Head twitching in 10-yo Golden - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Head twitching in 10-yo Golden


This just cropped up suddenly yesterday--

Last evening we noticed that Atticus's head would suddenly twitch, say, 1-3 times/minute for several minutes, then it would stop. Not rhythmic nor consistent in strength or presentation. It seems similar to a petite-mal seizure (only involving a portion of the body--no major flailing of extremeties or body...) We also noticed on one occasion that his right shoulder (in a sitting position) twitched--like a minor muscle spasm. Activity seems to increase the liklihood of the twitching/spasms--such as after walking up a short flight of stairs. When his head twitches, he occasionally moves his tongue/mouth like he is trying to get peanut-butter off his palate (but in a much more subdued manner).

Other than that, he is asymptomatic--except that he may be moving a little slower than normal.

He has a history of severe heart problems (multiple valve displasia, enlarged heart) and lately, arthritis has crept into the picture. He is on a large number of meds (taken regularly) including GlycoFlex II, and had Frontline (monthly) applied about 2 weeks ago.

Diet-wise, we've been feeding him (and the other two Goldens) Bravo mixed with some raw carrots or green beans in the eve with high-quality kibble in the AM. None of the other dogs seem to exhibit similar behavior.

Other than that, we've done nothing else out of the ordinary--at least that we can figure out. We went for a walk (infrequent) yesterday and Atticus and the other two ate some grass--but again, the other two seem fine.

We've been watching him closely since last night. He slept well as far as we can tell and the symptoms have not changed appreciably in frequency or intensity.

We called the vet--his vet (has Goldens of her own) is in this afternoon. She is to call us for a phone-consult--then we'll go from there. I expect we'll be seeing her sometime later today or tomorrow at the latest.

I probably sound like I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here--and I hope I am. We've been having some pretty serious medical problems in the household here over the past summer and we're a bit frayed. Atticus is our heart-dog and we've been dreading the day that something new and sinister makes itself known--perhaps something that Atticus--nor we--will be able to overcome. We're scared.

We'd appreciate any thoughts or suggestions that you may have. I searched the Forum for threads similar to ours--but found none. Perhaps I searched in the wrong place.

And we--especially Atticus--could use some good wishes for the coming days.
We'll keep everyone updated as things progress.


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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 12:54 PM
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good thoughts coming your way....

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 01:02 PM
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Good thoughts for Atticus coming his way!!!!!

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 01:45 PM
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I'm sorry that I have no real advice to give you but I wanted to wish Atticus and your familywell as you wait for what the vet has to say. Prayers coming that it is not serious.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 01:59 PM
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Really sounds like a flycatcher seizure. The medical term is a partial or focal seizure. Given all the other health problems and meds, it seems pretty likely. It can be a confined problem in the brain that doesn't spread and remains confined to the symptoms you can see, or if it's a symptom of a progressing problem (brain tumor, epilepsy, etc.), they can expand into full seizures as the underlying problem progresses. If it's a reaction to the med cocktail, it may stay confined to brief focal seizures and not cause any trouble beyond that.

Does it look at all like this (especially the first few seconds)?

Even if he doesn't actually snap at imaginary flies, the "peanut butter" effect is a common part of focal seizures too.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 02:41 PM
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My first guess would be a partial seizure too. How often do these spells last and how many does he have in a day? The other thought would be a case of Vestibular Syndrome coming on. Have you had him to the vet? Prayers on their way for all of you.

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 03:19 PM
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It does sound like a petit mal. My husband used to have them while they were trying to get his seizure meds dosed properly.

Sending good thoughts!

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to you and the others for the info. We think it might be a petite mal seizure, too. Atticus doesn't exhibit the 'flycatcher' symptom your Youtube feature (thanks, btw) presented--but the peanut butter licking is similar.

ClairesFriend: I looked up vestibular syndrome (I had no idea what it was...). Atticus is certainly old enough--and we pray it isn't cancer related.... Hopefully it isn't......

We finally heard from the vet by phone this evening. She said from our description that it didn't seem like an emergency--I'm taking him in on Wednesday--her first available appointment.

We came home from a hospital appointment awhile ago; Atticus ran around like his old self then ran outside to pee (down a flight of steps and back); I immediately got him to lay next to me on the couch and I watched him for about 10-15 minutes. I only counted one possible 'twitch' during that time. Other than that, he was asymptomatic.

If it is seizure-related, then these things could happen daily or once/month, if at all. If it is caused by the long-term (10 year) use of meds, then we may be in for a 'long-haul'.

We'll let you all know how we fare on Wednesday.

Thanks again.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-18-2010, 09:59 PM
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No advice here, but sending positive thoughts for Atticus - and for all of you!


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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 10-20-2010, 12:38 PM
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What you are describing is exactly what started with our 11 & 1/2 year old Logan in June. It then worked up to a grand mal seizure. Ultimately he ended up having 2 seizures about 24 days apart. Just before his 2nd seizure I heard Logan doing the lip smacking thing. Nothing ever showed up on any of the vet visits with full blood workup, etc. He actually looked very healthy for his age. However, the twitches started happening more frequently and that actually worried the vet more than the actual seizures as he felt they were just the begining of more seizures. We started Logan on Pheonobarbital, 75 mg in the am & pm. It has controlled all the twitches and we have not had any more seizures. We know there is something going on in his brain. It could be a short circut of some sort or perhaps a growth, but we opted not to do an MRI. They are expensive and you won't be doing brain surgery even if you know the cause. It is not epilespy as that is not usually a cause in older dogs. Logan has adjusted to the pheonobarbital very well. If you did not know he was on it, you would not know so don't let that scare you when the Vet suggests it. They are a little dopey for the first few weeks, but then they adjust very well. Good luck to you!
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