We had a Scottie, Angus, who died from melanoma at age 11. We missed him and decided our next dog would not be pedigreed, we would find a Heinz 57 perhaps less susceptible to inbreeding diseases and, anyhow, we are not into status dogs, or cars. So Trudy it was, a year old female terrier hound mix who had been tried and rejected at (at least) 2 homes and sidled up to us at the Atlanta Pet Rescue and promptly rolled onto her back – utter submissiveness and desperate to be adopted. After 2 days my wife said this was the worst decision of her life – several shoes, a good carpet and some furniture destroyed and non stop scratching. But the scratching stopped when her diet was changed (my wife is a dietitian) and, as she settled down the destruction stopped and she became our lovable companion. Now 11 years later she accompanies me every day to our north Georgia location, routs out the rabbits and groundhogs with her excellent nose, loves the walks, and tho her eyesight (particularly night vision) is fading makes for an excellent guard dog for the chickens. And knows how to tweak our guilt by staring intently at my wife late evening to motivate her for a walk.
And then this past Saturday things went wrong. The early morning walk was fine. By 10am she was unsteady on her feet and I had to carry her and load her into the car for the trip to the farm. The vet was booked Sat pm but could see her Sun pm or Monday. By 6pm Saturday she had difficulty standing and by 10pm she could not stand at all. What could it be? Spinal injury – but she was fine in the morning. Perhaps when we were out she had climbed the stairs and fallen down the stairs and injured herself. But she did not seem in pain and there was no swelling of her hind legs, which were the unstable part and earlier had kept giving in. Perhaps a snake bite to the rear right leg but again no sign of swelling. Sudden onset of arthritis? A nasty tick disease? A stroke? Bladder stone? A stroke or a growth pressing on her spinal nerves and numbing her legs? The only bit of encouragement was that she seemed otherwise fine – alert, breathing steady, nose cold, reasonable appetite. Since she weighs around 47lbs and couldn’t move I devised a way to ambulate her outdoors. A large towel around her body spread between her front and rear legs and me lifting the towel ends and her vertically so she was right side up with 4 legs pointing down. Then lowering her on the grass outside and encouraging her to “pee-pee”, but to no avail. There is a lot on the internet and the stuff we read Saturday night counseled an immediate visit to the emergency room. I decided not to do this.
We slept poorly that Saturday night and would wake and listen to Trudy asleep beside the bed on her old towel and blanket bed. She seemed fine. Next morning I watered the crops and she stayed inside. Normally she would be there with me. But when I went inside and she saw me, she wagged her tail vigorously. What could this be about? The she struggled to her feet and lurched forward and with a drunken gait staggered across the room before falling sideways. But she wanted out so with the towel hoist I got her outside and holding the towel to prevent her falling over, she walked about. A remarkable turnaround. And most pleasing of all, a long uninterrupted pee-pee (so no bladder stone) and an equally extended very normal looking #2 (so no major intestinal distress). Rather than rush her to the vet on Sunday which I had originally planned though it would have meant a 100 mile round trip to Atlanta for a function and then back again to the vet in north GA, I decided to take her in Monday pm. More research on the web surfaced old dog vestibular disease – an ear infection causing dizziness, could it be this? And I noticed that now when she walked she sidled up to the wall on her right. Since she kept falling to the right I assumed she was using the wall as a crutch to prevent a fall.
Monday pm we visited her regular vet. The pleasant receptionist explained they had 3 emergencies on Saturday and that was why they had been unable to see her. With hindsight I was pleased we had not gone in on an emergency basis which may have produced emergency measures. Now we all had time to consider the matter. The inspection revealed no spinal bruising, good musculature of rear legs, good foot reaction to bending tests. The blood work was “perfect”. The vet stated that her eyesight was not good, which we knew, and that animals with poor eyesight would use wall and surfaces as a guide for walking. Ok – but why the problem on Saturday and the good continuing turn around? He was initially dismissive of the ear infection suggestion since she was not holding her head to the side and her eyes were looking forward and not flitting from side to side as is apparently common with balance issues. But he noted a slight discharge in her right ear and so he provided ear drops to resolve an outer ear infection and antibiotics in case it was an inner ear infection.
Upshot is that from being unable to move on Saturday night she is now on Monday miraculously regaining form though still unsteady at times.