Hello! : )
I’ve been absent for a while. I’ve had good reason…I promise.
Blog warning: This is a long post. I’m sorry…there wasn’t any other way to write it. You may want to make sure you have your favorite beverage, maybe a snack, on hand now before you get into it.
My oldest dog, Oscar, has needed a lot of extra attention.
Oscar is my 10 year old Lhasa Apso. I’ve had family dogs that I grew up with but Oscar is my first pup who’s solely mine. I adopted Oscar when he was 2 months old so we’ve been together for quite some time. That cute little ball of fur snagged my heart and hasn’t let go since. He’s always been big for his breed, right now he’s 32 lbs, so I affectionately call him “lots a Lhasa”.
I have hundreds of cute Oscar stories I could recount but I will just share one. When I first picked up Oscar, his mom’s mom told me they worked on house training a little bit but he hadn’t really figured it out. So that evening I lined my house with newspaper…a triple layer of newspaper…and underneath the newspaper were puppy pads…and I had them everywhere! I was prepared! I took him out and then we settled in to play and watch some TV. At first he questioned the paper, like he walked on it gingerly. Then next, he thought it was a toy…anything is a toy to a puppy. But after an hour of play and cuddles he wiggled out of my lap, sashayed to the front door, sat his little tushy down and looked back at me giving me the signal. Man, this puppy mommy thing is a synch!! He never made a mess in the house…not once.
Oscar has always been my medical pup. During his early puppy appointments, they noted that he walks oddly with his back legs. He had a slight sway to his back end, shuffled his back feet a bit and sometimes had a hard time jumping. They attributed it to his lazy knee caps (luxating patellas) where his knee caps floated in and out of place. No biggie…just something to be aware of as he aged.
By the time he was 2 years old, the vet thought it may be something more and referred us to NC State Vet Hospital in Raleigh, NC (4 hours away). There they discovered a subarachnoid cyst on his spine at T7-8. This cyst puts pressure on his spinal cord and limits the neurological signals his back end receives. They performed surgery on his spine and we had 2 months of home recovery. Oscar didn’t do well with recovery. He came to the point he loathed his crate. It was hard to keep contained and quiet a 3 year old bundle of energy. The surgery worked miraculously though and I really thought we had solved his problem! Post recovery he could run and jump like any normal young pup.
Unfortunately, within 9 months his walking and activity had begun to decline again. I took him back to NC State for evaluation and the scans showed the cyst had returned…larger. Of course, surgery was the only option but they couldn’t guarantee any better of an outcome. As much as I hate to say this, I opted not to put him through another surgery and recovery. He could get around just fine. He just wasn’t as stable as other pups his age. And rather than jumping on a couch, he had to be lifted. All manageable actions to keep him from further hurting himself. And other than his slight wobbles, he acted like a normal pup. The vets agreed with my choice but did explain that as Oscar aged, his body would fail him. They couldn’t exactly project what we would encounter but they estimated a life expectancy to be 5-8 years.
Well, he’s gonna be 11 this year so boo-yah!! :)
Over the years we have encountered some normal Lhasa issues: reoccurring eye infections, ear infections, allergies, food allergies, etc. In my medicine cabinet, Oscar has more meds than I do. We are frequent customers of the family vet, emergency vet and ophthalmologist. Also, his mobility has slowly declined. Like, his back legs no longer cooperated to climb up steps so he stands with his front paws on the bottom steps and waits for assistance with his back legs. Our house no longer has carpeting because sometimes he cannot predict when he has to use the restroom and he cannot stand a long time in one spot so he trails as he goes.
In August of last year, Oscar could not go to the bathroom…specifically #1. I realized this on a Saturday afternoon so off to the ER Vet we go. There, they discovered he had bladder stones and surgery was his only option. When the vet performed the surgery, she said she had never seen anything like his case before. His bladder had so many stones it looked like he was full of sand. Needless to say, they cleaned them out and sent them off for evaluation. I have now learned bladder stones develop if your urine is too acidic or not acidic enough. Post surgery I knew we would have to change his dog food but it just depended on the results from the lab to say which way his ph needed to go. Now, I already had him on a no grain, high quality, high priced dog food so I was really perplexed this even occurred but I have now learned, no matter what I do, it just depends on how Oscar’s body reacts.
A day after his surgery, the ER vets called to ask me about his walking. I re-explained Oscar’s condition. Whoever does anything to Oscar gets his story…vets, specialists, groomers, etc. This way they know to handle Oscar in his special way. He requires a different lifting and carrying position. He also has developed a “tickle” reaction when you touch his body anywhere past his surgical spot, which is still quite visible. Well, the ER vet reported he wasn’t walking…at all. They had to put him on his back to perform the bladder surgery which probably aggravated the cyst. Also, because of his poor communication to his back legs, the anesthesia took longer to work out of his system. After a few days of rest and anti-inflammatory meds he was able to walk but his walking never fully recovered from that incident.
A few weeks later I received the results about the composition of the stones. They were made up of both materials (too acidic and too alkaline). The vet had to call the Hill Science Diet nutrition specialist just to see what to prescribe. They had to do some research and it was determined he could only have one type of dog food: d/d Egg and Rice. I offered to work with a dog nutritionist to make his food myself but they said it would be too difficult for me to administer all the nutrients and supplements he would need. And the vet expressed he is to not eat anything other than this food. No treats. No meat. No nothing.
Since his surgery in August he has been on Rimadyl and Tramadol off and on. I put him on them…he seems to get better…I slowly take him off of them…after a while he declines. After a few months of this, the vet and I decided to keep him on the Rimadyl and use Tramadol sparingly. Both these medicines cause damage to the liver and we want to only use them when we need to but we also want to manage Oscar’s pain and give him the most opportunity for mobility.
A month ago, Oscar developed eye infections. It started in his right eye but then the left eye also developed an infection. I took him to our family vet and we got some medicine to tackle them. Within 2 days, an ulcer developed and the infection went into his cornea on his left eye. That required a specialists attention so after that visit, Oscar had 6 different eye medicines to administer at varying times and frequency during the day. Normally when an ulcer develops, steroids are used to clear it up. Unfortunately, since Oscar is on Rimadyl he cannot use steroids so we had to use a work around. The good news: after about a week of this treatment his eyes showed clearing and the ulcer started to recede. Actually, this is exceptional news because if his eyes did not respond to the meds, they were going to have to remove it to avoid eye rupture. *Phew* Huge bullet dodged. The not so great news: Due to the chronic infections, Oscar’s right eye only has a little eye sight due to hyperpigmentation and his left eye’s sight is distorted from the ulcer. But we are still administering drops to try to reverse these issues.
I thought we had gotten a handle on all of his issues but last Monday (6-30) I noticed Oscar was having difficulty moving around. He would have good moments where he could manage on his own but then he would have rough times. In his rough times, he could not rise from a laying down position. He would walk a few steps, his back end would give out and his back legs would lay straight out behind him. He would be asleep and his back legs would shake and convulse, waking him. He would get frustrated and whine when his body wouldn’t move like he wanted. He also became agitated, snapping at me whenever I would help. He got to the point he would not allow me to pick him up, which is required to get him to doc appts or worse, just simply to go outside to go to the potty. I took him to his family vet and she said there was no more medical options for him. We had ruled out surgery, he was on the strongest pain and anti-inflammatory medicine. We could explore acupuncture or look into getting him a cart but that’s about all we could do.
I came home from that Vet visit kinda devastated…ok…really devastated. I had to do everything that I could for him so I evaluated all the resources I had available to me. I had my essential oils and I heard you can use them on dogs. I wrote a post asking for help on The Dog Oiler Facebook page and immediately got some recommendations from other Facebook users. Many of the users recommended frankincense which seems to be an overall great oil for just about anything. For Oscar, it could reduce the size of the cyst, easing his pain and allowing him more communication with his back legs. I also consulted Skye, the authority on using eo’s with dogs, and she recommended layering peppermint with the frankincense for additional pain management.
So I added in the eo’s to the rounds of pain medicine and eye drops (7-2). I sometimes used lavender on his back feet at night to ease his sleep.
All the holiday weekend we continued to have good moments and bad moments. I really thought I was facing that impossible decision for Oscar. But I couldn’t find peace with that decision. I want to be very fair to Oscar. He has been through more than one dog should have to go through. And I wouldn’t ask him to live in one more minute of pain just to be selfish to keep him. But at the same time I will not give up on him one minute too soon and will do everything in my power for him to extend his life and/or improve his quality of life. He had good moments and despite his bad moments, he still was so loving and you could tell he was trying his best. Even when he would bite me, I knew instantly he didn’t mean to…it was just an involuntary reaction to the pain. But how can one make such a decision? Between life and ….?! This isn’t supposed to be in our power. And how do you determine the time? How can you?! In his good moments, I was so hopeful and felt silly for even thinking of giving up on him…but in his bad moments, I thought I was going to have put my heartbreak aside and…I’m sorry…I just cannot even type it… Needless to say I think this has been the most stressful week of my life and my tears have just been uncontrollable.
Monday and Tuesday (7th and 8th) seemed to be the worse days. Monday morning it took me 45 minutes to get him off the bed. Each time I would attempt to scoop him up, he growled and snapped. Finally, I had to lay a towel over his head so when he snapped, he wouldn’t get me. He wouldn’t eat. I checked on him at lunch time and found him in a mess….a #2 mess. Monday night, he ate alittle but refused to let me pick him up to be put on the bed like we normally do. He had also started panting a few days before. He would just be laying down and would pant. Also, I noticed when he stood his poor little back had a deep U shape to it like an older horse. We ended up sleeping on the couch that night (well, I slept on the couch and Oscar laid on his temperpedic mat right beside me on the floor). Oddly enough, he seemed to be walking around better and more stable on his feet. Tuesday morning was easy…when I checked on him at lunch time he acted aggressive. He protected his food bowl (uneaten) and he wouldn’t take his eye drops. He growled when I approached him. When I returned to work, I called our family vet to report what he had been experiencing over the last 6 days and see if anymore could be done. I hated to suggest it but I was thinking maybe a light sedative. He has to get his eye drops in…they are too important to miss. The vet and I discussed increasing one of his medicines a little bit more as he wasn’t at the upper threshold of the medicine. I hated to hear that. What kind of internal damage are we doing? We also discussed that impossible decision…Tuesday night seemed to be good. Again, we slept on the couch to avoid handling him. It seemed being picked him up caused him the most pain. He still had the panting but tonight was the first night he stood to eat his food.
Wednesday morning came and he seemed to be doing well. I had a grooming appointment tentatively set for him. I thought if he had a hair cut, maybe I could see if the panting is pain related or heat related. I keep the ac set on like 65 so I thought he should be cool but who knows how Oscar’s body reacts. I approached him leerily. I didn’t want to hurt him but to get him to the groomer I had to lift him. I showed him his leash to indicate we were going for a ride versus me doing something awful to him. He conceded to let me pick him up. I could tell he hurt because his body stiffened up but he worked with me and off to the groomers we went. The grooming seemed to do the trick. He hasn’t panted since that day. In fact, the first night he seemed cold and I wrapped him in a blanket….that he stayed in for all of 2 minutes. I tried to get him to go to bed…sleeping on the couch was taking a toll on me…I frequently checked on him through the night so I was only sleeping for 2-3 hour stretched and woke up sore because my couch isn’t the comfy sleep on couch. I will remember this the next time I’m furniture shopping…Anyhoo, Oscar refused the bed again so back to the couch.
Thursday….wow….just wow. Oscar is a new little man! He’s walking great. I haven’t seen him loose his footing much less need rescuing from me. He’s standing great and he’s walking longer distances! And he’s eating normally. He still refused to sleep on the bed so we unfortunately slept on the couch and even though I’m exhausted, it’s a small price to pay for this rebound.
This morning I woke up and started to prepare for work. Oscar walked into the bedroom and asked to be lifted onto the bed. He even HOPPED as I reached down for him. Yah! but oh Oscar…what timing you have…I ended up calling in because I couldn’t pass up being able to sleep in my real bed. Oh that was the most heavenly 4 hours sleep! He continued to have a great day. He maintained his good walking and getting up from a laying position. I also noticed he was holding his back in a straight line, instead of that U shape! He even has renewed energy! We also had some thunderstorms rolls through and he asked to be held. He’s never been scared of them before so not sure why today is different but I held my boy and consoled him. Warmed my heart so much!!
So up to this point he’s been on Rimadyl, Tramadol, frankincense and peppermint. I want to attribute his improvement to the oils. We’ve used the medicine combo before but never have gotten these results. So today I am contemplating slowly reducing his pain meds to see if the oils can actually sustain him. Again, the medicines are detrimental to his liver where as the oils may actually improve and restore his health. I’m also awaiting a shipment of Zendocrine which is a liver supporting oil blend to help repair the damage he already has.
I still am just in awe of how far we have come! That’s my Oscar! The Ultimate Rebounder!!! : )
I will continue to update as we ease off the medicine and report how well the oils are working for him.
(The black little pup is Poppie…my teacup poodle…she’s little…she’s fast and a professional photo bomber! )