.

Which could possibly point towards another culprit, Lyme Disease.  Though many websites will portray Canine Lyme as being an arthritic, inflammatory process, I have found many Vets that say a lot of dogs diagnosed with incurable disk disease actually had Lyme.  That it can cause extreme muscle pain due to cramping.  This is almost exactly what is happening to him.

Duke is very young and it seems unlikely that he has either disk disease or arthritis.  We do however, live in an endemic area, with over 5,500 canine Lyme Disease cases reported just between 2001 and 2007.  Though  we obviously would rather he not have anything wrong with him, we hope that it’s Lyme as opposed to Disk Disease.  The latter being a death sentence.  At least Lyme can be treated with antibiotics that I can afford.  Sadly, I cannot afford between $1000-$3000 for just an MRI and another $3000+ for neck surgery.

I’ll keep you posted and in the meanwhile, you keep your fingers crossed.