Sometimes I forget that when I blog about one of my dogs, I am not the only one reading it.
When I shared with you Daisy’s diagnosis of an insulinoma you were right there with me, following along on Facebook, so the blog updates were not as urgent or necessary. But when I shared Cupcake’s recent bout with idiopathic vestibular disease, I failed to provide frequent updates on her progress.
Why? I am not sure. I think perhaps because we were dealing with it in real-time and I wasn’t so sure where this was going to go. My apologies if you have been wondering how Cupcake has been doing.
So how is she?
Health wise, she is doing pretty well. The first few days were pretty rough, she was so sick from the vertigo that I had to give her Bonine to help with the motion sickness, but thankfully, that passed fairly quickly and she began to adjust to the vertigo and the unsteadiness that came with it. She still has the head tilt, but she has learned to work around it.
Once she adjusted to her new world, her personality started to come back too. For me, that was the best news of all. I probably haven’t always shared this with you, but Cupcake is the life of the party in our house. She is silly and sassy and brave and smart, and she oozes personality in all that she does. I love Cupcake from head to paw, but her personality is what sparkles and what makes me laugh and smile every day. Trust me, a home without Cupcake’s personality is a very dull home.
With the return of her personality, has come a few challenges. Cupcake is no longer as agile as she once was, so she has had a few tumbles and falls. I am careful to keep an eye on her, but she is determined to live life as she once had (I think that is a good thing, right?).
She nearly gave me a heart attack when she decided to leap off the raised concrete patio two days after being diagnosed, but I should have known Cupcake would not be deterred by a little vertigo. I thought she would be seriously injured after that leap, but she just tumbled onto the ground and then got right back up and moseyed on her wobbly way. I should have realized it would be a sign of how she would be moving forward. Nothing stops Cupcake.
One day, she ran out the back door with Jasper and ran right into a planter pot that she did not see sitting in her path. I gasped in horror, but the fall only left her stunned for a moment before she was up and chasing Jasper across the yard, barking excitedly.
I am now careful to block the basement stairs and to move things out of her way when I can, but for the most part she seems to have found her own way around this new life of hers. She is unfazed by her unsteadiness and limited vision. (I’ve come to believe that Cupcake probably has some form of peripheral vestibular disease, because she seems to look at us out of her peripheral vision and can’t always see what is in front of her.)
Cupcake still has the head tilt, but the motion sickness is mostly gone.
Probably the hardest part of Cupcake’s illness has been the need to leave her at home when we go to the dog park. If she were more stable and her vision was better, I would feel safe bringing her with us, but I cannot trust other dogs to leave her alone or to understand why she falls over sometimes.
She has also slowed down quite a bit. Walking for long periods of time are no longer possible. I suspect the constant movement makes her a little dizzy. Even walks halfway down the block are enough to tire her out, so I have been taking her with me to locations where she can just mosey along sniffing at her own pace. These are not walks, but more an exploration of sight and smell. She loves checking out the new smells and exploring a new location on her own terms. I think she likes having these special excursions where she can set the pace.
Sometimes, Cupcake gets disoriented and turned around, but she seems to figure it out on her own. Occasionally, she has gotten turned around and has walked under the kitchen table and gotten stuck or gotten stuck between my bed and the bedroom wall and needs my guidance to get back out, but those don’t happen very often. Even when they do, she does not seem bothered by the strangeness of it all. I cannot help but wonder what she is saying to herself when she finds she is surrounded by kitchen chairs and cannot figure out how she ended up there. Leave it to Cupcake to bring the humor to everything she does. It’s hard not to smile sometimes.
So how is Cupcake? The same and different. It has taken some time for her (and us) to adjust, but what remains is what matters most – her smile, her personality and her zest for life. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us.
I was cleaning the kitchen when I heard Cupcake fall in the living room. I thought maybe she had slipped on the wood floor and was having trouble getting up because it was slippery. I ran over to her and helped her to her feet. She fell over again. I picked her up again, and that was when I noticed her eyes. They were darting back and forth. Rapidly. I immediately thought it was a seizure, but before I could analyze her further, it was over. It had only been a matter of seconds, and unlike most dogs coming out of a seizure, she was alert, walking around normally and acting like her usual self. I was stumped. It was was such a weird incident. I attributed it to standing up to quickly and getting disoriented. What else could I think?
Then it happened again. The following Friday. Cupcake stood up, started to walk, and then fell over. Her eyes were darting back and forth again. Just like before, it was over in seconds and she was acting normally. I made a note in my iPhone to record the date and time (as suggested by the vet’s office when I called them during the week).
On Saturday, the next day, Cupcake had two more incidents. Each time, she walked like a dog that was drunk and often fell over and her eyes would continuously dart from side to side.
After the second one, I started googling “dogs” and “darting eyes” and saw one thing come up again and again – vestibular disease. Cupcake had all of the symptoms – unsteady gait, falling down, and darting eyes. Based on everything I read, she had what feels like vertigo in humans.
When it happened a second time. I remembered to videotape it. I wanted to be able to show the emergency vet what was happening since she always seemed fine when it ended.
Unfortunately, the behavior did not end. Unlike before, Cupcake continued to have problems walking and kept falling over. Her eyes did not stop darting side to side, like they had before, and now she had a head tilt and would circle in one spot over and over again. It was really upsetting to see her like this.
Everything I read said that there wasn’t much that could be done for vestibular disease, but I still felt a trip to the emergency vet was needed. Unfortunately, the ER vet was in emergency surgery with a dog hit by a car and would be in surgery for at least another hour, so I brought Cupcake home, contacted her vet and sent her the videos. After some consultation, she agreed that it was likely vestibular disease and got her some anti-nausea drugs until I could bring her in on Monday.
Cupcake’s Monday appointment confirmed it, she had Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. If you have not heard of it before, I recommend looking it up.
Here is what I know from reading up on it. Some dogs, often older dogs, get it and recover over a few weeks or months and never get it again. Other dogs get it once, recover, have a relapse, and recover again. Many times the cause is unknown (thus the term “idiopathic”).
Idiopathic vestibular disease can be caused by an inner ear infection, but it can also be caused by a brain lesion or hypothyroidism. Cupcake’s blood work came back normal so it rules out hypothyroidism. Based on her other behaviors, the head tilt to the left, the circling to the left and the eyes darting quickly to the right and then moving slowly back to the left, the vet thinks Cupcake may have a lesion on her brain. If it is a lesion, it is likely on her left side and pressing on her brain, which is what is causing the strange behaviors. If it is not a lesion, Cupcake may recover fully and never have it again (she is showing improvement every day).
Right now, we are in a wait and see mode. Since last Saturday, she has steadily improved in the walking department. She still has the head tilt, and will circle to the left, but now she is able to go outside and come back inside on her own. With the help of several new rugs in the house, she rarely falls down, and if she does, she gets back up all on her own. She even went for a very short walk today (she was not happy about being left behind when I took Daisy and Jasper to the dog park this morning, so a walk was a must), and tonight, she wagged her tail several times, squeaked her stuffie over and over again (which she does when happy and excited) and gave her brother some sass (trust me, he needed it). :)
Unfortunately, she also has another symptom – her third eyelid is now showing in her left eye. It could mean the lesion is growing or passing in on her eye. I’ll be calling the vet about that tomorrow, but for right now I am focusing on the positive changes I have seen this past week. Cupcake is acting more like herself and her personality has returned (I sure did miss that speaking sound and her cute little wagging tail).
I never expected that writing about Daisy’s insulinoma would lead to meeting others who had gone or were going through the same thing.
It’s such a scary thing to find out your dog has cancer, no matter what kind it is, but having to make a quick decision on whether or not to do surgery is also scary. Having someone else who has already been there can really help. I sure wish I had known other people who had been through the same situation back in February so they could have helped to ease my mind about what to expect.
Now that Daisy is on the other side of it, I am so glad that I am able to share our experience with others who are having to make the same difficult decisions.
Of course, it makes it easier that Daisy came through the surgery and is still doing well today. I think it would be much harder to answer questions and respond to emails if she were not.
I had completely forgotten about the notes I took on the day I received the phone call from Daisy’s consulting veterinarian at the University of Minnesota. Those notes recorded her confirmation of Daisy’s insulinoma and captured her recommendation that Daisy have surgery to remove it.
Today, I was cleaning out my work desk and came across them. It brought back a lot of the emotions I felt back then – worry, fear, uncertainty… fear. I imagine a lot of people feel that way when they find out their dog has cancer.
Going through Daisy’s diagnosis, surgery and aftercare has taught me a lot.
I have learned that…
- You can seek input from those around you, but in the end you are the one who must make the decision about your dog’s care. No one else can, or should, tell you what is the best decision.
- Having someone else with you when you do speak to the vet about your pet’s illness (and the options) is helpful. What they say about people not hearing anything the doctor says beyond the word “cancer” is true. I sure wish I had someone else there who could have asked the questions I could not. In the end, I was able to write down my questions and ask them in person later on. It helped to be prepared in advance.
- Know your monetary limit (or get pet insurance). You’d be surprised how quickly the costs can get out of control (they most certainly did in Daisy’s case). Plan for a dollar limit and then add another $1000. That way you give yourself some leeway when you go past your limit.
- It’s okay to choose NOT to take an extraordinary measures to save your dog. Daisy’s insulinoma was caught early by chance (by her very awesome and alert vet), so we had options, but that is not the case for everyone. Opting to have the surgery or not, do chemo or not, is a personal decision. You know your own dog and what he/she can handle. Don’t be afraid to say no, if that is the right option for you and your pet.
- Going forward with surgery or extraordinary life-saving measures is okay too. Just remember to check in with your pet to make sure the extraordinary measures are not because you can’t bear to say goodbye. Those first few days after surgery were tough. By the end of our ongoing list of recovery issues, I had come to the decision that I would not put Daisy through any more because it was traumatizing her (and me). Fortunately,she started to get better.
- Veterinarians are just like doctors in that they want to save lives. They don’t want to give up any more than you do. They feel your pain and want to be able to give you the happy ending you seek. (Their big hearts are what led them to this profession after all.) Know that you may have to be the one who says “no more” at some point. The specialists who are caring for your pet may not be able to do so. I was fortunate enough to have a vet who helped me to be able to say “no more” in Daisy’s case. I am so grateful she did.
I am guessing many of you have been through a similar experience. What other tips or suggestions would you give to other pet owners going through a similar illness or diagnosis?
To the owners of Button, Scooter and Jack – our thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this difficult time. Follow your heart in whatever you decide to do.
Quite a while ago, I saw a product I had never heard of before at my vet’s office. It is called the Trix TickLasso.
Of course, since I regularly use Frontline on the dogs, I have never had the chance to use it. It sat in my junk drawer for months. I had completely forgotten I had it.
But recently, I was a little late in applying Frontline on the dogs and Daisy got a tick. (I hate those damn little buggers.)
I was upset that my lapse in memory had allowed one to attach to her. Damn ticks.
I was also really worried about removing it and not getting the head out. In the past, I have tried to remove a rock using a tweezers. Getting the head out was usually futile. But, this time I had the TickLasso! So, I thought I would give it a try.
It was money well spent.It was really easy to use, and unlike a pair tweezers, it removed the tick intact, head and all. What a great product.
So how does it work?
- Like a ballpoint pen, you push the button on top of the applicator and a small lasso appears at the other end.
- You loop the lasso over the tick (down where the head is attached).
- Release the button and the lasso tightens around the tick (just like lassoing a bull).
- Twist the applicator and pull.
That’s it! The whole tick comes out and you’re done.
You can see a video of how it works below.
If you want to purchase one for yourself, they are pretty much everywhere, including Amazon.
Note: I purchased this product myself and used it. I was not approached by anyone to endorse this product.
For me, Hurricane Katrina and my late dog Indy will be indelibly linked in my mind forever. While it was a disaster of epic proportions for the United States, and a deadly and devastating hurricane for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was also the beginning of the end of life for my dog Indy.
Evacuations were going on in New Orleans. It was all over the news. Like everyone else, I was glued to the news, watching the city and state leaders plead for people to leave the city and shorelines.
I was also focused on getting my dog Indy into the vet. It was not a particularly memorable day that day I brought her in. I think it might have been beautiful and sunny, but I am not completely sure. I brought her in, she got her rabies, distemper and bordatella vaccinations. I bought her a treat and we went home. That’s it.
It was the next day that when it began. Indy had a seizure. I rushed her to the vet, where she had another one. They recommended we rush her to the emergency vet clinic to be assessed, because of course, it was a Sunday and the vet closed after noon. My mother came with me to the emergency vet. We sat in the waiting room for hours as they assessed Indy and treated other patients. The television was on CNN in the waiting room, where coverage of Katrina evacuations were in full swing. We watched the flow of vehicles leaving the city using all lanes of the highway to get out. It was something we had never seen before.
Indy ended up spending the night, but when she came home, the seizures continued, at first once a month, then once every couple of weeks, then once a week. Throughout it all, was the horror of what happened in New Orleans, on the nightly news. It was an epic tragedy playing out on our television screens, but a very real traumatic event for those living there. We might’ve been going through our own tragedy at home, but what the people of New Orleans (an their pets and children) suffered was so much greater. I cannot forget it.
In April of 2006, disaster recovery was in full swing. The devastation left behind by hurricane Katrina was undeniable then, the population of New Orleans had been cut in half, whole parishes were destroyed,and we said goodbye to Indy, who by then was having seizures every few days.
It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since all that happened. Time has a way of healing all wounds, but also etching moments and events in your mind forever, like Hurricane Katrina and Indy.
Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend an online seminar put on by Maddie’s Fund. I was already interested in the topic, but expected to learn little new as I had already been reading up on the topic on my own. As it turns out, I learned a heck of a lot more information in the seminar than in the newspapers. Go figure.
The topic? What Animal Shelters Need to Know About the Canine Influenza Outbreak. The seminar was presented by Dr. Sandra Newbury from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Dr. Newbury has been working closely with shelters since the outbreak and was able to share some details that the media has missed in their rush to join the hype.
She shared some of what shelter workers who have been dealing with after the spread of this virus, not only in the shelters in Chicago, but also in the surrounding areas and states. Wow. I cannot imagine the stress. They deserve our support. What they are dealing with is incredibly overwhelming. I imagine they are exhausted after managing through this for the past two months. They are not only caring for hundreds of sick cats and dogs, but also worrying about exposing their own pets to this virus. Imagine how scary it must be for them.
You can get a copy of the presentation handout here, but I thought I would share a few of the things I learned.
- The virus currently making dogs sick in Chicago (H3N2) originated in Korea, China and Thailand. It is suspected it came from the Avian influenza and transferred to cats and dogs. In Korea, China and Thailand, the virus also infected cats, who experienced a significant mortality rate when infected (something we have not seen here).
- Despite what we may think, there is no proof that the virus came in with a dog imported from these countries to the United States. They may never know how it made it to this country.
- The virus did not originate in a shelter, but started with one dog living in a home. Contraction of the virus most likely started in a training class, vet clinic, or doggy daycare.
- When it did hit animal shelters in Chicago, it hit them like a tidal wave. Example: One or two dogs started showing symptoms on Monday. By Tuesday, ten dogs were sick and by Friday, shelters were seeing 50-100 dogs sick. In CACC, they saw 200 dogs sick with the virus.
- Most of the dogs have had mild to moderate respiratory disease. Very few that have died, but some have developed pneumonia and needed additional treatment.
- Symptoms usually start with a cough and nasal discharge. Dogs sickened with this virus seem to feel worse than the dogs infected with the known virus, H3N8.
- This virus differs from the one we have previously seen in the United States (H3N8) in that it has a longer “shedding” period (the virus can still be shed by the formerly sick dog long after they seem well, thus making them still contagious after 19 days).
- This has had a huge impact on shelters and shelter workers. Because of the longer shedding period, shelters have had to stop or slow down the release of dogs to rescues and they have had to turn some dogs away in order to avoid infecting more dogs, sometimes diverting incoming dogs to other uninfected shelters. They are trying to be very, very careful to not spread the virus.
- Because this virus is new to the United States, many shelters were placing dogs up for adoption after seven days, when they appeared well, but they soon discovered that other dogs were getting infected when exposed to these dogs even though they (the formerly sick dogs) were well.
- Dr. Newbury said they are now recommending that dogs be isolated for at least 21 days after they were first diagnosed to prevent spread of the disease, but she cautioned that they are not yet positive that 21 days will be long enough, because they thought it would be fine after 14 days and discovered it was not.
- If a rescue or animal shelter chooses to adopt out a dog who was sick and no longer has symptoms, they should be apply two rtPCR tests and get a negative result from both before allowing the dog to be adopted, and even then, they should gain agreement from the adopter that they will keep them isolated for the full 21 days (no dog parks, no training classes, etc.).
- Shelters in Chicago are developing plans to release some dogs from their shelters to avoid an increase in euthanasia, but they are giving rescue groups very, very specific instructions on holding the dogs in isolation and away from other dogs. They do not want to move dog to an area that does not have influenza already.
- Sick dogs are not turning over to recovering dogs as quickly, but they are starting to see more recovered dogs than sick now. That is very good news.
While I still think this is a very serious outbreak, I feel better knowing more of the details. The speed at which this virus spreads and the fact that the shedding period is so long should be a concern for rescues as they import dogs from these sates. They may want to avoid the ones where cases already been confirmed for now.
Kudos to all the shelter workers dealing with this and trying to make sure it is contained. You have a tough job on normal days. This is above and beyond what is “normal.”
I need to apologize to all of you.
A couple of months ago I wrote about Daisy’s insulinoma and shared my worries and my fears about her recovery, but I never came back to give you an update on how she was doing. I am so sorry. I was so in the moment of what was going on that I never realized that I had left you hanging on what happened or how she was doing! Duh!
So how is Daisy doing? Well, I will let you see for yourself. In pictures, of course.
She is back to walking with us at the dog park and walking with new energy and vigor.
Jasper is back to harassing (I mean, herding) her and she is happy about that.
She loves exploring and digging again.
She and Cupcake are still looking for cheese in the oddest of places.
Cuddling is still a priority (I will never tire of that).
Recently, I took her with me on an extended weekend vacation at a cabin on a lake.
While there, she enjoyed a couple dips in the lake.
She also explored the beach.
And, hunted for shells
Explored the woods.
Woke to the sound of loons every morning.
And, relaxed. A lot.
She’s looking good, isn’t she?
Having come through to the other side of things, I can honestly say that I am glad she had the surgery. I had a lot of doubts in those early days immediately following it, but now I am so grateful that I get to enjoy a little extra time with my girl.
I think I would lying if I did not admit that I am also hyper vigilant about any changes in Daisy’s behavior. I know that insulinomas almost always come back. I know that my time with her may be as short as a year or as long as 18 months. That is the reality. But if they really did get it all, and it never comes back, then I have her for as long as she can outlive her aging body. I am hopeful it will be the latter. For now, Daisy is doing well and loving life, and that is the best outcome of all.
Thank you for caring and sending your prayers and good thoughts. Daisy and I are forever grateful. Truly grateful.