Dogs. The canine hearts of our lives. They make us crazy, then they make us laugh. They give us the unconditional love that no human being, especially in today’s world is even capable of.
I have one that is suddenly very ill and I don’t even know how to process it in my head. I want to be positive and know that he’s going to come home and I’ll be able to love him for a few more years, but I am equally parts terrified he just won’t.
He is one of the happiest dogs we have ever had. Always wants to play, always wants to bring you a toy. Or greet you with a leaf he picked up off of the ground. A fearless chaser of squirrels, chipmunks, deer.
He came to us at six months old when he was dumped with his sibling on the streets of Philadelphia. He is now 10. And right now he’s at VRC in Malvern as they try to fix what’s wrong.
And save his life.
Literally a couple of days ago it’s like he lost all control of like his motor functions. In other words imagine trying to tell your arms and legs and head and tongue and throat to move only they’re not. He has been initially diagnosed with a rare disease called myasthenia gravis…they think.
Myasthenia gravis is nasty disease…in humans and dogs. Myasthenia gravis is a disease in which there is a malfunction in the transmission of signals between the nerves and muscles. Dogs with myasthenia gravis exhibit extreme weakness and excessive fatigue. Sometimes dogs are born with it, but mostly they acquire it.
My dog appears to have the acquired version. He’s gone from being a dog who literally bounces, to one yesterday who was like a limp rag doll when he went back to VRC for the second time within 24 hours.
When they initially took him in they thought they’d be able to send him home with steroids pending the outcome of the rest of the tests. And of course this is a disorder that literally maybe has like one lab in the entire United States to analyze it.
Terrifyingly he had a few good minutes yesterday and then the rest of the day was a roller coaster for me….and him. He ate 3 tablespoons of canned food. He didn’t take in any water. He was having difficulty swallowing too. And then when I took his temperature twice he had a very weird temperature reading, so back he went to VRC.
More about the disease:
Some dogs diagnosed with myasthenia gravis require treatment in the hospital until their medication dose is stabilized. These dogs are treated with a class of medication that inhibits a nervous system enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Anti-acetylcholinesterase medications will be required for the rest of the dog’s life. Because of their compromised ability to swallow, some dogs will actually inhale food, liquid, or vomit, resulting in aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is extremely serious and often requires aggressive intensive care including oxygen therapy, antibiotics, IV fluid therapy, and supportive care. If the dog is unable to eat or drink without regurgitation, a feeding tube may be needed until the dog’s medication doses are stabilized.
Ancillary treatment of myasthenia gravis is as important as determining appropriate medication doses. In cases where there is a thymoma, it must be removed surgically. Food and water dishes should be elevated, and these dogs often do best with smaller, more frequent meals of a high-quality, high-calorie food. There is no single “best” nutritional formulation for dogs with myasthenia gravis. It is important to assess what works best for the individual dog.
Most dogs with myasthenia gravis will limit their own activity based on the severity of their muscle weakness…..improved muscle strength is an obvious barometer of response to therapy. In addition, chest radiographs (X-rays) are evaluated every 4-6 weeks for resolution of megaesophagus. Finally, acetylcholine receptor antibody levels are evaluated every 8-12 weeks, and should decrease into the normal range with remission.~ from VCA animal hospitals website.
I am going to be honest I don’t know where to go in my head with this. I cry when no one’s around. To watch a dog that is so joyful suddenly be like a limp washcloth is just horrible.
This begs the age old question of how long do we keep trying and if it doesn’t work when do we say goodbye?
I lost a dog to cancer who was going through chemotherapy when I was going through radiation treatment. I made a decision back then I would never do that again. At the end of the day I feel like I should have let him go, versus what I put him through. So in a way I’m faced with that decision again.
I’m not making any decisions today, but I have to keep in mind as we try to go through this what is in the best interest of my dog. If he wants to try, I will try. I figure that’s the best approach I can have. I have a friend who had a cat with this who lived a few more years after diagnosis with a great quality of life. I’m hoping for that. But right now I’m just scared.
I have not heard anything since my husband took him back to VRC last night. I am sending up prayers to St. Francis like a house on fire to send my boy home with some quality of life.
This will probably be a very odd post for a lot of my readers to read, but it goes back to why I write a lot of the time anyway. I write for me. It’s part of my process. And I’m sure the people who love to hate me although they’ve never met me or had a conversation with me will be cheering that something horrible has happened in my life. I can’t control that. That’s on them for being miserable human beings.
But for those of you who are animal lovers, if you have a minute send up a prayer to St. Francis for my boy.
Thanks for stopping by.