We had an interesting couple of weeks.
More like, Loki had an interesting couple of weeks.
Or, one week specifically, when her veterinarian Step Gammy and her MD Gampy made the decision to put her on phenobarbital for seizure control.
I’ll back up a bit.
The first seizure we witnessed was in August, in the truck driving to Montana from North Dakota. It lasted about 10 seconds and she piddled.
She had about 1 witnessed seizure a month since then and each one was the same.
Loki seemed to learn when one was coming because she would sit down by us beforehand. She has been more clingy with both of us as well and hasn’t liked being left alone anywhere in the house.
It might sound alarming but one seizure a month for a dog or cat isn’t a huge deal. Seizures themselves aren’t lethal (unless we’re talking about a toxicosis type of event). The danger lies in obstacles like stairs or falling objects or a prolonged event like status epilepticus or in aspiration if the pet vomits.
In our case there weren’t any stairs and we have removed most threatening objects from the hallways because Loki is completely blind.
So we kept on keeping on and tried to keep her head up for the 10 second seizures because she did bring up a yellow bile-like frothy liquid each time and we would talk her through the events knowing that some humans who have had seizures say that hearing is the first thing to come back and we’d run her a bath afterwards and everything was alright.
I mean, sort of alright.
Older dogs don’t just “get” epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a young pet/person’s disease and Loki is 14.
So I have worried about a brain tumor lurking somewhere in her little round, kissable head but she has been otherwise fine.
Until she had 3 seizure events in one week and the last one lasted way too long.
Neither of us witnessed when it began, either but what we did see lasted about 20 seconds and she took about 1/2 an hour to get her balance back afterwards.
As a vet, when you tell me a story like this I will tell you about the amazing old drug, phenobarbital.
That it will likely cause some sedation and wooziness for the first couple of days but it usually passes and that it used to be dirt cheap and hopefully it will keep seizures from happening more than once a month and that humans generally have way fancier anti-seizure meds now but they used to use the very same drug all of the time.
But it wasn’t an easy decision because Loki is blind.
I had to have a talk with my morals about this because, as her veterinarian, I am her voice.
But I’m also her Step-Gammy and my 2 worlds often collide.
Step-Gammy wants Loki here forever and the seizures to stop. She wants Loki to feel the warmth of springtime again along with grass beneath her paws instead of the snow. She wants to see this bossy little tyke run around our yard avoiding trees and bushes with a confidence ill-suited to her lack of vision. Step-Gammy thinks that last seizure frightened Loki as much as it did her.
But Dr.Tanya Fyfe is concerned that we will dull her senses and her mind on phenobarb. And that Loki relies heavily on her sense of smell and diminishing sense of hearing and she’s concerned about that possible brain tumor and what the drug could do with that.
The vet in me wrestled a bit more but then decided we could at least try it at a very low dose and see.
The first low dose wasn’t low enough.
Talk about stoned.
Poor Loki was completely confused wandering our hallways, turning herself around and around and then figure-eighting and pin-balling her way through the foyer. She sat and licked Gampy’s bare foot for a full 15 minutes with deep, slow, full-tongue intensity.
She barked at closed doors. Then at open doors. She stumbled and bumbled and definitely slept a lot more than we were comfortable with.
The second, lowered dose was less intense but she just wasn’t herself.
Alistair and I kept waiting for her body to become accustomed to the medication but even after a week it just didn’t happen.
Then she started going to the bathroom inside, which is definitely not a Loki-thing.
It was always on tile floors, thankfully, but cleaning pee and poop up every single day wasn’t cool for either of us.
Or for Loki.
It was time for Dr.Fyfe to have a word with Step-Gammy.
I always used to counsel my clients when we were discussing senior pets and any changes they noted and how the people actually felt about the changes.
It was significant for me when I would see tears creep into peoples’ eyes or I would hear their voice crack if they chose words like, ‘frustrated’, ‘angry’, ‘wrecking the carpets’ or ‘I know its not their fault but…’
I have always maintained that you don’t want your last weeks or months or time with your beloved animal companions to be filled with frustration and anger. Not only can the pets sense that and realize there has been a change, your memories of that time together will also bring back those feelings.
And that’s not what I want for any human-animal bond.
Its not what I want for Loki.
Loki Fyfe, the sassy-pants, bossy, big-dog-trapped-in-a-little-dog, hairlipped, heart murmured, snoring, prancing, impatient, arm-licking, adorable love bug went off the phenobarbital.
She has always had tons of dignity and spending all day in a drug-induced stupor seemed to diminish that.
She’s in charge once again and is back to normal.
Sleeping on my feet as I type.
We haven’t witnessed any seizure activity since stopping the meds but we will.
And maybe her time with us won’t be for as long but it will be good time. Great time. Sassy-pants time. Quality time.
We owe her that much.