Thursday, September 24, 2009

Callie's Progress - and Setbacks


Callie had another cluster seizure Monday night, just under three months since the last one. Since there was a 19 month gap and then these two, that means they are getting more frequent. Also, more severe. Unfortunately, that means its time to start some type of seizure medication. The most common seizure med in dogs (phenobarbitol) can cause kidney and liver issues and acts as a sedative so your dog can "zombie out." I talked to several owners who say that once their dogs went on it, they were "no longer the same dog." More than anything I care about Callie's quality of life and I think she would rather have a seizure once every month or so than be zonked out all the time. So for me, it would be a very long time before I would ever consider putting her on that medication, and things would have to be much worse than they are now.

Fortunately, there is a human epilepsy medication that has had some success in dogs. Reportedly 60% of dogs do well on it, it does not act as a sedative or alter personality significantly or noticeably in most dogs, and the main side effect, if any, are gastro intestinal issues like vomiting and nausea. The medication, Zonisamide, is a bit expensive, but cost is not an object when it comes to her health unless it really hits a level I can't possibly manage, and I would probably go to a diet of lettuce and rice only before I skimped on something for the animals. After I got a month's supply ($100) I found out I can get it cheaper at Costco, so I will check that out next time.

Callie tends to be sensitive to everything, including meds, so I was very worried about the side effects. She also does not like to take pills and is an expert at licking off all the butter or peanut butter or cheese off and spitting the pill back out. I've only found one thing in the past that worked so I relied on that: sticky soft cow cheese. I forget the name of the brand but it's the one with the swiss cow and it comes in tiny blocks or wedges. That is yummy enough and sticky enough she eats the pill without licking or chewing or complaining one little bit. Thank goodness past research already revealed the answer to that one.

So far we are four doses into this new regime, and Callie seems absolutely fine - good energy, no throwing up, no personality changes, nothing noticeable at all. Although it was very hard to accept that she needs a medication, I can't ignore medical advice because emotionally I want her to be well and not need medicine. I trust her neurologist in Portland, and he took the time to speak with me and agreed it was time to start meds and recommended the one she is on. I am grateful, as the local vets in Boise, even at Westvet, have very limited experience with this drug and it is fairly new for use in dogs. Cost is probably a factor, but also the other med has been around so long that everyone knows how to use it. You have to keep measuring the level of the old one though, and this one you can skip that. Callie hates IVs and needle pokes at this point, and I don't blame her. She is actually a decent patient but she is a smart girl and why would anyone like needle pricks?

Watching Callie have seizures is by far one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I try and be very calm and talk her through it in a reassuring way, and she remains very conscious and alert, she just can't control her movements. She responds, and I hope that she is comforted. If I could have the seizures myself I wouldn't hesitate. In some ways the most frustrating part is we will never know why this happened - in the beginning it was not epilepsy, she was in the hospital for a week without use of one side of her body. Possibly it was some unknown neurotoxin, that the vets expected to kill her, but she pulled through. Now she does appear to have either epilepsy or something so close we'll never know otherwise. After brain scans and spinal taps and bloodwork we have to accept that we are where we are: we won't get answers, and while it appeared for a long while it was behind us, it is not.

I am grateful for every day I have with her. When she wants a hug and I am busy, I take time to give her one. When she wants to play, I try and make some time to play. I could be a better dog mom - if I took the time to make her a raw diet and I took her running every day and I found a way to do agility with her regularly, I would be a better mom. But I am doing the best I can right now. I take her to work with me 95% of the time, I take her on vacations when we can drive where we are going, I seizure proofed the house so she can't fall or hurt herself if she is home alone, I feed her decent food and she gets exercise, attention, and love. The only thing she really gets in trouble for is picking on the other pets and being too bossy....and her worst punishment is getting yelled at or a brief time out. I believe that she has a happy life and I am pretty in tune with her body language and her vocalizations and what she wants despite the language barrier. She is only 6 so I hope we have another 10 years together, but int he throes of seizure, I sometimes wonder if it will even be 10 minutes.

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