I noticed she was having trouble walking, her back legs seemed to be giving out. She was drooling out of the right side of her mouth and her eyebrows were ticking. They looked like 2 ping pong balls bouncing up and down. Her head was swaying back and forth and she was out of it. I began thinking the worst. My heart sank as I thought the only possibility was that she was having a stroke.
As I sobbed on the phone to the nurse at the Animal Emergency Clinic, she gave me some hope that it may not be a stroke but something called Vestibular Disease. She recommended I bring Devon in, which I had planned on anyway.
So on one of the coldest nights of the year (I think it got down to -3 degrees that night) with layers of ice and snow covering the ground, I made the drive to the emergency vet hospital. Luckily Devon was able to keep from vomiting until we pulled in the parking lot and then I think the motion of the car got to her. Hear head was literally going around in circles. It was so scary.
By the time the doctor came in the room, Devon was literally rolling over in her crate. When I took her out she fell to her side on the floor. It reminded me of when you are so drunk and the room is spinning and your head is spinning with it. It was breaking my heart watching her go through all of this.
The vet explained that this does happen sometimes in older dogs. In summary this is what she said:
The problem seems to be due to inflammation in the nerves connecting the inner ear to the cerebellum (which controls balance and spatial orientation). It usually lasts between a couple of days and three weeks. A few dogs have residual signs beyond this time, such as a head tilt. This disease normally affects dogs that seem normal up until the signs appear. Then there is sudden loss of balance with many dogs unable to even stand up. Rythmic eye motion known as nystagmus is usually present. Dogs may be nauseous from the "sea sickness" effect of vestibular disease. Most dogs will not eat or drink unless hand fed or given water by hand because they have a hard time with the fine motor movements necessary to eat or drink from a bowl. As long as they are nursed through this condition almost all dogs will recover. There is no known treatment. Some dogs do have relapses but most do not.
If there is not inner ear infection, it's referred to as Idiopathic, which means there is no known cause. She also explained that if the dog is not getting better, it could mean there is a tumor somewhere in the inner ear or on the brain, but the only way to diagnose that is through CT scan.
I decided to leave Devon there over night because there was no way I could take care of her in her condition and deal with my kids. It was definitely more expensive to leave her there for a day, but I know it was the right decision. I picked her up the next night around 8pm. They sent me home with some motion sickness medication, but nothing else to give her.
From Thursday night until Saturday afternoon, things seemed to be touch and go. She wasn't eating anything, but would drink water so that was good. She began having diarrhea, which was very difficult to deal with because she had a hard time standing long enough to go to the bathroom. So I had to hold her up while she pooped...not fun! I think all the snow on the ground made it worse. She's not a fan of snow to begin with and I think it disoriented her even more because everything was white.
But by Saturday afternoon, she started showing signs of improvement. She's finally eating (boiled hamburger and rice) and she can get up and walk around a little better. We bought her a harness so she could have more support when we walk her outside and I think she is loving all the extra attention.
This whole episode has put things into perspective for a me. And I am ashamed of that.
This dog has been in my life for 13 years. She has been through so much with me, I almost can't remember life with out her. Yet, it took me thinking that I might lose her for me to realize that I am not ready to be without her. And I am ashamed because I know I don't always treat her the way she deserves to be treated.
Since we have had kids, things have changed. I know this is normal for most people who have pets first, then decide to have children. But the safety and well being of your kids becomes priority and sometimes the dog is the one who gets the raw end of the deal.
I yell at Devon a lot because she always seems to be in the way when I am trying to get something done. I tell her to "go lay down" when the kids are running around like maniacs because I don't want them to get bitten or for one of them to fall or step on her. I shoosh her constantly when she barks because I don't want her to wake up the kids from their naps. And worst of all...I ignore her when I am so exhausted all I want to do is sit down for 10 minutes and all she wants is some love. There are some nights when I am getting ready for bed that I stop and think "I don't think I've pet her once all day."
I honestly hope I will remember all of these things as I go about my day from now on. Because I know I will never forget how frightened I was as I drove her to the hospital, begging the Lord to let her live.
I hope the remainder of her life here with us will be spent with more love and hugs and less yelling and shooshing. After all she has given me over the years, that's the least I can do for my best friend!
Here's my girl...able to lift her head for just a moment as I took the picture!