Thank you for the photo, Jennifer!
This good photo of Marta at 13 years was posted on Facebook by Jennifer Fry. Marta, with the ever-present blue oral appendage, was a very special dog in her own right. She was also mother of the wonderful N and O litters. Nexus and Owl are the two who stayed with me. They regularly remind me of Marta aka "Smart Mart."
Thank you for the photo, Jennifer!
I am gratified to be able to report that Owl is doing MUCH better! If I were to rate him on a scale 1-10, 10 being normal, I would say a solid 9.5. He is walking a straight line! Active. Happy. Jumping. No discernible head tilt. The only things I am seeing are that he appears to stumble slightly in the rear when turning right, he has a minute wobble when lifting his leg to pee, and his movement appears very slightly rigid, like he is not 100% trusting or finding total balance. I would say most people would not notice these things but I am seeing them because I know Owl so well.
Thank you for all your support!
"I thought I was going to watch him die!"
I am glad this turned out okay and thanks for this warning about elevators posted by Tamara Seibert on Facebook today.
I am reminded of Mary Trinkle who raised standard longhairs on Long Island years ago. There was a small elevator in her home for her husband Fred who was confined to a wheelchair. Mary lost a dog when the elevator door broke his neck.
Those of us who travel with dogs use elevators on occasion. Let this be a reminder to use them with good awareness!
I am so looking forward to my first litter in 4.5 years! Owl mated Taya last evening, on the 9th day of her cycle. The mating took place just as nature intended, with no interference from me. Taya was willing and Owl was eager, and I was happy that it went so well.
Later, though, I noticed that Owl looked a bit 'strange.' He was hunched a little and mildly hesitant to walk but it was subtle. He lifted his leg fine but wobbled just enough for me to notice it. He retched a couple of times, then seemed better. At bed time at 0200, Nexus and Viljo went into their crates and I put Owl on the bed with me. He had a slightly vacant expression as if he wasn't feeling well, then he sighed, stretched out, and went to sleep.
At 0415, I was awakened by a noise. Owl had fallen out of bed. I heard him retch. I got up. Two minutes later, it looked for all the world like Owl was having a full blown seizure. On his side, arched, rigid, flailing. It went on, too long, before he settled. Oh God. I went out into the 15 degree night to start the car and put a crate in there. I put Owl into his crate in the bedroom while I dressed. I heard sounds like he was seizing again. Owl's crate was moving and shaking from his spastic movements inside. I carried him out to the car and headed for Medvet in Columbus, 90 minutes away. In the car, there were two more episodes, both of them brief, when it sounded like Owl was seizing again. Each time ended with a soft whine. I noted the times and kept thinking, praying, Oh Lord, PLEASE don't tell me I just bred Tayter to Owl on the same day I find out he has a seizure disorder. The ramifications of that scenario hit like a ton of bricks.
Thankfully, what I was told three hours later was that Owl is having a bout with Vestibular Dis-ease. Vertigo. A problem with his balance. My dog is dizzy. Oh, you could have cut my relief with a knife.
The vet was great but he wanted to consult a neurologist. He said he could tell me what the problem was but could not tell me why. Is the problem originating with the inner ear(s) as is most often the case? Or is it, worst case scenario, coming from the brain stem? He left me to think about what I wanted to do. Well, I just got a smart phone on Wednesday and, boy, is it smart! I consulted my phone for information on Canine Vestibular Disease. I learned that it is actually not uncommon, affects mostly older dogs but sometimes middle age dogs, too. (Owl and his O littermates will be 10 in June. The fact that they are all very healthy and active at nearly 10 is one of the reasons I decided to use Owl in the first place.) One vet had an article saying she basically adopts the wait and see plan; improvement is often complete all the way to baseline, and often within 72 hours. So I told the vet I was taking Owl home and he was fine with that. They hydrated him with some subcu fluid and an injection of anti-nausea med. They gave me the same medication, Maropitant, in pill form, to be given once a day for the next three days.
Before I left, I asked the vet why the symptoms mimicked seizures so closely. I said that I have seen seizures a number of times, in dogs and especially in humans. Earlier this year, in fact, we had a patient who seized repeatedly something like 20 times before we got him transferred to a medical unit. The vet said basically, the vertigo was making Owl nauseated which is why he was retching. When he fell on his side that first time at home, and flailed, it was because he could not find equilibrium. Owl literally could not tell up from down. He was arched and rigid because he was trying hard to right himself. He was moving and shaking the crate when, again, he was trying to find balance and couldn't. And some of the body tension likely came from finding himself in a frightening predicament.
Outside of the vet hospital, I put Owl on the grass to see if he had to pee and he sat there looking like a bobble dog in someone's car window. When we got home, Owl did walk - like he might walk if he'd been into the Vodka - and lifted his leg and peed. He ate some soft food (canned cat food!) that I fed him with a spoon. He didn't want anything to drink.
Tonight, Owl is walking better but moving sideways, like a fast-moving crab. He has a head tilt and a bit of a body wobble. No retching though, no falling or flailing, and he knows which way is up.
Owl appears much more relaxed.
Until I open the front door and he sees the cat on the porch.
Until he pulls toward the kennel building where Taya is.