Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't ask if you don't want to know...

So we've been to the vet and I have to say, GETTING to the vet is as stressful, if not more, as anticipating what the vet will say. Gracie does NOT like riding in the car. If you even try to pick her up in the front of the house, she goes immediately into her 'defensive stance'...front legs braced straight out with her entire body leaning as far back as possible (plus she is completely dead weight at that point). With her not being so tiny anymore (60+ pounds!), it makes for an interesting show for anyone watching. You also can't leave the car running because she automatically thinks you are going to put her in it and will assume the 'defense stance'. For a dog with neuro damage, she's pretty smart! :o) I finally get her in the car, all the while stressing because I'm now running late due to her antics, and we are on our way. She used to just lay wherever you put her, which was great. Now, however, she thinks she should stand up and rearrange herself. This isn't the best idea when you can't see and compensate for things like turns and braking/accelerating. I had put the seats down so she could be behind me and I could reach around to pet her. Not a good idea. She nearly fell between the seats. Mental note to self...put seats up for ride home; she can get all the petting she needs at home. Safety first! :o)
We get there and I'm trying to wrangle her up the steps to the vet's office (not the best plan for a vet's office, but it's in an old house, what can you do?) and almost fell myself because of her flailing around. I'm sure when I got in the door, people in the there were wondering why I looked so winded. If they only knew.

Anyway, after giving the vet all of the dirt on what's been happening, he says he's not surprised that she's started having seizures. He also said that for every seizure we see, there is one that we haven't seen. That breaks my heart. We had gotten Gracie her shots the weekend before and he said that would be her last set of yearly shots. Apparently, stress can bring on her seizures and the vaccinations are stressful to her system, especially when they are given all at once. From now on, she will get rabies every 3rd year. On the other 2 years, she will get distemper in one and parvo in the other. Bordatella is safe for every year as it goes under the skin and not directly into the bloodstream. Apparently, depending on where you live, the rabies vaccination can be good for 3 years and luckily, we are in a safe area. Plus, he is willing to write us a letter about the reasoning behind this if ever needed. Of course we have considered the pros and cons of not vaccinating her regularly. Without yearly vaccs, we can not take Gracie to dog parks and other dog-frequented places as she will be immune-compromised. Plus, we won't be able to foster any other Weims while she is with us (not a problem now, as 3 dogs is our limit, but would have in the future). Not sure how this will play out but the risk of increasing the frequency and severity of her seizures isn't something we are willing to do. We won't be starting any medication now as her seizures are relatively mild. She doesn't lose control of her bowels or become incontinent (a blessing!) when she seizes and they last under 2 minutes. They are also spaced well. The meds given have side effects and one of the main ones is liver damage. Given her age, barely 2 years, we do not want to start damaging her liver now. So, we wait. He said eventually we will have to start medications but we are hopeful that that will be on down the road. For now, we are to keep her as stress-free as possible. (Really, he obviously doesn't know how good the Walker Weims have it!!!) Gracie would be happy to know that she now only has to get in the car to go see the vet! Unfortunately, she won't be able to attend any more Weim Rescue events since there are so many dogs there (not to mention the stress that puts on her). I'm sad about that because I love to show others just one of the awesome happy endings that organization makes possible!!

So that's that. Which brings me to the title of this post... In my infinite (or dumb) curiosity, I asked him if Gracie will live a normal lifespan for a Weim. He said no. He said with neurological damage, it will start to show itself in different ways as she gets older and basically get worse. At some point, we will have to make a decision regarding her quality of life. NOT what I wanted to hear. But, for now, her quality of life is damn good and we are going to keep it that way for as long as possible! Prayers are always welcome for Miss Gracie. Thank you so much for all your well wishes and comments. She is truly lucky to have all of you behind her! God Bless! :o)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Way It Works...

Isn't it funny the way it works? We reach out to those who care in times of trouble or need. We don't call or write (or blog) when things are going great. We get caught up in 'life' and stay wrapped up in our day to day patterns until something throws a curve ball at us. Well, Gracie's pitching up a storm at our home! She has started having seizures. We were told by the neurologist that the further out we got from her 1 year birthday, the more chance she had to live her life free of seizures. A little background, in case you forgot, Gracie had a seizure shortly after being strangled by a wire and had oxygen loss to her brain. She bit off a little chunk of her upper lip on either side of her mouth during the seizure. You can see it if you look closely at her pictures. To us, it's just a part of what makes Gracie look like Gracie. Anyway, we were thinking we, and more importantly, Gracie, had finally had some good luck and weren't going to have to deal with seizures. This was obviously not part of God's plan for Gracie and, as usual, we will take His plan and work with it the best we know how. Now, for the details. David thought she might have had one in November (hindsight always brings more to light) but he hadn't seen it so he wasn't sure. He told me she came into the living room and seemed disoriented and acted strange. It passed and with so much of Gracie's behavior, we chalked it up to the 'Neuro Damage' (we pin alot on that! :o). Nothing happened again until March. On March 13, she was sleeping on Sydney's bed with her and at about 11pm we heard a loud crash. When we got to Syd's room, Gracie was on the floor but was not seizing. She had fallen off of the bed. She was foaming at the mouth and panting. She was also pretty disoriented and restless. We got her in the living room but she wouldn't lay down. She wanted to walk around and kept panting for about 5 more minutes. I documented this on the calendar and prayed she had just been dreaming and managed to fall off the bed. On April 2nd, I was in bed reading at about 11pm and heard muffled thumping through the wall. I immediately thought she was having a seizure and ran to Addie's room where she was sleeping on the bed with her. David was already there with her and had witnessed the end of the seizure. She had managed to move from the foot of the bed up to the head of the bed. Again, more foaming at the mouth, panting and restlessness. After we get her calmed down, she sleeps hard for the rest of the night. There was no denying this one had been a seizure and definitely made us think the other incident had been one, too. Again, I was praying it was a fluke since we had only witnessed one true seizure but this weekend she seemed to have something happen. It was late at night again but she actually came out into the living room. She didn't seem nearly as disoriented as before but did have some foam around her mouth and was panting. The decision was made then to take her to the vet today. We are going at 2pm so keep us in your thoughts and prayers. I will let you all know what he says. More thank likely, she will need to be on meds for awhile, if not for the rest of her life. David and I look on the bright side...we don't really have to go through testing to find out why she is having seizures. With her health history, it's a wonder she hasn't had them sooner. I was just really hoping our tiny gray girl (who isn't so tiny anymore!) wouldn't have this additional issue to deal with. But, we know she is in God's hands and that he has a plan for her. This picture is of Miley and Gracie. Gracie is the one in the top of the picture. She has gotten big...about 60 pounds now. They are always together. Miley looks after her and Gracie seems to take alot of cues from Miley. They are a pair!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the long haul...

Well, we've been back to the dermatologist for a re-check. She agreed that the sores looked worse and did a cytology tape to look at what is in the sores. Gracie has alot of staph and the yeast infection is back. I love this doc because she writes a discharge LETTER. It is so detailed and complete in diagnosis and instructions. So, here is Gracie's official diagnosis (alot of big words, some of which I'm familiar with now, thanks to Google):

Malassezia dermatitis (moderate) - relapsed of Keto
Interdigital folliculitis/furunculosis (deep pyoderma)
culture showed S. intermedius with minimal resistance
Open for pruritus / predisposing factor for infection
Differentials: Atopic dermatitis more likely. Food allergy less likely.
Tape Cytology reveals clusters of cocci bacteria and a relapse of Malassezia (cluster of 6-10 found).

Dr. Liska changed her meds and they are now as follows:
1) Restarting Ketoconazole - this is for the yeast infection
2) Doxycycline - this antibiotic replaces the Cephalexin
3) Pentoxifylline - this is the anti-scar tissue med
4) Prednisone - steroid to reduce inflammation and give her some comfort

We are on the antibiotic and Keto for awhile. Everything I've read says the treatment with antibiotics is long term to completely get rid of the bacteria. I didn't really want to do another round of steroids, but it is a short course and we are doing them to make Gracie comfortable. I can't stand to see her in pain and she was. In fact, with just 3 doses in her, I'm seeing improvement in the inflammation. She's not favoring her front paw anymore. That alone is worth being on steroids again.
We are continuing the epsom salts baths 2X/day. Poor Gracie is about done with standing in the tub for 10 minutes per soak. She is all legs EVERYWHERE when you are putting her in the tub but settles down pretty quickly. Then, she is very patient and just stands there. After about 5 minutes, she starts to whine and whimper a little bit. We pet her and talk to her the whole time so that helps. We aren't doing the benzoyl soap for a few days because it was stinging when I put it on. Another challenge with giving her medications...she has become a spoiled brat about her food. She often refuses to eat her dry food unless something is mixed in with it. At first, warm water would work, but now she is holding out for better little pieces of chicken or hamburger. If she doesn't want to 'settle' for the dry kibble, she will stand at her bowl and bark 2 times. She waits and if you don't respond, she barks 2 times again. This can go on and on and on. She is very patient. Yes, I've created this monster...just like David said.

I've started to write down everything just to keep up with it all. When you've got 2 people caring for her, med administration / foot soaking can get confusing! Plus, I'm keeping track of how her feet look day to day so the doc has a good idea of how the meds are working and when there are changes. Dr. Liska kept asking questions about 'when'...when Gracie was off the antibiotics, when the sores came back, when she got back on meds... She can't help us if we can't give her good information, so this is my solution. I'm sure David thinks I'm going overboard, but this is the best way I know of to keep track of all this information. He suggested we get a pill box dispenser and put her meds in that. It's a great idea, so I'll be picking one of those up today!

Anyway, this is getting long and I'm sure you all have things to do other than listen to me ramble. I really want to get some good pictures of Gracie to post. She's gotten so big! She's still on the smaller side of the breed standard, which is fine with us. She's a petite little girl. I'm assuming that might be due to her being so malnourished and ill when she was so young. I'll get some pictures soon and post them. Maybe even a video of Miss Gracie!
Ya'll take care!

Gracie needs some prayers...

First of all, let me apologize for the length of time between posts. I'm really trying to keep up but 'life' keeps interrupting! So, unfortunately this post is not great news. We have been dealing with this issue since last fall, but recently it has gotten alot worse. It started with a couple of toes on her front paw being swollen. The way she bumps into things and uses her front paw as a 'feeler', we just figured she had hit it on something. This progressed to sores in between her toes and a few of them opening. Over the months, we have been to our vet 3 times and done several rounds of steroids and tried a couple of different antibiotics. Finally, he sent us to a dermatologist...ironically enough, just one floor up from the opthamologist we went to see last year!

Anyway, Dr. Liska at the Animal Dermatology Referral Clinic was AWESOME! She doesn't think it's an allergy so we aren't doing all the allergy testing, which I hear is expensive, unless we have to. Dr. Liska came back with a diagnosis of Interdigital Folliculitis and also Malassezia Dermatitis. The folliculitus is what we are fighting. It causes scar tissue the longer you have it and is deep in the tissue of her paw, making it harder to fight off. Her having it on her feet is also making it worse because there isn't alot of room in the tissue there to swell. So any swelling is causing issues for her. Dr. Liska took a sample from some of the open sores and sent it to a lab in Arizona to be cultured. This was supposed to take 1 week but it took 2. The reasoning behind doing this was to find out what drugs the infection was resistant to and what would kill it. She had put her on Cephalaxin as a starter antibiotic with the thought that if it wasn't responsive, we would switch her, but if it worked then we would be ahead of the game. She is concerned about Gracie being resistant to some antibiotics since she's been on so many. The bacteria came back responsive to the Cephalaxin so we are supposed to be on this as a long term 2 months. We are also putting her on an anti-scar tissue med. We've also been doing 10 minute soaks in Epsom Salts and washing her feet with a benzoyl soap. You can imagine how much she loves that! Last night she kept trying to sit down while standing in the tub soaking and every time she did her butt would touch the water and she stood right back up. Funny, but sad, too!

So, it initially went away (just like every other time) but came back because we were off the antibiotic for several days while waiting for the culture results. Back on them now but they are still swollen and some are open. And, yes, it is painful to her. She favors the front paw that has had the most problems and holds it up alot. The skin has split in one area due to the swelling, I think. I've got a call in to Dr. Liska on what we can do at this point. Just needing some good thoughts for my little girl. We are coming up on a year since her arrival in our hearts and home and I really thought we were done with all the medical issues!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a month of 'firsts'...

After all of the fun we had with the broken toe, we got to see Gracie have alot of 'firsts'...first Thanksgiving, first snow, first boarding, first Christmas... All of them were so special, knowing where she came from and just how much she has overcome to get this far.
I've mentioned how heightened her smell is due to her lack of sight. Well, Thanksgiving brought so many new smells (all of the interesting ones relating to food) for Gracie and she couldn't contain herself! We deep-fried the turkey in the backyard so no dogs were allowed out there while the oil was even remotely hot. I mean, come on! dogs are known for getting into everything at exactly the wrong time. That was not a risk I was prepared to take! So all weims were taken to the front yard to relieve themselves. We also had ham baking along with all the usual sides so our little gray girl was spending a ton of time in the kitchen with her nose high in the air! She attempted to counter-surf several times and almost pulled plates of food off of the counter a few times due to the way she just throws her legs up at the counter but can't really plan where they are going to land. It's quite comical to watch!
Anyway, she got to taste all the good stuff and was so excited! Her sisters, Miley and Maggie, sat nearby...drooling...and they got their samples, too. All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. We all talked about what it was we were thankful for this year and while I am always thankful for my family, this year I had one more thing on my mind. David and I were given a very special addition to our family...Gracie. We wouldn't have sought out a handicapped dog but apparently God knew our home is where she belonged...long before we did. I thought about the first time I saw her and how I felt a pull towards her. The picture of her didn't show how bad off she really was. Her body was so tiny that her head managed to hide it in the picture. She looked pitiful and, most of all, tired. No living creature, human or otherwise, should look that tired at such a young age. I just knew that if I could get my hands, and love, on her she would be fine. And while she is not a 'normal' dog, she is just Gracie to us and that is all we will ever expect her to be.
So...upon further reflection...I guess we have one last thing to be thankful for this year. The Weim Rescue, because without it, I wouldn't have found Princess Gracie and she probably wouldn't have survived.
Thank you, WRT, your work is so important. Please keep saving those that can't save themselves.
P.S. The picture in this post is of Gracie after Thanksgiving Dinner. I'm guessing she had too much turkey? :o)