Category Archives: Epilepsy

When Your Vet is a Star ūüĆü

Dr. Jeff Young, ‘Star’ Vet

We all think our vets are ‘stars,’ right? Well, we should. When you are entrusting your beloved fur-kid, you definitely want them to be a star. I mean, who wants to drop a house payment on a vet you have no confidence in when your pet needs critical care? But in my case (house payment aside), my vet really is a star. A TV star that is, as in Dr. Jeff, Rocky Mountain Vet currently airing on the Animal Planet network. These days our vet stars are Dr. Amy (who treats Elsa for her seizures) and Dr.¬†Baier (who tends to Sam’s health) who work at his clinic,¬†Planned Pethood Plus. And I’m very happy with all of them. By the way, if you haven’t seen the show, I strongly recommend it so you can see how this pillar of the community has made a difference in the lives of so many people and their pets. Here’s a link to a recent episode. Dr. Jeff also shares my passion regarding puppy mills and is a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy in order to take care of your pet. We all know treatment for pets can be limited by an ability to pay for it so he does everything he can to make treatment affordable.

My association with Planned Pethood did not begin when discovered the show which now has around a million and a half viewers each week. Established back in 1990, the clinic was located not far from¬†where I currently live although I had been going to his mobile low-cost vaccination clinics for over 20 years. ¬†With a seasoned staff of some 30 professionals, some who have been with him since they were hired out of high school where he has also been a cross-country track coach for the school, he is¬†one of the busiest vets in the country with 100,000 clients.¬†Dr. Jeff is driven by two simple underlying missions ‚Äúsignificantly reducing companion animal overpopulation throughout the world‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúthinking globally: acting locally.‚ÄĚ His passion for curbing pet overpopulation is paramount to his practice, with all rescues treated being spayed or neutered. In fact he has probably performed over 160,000 spay and neuter procedures in the Denver area, as well as providing all manner of veterinary care with his mobile unit throughout the Rocky Mountain region and internationally through Planned Pethood International clinics located in¬†Bratislava, Slovakia and Merida, Mexico.¬†

Having a vet who just happens to be a TV as well as our personal vet star isn’t always rainbows and unicorns though. Because of the sheer number of clients, there are times when it can be frustrating waiting for a return call and it can be challenging keeping one’s expectations for instantaneous care in check. Like most people, I’m impatient when it comes to the care of my fur-babies. Yet I know the work performed is always in the best interests of their clients when they need treatment (did I mention he has 100,000 clients?) and know they always provide quality, affordable care. In 2016 just prior to the season finale, Dr. Jeff made the shocking announcement revealing a diagnosis of B-cell Lymphoma and that the landmark clinic would be moving from the Highlands neighborhood to a new location a few miles west in the suburb of Wheat Ridge. He cut his signature shoulder-length hair in an episode that was hard on the staff and all who know and love Dr. Jeff. While you can never be certain of a long-term prognosis with cancer, he seems to be doing well and continues his work with the same passion as always. We certainly wish him all the best.

When I began drafting this post, I realized Dr. Jeff isn’t the only vet star I’d been fortunate to have taken care of my fur-kids. Back in the 90’s when I lived out east in the suburb of Aurora, my first dog had epilepsy, too. Our neighborhood vet did not have 24 hour care when Crosby’s Grand Mal seizures began and recommended he be transported over to Alameda East, a couple of miles away where he was successfully treated and where all my other pets were treated as well. Back then, the TV series ER was hugely popular and Animal Planet contacted Dr. Robert Taylor, the founder of Alameda East Veterinary Hospital about producing a reality show showing the treatment of animals and thus the show Emergency Vets began airing in 1998. The show ended in 2002 just before I moved to the west side of town once I realized Dr. Jeff’s mobile clinic had a permanent location close to the house.

Dr. Fitz with a couple of patients

While we were clients at Alameda East, our vet ‘star’ was Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, who was a reptile specialist and who coincidently happened to be a well-known local stand-up comedian in his spare time as well as a TV star.

Doesn’t it seems kind of ironic that both of my vets have been TV stars? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But you have to admit it is interesting they both have silver hair and mustaches and are ‘stars’ in multiple ways.

Maybe there is something special about the thin air of the Mile High City that produces such terrific stars both on TV as well as for providing great care to my fur-kids.

Live, love, bark!¬†‚̧Գé

Purple Day for Epilepsy

Today is¬†Purple Day¬ģ for Epilepsy and World Epilepsy Day‚ĄĘ and in honor of all epi-warriors, either 2 or 4-legged, I proudly support this event by showing our colors and wearing purple. As Elsa is a puppy mill survivor with unknown lineage who seemed to contract epilepsy shortly¬†after she was rescued 6 months ago , supporting epilepsy awareness and education seemed like a no-brainer. I am¬†committed to learn as much as possible about this terrible condition and how to effectively treat it while providing a safe and loving home for this sweet little Ninja. And Sam is doing his part by being a supportive and loving big brother.

So today, I say wear your purple proudly and support those organizations like The Epilepsy Foundation whose mission is to provide information, education and support for those impacted by this disease.

Live, love, bark! ‚̧Գé

Celebrations

We humans are a strange lot. We love to celebrate even the smallest events from birthdays to anniversaries annually and indeed, sometimes events even more frequently. It gives our lives texture and activates serotonin centers in the brain when those celebrations and anniversaries memorialize happy times. Today was supposed to be one of those days where I slip head first into mushy celebration of an anniversary of sorts.

Six months ago today a strange, shy little blank slate of a Ninja came into the my life. Elsa, the puppy mill survivor touched a special spot in my heart and I knew I needed to bring her home with me. She held so much promise. Little did I know what that promise would entail.

It would have been two months ago to the day that Elsa suffered her last seizure, even though it a very small one that was stemmed quickly with a healthy dose of Valium. Naturally as soon as I drafted this post, what happened? She has another small seizure over the weekend that I was once again able to stem with the administering of Valium and ice packs. *Heavy sigh*

Still, despite this recent set-back, she continues to bring smiles to my face and tugs at my heartstrings. Here are just a few of the things that make me grateful this little NInja wormed her way on to the Ranch and into my heart on this date 6 months ago.

  • The way your tail¬†is beginning to wag more often which tells me you’re learning to be a happy dog. The fact that you’ll never be able to compete with a certain Knucklehead is of no concern. You are your own adorable pup who is deeply loved for her own individual¬†distinctiveness.
  • I love it when you go out first thing in the morning and bounce like a Springbok antelope in the dog run. Your exuberance makes me giggle like a school girl. And I’m secretly cheering you on when you give the nasty next door Akitas the what-for through the fence. You go girl!

    Springbok imitating Elsa

  • The way you stand perfectly motionless¬†over a toy with front paws spread and then simultaneously pounce and utter the strangest high-pitched yip directly at said toy. I can hear you anywhere in the house and it ALWAYS makes me smile and laugh. I can’t help but wonder what it is you’re saying to that toy.
  • The way you lower your head and creep like a stealthy panther when you spot a squirrel 20 feet ahead of us then¬†rapidly move race toward it like you¬†were¬†fired¬†from a slingshot. Silly girl, you cannot climb the tree after it but you try every. single. time. frequently making me your unwilling kite.
  • And who can forget your organizational skills moving toys and bones from room to room?
  • Your persistent and never subtle nose nudges ‘informing’¬†me that no, in fact, I am not done petting you.
  • Your snoring that’s guaranteed to wake the dead. You do know you’re not one of the brachycephalic breeds, right?
  • And while I complain I can never see your eyes against your dark fur, you made me realize in this picture when you decided I needed a face wipe against my thigh that you do in fact, have lovely brown eyes without a special app. P.S. Thank you for the dog slobbers and whisker tidbits. I live for those on my pants. Truly.¬†

And so my dear sweet fur-child, happy 6 months ‘half-iversary.’ The serotonin you provide is alive and well in this upright.

Do you celebrate events as often as possible?

Live, love, bark! ‚̧Գé

Dog DIY Care

We all know owning a dog can be expensive but did you know the cost of owning a dog averages approximately $3100 for the first year? Broken down by size the cost for smaller dogs runs around $2675; for medium dogs it averages about $2890; larger dogs average around $3230 and giant breeds have an annual price tag of about $3535. The average first year cost for all sizes comes to $3085 (all figures were rounded off). So what does that cover, you ask?

According to the American Kennel Club’s website, “supplies were estimated at $432 per year, Food was $435 per year, and Preventative Medications were estimated at $389 per year. Veterinary costs were $650 per year and included all lab work plus are for one serious illness per year was added into the figures.” Training costs are not included.

Often proactive veterinary care is the last thing people think of beyond vaccinations especially when we can pretty much do the same kind of treatments for our furry friends that we can for the two-legged members of our families.

“Dogtor” Sam

All of these expenses can make routine veterinary care¬†one of the first things that gets postponed. Many people think, if it ain’t broken, it probably doesn’t need to be fixed. But there are some do-it-yourself tips that require no money, have the potential to build trust, can increase the bond between you and your canine as well as alert you to conditions that require professional help. The first reason for Dog DIY is the more familiar you are with your pup, the better you’ll know when something isn’t right and when to seek professional care. Getting your dog familiar with these health exams at home will make trips to the ‘dogtor’ a more pleasant experience. In order to know when things are off, you need to know what’s normal for your dog. The following¬†checkup list can¬†aid in evaluating¬†your dog’s day-to-day health.

  • Temperature. This critical health indicator¬†should be between 100 and 102.5 degrees F for dogs (whenever Elsa has a seizure, her temperature goes up, by a lot. I cover her with ice packs to minimize potential damage during a seizure and to minimize dehydration. That alone could make all the difference between a costly vet trip or a simple at-home administering of Valium and¬†in our case, has the potential to save a couple Ben Franklin’s). It’s easy to take a dog’s temperature. Lubricate the end (coconut oil works great) and gently insert about 1 inch into the anus¬†of a small dog, 2 inches for a larger dog. Don’t force it.¬†Results take about 60 seconds.
  • Pulse. For the most reliable indicator, locate the femoral artery on the inside of the thigh. Gently feeling for the ‘artery roll,’ you can feel the pulse. As with us uprights, count the beats over 15 seconds and multiply by 4 for a per minute result. Normal heart rates for dogs are between 80-120 beats per minute. Larger, working or athletic dogs will have slower pulses than puppies or smaller dogs. You can also get a pulse by¬†placing your hands low on your¬†dog’s¬†chest near the elbow joint, and feel the heart beats.
  • Check the nose. It should be smooth and soft to touch. It doesn’t necessarily have to¬†be cool or moist, healthy dogs can have dry, warm noses.
  • Eyes. They should be clear, bright, moist with little or no discharge. Pupils should be uniform in size, the whites actually white with just a few visible blood vessels.
  • Ears should be clean, dry and odorless.
  • Gums on a healthy dog are pink and moist without¬†lesions or swelling, and the mouth free of bad breath. Teeth should be without tartar (remember¬†Canine Dental Awareness last month so¬†hopefully¬†you scheduled that teeth cleaning then). Tongue should be clear with no debris in the roof of the mouth.
  • Watch your dog breathe. The chest should move in and out effortlessly and be rhythmic. Unless your dog is panting or is a flat-faced breed, the breath should be inaudible. Normal resting rate is 15-30 breaths per minute. If excited or anxious, it will be toward the upper end while the sleeping rate will be closer to 15. At rest, small dogs breathe faster than larger breeds.
  • Skin. Should be soft, smooth with no lesions. No redness or rough spots and little odor. The coat should be soft, shiny and smooth unless your dog is a wire-haired breed.
  • Hydration. Healthy dogs are well hydrated and that’s easy to check. Lift the skin of the neck or back and ‘tent’ it, then release. It should spring back quickly. If not, more water or moisture in diet is needed. For us, this is a critical component when treating Elsa’s seizures.
  • Move your hands all over the dog’s body to check for lumps or masses. If you notice a bump or wart that doesn’t need immediate attention, take notes, draw a sketch and keep an eye on it. If it changes over the course of a couple of days, it’s time to call the vet for further evaluation and treatment.
  • Assess muscle tone and weight. Does your dog have a ‘waistline’ and can you feel ribs easily? If not, remember the same holds true for dogs as it does for their owners, eat less, move more.
  • Check the range of motion on joints. They should move freely without resistance or difficulty. Note any signs of pain, they can indicate an injury that may need professional care.
  • Toes, nails, pads. Make sure they are free of sores or cuts, keep the nails at a comfortable length trimming just the tip ends to avoid cutting the nail quick. Keep debris out of between toes. Keep hair trimmed as necessary. Some breeds require regular trimming (having owned poodles and OESs I’m all too familiar with the importance of keeping pad hair trimmed up).

Performing these¬†easy to DIY checkups can¬†provide you with a valuable record of your dog’s health, can alert you to potential issues before they become critical and will make you a partner with your vet as you care for your pup. Are you ready to perform a few exams to be a partner with your vet in evaluating your dog’s¬†health?

Live, love, bark! ‚̧

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry. Again.

The best-laid plans of mice and men (and all too often dog moms) often go awry. Such was the case last week. I had a terrific post touting the progress Elsa was making both emotionally as well as with her epilepsy on the 3-month anniversary of her being seizure free (and coincidently her 4-month anniversary being at the Ranch). Then BAM! A seizure episode on the exact anniversary date. Phooey.

Not only is that seizure episode troubling in and of itself, it is complicated by the fact that Elsa’s brain gets completely reset in terms of her emotional progress toward learning how to be a dog. Gone, as in wiped out, back to square one. Think of a computer that has been rebooted without being backed-up. A dog that was adjusting and actually learning steps in how to be a dog…erased. She lost all cognition of the fact she was¬†housebroken. Sudden movements made her skittish. She was fearful, reverting to her puppy mill behavior and the connection between her brain and her limbs wasn’t functioning all that well. She was reluctant to take treats from my hand again, clearly preferring them to be laid in her bowl or on the floor. I’d been through this before so I knew what to expect. What I hadn’t counted on it was it being worse than earlier recoveries because of other complications. Nor did I expect this to take such a toll on me which explains why there were no substantive posts last week.

While Elsa’s seizures were not nearly as severe this time, they still were cluster seizures which can be fatal if not treated. Only 2-3% of all dogs have epilepsy, so¬†Elsa apparently is one of those extra special pups. We did all the right things when the ictal stage began, including application of ice packs so as to keep her temperature from rising, which can have dangerous consequences. Dehydration often occurs during this time upon overheating so when it appeared the seizures were not going to end soon without medical intervention, I gathered her up and took off for our vet’s office. When a dog is in full seizure mode, walking into their office where many dogs are waiting for their Monday morning appointment runs the risk of all sorts of complications. The other dogs sense something is amiss, which puts Elsa at risk. Trying to weigh her so as to determine the appropriate¬†dosage of medication to stop the seizures is yet another challenge. Not to mention carrying a 51 lb. dog¬†kicking erratically, with partial loss of consciousness and other dog seizure¬†symptoms makes for an interesting entry. Add to that a wet slippery snowstorm that arrived at the same time and trying to get from a full parking lot at the bottom of a slight slope into a full waiting room without falling down added to my anxiety.¬†img_4043The vet ran a full blood panel once the Grand Mal seizures were abated¬†to be sure there was no major organ damage. A titer test covering her Phenobarb levels was also taken and showed¬†they¬†were well in the appropriate range so we won’t be increasing her¬†dosage, at least for now. As it turned out though, she apparently came down with a secondary infection resulting in bloody diarrhea so an antibiotic was prescribed later along with a probiotic for the next couple of weeks and together with those two strategies plus a bland diet seem to have cleared that hiccup for the most part, though that’s always day to day.

While waiting for Elsa to move toward recovery, I lost a boatload of sleep, staying up until all hours of the night monitoring for seizures and bathroom breaks. The house is for basically¬†hardwood and tile surfaces but there are numerous area rugs for comfort. Each of which have been shampooed multiple times. I think we’re back on the ‘I’m a good¬†girl’ now road but I’ve noticed I’m also hyper-alert to any idle paws wandering around.

Ataxia is one of the biggest side effects we’ve encountered when going through each ¬†reset process, and¬†Elsa’s mobility has been a little wonky while she recovers. She’s better now although the vet did a thorough exam of her hips which seem to have some issues. We’ll be monitoring them as we move forward. The biggest symptom in the post seizure reset period is the brain fogginess that seems to beseige¬†my little Ninja. She often stares out into space and it takes a gentle prodding sometimes to gain her attention. But she’s doing better and that’s the bottom line.

img_4212

Sleep well and rest, sweet Elsa. You have a brother who’s waiting to be annoyed.

Live, love, bark! ‚̧