After ten years of being (almost) completely seizure free, my epileptic dog has started having seizures again. Only, they are not quite the same seizures as before.
She has idiopathic epilepsy, most likely from birth, but I got her at 3 and a half years so her history prior to that is a bit of an unknown. She had a seizure the day after I got her, and the day after that, so after some investigations she was put straight on the barbiturate medication Phenobarbital. That worked like a miracle and from then on the only time she had a seizure was when a dose was missed or when the vet decided to try her on a newer, apparently safer drug called Pexion, which caused several seizures per day! Back on the Phenobarbital, she was totally fine once more.
Her seizures, when she did have them, were ‘grand mal’ or more recently named ‘tonic clonic’ seizures. She would fall to the ground, convulse, foam at the mouth, paddle with her limbs, lose all consciousness, go rigid, and after a minute or so had passed she would get up and be extremely thirsty, tired and disorientated, often wandering around aimlessly until I picked her up and settled her down.
This time is rather different. She isn’t losing consciousness or convulsing, rather she has brief episodes – one per day- of just wandering around confused, apparently not sure where to put her limbs; on Wednesday she began walking backwards for a bit. She’s excessively tired and thirsty, so all the common signs are there, but no actual seizure. After a short while she returns to her relatively normal state, albeit a bit more tired than usual. The vet has checked her blood and advised to increase her Phenobarbital for a week and if that doesn’t help she might benefit from another drug on top such as Potassium Bromide or Gabapentin. Neither of them sound great because the last thing I want is for my dog to be too lethargic to do anything! I’m just praying the extra tablet works and her brain settles down. I have no idea what has triggered this spate of seizures but then she is an old lady at 13 and maybe age is just making her condition harder to control than before. We have been incredibly lucky that her epilepsy has been so well controlled until now.
But what a reminder that there is no certainty! Every day is a gift, each blessing a miracle. She has done so well and even now she copes with what must be extremely unpleasant experiences with complete acceptance in a way only our animal friends do. She doesn’t understand what is happening of course, all she knows is that she feels weird, maybe dizzy, maybe disembodied, but she hears my voice and is conscious enough to respond and feel secure. After a cuddle in my arms she relaxes and the ‘blip’ in her brain settles down. She needs me to be present to her and totally calm so that she, too, can be calm.
Writing this is also making me think about when I was less present and more susceptible to dissociative states and how frightening it was when I couldn’t feel grounded in my own body. Thoughts and emotions whirring around my brain at one hundred miles per hour would leave me feeling disconnected from reality, particularly as I have a very sensitive nervous system and end up physically ill very quickly through emotional and mental stress. Learning to be present has been an absolute necessity to improve my health. And it has come on in leaps as I’ve taken time to meditate daily and connect with my inner self.
Me and my dog are not dissimilar in our struggles. I’ve always believed she is affected by my emotional and mental state. She needs a calm life free from stress. Mostly I have been able to give that to her. Her life is a gift to me in so many ways and I just hope it continues to be for some years yet.