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Any experience of fitting in an older dog?

(10 Posts)
ginmakesitallok Sun 10-Jul-11 17:39:40

My Mum had to have her labrador put to sleep week before last sad - she had cancer. Last weekend her beloved king charles spaniel had a couple of fits. She is 8, overweight (but don't tell my Mum I said that), has an enlarged heart and a murmur (which she's had since a pup). Vet put her on phenylbarbitone - but shes had another couple of fits over the last few days.

Mum will be devastated if she has to go sad

I've suggested she go back to vets to see if there is another drug they could try. Vet has suggested MRI - but Mum doesn't think there would be any point - if it was a brain tumour she is unlikely to get her operated on.

Any advice/experience? thanks

DogsBestFriend Sun 10-Jul-11 22:15:16

A bit of experience as a current and former owner of eplieptic dogs.

First of all pooch needs a positive diagnosis for which MRI isn't always necessary. Wouldn't think going under advisable in an overweight 8 yo fitting dog either.

Time for a second opinion, I'd say. The vet presumably thinks it is epilepsy though as Pheno is the standard drug for it.

Advice in the meantime - keep a diary day to day, including walks, fits, food, treats, stresses and stimuli and visitors/anything out of the usual in the dog's environment, thus try to identify any triggers. Change the dogs diet if necessary and at once to one which has no colourings, preservatives or additives as they are big epi triggers. I use Fish4Dogs (available via their website) have in the past fed Naturediet which is just as good but more expensive and bulky to store, others feed raw.

Keep all stress to an absolute minimum. If pooch gets hyper around DC, keep DC away, likewise other visitors. If the hoover troubles her, put her out the way before you use it and soforth.

Keep her away from chemicals too, especially pine scented ones and avoid all pine scent in general if poss as this has beem proven to trigger. Some dogs will fit around the full moon - this is accepted by leading experts in epilepsy though not really understood and of course there's not much you can do but it's worth noting so your parents can keep an especial eye out during this time. Keep her away from/remove from her area computers too as they can trigger fits (it's believed to be the noise).

If she fits, stay calm, remove anything and anyone from the area she can get hurt by or could hurt or get stressed by, there's no need to panic or have any more than one person with pooch. Note the time striaght away and get her into the vet immediately if she fits for more than 5 minutes. Assuming she doesn't she should be able to have another Pheno with some food, most cases this is appropriate but I am NOT a vet only a rescuer so get the vets okay on this. It will depend on the dosage she is on, most vets will ok it as they normally start off on the lowest theraputic dose. (Pheno can cause liver damage long-term so the ideal is the minimum theraputic dose but sometimes this takes a while to identify and thus stabilise the dog onto a suitable dose). Upon coming round offer a small amount of food and a drink and fresh air - heat can be both a trigger and an added problem when a dog has fitted - but remember that she may be disoriented, may not know how you are and thus be unpredictable and may as a result try to bolt or get through a window. If in any doubt take into the garden only on a lead, you do not want a post-fit, disoriented dog escaping.

Ask your parents if they've noticed any "absences" or unusual behaviour such as pacing or excessive panting. Absences are when the dog appears "not with it", she may be staring at a wall, bump into things, be unresponsive to you. If so the immediate way to try to prevent a full blown fit is to apply compression to the eye area. Doesn't always work but often does. Also if so the vet might prescribe Gabapentin - some don't like to as it's not so well used here but is pretty standard for absences in the US, where they are far more up on canine epilepsy than the UK.

Remember too that many vets are, IME and that of the rescue I work closely with and that has a very good reputation for it's care of epi dogs amongst other rescues, not necesarily very well versed/experienced in canine epilepsy and so it may be the case that your parents feel the need to ask around for a recommendation of a more experienced surgery (rescue is always a good place to start, as are dog forums like DogPages which has a lot of very dedicated and knowledgable owners and rescues as members).

The man who knows more than anyone else I know on canine epilepsy is Dave of Poplar Farm Rescue Kennels. He's the "real" owner of my current epi dog, an 8 yo GSD. He will happily give you as much help and support as possible. I'd really recommend that you and/or your parents either post on the forum or send him an email (tell him you were recommended to talk to him by a Mumsnetter and he'll know it's me who suggested it!). At a rough guess I'd say he currently has about 8 or 10 epi dogs out of the 60 or so in the rescue.

Simple things too that mum and dad might not think of - always carry your vets number on your mobile and always carry your mobile when out with pooch, never ever allow her to swim... swimming was a trigger for my first epi dog but regardless you DON'T want a dog to fit whilst in water, she will drown. Again, avoid all stress, particularly as the stress of your family's recent loss appears that it may well be connected to their dog's sudden change in health. This includes not getting her too excited when in the company of other dogs. Make sure that ALL the family know what to do if she fits, even just so that they know to clear the room and leave your DPs to it.

Again, I'd really, really recommend that you contact Dave at Poplar Farm, and if I can ever help in any way, just shout.

DogsBestFriend Sun 10-Jul-11 22:20:40

PS please tell Mum not only to change the dog's diet if she's not already on an additive free one but also to cut out any treats with additives (and of course chocolate, which is harmful to all dogs and can cause fits). Make sure no-one leaves any food or chocs within reach of pooch too.

Out of interest, do you know what pooch is currently fed on? Hope it's not Bakers, that's renowned for causing problems!

ginmakesitallok Mon 11-Jul-11 07:43:42

Thanks DBF - my Mum has experience of epilepsy in dogs - but it's always been secondary to something else. I think that because she's never fitted before it's unlikely to be epilepsy in the true sense - more likely to be caused by underlying heart problems?

I will pass on your advice though - wonder if the loss of her other dog could have anything to do with it???

DogsBestFriend Mon 11-Jul-11 10:19:10

It's possible that it's epilepsy - I've known dogs to develope it out of the blue in their adult years. Certainly pooch is being treated with the standard drug for it.

It's equally possible that the shock of grief could indeed be the cause. I have a human friend who's the sufferer of the damn condition, developed in adulthood very shortly after the shocking and traumatic loss of her beloved Daddy. Regardless I would still recommend strongly that your Mum cuts out all preservatives/colours/additives in foodstuffs and treats, minimises stress and follows the preventative advice above, as would Dave, the expert (IMHO) who I mentioned.

I'd also be returning to the vet to ask for a review of the Pheno dosage and questioning the wisdom of an MRI at this stage, watching closely for signs of any absences and requesting Gabapentin if necessary. In fact I'd be asking the vet about having some anyway and/or some rectal Valium, to use post-fit if pooch is in a really bad way.

alice15 Mon 11-Jul-11 10:59:40

I am a vet. Phenobarbitone is an anticonvulsant and therefore standard treatment for any kind of fits, whether true epilepsy or not. If the dog is a Cavalier with a congenital murmur that's progressed to an enlarged heart in middle age, then I'd put good money on her having mitral valve dysplasia, which is unlikely to be causing fits provided they are true fits and not episodes of heart-related fainting - her vet should be able to tell the difference from your mum's description of what happens. It takes time to get the right blood levels of phenobarb for any particular individual, so it may be a bit soon to know whether the drug is going to control her fits adequately or not. The usual thing would be to check blood levels of the drug every so often, to make sure they are at the right level.
If she is a Cavalier, then there is a good chance (50-50) that she has some degree of syringomyelia, a congenital abnormality of the central nervous system, which most often shows as neck pain in young adult dogs, but can show at any age and can potentially cause other CNS signs such as seizures. The only way to diagnose SM is by an MRI scan, which is also the best way to diagnose (and the only way to rule out) a brain tumour. I suspect the vet has mentioned an MRI scan earlier than he/she otherwise would have done because the breed means that SM is a possibility (assuming she's a Cavalier and not a true KCS, which are much less common).
If your mum wants things taken further, then I am sure her vet will be suggesting referral to a specialist neurologist, as that's the only way to get an MRI scan done, in most circumstances. She can always see the neurologist for a consultation without committing to the scan - a detailed neurological exam is quite a specialist affair, and even just seeing the specialist may take her a lot further, if she wants to. Meanwhile, DBF's general advice on dealing with seizures is very useful.

DogsBestFriend Mon 11-Jul-11 11:10:16

Breathtaken by that, thank you for explaining and putting me right, Alice.

ginmakesitallok Mon 11-Jul-11 18:18:52

Thanks all - yes she's a cavalier Alice. X rays have shown she has spondylitis (sp?) of her spine. If she did have SM is there any treatment?

As I said my Mum has experience of fitting dogs - and thinks that it is a fit and not a fainting episode (but she did say that, unlike when other dogs have fitted, she hasn't been incontinent when fitting)

Have called my Mum, she's not in so I'm suspecting she's at vets after work.

thanks again for the advice

ginmakesitallok Fri 12-Aug-11 20:32:17

Just a quick update - wee dog is doing grand, still on the heart tabs/ diuretics/ anti inflammatories and seems to be doing really well. Thanks to those of you who commented

gin

DogsBestFriend Fri 12-Aug-11 22:12:43

I'm really glad to hear it. smile As you have gathered, I'm dog mad, what you may not know is that I have an especially soft spot for the old 'uns and of course particular affection and concern for dogs who suffer fits. Long may little pooch's improvement continue. smile

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