Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dog On the Blog: Sweet Caroline... Our Surprising Survivor!

If you are 103 like me, you no doubt remember Neil Diamond's song from somewhere around 1969 or 1970, Sweet Caroline. And no doubt, you wondered about the inspiration for that song. Well, here she is: Our Sweet Caroline!
Except Caroline almost did not make it to be the inspiration for songs or anything else. We almost lost her!
Just about a month ago, with no forewarning at all, Caroline slipped into a gran mal seizure. Her legs stiffened in front of her. Her head jerked back. Then she started "running in place", laying on her side, her legs moving rapidly. Soon, her head was jerking rhythmically. We tried giving her phenobarbatol, but it was not working.
So we rushed her to Dr. Stern at the Needville Animal Clinic. Dr. Stern stopped what he was doing and sprang into action. The first thing he did was to get in an IV port so he could start pumping pentobarbatol directly into her veins. He carefully monitored her until she was "asleep" under the power of the drug. Dr. Stern said that normally, when a dog comes back up from the drug induced "sleep", she comes out of the seizure.
But that did not happen with sweet Caroline. Soon as she came out of her "sleep", the seizures began anew, so that Dr. Stern was forced to give her more pentabarbatol and take her back down. After a few days of this, the doc was pessimistic about her chances for survival.
Then, on a Saturday morning, Dr. Stern checked in on Caroline and was surprised to see that she was awake and was NOT seizing any more! He offered her some food, and she ate it, although she was very unsteady and uncoordinated at that point.
He kept her through the weekend, and called us Monday morning to come pick her up. Although she had remained seizure free since Saturday AM, her prognosis was not good. She was engaging in repetitive motions, running into walls and scraping herself all over. Dr. Stern felt that he had done all he could, and he essentially was sending her home to die. He did not expect her to recover from the damage to her brain and nervous system from the uncontrolled seizures.
Still, our Caroline was coming home. And that was progress, Ricky and I believed! Although she had little coordination and even walking was a chore for her, when we called her name, she would swivel her head toward the sound of our voices! She knew her name. We were certain she was going to get better!
Her first days back home were tough. She would run into walls. She would walk into the corner, where two walls come together... or she would walk into the space between the bed and the nightstand and get her head wedged in there... she had no "reverse" and was stuck until Ricky or I checked in on her and guided her out of that position. Which she would quickly get herself right back into!
We had to lift her up onto the bed, because she could not jump up on her own.
She was cadaverously skinny, and had open sores all over her body from running into the concrete block walls at the vet's kennel.
Ricky and I had learned from Cindy, Dr. Skains' vet assistant in Albuquerque, about homeopathic remedies to supplement traditional medical care. Back then, we had a dog who had very mild epileptic seizures, and Cindy had counseled using Flaxseed Oil to help control her seizures. So I bought some potent Flaxseed Oil capsules, with a higher dose than I had ever seen. I began giving those to sweet Caroline twice a day, along with her special dog food to build her body back up.
And we spent time with Caroline. We would talk to her, touch her, hold her, and help her to "relearn" all the skills that she had lost during her hospitalization. And slowly, Caroline began to improve. We hit a two week period when she seemed to improve her motor and fine motor skills a little bit every day. She was gaining weight. He sores were healing nicely.
A couple weeks ago, I took Caroline back to visit Dr. Stern, just so he could see her progress and know what his excellent care had done for our sweet girl! He was amazed. She had gained 18 pounds and was walking without running into things! Her progress was noteworthy -- far beyond what anyone had predicted for Caroline!
These pictures were actually taken this past week at Galveston. All of them! One of my favorites is the photo in which Caroline is blurred because she is running and playing with her new friend, Roxy Anne! Roxy Anne has been a great companion and inspiration for Caroline. She and Caroline will play and chase each other, and it has helped Caroline to have a friend to push her to do new things!
An important note for anyone who has a dog who has had seizures: Please be sure to have a thyroid test done! We learned that from Dr. Skains in New Mexico. And when Dr. Stern did the testing for Caroline, sure enough, she had a hypothyroid deficiency. There is some connection between not enough thyroid secretions and seizures in dogs.
So sweet Caroline is now on 8 grains of thyroxin daily. And she gets stronger every day.
Caroline is once again giving her trademark kisses, where she almost swallows your face in her massive mouth!
Sweet Caroline is one of those special dogs whose love for others is so transparent that you want to hug her and hold her and never let go! We feel so blessed that she made it... that we did not give up on her, but kept on pushing forward.
Of course, there is always a cost for long stays in the doggie ICU, even with all the breaks Dr. Stern provides Smiling Dog Farms. Caroline's hospitilization still cost $1300. We are hoping that organizations or individuals who have a special interest in dogs with epilepsy will help us raise this monumental sum. Readers who want to help can call Dr. Stern's office directly to make a donation with a credit card or debit card at 979-793-6262. If you do that, please send me an email to let me know, so that I can send you a thank you and a receipt, since your donations are fully tax deductible.
Somehow, we will find the money. Looking at these pictures from this past week in Galveston, I think it is some of the best money we ever spent!
To learn more about dogs with epilepsy, like Caroline,
All you NEVER wanted to know about canine seizures!

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

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