OT:Doggy Dilemma

It started around two weeks ago shortly after Haruka and my wife returned from their spring vacation to Yamaguchi.  The dogs has stayed home with me, because I had to take care of business at work, and couldn’t really go anywhere this year.

Princess, one of our beloved Westies, was sleeping on the living room floor as she normally does, while I was outside working on our wood deck.  As she got up to move to a different part of the room, apparently she lost her balance and fell.  Since our dogs are so small, there is no real danger of injuries if they fall over, but it was really strange that she even fell in the first place.  My wife witnessed the whole incident and immediately noticed that something was wrong with Princess.  She was disorientated, as if she didn’t know where she was, and she was twitching and convulsing.  Not quite understanding what was going on with her, my wife immediately took her outside in the hopes that some fresh air may revive her and help to get her orientation back.

They returned a few minutes later, and my wife called me in from the deck.  Princess was still very disorientated, and had trouble walking.  She would walk into furniture and other obstacles as  if she were blind.  When I waved my hand in from of her face, she did not respond; it was clear that she was unable to see me.  We placed her on the sofa, but she tried to jump off, probably because she was frighted from the the sudden loss of sight.  I tried to remain calm but I was really frightened for her.  I tried to keep her stationary on the sofa, and comforted her by petting her and ensuring her that we were nearby.  After a few minutes, she began to calm down.  She seemed to be regaining her orientation again, so I waved an object in front of her face again, and she was able to track it with her eyes again, so it looked as if she had regained her vision back.

After about 30 minutes, Princess seemed to be back to normal.  She was able to see, and walk straight.  She even got her appetite back.  Puzzled, I wasn’t too sure what to make of what just happened.  Prior to the brief but very scary incident, I was weatherproofing the deck with wood sealer, so I thought that maybe the fumes had made her sick.  For the rest of the day, she was perfectly normal, so I didn’t think too much of it after that.  But, that wasn’t the end of it.

Princess had gone a few days without incident.  Then, one night, my wife and I were up later than usual watching TV.  Both Princess and Jenna were in the living room sleeping as usual.  At about 1AM, we went upstairs to prepare for bed.  Princess and Jenna slept in their usual place out in the hallway in their doggy beds.  About an hour later, as I was falling asleep, I was awakened by noises coming from the hallway downstairs.  It sounded like one of the dogs was pacing back and forth down the hall.  I figured that one of them was having problems getting comfortable or perhaps something (like noise from the outside or maybe the light in the toilet -which has a motion sensor that turns on the light when it senses movement, had awakened them.  However, the pacing persisted for several minutes and it didn’t seem like it was going to let up.

Knowing that I would not be able to sleep until I knew what was happening, I went downstairs to investigate.  When I got to the downstairs hallway, I saw Princess at the end of the hallway pacing aimlessly.  After a few seconds, she finally noticed me,  and she walked up and started to whimper.   I immediately noticed that her face was wet, especially around her mouth.  She had been panting and drooling heavily.

I took her into the living room and immediately gave her fresh dish of water, but she refused to drink.  She just continued to whimper and crawled up onto my lap.  I petted her for few minutes to try to comfort her, and at that moment I realized that she probably had just had another incident.  I went upstairs and woke up my wife, because I wasn’t sure if Princess was going to be okay or not.  We both tried to comfort Princess, but she  continued to act confused and disorientated.  I don’t think she realized what time of day it was because she kept prompting us and Jenna (who was half asleep) to play.  We tried for several minutes to get her to go back to sleep, but she was very energetic and wanted to play.  We had no choice but to try to tire her out so she would sleep, so we took her for a fairly long walk at 2:30 in the morning.

We leashed up both Princess and Jenna and took them for a walk around the neighborhood.  Initially, it was just going to be a quick trot around the block, Princess was so abnormally hyper that she probably wouldn’t have gone to sleep had we returned home too early.  So we wound up taking a nearly 45 minute walk in the middle of the night.  Jenna was already clearly very tired and wanted  sleep, and so were we, but Princess probably could have gone on for several more minutes if we had let her.  But after a while, we decided that enough was enough and we returned home.  Princess was still in a playful mood, so we turned off every single light (including the motion sensing light in the toilet) and left the dogs to get to sleep on their own.  After a few minutes, Princess seemed to have tired out and eventually went to sleep.

The next morning, my wife and contemplated on whether or not to take her to the vet.  But we both agreed that all the vet would do is tell us that Princess is an aging dog, and that it could be any number of things.  So I did what anyone else would have done in the modern age of computers.  I Googled her symptoms (the wandering around in the middle of the night, wanting to play at odd hours, inexhaustible energy, sleeplessness etc.) and I came up with Canine Dementia.   Although the symptoms weren’t a perfect match, it seemed to be close to Princess’s behavior the previous night, so we started treating her ailment as being canine dementia.  The treatment is similar to that of human dementia, and that is to expose her to as much stimuli as possible.  Frequent walks, and exposure to other dogs, and as much attention we could possibly give her.  But it was the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Over the next week, Princess had 2 more seizures -once in the middle of the day, and then again in the middle of the night a few days later.  And again, we had the challenge of trying to get her back to sleep again.  By now, I was really concerned.  This was definitely not canine dementia, nor anything associated with old age, or exposure to household chemicals.  I had spent several hours online at this point researching and narrowed it down to few possible illnesses: kidney or liver failure, a brain tumor, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  I didn’t even want to believe that it could be a brain tumor, but the symptoms were uncomfortably very close to what she was experiencing.  If it was a brain tumor, there is no cure aside from surgery.  This would be very costly, because it would involve expensive CAT or MRI brain scans, then surgery in which there would be a high probability of death during the procedure because of her age.  kidney or liver failure would only be marginally better.  At least they can be treated with medication or maybe less invasive surgery.  Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) would in this case be the best case scenario.  The treatment requires no surgery or drugs.  It would be a matter of just changing what she eats,assuming that there are no other underlying problems.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the opportunity to test my theory. Shortly after I read the articles about the effects of hypoglycemia on dogs, Princess had another seizure.   This time it lasted about 20 minutes.  Although it lasted much longer than the previous seizures, it was less violent, and Princess seemed more coherent and less disorientated than the last few times.  We decided not to take chances this time, and to take her to the vet to get an expert analysis.  My wife had to take Haru to one of her events so we agreed to meet later at the vets office.  Princess slept for about an hour after her last seizure.  I still believed that my hypothesis was correct and that Princess was suffering from hypoglycemia, so I fed Princess some high GI (glucose index or foods with high complex sugar contents) foods.  I gave her some dog biscuits that were dipped in honey, which she loved, and a piece of banana.   I noticed that she seemed to recover really quick after that, and she immediately became more coherent and aware of her surroundings.  Before I loaded her into the car, I gave her another lick of honey (which is a quick fix for hypoglycemic animals and people.)

As expected, the vet gave the same dreadful talk about how Princess is an aging dog, and that her illness could one of many things -basically information I already knew, and got for free from surfing the internet.  Eventually, after condemning Princess to death, she suggested that she take a blood sample so that we could get a more definitive answer to what it may be (or what it isn’t) so that we don’t have to keep speculating.  So we agreed to a blood test, which in my mind was the best thing we took away from this visit to the vet.

The blood test came back as negative for, chemical poisoning, and liver and kidney failure, which was a relief.  Everything else was normal except for blood sugar level.   According to the vet, the blood sugar level should not be any lower than 60mg/dL; Princess was at 50mg/dL.  The vet said that 50mg/dL is pretty low, but would not be low enough to cause a seizure.  For a moment, I was discouraged and upset because I thought that would be conclusive evidence that all of these seizures were caused by her sugar levels.  But then, I remembered that prior to coming to the vet’s office, I had given Princess a dog biscuit and some honey -both very high in glucose (complex sugar) so her sugar level should have spiked before her blood test.  When I explained that to the vet, she agreed that the blood sugar level may have been low enough to have caused a seizure.  Although its still just a theory, I think its a storng one with good evidence behind it now.

As a precautionary measure, the vet prescribed some anti-seizure medication which we give to Princess twice a day.  This isn’t a miracle drug, and it takes long time for it to build up within the system for it to take effect, so we won’t be able to see the affects of it for weeks.  In the meantime, we have been feeding both Princess and Jenna three small high glucose meals in addition to their two regular meals every day.  We can already see a difference in the behavior in both dogs.  They sleep less, seem less fatigued, and much more energetic.  Although its only been four days, Princess has yet to have another seizure, and I feel pretty confident that she probably won’t (cross fingers).