Diane and Molly (Shepherd/Husky mix)

 

My name is Diane and I am married to a graphic artist named Jeff. We live in a small town in rural Pennsylvania with Molly, our six-year-old shepherd/husky mix dog. My adult daughter Jennifer lives nearby. I'm a paper artist and have written several books about collage and paper art. I also travel to teach art workshops and demonstrate paper design techniques several times a year. Because I work from my home studios, I am fortunate in that I'm usually able to be here for Molly when she is having seizures.

I've always loved animals and opened my home and heart to many wonderful cats, dogs, guinea pigs, injured birds and a very sweet domesticated rat throughout the years. Two of my most beloved dogs Charley and Jake, were shepherd/husky mixes, so when I saw the newspaper ad for shepherd/husky puppies a few years after Jake's death, I jumped at the chance to bring one home again.

Molly's first seizure, from which she instantly recovered, occurred when she was a year old. It happened as I was literally going out the door on a trip to demonstrate paper marbling for a Martha Stewart television show. Horrified, I immediately called my veterinarian who assured me that this might be the only seizure Molly would ever have and that she probably had a seizure because she sensed my stress over the trip, saw my suitcase and realized I was going away. He assured me she'd be fine. As it was impossible to cancel, I reluctantly left Molly in Jeff's care, trying to believe that this really was an isolated incident.

I heard the second seizure about a month later when Molly rolled off the couch and had a major grand mal with terrible vocalizing- screaming and howling. It sounded like it came from the gates of hell! Terrified, I rushed to her. As she began to come out of the seizure and sat up, I tried to put my arms around her. Wild-eyed and foaming at the mouth, my beloved dog lunged at me, barking and growling! I was scared to death! I ran for the stairs, closing a gate behind me to protect myself. Poor Molly, who was also scared, paced for 15 minutes, apparently blind, before I got up the nerve to gingerly approach her and found that she recognized me again.

Molly had multiple cluster seizures for several months after that and, on my vets recommendation, I stayed away from her until she was up and walking each time in case she became aggressive again. My vet suggested Molly might outgrow her seizures and said he didn't want to medicate her because of possible side effects. Molly also began having repeated psychomotor seizures at this time. During these seizures she would be unconscious, but mobile, walking zombie-like with front feet lifted high like a performing horse. She would attempt to walk through walls or anything else in her path, climbing vertically and falling over backwards. Sometimes she'd head for very tight spaces, wedging herself behind furniture, get stuck, start shaking and often go right into a grand mal. To protect her, I had to grab her, redirect her path and guide her until several seconds elapsed and she snapped back into consciousness.

By now I was starting to research the disease online and had read about "kindling" whereby untreated epilepsy and resultant multiple seizures can actually teach the brain to seize. I mentioned kindling to my vet who said he didn't believe in the theory. I called other vets in our area and they, too, seemed to know little about epilepsy. Some said nothing could be done and suggested euthanasia. Others suggested a brain tumor. At that point I told my vet that, despite potential side effects, I wanted to try to stop the seizures. I asked him to please put Molly on an antiepileptic drug. We started using Phenobarbital and went through a month of ataxia and behavioral problems as Molly adjusted to the drug.

Eventually I found the Guardian Angels website and two of the most caring and compassionate people I've ever known -- Molly's saviors, Guardian Angel Maureen and Joanne Carson. At their urging and with my vet's reluctant cooperation, I had Molly's thyroid tested by Dr. Dodds and found that despite a lack of symptoms, Molly was definitely hypothyroid. No one was more surprised than my vet. We started Molly on Soloxine to correct the problem.

Just as things were improving, Molly developed a very rare reaction to the Phenobarbital and almost died from hemolytic anemia. When the Pb had to be immediately withdrawn to save her life, Molly had over 25 horrible grand mal seizures in one day. Thankfully, with steroid drugs and other medications Molly slowly regained her strength. Guided by information I'd learned from the Guardian Angels website we switched Molly to potassium bromide as an anti epileptic drug and added Taurine and Melatonin to further help control the epilepsy.  Much to Molly's delight, we began home cooking, using the Guardian Angels healthy adult diet. She enjoyed her food like never before and to this day still sits motionless, anxiously awaiting a spoonful, whenever I cook it. 

Molly still has seizures, but with the addition of a tiny amount of Pb added to the KBr at Joanne's brilliant suggestion, Molly is doing well.  She is maintaining a good red blood cell count and is averaging about 6 weeks between seizures. Applying an ice pack to the lower middle of Molly's back when she begins to seize has occasionally stopped a seizure and always makes the post-ictal period very short. With the Valium protocol we keep the cluster seizures down to one or two over a three-day period instead of 10 to 12. The aggression I saw after the second seizure has never returned and I have no fears holding the ice bag on her as she seizes. Afterwards she follows me into the kitchen for Valium, Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and a welcome hug.

I felt honored when Joanne asked me to be a web angel. I hope to be able to help other loving owners of epileptic dogs by lending a compassionate ear and guiding them as they learn from Joanne and the Guardian Angels website how best to help their dogs. I hope, like me, they can learn to overcome their fears of this disease, work with their veterinarians to manage it and give their pups long happy lives.