The Expert Experience

The weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

We had an excellent consultation with Luisa De Risio at the AHT on Friday. Luisa is the leading author of a book on canine and feline epilepsy and she is a member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force. Luisa is an editorial board member of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery and Associate editor of the Veterinary neurology and neurosurgery journal.

Things had deteriorated very rapidly with Harrison, so we got referred to AHT for what we considered to be the last chance we had to gain some control of Harrison’s condition, or we would have to make the decision to have him put to sleep as he was suffering too much.

So we attended the appointment feeling quite bleak and like this was our last chance really, but safe in the knowledge that if we had to make the final call, at least we could do so knowing we had exhausted every option.

So it was a relief and quite emotional to learn that the specialist is very confident she can help and there is loads of room for improvement. Yippee! So now, onwards & upwards! We can concentrate on getting his condition under control and if we end up with a difficult decision to make later down the line then at least we know we tried everything possible to help him.

Celebrating a mini victory!

Not wanting this blog to just be the negative or pessimistic ramblings of a desperate woman, I thought it was time to write something a bit more positive!

I am so pleased to say that Harrison is feeling much better today, thank goodness! 🙂 He’s celebrating by chomping on a brand new stag antler! 😀

He is still not 100% his usual self, but much closer to that than he was at the start of the week. Still a bit barky and bitey, but overall more calm. Our boy is coming back to us 😀

So we have our appointment with the neurologist tomorrow morning and will be able to discuss an action plan for how we move forward.

I believe with the right mix of medication and the appropriate meds for during/post seizure we will be able to manage this beast and Harrison can have a lovely, normal life.

Isn’t it funny how catching up on some much needed sleep alters your mindset completely on challenging situations! Being able to get on and do some housework yesterday was very therapeutic also and the window cleaner came today too 🙂

Current mood: Feeling optimistic & determined!

The bad run continues

We should have been at the airport now, sipping complimentary drinks in the Aspire Lounge at London Gatwick, waiting to board our flight to New York. I was so excited about it, my first time in NYC!

Instead I’m sat at home in a filthy, dirty house too scared to get up and start tidying and cleaning up as Harrison has  finally settled off to sleep and I don’t want to wake him up. The poor lad is exhausted, well, so are we. This recent blip I have written about before turned into a very rocky week long patch and we felt completely helpless. Leaving us with no choice but to cancel our trip to NY and get H in to see a canine epilepsy expert ASAP, before we lose him.

I was scheduled to go to New York with school in October 2001, but they cancelled the trip after the terrorist attacks. Maybe its a sign? Maybe I am not really ever meant to make it to New York?

Anyway. Things kicked off last Wednesday evening around 21:00, but the seizures continued for about 14 hours and he never really recovered in between, even though the duration between was longer than normal. Our vet prescribed keppra as a cluster buster, but it barely touched the sides. Yes the seizures seemed to subside short term, but Harrison was manic, frantic, endlessly pacing around. The brain activity was clearly still going on and the keppra was fighting against it, but it didn’t seem to be enough.

Then the seizures kept coming, we never expected more when he was put on keppra, but sure enough seizure activity broke through. I said there and then I didn’t feel comfortable leaving to go on holiday and we needed to cancel/postpone/reschedule and do whatever necessary to get him sorted. Crisis point you could say. Not sure how much more of this he or we can take.

So we’re booked in to see Luisa De Risio, Head of Neurology at the Animal Health Trust Friday morning. Essentially, if she can’t help us then no one can! Luisa is a leading canine epilepsy expert and has even published a book on the subject, which I refer to on my Resources & Info page.

Feeling optimistic, but at the end of the road really, this is our last chance to get him hopefully the right help, or we have to call it a day. It’s not fair on him and he’s not himself at all.

He barks constantly, like a frustrated helpless bark and is even biting us accidentally during play, but much harder than a play bite, so we can’t sustain this for very long.

For anyone who’s ever been in this situation, my heart goes out to you. It’s absolutely awful and you constantly question whether its fair to even carry on for the time it will take to try and regain some control. This moral, ethical conflict is really hard!

At least he is asleep for the moment, so we get a minute’s peace. But we’re living in fear that the phone ringing or any other external noise will wake him up and we’ll be sent right back into that sick cycle of frustration, which takes him so long to snap out of and settle down from.

At least after Friday’s appointment we should know whether there is any hope, or whether we’re just prolonging the inevitable. I’ve already made my peace with it and don’t feel that sad as I write this or think about it now. I know I would be sad, devastated, if we had to have our poor, sweet boy put to sleep, but I would feel reassured that we had taken things as far as we physically and mentally could, sought the best advice and care available and tried everything we could for him, before making any rash decision.

 

A bit more than a blip :(

Well the last 24-48 hours have been a challenge, to say the least!

Seems our little Harrison got struck with a bad cluster case again, this time was totally different to anything we have seen before with 2-3 hours between seizures over longer time period, instead of every few minutes like normal.

Our vet has advised to put him on keppra for 10 days which should definitely help break the cluster now. He’s had this medication before after our emergency vet visit back in April, when it really knocked him about. He was all wobbly and weak on his back legs, poor boy.

This time is a different beast entirely… he is super hyperactive, restless, agitated, constantly pacing and barking. Absolutely awful to witness and we haven’t slept properly in two days, neither as he. He must be exhausted as the seizures themselves take such a lot out of him.

I talked to the vet again, who thinks the behaviours are just postictal and hopefully he’ll settle down soon. I really hope so! Supposed to be flying to New York on Tuesday, we’ll be worried sick if he’s not feeling and seeming a bit more himself by then. We would be worried sick anyway, but the timing is so bad.

Anyway, it is what it is and we’ll do whatever we can to make it work as long as he is happy and has a good quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resetting the seizure counter back to zero

Yep, today was one of those days unfortunately. After an 18 day break since the last fits, Harrison suffered a couple more. He is resting now after the usual hour of pacing about wanting to eat the world.

He’s been a little tinker both yesterday and today, which makes me wonder whether this led to the seizures. Yesterday he’d gotten into my handbag and eaten some homemade fudge and today he’d had 3 overripe bananas (including skins) off the kitchen counter. Which he has never done before and they’ve always been sitting there on the side, out of his reach we thought but obviously not! Sometimes I have avocados ripening too, so thank goodness they weren’t in there as avocado isn’t very good for dogs, especially not the stones, which he would have undoubtedly eaten!

We’re going on holiday 1 week today, was hoping not to have any more seizures before we go but that’s the nature of the beast. Dreading leaving him 😦 we’re leaving him in safe hands, in our own home so minimal disruption for him.

His annual vaccines are due as well, I’m going to put them off for as long as possible but also ask whether we can have a waiver for a while, until we manage to get into a bit more of a routine with him. The fewer things that could cause or lead to a seizure, the better really.

I hate this illness so much! When there’s been recent activity it makes you question everything. Are we really doing the right thing to try and medicate him and tame this beast?

 

 

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(hopefully) it’s just a blip

Harrison had another couple of seizures last night unfortunately, just after 18:00. He’d vomited his breakfast in the morning, but re-ate it so we weren’t concerned he didn’t get his medication. Hope things settle down soon, we’re supposed to be going away on 6th September, seriously won’t even feel like it if this recent spate of seizures doesn’t subside.

As usual, he paced around restlessly for about an hour after the seizures and we’d given him 50mg of diazepam to break the cluster, but then chilled out and we didn’t encounter anymore issues during the night which is great! Let’s hope for a trouble-free weekend now, what’s left of it.

Since we added in libromide to his medication mix last Monday he had been encountering some adverse side-effects, which have subsided a little thankfully (vocalisation, restlessness), but it can still take a little while for the medication to reach the therapeutic serum range and provide that stabilising effect we really need at the moment. This is very much a matter of patience, not expecting miracles overnight and managing as best you can in the interim. It’s so hard to see your beloved dog go through this though and breaks my heart reading about all the lovely pets who have to be put to sleep as a result of their epilepsy or associated conditions on some of the Facebook groups I mention on the RESOURCES & INFO page of my blog. My heart goes out to all of those people who have lost their pet due to this awful condition. It made me wonder about what humans who suffer with epilepsy have to endure as well, how awful. At least you can explain to humans though once they’re old enough, so they know what’s going on. The worst thing for Harrison is how frightened he is immediately before and afterwards, poor little baby.

One of the founding members of the Facebook groups has setup a couple of fundraising pages. One is to support those who can’t afford a neurological consultation and the relevant  tests etc, as not covered by their insurance or they don’t have any. The other is to raise a bit of money to setup a service to raise awareness, knowledge share, advise and guide others who are managing this condition with their pets. To support them in asking the right questions and knowing when to be firm or assertive and challenge their vet where needed etc. No one knows your animal like you do, even if you don’t have the veterinary knowledge, you are the one who speaks for them and has their best interests in mind. I found this element quite challenging when all the info we were receiving was conflicting. But essentially, not many vets or neurologists are specialised in epilepsy and eventually that’s what you become, with enough time dedicated to research and learning about the condition and treatment. Please see links below to the fundraising pages in case of interest and you’re feeling generous! 🙂

Rusty’s Memorial Neuro Consult Fund

Canine Epilepsy Awareness

 

The first seizure

That first seizure was actually not the worst one. Yes, the first one is definitely very scary and everything is unknown, but it feels perfectly reasonable that it could be a one off and then the vet leads you to believe that it could be a one off too. Then, your worst fears are realised and it keeps happening 😦 the second time was by far the worst. It catches you totally off guard, even though you have gone away and done your research, you’re still clinging on to the idea that it could have been a one off. Or at least, that it wouldn’t happen again for a long while. Witnessing your poor little pooch have a fit is truly horrific, you feel totally helpless, they are terrified and worst of all, you can’t explain to them what the hell is going on.

Since 23rd February (15 days ago), Harrison has had 7 seizures. The vet advised after the first one that any more frequent than once a month would require lifelong medication to manage the condition. So, he has started his first tablet trial today, something called pexion. Really hope it works out for him, otherwise we’ll have to try many more to find the most suitable and effective drug for him, or a combination. Personally I am fairly opposed to human medication, let alone for my animal. I prefer a more natural and holistical approach wherever possible, but the risk of long term damage is too high with such regular seizures, or by having several in quick succession (called “clusters”), so we have to try him with medication now.

The good news is that even though the condition is incurable, a dog with epilepsy can still lead a full and happy life, if you can learn how to manage their unique needs properly – every dog is different. So, this is the start of a new chapter for us!