Friday, December 30, 2011

So Herschel has seizures and a brain tumor... now what...some advice I suppose

So I thought I would post a little something about what I have and what Herschel has been going through since April when he had his first seizure (that I was aware of at least).

This is IN NO WAY to offer any medical, veterinary or advice... just a little solace in knowing that there are other people out there whose pets have this issue and keep coming across the same articles and websites over and over and over again and don't see anything new out there.  This also in NO WAY is an effort to discredit those other sites or say what they have posted and what they offer isn't helpful... trust me that first night when I had no f'n clue what could be happening and what to expect ultimately they were helpful.  But their advice hasn't been beneficial in the long term for our situation and everyone's situation is different... this is mine.  

Several years ago I had a neighbor whom I loved dearly have a serious head injury and was plagued with seizures.  So in April when Herschel had his first one, I really knew ultimately what I was looking at. The episode lasted about 10 minutes start to finish and I thought it might be a "one off" situation.  

This sometimes can happen.  This wasn't our situation. About two hours later Herschel had another seizure.  So I picked him up and took him to our local Emergency Vet.  If you live in Denver or have ever watched "Emergency Vets" on Animal Planet you know where we went... Alameda East. They happen to be Herschel first vet when I adopted him and saved his life a few years back when he ate De-Con... so I love them.  To say that they are amazing and kind and wonderful people would be an understatement.  They kept Herschel overnight for observation and kept him through the next afternoon just to gather if this was a "one off" situation or not.

Because Herschel is the older statesmen of the house (17 years old) their suspicions were that he was afflicted with a brain tumor or something neurological and that they would happen again.  They told me to be calm, to not worry and gave me the following advice:

1) Do not worry or panic.  

then Herschel's doctor told me something very valuable... it seems like they are in alot of pain, they are not... it's completely neurological and the brain firing a lot of information all around and the signals have to go somewhere.  Do not worry or panic. Just watch to make sure he doesn't seize into a wall or anything that could possibly hurt him and do not try and hold him down or put your hands in his mouth.  Dogs will NOT swallow their tongue (people won't either by the way... that is an old wives tale...).

All this information was very familiar as my neighbor always said the same thing.... make sure if I see him having a seizure to take what ever he is holding out of his hand and don't try and stop what is going on.

I felt really prepared.  

I was prescribed medication for his seizures and his heart murmur (he has a pretty pronounced heart murmur and they wanted to lower his blood pressure to eliminate undue stress on his heart for the long term).  Double whammy but I was confident we were on the right page.  I asked a prognosis because if it is a brain tumor what time do we have.  They didn't want to sedate him to scan him so there really is no answer.  So for this we are living day by day.  It is a joy everyday to wake up, take him for a walk, see him thriving and living with this by the way. I don't know how long I have but we are living every day to the fullest.

The neurologist prescribed Herschel phenobarbital. NOW... this is where my advise comes in... from our experience.... 

Let the medicine do it's work.  Yes Herschel was totally wonkie and out of it.  There was one afternoon I came back home from running errands and he was standing in the middle of the living room and I could just see him thinking "I am so high right now". Keep that in mind... your pet is basically high.

Phenobarbital is a complete sedative.  It slows down the brain from firing like crazy.  It's taken MONTHS to get the right dosage.  Be patient.  Don't be discouraged if there are more seizures... they are going to happen. It's just the way it is.  Track them when they happen, take video on your cell phone.  

But don't panic, don't be discouraged and don't think there is a loss in quality of life because let me tell you from experience... it's just a different way of life.  

The day before Herschel had the seizure, he would jump up on the couch and sit next to me and chill there for hours.  Now ... he can't stand it. At first... it made me really sad.  But knowing that he probably needs something a little harder and solid to lay on... I watch him sleeping on the rug by the base of the couch and I know he is happier there, so I have to be happy with it.  

Things will change.  The personality of your pet may change a little. I watch his little mannerisms and know that he still is completely sweet and loving and happy, it's just in a much different brain space.  He still kisses and still wants treats and still plays (although not as frequently and for as long... but he is still "in there" you know?).  He still loves getting his picture taken. He still wants treats. 

But there are the downsides.  He pees in the house like crazy.  I have put towels down and he usually sometimes will remember to go on them.  He pees about 20 seconds after he wakes up.  I have a VERY small window in which to get him outside to tinkle.  I have very old carpet so this isn't a huge deal for me... I clean the carpet about once a week with the steam cleaner and Nature's Miracle right after he tinkles.  I wash a lot of towels (ps the $4.99 Ikea towels are awesome...NOT soft but absorbent and they almost look like area rugs... or that is what I am trying to trick myself into thinking).  We have tried diapers... but Herschel always seems to get them moved around enough that they don't do what they are supposed to do.  I have seen him move the diaper material down so his little schmeckel can be out of the diaper (if I call them nappies with a British accent doesn't it sound less awful?  I do think so.... and I do).  I need to try and catch it on video because it's really pretty amazing.  So he pees in the house.  Nature's Miracle and puppy pads and towels are fine by me.  They may not be for you so this is not advise... just telling you what we have dealt with and decided on.

About 3 months ago the vet decided to put him on a steroid.  I am not quite sure what the rationale was but we are now tapering him off of them.  He seems to be adapting well.  He gets a little dizzy after just waking up but that is ok.  He has some heavy panting episodes but I have been assured that it's nothing to be concerned about.

I am finding that Herschel is still "in there".  He finds his way through the paths in the snow.  He knows what treats he wants and still barks the syllables out for what he craves.  Finds gloves to be the best toys in the whole wide world occasionally.  Sure he sleeps alot... sure he is not as energetic but the good far out weighs these little things.  

The vet didn't really give me a prognosis for how much time we have when we got the diagnosis back in April.... and honestly I didn't really want one.  Every day is such a gift and I am happy that we have them.  I never thought that I would have to give my furry baby medicine on a schedule twice a day, change so much in my life but it is very much worth it.  Travel can wait.  New carpet can wait.  And wait a long time I hope.  

Occasionally Herschel has a seizure... we know how to deal with it and let him come through them in comfort.  The medicine keeps them from happening as much as if he wasn't on the phenobarbital.  And I am fine with that... it's not the answer for everyone.  But it is for us.

There is more joy right now and we are so very glad to have Herschel in our lives. 

I hope that if you come across this in your search for answers on seizures in dogs you at least find that you are not alone.  Understand that it isn't (at least in Herschel's case) life threatening.  That it is ok to be scared.  It's also ok to admit it.  My only true advise would be to find a veterinarian that you trust and who is willing to establish a line of communication that suits your needs and your pets needs.  Please know that there is some trial and error getting medicines right and it very much worth working through.

Don't be overwhelmed.  I was at the beginning and now our lives are just different now... give yourself time to get used to it.  And every minute is worth it.

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