For the Love of Ryder, Part 2
We spent that first week with Ryder, and we all fell in love with him. He is friendly and polite, and his feathery tail swished its way back and forth through the week in a never-ending wag. By the time next Saturday came around, we were all ready to make the adoption permanent. We took him back to the adoption event on Saturday, arriving at the agreed upon time. We signed the papers, paid the fee, and he was ours!!
We had a short one-on-one training session, and went on our way. Ryder was settling in nicely to our family and routines, and then on Thursday, May 21, at about 10:30 p.m., just 5 days after our official adoption, the first seizure happened. We were sitting on the bed in the bedroom and I was looking away from Ryder talking to Nature Girl and doing something on my computer when, all of a sudden, she gasped and called for me to look at Ryder. He had slid off the end of the bed like a gelatin blob and was writhing and pawing on the floor.
At first, we thought he might have fallen off the bed and broken his neck in the fall. When the rigid movements kept on, however, it became obvious what was going on - he wasn't dying, but was having a Grand Mal Seizure. His back was stiff, his legs pedaling the air, his mouth drawn back into a horribly tortured pose, eyes glazed, saliva and foam coming from his mouth and nose. And the smell!!!! It was not a urine or feces smell, though he did lose his bladder, but another smell altogether. I cannot describe it, but it is one of the worst smells I have encountered.
I now understand how "seizure assist dogs" can determine a seizure in a human before it begins. The smell happens first, but the advance scent change is so slight that a human would not notice it in time. A dog's sense of smell is so much more acute than ours, they can scent the change and alert the human before their seizure occurs. This gives the human time to sit or lie down in a relatively safe place before their seizure begins.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know when a dog's seizure is going to occur, and no way to warn our furry friend(s). After that seizure, we gave Ryder a bath, and started doing some reading. We learned that seizures, if they are going to afflict a dog, usually afflict those around the age of 3 or older. Ryder turned 3 just a two weeks before our adoption. We also learned that certain pharmaceuticals, such as certain flea and tick treatment brands, had reported instances of seizure side effects. Ryder happened to have had one of those brands used on him two weeks before our adoption. In addition, he had undergone anesthesia to be neutered, and he had endured vaccinations all at the same time. This is routine in the rescue industry, but it can mean toxic overload for the dog(s) and cat(s) having been rescued.
Ryder had 6 more seizures, mostly about 17 days apart, but two of them occurred back-to-back. Most often, they happened between midnight and 3:00 a.m. which meant some sleepless nights, and bleary-eyed dog baths and blow-dries. We consulted veterinarians who said there was nothing to be done but to give anti-seizure medication. They wanted to give him Phenobarbital. That drug is a heavy-duty drug that has its own host of side effects and the possibility of changing his personality and causing him to always be lethargic.
We consulted a holistic veterinarian who said he thought he could help. We started Ryder on an herbal protocol, hoping that it would work and we would not have to give the anti-seizure meds. It took time, but it seems to have worked. He went 20 days between seizures, then he went 4 months between! Now, he has gone 14 months without a seizure!
We have a new problem, however. He recently began to walk with his back hunched, and to cry out for no apparent reason. Veterinary checks have revealed that he has two compressed vertebrae in his spine, at two separate locations. More reading and questioning reveals that his vertebral compressions are most probably a result of the seizures he endured. Seizures can actually cause vertebrae to crack (though thankfully Ryder's did not). The conventional veterinarian says we may end up having to do surgery. The holistic veterinarian is optimistic that we can avoid surgery. Either way, we have had to give some medications, some new herbal therapies, and some acupuncture treatments.
Acupuncture for a dog, you ask??? Why, yes, indeed! Ryder LOVES his treatments (he has had 3 acupuncture treatments). He gets so relaxed and gets a dreamy-eyed look on his face. After the treatments, he seems much more peppy and moves more normally. For now, it seems that we have gotten the muscle spasms around the compressed areas to relax, and he is doing well. We are told that he should not worsen, and that we can do the treatments only when it appears to become again necessary.
We wouldn't trade him for anything. He is one of the sweetest (though grumbly at times) dogs I have known. He loves his girl and has slept in her bed every single night since his first night at our house. I am glad he ended up with us because if he had gone to another home, he might have been returned and put down, or he might have ended up on heavy medications. Please keep him in your thoughts.