It is true, our seizure roller coaster has ended. :'( Oh my what a year it has been.
Tia passed peacefully at home a year later from a combination of things especially cancer. The good news is that we did not lose her to seizures and we had a full year with her.
A year ago I first posted I was in deep shock and expected to lose Tia there and then. Since that time I have learned so much about seizures and about how many dogs live happily for years and years and years.
I wish that I had known then that although Tia continued to have partial seizures they could be controlled with Pheno and she would never have to experience another grand mal which made her scared and unsettled for the following two weeks. I wish that I had known that seizures are not always an immediate death sentence. Of course I did not know that then so the threatening seizure shadow still followed us. The mental torture that this threat poses should not be underestimated. We watched her like a hawk for any signs. Tia would sometimes look at me in an odd way or give a soft woof which alerted me to some potential seizure activity.
I learned that all of the vets that I saw took one look at Tia's age (11) and all strongly suspected a brain tumor. Tia had slipping issues which was another potential neurological issue linked to the seizures. They gave us the option of having extensive tests done including and MRI which would not only be costly but be quite invasive and cause stress from unfamiliar situations. Since the results were not going to change our treatment we opted not to. However others decide to go ahead as that way they have a better idea of what they were dealing with.
I have come to get to know and love several dogs through their owner's perspective through this forum and also on the canine epi forum Canine Epilepsy Resource Center & Home of the Epil-K9 List
and have become so much richer for it.
I learned that owners should keep track of any potential triggers eg stress, pork, rosemary and mould that could set off their seizures. Heat intolerance was Tia's trigger. Tia's partial seizures looked like electric 3 second shocks. With the help of Pheno the jerks were softer and looked more like a 3 second tremor. To avoid these tremors I discovered the we needed to keep the air conditioning at 18 degrees. I wore jumpers and jackets all year round. We bought a canine cooler bed, silver eagle cooling mats and her own personal air conditioner. During hot days we would bathe her several times a day. This seems like a lot but it was worth it to keep those tremors at bay and not be allowed to build or train the brain to allow for anything bigger.
I learned that the more seizures a dog has the likely it is to happen. This is known as kindling. It was described to me like a path in the snow. The more that you walk through the path of the snow the easier it is to get through.
I learned that the main trick of controlling seizures is trying to solve the medicine puzzle. Unfortunately one size does not fit all. Every dog is different therefore the different type of medicine needed for each dog is different. The sad part is that there is the risk of side effects for those medicines. The biggest ones are the drunken walk and lethargy. Tia's drunken walk was one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed. Seeing her like that day after day not knowing if she could get up to go to the toilet or get comfortable was heart breaking. Apparently side effects such as this fade after 10 days. I could not bear to see her like that and since we were only treating partial seizures we cut down her Pheno to half a tablet twice a day. Initally I resisted the need for medication due to these side effects but in the long term they helped us immensely.
I learned that sticking to a time table was so very important. We woke at 5:30 am every day to give her the Pheno tablet we rushed home or were late to barbeques to keep her dosages on track. I read about the heart break of people who forgot or gave the medicine late and learned from their regrets. Tia was our loving everyday friend so she was our first priority. I learned that diarrhoea could lessen the powers of Pheno which is a struggle as Tia was always hungry often eating things in the garden that would gross the average person out who did not understand. This made her more susceptible for stomach bugs.
I learned that rescue remedy, natural ice cream, valium and ice packs should be tucked away in a special spot in case of a seizure. Occular (eye) compression could potentially shorten a seizure in some dogs as well as applying a cold pack (not just frozen veg) to the small of their backs. Some people found that talking calmly to their dog during a seizure brought them back quicker. I decided that repeating in a calm voice, “It will be over soon.” was helpful for both of us.
I learned that some seizure dogs bounce back quickly while others can take up to two weeks to heal.
The vet assistant warned me that aggressive behaviour from non aggressive dogs was common as they react from fear of the seizure. Some dogs continue to have a series of seizures called clusters. If 3 or more seizures occurred a vet is needed for assistance to break the pattern before brain damage can happen.
I also researched people's experience with seizures. I discovered that they had no memory of the actual seizure. Therefore the seizure was far more traumatic for the bystanders. However after the seizure they felt as though they had run a marathon and needed a few days to recoperate. I learned that some people believe a dog leaves its body during a seizure to cope with the intensity.
I remember being a newbie and having my head spin trying to sort through so much information to come up with the basics. I hope that this short cut takes the edge off the intensity for someone in the future.
The one thing that stands out the most is that these pups choose to come to families to teach them the importance of patience, stress management, compassion and love. As you do your own research seizure pets are often attracted to the most magnificent souls up for this challenge. They bring out the best in us.
For those juggling seizures at the moment, good luck and enjoy the wonderful times in between.
For those who have loved and lost doesn't it feel good to have these amazingly strong souls as our newest member of our spirit guide team? Thank you for sharing their journey – I consider them to be as special as olympic athletes due to their strength and ability to get up and move on despite the challenges and are a great inspiration for all.
Thank you also for your heart felt prayers and well wishes which meant the world to us.