Monday, October 21, 2013

Bully Stick=Happy Dog, Blind Or Not

Blind dogs get more bully sticks! Even though I knew how much Henri loved them before, they just always seemed so expensive for chewies.  And, bull penis...gross! But, I figure he's going to miss out on a lot of stuff that he enjoyed before he went blind, and since bully sticks seem to be so sensually fabulous to most dogs I've met, why not? 

They also get to eat more steak; a cookout on the patio with T-bones is blissful! I think it might make me as happy as he is, just to watch him enjoy the heavenly meaty smells and get the reward bone.

Experience the joy (in his brand new comfy harness, the better to yank him back from running headlong into walls)!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blind Dogs Can't See That It's Bedtime!

For several nights now, Henri has been up at all hours of the night, anxiously wandering the house and getting lost. He seems to not understand that it's nighttime, and everyone else's BEDTIME.

Especially confusing for him, I think, is when he does fall asleep for a bit, then he wakes up and doesn't have a clear idea of where he is. He searches as best he can and sniffs his way right into a corner as often as not, and an exhausted mommy has to get up--once again--to help him and calm him down.

My mind is hard at work trying figure out the best solution for all of us. More exercise during the day to sleep better at night would be my first logical plan, but Henri has been hesitant on walks for the last few days. I will just have to put in the extra effort to make him more confident walking somehow.

My husband Bill has suggested crating, as not only a way to keep him safe--and help me get some sleep--but also as a possible comforting place all his own that he can retreat to when feeling insecure.

I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty frustrated. Lack of sleep is adding to my negative frame of mind, I'm sure, but I'm also just feeling pretty discouraged. Henri seemed to be adjusting to blindness well, in the first few days. But suddenly, he seems to have taken a turn for the worse in terms of confidence and over all quality of life.

Bill is trying to keep things light by singing, "It's a blind dog after all," to the tune of Disney's "It's Small World." That actually helps.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Reason For Henri's Blindness

Henri, 1 year,  Brooklyn

It's taken me a little while to write this post, because determining the reason for Henri's blindness has been harder than any reasonable person might imagine. Am I the only dog owner who lacks trust in veterinary care? Not only is it shockingly expensive, but also often vague enough to illicit the heebee-geebee's on any normal visit--even more so than a human doctor's office visit, and that is saying something!

"What vaccine? We're due again?"

"Wait, this is the only option? And what are the side effects caused by this medicine? Those are pretty bad..."

"You're not sure? After all those tests? There is NOTHING we can do? Well, what the f#*&! am I paying you for?!"

Henri has always been different, and one of the first new puppy visits that I brought him to was all ambiguous bad news. We were living in Brooklyn at the time, and I had carried him several miles in the airplane carrier bag, in which Bill had flown him up from Orlando, to see how wonderful my new darling was, officially.

The pix message that Bill sent me, when he found Henri, and we decided to adopt him.

They said he had a congenital problem with his anus (it was T-shaped?) and asked how attached we were to "this puppy."

What?! Very!

"How attached are you to this puppy?"

At 8 wks, his legs were so short that his belly got yellowed from pee-peeing!

The "congenital" defect was, in fact, only a swollen butt from straining to poop too hard! Didn't have to off him, just yet. Stupid mommy had again given the new puppy cheese (they LOVE it) to encourage proper pottying procedure. He had gotten constipated, and...that makes things swell in a weird way. Not that I would know, I'm not a doctor, but my alternate diagnosis and homemade prescription worked pretty well: remove cheese from diet, fix butt problem in puppy.

Later in life, after we moved back to Florida, Henri developed terrible allergies to almost everything that grew there. Extensive testing revealed reactions to several types of grass, many molds, definitely fleas, and worst of all, cypress trees that lined our lake and oak trees that shaded every street. We tried different shots (administered myself, twice a day) and pills, all of which we were told could pose problems with his liver and might not work anyway. But, we had to do SOMETHING for the poor dog; he would work up a bloody hotspot on his tail that was scary to behold, ripping all his glorious, long, silky, white hair from the base. He was miserable.

Would we have to move to Colorado, like his vet joked? Florida seemed hopeless!

Yet, most of his allergy symptoms miraculously disappeared when our other dog, Jean Paul, moved in with my mom (another story). From what I can tell, Henri was ripping his hair out from anxiety over Jean Paul's tyranny! He hasn't needed treatment at all for allergies in over a year.

Who would have guessed these two weren't best friends?

But, the arrival of another baby had changed the family dynamics!

So, when Henri started presenting nebulous health problems about eight months ago--weight gain, crusty skin spots, weird skin bumps, and a funky overall smell--I began my search for the possible cause.

His groomer was sure he'd seen similar skin issues in dogs with Thyroid problems.

His vet started scheduling tests and guessed the problem was "dietary." At one visit, seeing that Henri's weight had continued to increase after I had made an effort to decrease his food intake, an uppity little vet technician said, "Heh heh, he's been gettin' into somethin'!" Yep, that's right. I just keep all my food out in the open, in loosely covered containers, six inches off the ground for a little dog to break into. Or, I'm lying?

Some of the tests indicated liver dysfunction, so we had to run more tests on his liver, which finally pointed to the need for an ultrasound on his liver to determine the problem. Some of the tests indicated kidney dysfunction, so we had to run more tests on his kidneys, which finally pointed to the need for an ultrasound to determine the problem. But, he definitely had kidney stones.

And his skin? Looks like a staph infection, give him antibiotics and use a medicated shampoo every two days.

What about when it comes back? Give him antibiotics and use a medicated shampoo every two days.

Luckily, Dr. Vet forgot about Henri's allergy to fleas, and that all that shampoo would wash away his FrontLine! So when Henri ravaged his tail after a flea bite and caused a horrendous, abscessed infection, I decided to take him to a doggie dermatologist.

Don't worry, the boys see each other several times a week and remain close,
now that they are happily living separately.

Thank God I did, because that's when I started getting answers! I have been so happy with the service of the AVS specialists that I'll go ahead and give them a free plug: Dermatologist & Internal Medicine.

They took cultures and found out what exact bacteria were infecting him, and some were so resistant to antibiotics that I had to administer the special heavy duty new antibiotics with gloves three times a day for a month. They also thought maybe we should see an internal medicine specialist, because some of his symptoms looked like Cushing's Disease, and they pointed us across the parking lot to a great internist, not affiliated with their office.

Cushing's Disease can cause some of the problems Henri was experiencing, because of prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol. For example, you might see a pot belly and gross skin, especially the change in skin and fur tone that we saw in Henri. Excess cortisol also might cause a lowered immune response, which was a frustratingly vague, possible explanation for his inability to fight off staph infection.

I made an appointment to see the AVS Internal Medicine people, and since the vet had already suggested that we have ultrasounds preformed, scheduled those as well. Sadly, before our appointment, Henri started obviously and rapidly losing his eyesight. I think he had been experiencing vision loss for some time, in hind sight.

A visiting friend asked how well he could see, and I blew her off! Sorry, Amy!

  1. He had become increasingly clumsy jumping up onto the bed or couch, or jumping out of the car, and I had to help him in such maneuvers so he wouldn't hurt himself.
  2. He seemed to feel insecure at odd moments, wanting desperately to jump into my lap and sleep there while I worked at the computer or ate at the table.
  3. He obviously loved me and respected me as his master, but when I would try to give him a bath, he would bark warningly and nip at me so meanly that I was hurt and offended, even scared.
  4. He had a harder time finding his ball when we threw it for him, and he took forever to find it when we were about to leave for a walk or ride.
  5. He would seem to want to go outside, and then once we'd gather all toys and get shoes on to go, he would change his mind and sit on the doorstep, then want to go back inside.
  6. He refused to leave the house without a security object (his favorite was a huge, stinky, old reindeer stuffed animal that was bigger than him), which seemed cute and funny, and certainly brought plenty of smiles from neighbors, but now I see for what it was.

But, in those last couple days, as he lost all sight, his blindness finally became glaringly apparent to everyone: he couldn't see his squeaky ball in front of his face, and he was running into walls. Finally noticing that he couldn't see, realizing how much water he was drinking and how much he had been peeing, and remembering the vet's vague reference to a kidney problem, I started to panic.

We rushed him to the emergency vet, thinking he was enduring kidney failure!

He wasn't.

Finally, as sad as it was at the time, Henri's problems came together to reveal what had been progressing in his little body over many months: S.A.R.D.S.

S.A.R.D.S. stands for Sudden Acquired Retinal Degenerative Syndrome, and any dog owner who thinks their animal may have this condition should be well informed, so please visit this link and this link to learn more.

The Internal Medicine staff, when we finally met them at our scheduled appointment, had seen similar scenarios before.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Well, There It Is!

My beloved 7-year-old Bichon Frise/ Maltese mix doggie, Henri, has become completely blind in the last week, and two days ago I learned that the blindness will be permanent. He possibly can see hints of shadows, but that's it, folks!

I have always loved to write, and I have lately found it to be a wonderful healing exercise. Especially when my thoughts on a particular issue are quite jumbled in my head, the act of organizing and categorizing those thoughts into words that would make sense to others is exactly what I need to understand them, myself.

After months of tackling Henri's puzzling health problems--liver dysfunction, rapid weight gain, kidney stones, antibiotic-resistant staph infections, and a terrible abscess that threatened amputation of his glorious tail--we have finally come to a medical resolution and we understand what is happening to our little buddy. Yet, far from being a relief, the clinical answer to his mysterious overlapping symptoms was probably worse than I could have imagined. We may finally be coming to a homeostasis, however, our constant vet visits finally abating, and I find myself more thankful for him and grateful for his continued presence in our lives than I've ever been. 

Now that I have accepted his blindness--what choice did I have???--I know that it is my responsibility to my best friend to help him adjust to it comfortably. I am encouraged by other owners of blind pets that assure me that dogs adapt to blindness remarkably well and can continue to live full, happy lives. Remaining positive myself is essential in minimizing Henri's stress in this time of change for him. The loving compassion I feel for him is complete, and my pride in his joyfully confident personality in the face of illness and hardship is immense, the old feelings of irritation or impatience with him erased in a moment. What a gift!


At times, the thought sneaks up on me without notice, "No! My sweet little dog can't be blind! Why?!"

So, my head is pretty jumbled. I think writing about it will help.