02 March, 2008

Further Update on Kiera's recovery

Well, it's been a month since Kiera was "diagnosed". In that time she has made a miraculous recovery. We have been to Hydrotherapy twice a week for a couple of weeks which has been great. It's been about a week since her last Hydrotherapy session and I've decided to take her back because I'm not really happy with taking her for a walk quite yet. Kiera can now walk, jog and sometimes run on her own. She doesn't need me to help her up or to walk anymore. She even wanted to start playing last week! We rolled the ball gently for her and she is fine to run after it but still has some trouble when she stops. Her legs just can't handle the pressure of running and then quickly stopping. When she stops to pick up the ball, her legs crumble underneath her and she collapses. It's this reason why I'm going to take her back to Hydrotherapy for a few more sessions.

I'll take this opportunity to reiterate - I don't think that Kiera has or had Coonhound Paralysis. Her recovery time is one factor in proving that. If she had Coonhound, I don't think that she would have been up and walking as fast as she has. Aside from the fact that we don't have raccoons in New Zealand. I now think that she has poisoned herself - with what, I don't know. We have Wandering Jew in copious amounts at home as well as Deadly Nightshade. If you are reading this because your dog has Coonhound and are hoping to find some answers, I hope that what I have said does help you in some way. The most important thing is DON'T GIVE UP! Stay as positive as you can and do everything that you can. Make sure that you keep up the Physiotherapy sessions. Try to get your dog to hydrotherapy if you can. Talk to people and always get more than one opinion from vets or specialists. I wish you well in your dogs recovery.

Kristina and Kiera

07 February, 2008

Is a Coon Hound really a Coon Hound if there is no test??

Well, I almost can't believe what has happened over the last few days! It's now Thursday and the past couple of days have been a series of amazing feats for Kiera.

Tuesday, I took her to my normal vet who was finally back from 5 weeks of holiday. He is one of the few Homeopathic vets in New Zealand and has been her vet for the past 4 years. Brett had been reading the specialists notes on Kiera and then listened to what I had to say about her health and lead up to her paralysis. He told me that Kiera was probably put in to the "too hard basket" because she didn't really fit into any category with her symptoms. He said that some vets diagnose Coon Hound Paralysis as a last option when in reality they have absoultely no idea what is going on. That made me come to some questions - if there is no test to diagnose Coon Hound Paralysis (or Acute Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis when the animal has had no exposure to a Raccoon) is it really what Kiera has? How many dogs have been diagnosed with it when it isn't what they have? Is there really some other form of treatment than rest and Physiotherapy?

Brett, in his usual way, didn't really care what the specialist vet had to say about what Kiera had or didn't have. He cares about correcting the symptoms he sees with complimentary homeopathic remedies. Basically, doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing. He prescribed a specific mixture for Kiera - Gelsinium and Plumbum mixed together at 30c (this is a measurement - not a temperature). The Gelsinium will help with her neurological transmitters and the Plumbum will give her strength in her legs. She takes it twice a day, well, I actually have to trick her into having it because she HATES it!!! There is alcohol in the base and she can't stand it. Putting a glass dropper into a dogs mouth who is shaking her head violently is not really the best thing to do. The way I get around this is I put the drops on my finger and rub my finger on her nose or around her mouth. Then she licks it off - good enough!

So, here is a breakdown of Kiera's progress.....

Monday, she sat up on her own and walked with only support on her hind legs after Hydrotherapy.

Tuesday, she took steps on her own after I helped her up.

Wednesday, she was able to get up on her own and took steps walked to her food bowl herself. Isn't food a great motivator??? We had some friends and their kids come over in the afternoon. Kiera always loves company so she was pretty happy. The kids went down to see our chooks and the chooks freaked out a bit because the kids were being noisey and walking around the coop. We had left Kiera upstairs and she was howling to come downstairs with us when she heard the commotion. I went upstairs and put her sling on her hind legs and she RAN down the hill to the back yard. I had to pull as hard as I could to get her to slow down.

She isn't 100% yet, but the leaps and bounds she is coming along in is amazing! I said to everyone, because Kiera went down on the anniversary of my Mom's death, I was determined that she was going to be walking on her own by Mom's birthday. Today is her birthday. We have Hydrotherapy in 2 hours, lets see what today brings.

This photo is what we saw driving to see Kiera at the vet the second day she was sick - was it a sign? The rainbow was in the cloud......

04 February, 2008

Hydrotherapy ROCKS!!!!

I've just gotten back from Kiera's hydrotherapy session and it is the best thing I have ever done for her!! She found it difficult but the people there were great and really supportive of her. She had a 5 minute session in the Hydrotherapy pool which is a swimming pool rather than a tank with a treadmill at the bottom of it. She put her little doggy lifejacket on and they hooked her up to the safety cable and off she went. Well, she didn't actually go anywhere because the safety stopped her but she swam for 5 minutes with a couple of breaks in between. Afterwards she was able to stand on her own - yay puppy!! We bathed her because the pool is chlorinated. She was able to sit up on her own with no help getting up. Then we put a towel around her waist by her hind legs to support her and she WALKED out of the pool area and into the reception area!! She wee'd all over the carpet in reception (whoops) which apparently happens quite often when dogs have hydrotherapy. I've been told they often do #2's as well (just so you know if you are going to take your dog...). After a small rest Kiera then walked (supported again) from reception to my car. I can't really believe it. Now that we are home she was able to get from the car almost down the steps but stumbled on the last one and gave up trying to walk all together. She is now enjoying a well deserved rest on the lawn in the shade. Next session is on Thursday so lets hope I can report on an even better outcome then!

Kiera's Physio sessions

Here is a description on how I do Kiera's Physio sessions. I have found that in 2 days of doing it, she is much more flexible in her toes (so important for walking!). She also loves it and normally falls asleep while I am doing it.

With Kiera laying on her side I sit with her paws facing me. I then slowly massage in small circles going from just behind her ears all the way down to the base of her tail and then all the way back to her ears. I do this 3-4 times.

Then I move to her shoulder and hip. I was doing them separately at the beginning but have found doing both at the same time is pretty easy. Again working in small circles, I make my way all the way around her shoulder and hip. Remember that their shoulder muscles connect to their neck so find the connection and massage this too if you can. I then work down both the front and back of her legs to her ankles and paws including her toes. I do this up and down a few times to warm her up.

Then I start to work on her motion. I work on one leg at a time and have both hands on her leg while moving it. I move her leg in an exaggerated simulation of a step with one hand on her mid leg and the other pushing against her middle toes using her nails. I keep the stretch going on her toes the whole time in motion. Once I have been working on her front leg for a few minutes, I then go to her hind leg doing the same as for the front.

Then I scoot her forward with one hand on her lower back and the other on her shoulders so I can flip her over. We have wooden floors so she is easy to scoot around. If you have carpet then perhaps put your dog on a towel or blanket, so they don't get carpet burn, and pull them around on that. To flip her, I take hold of her legs closest to the floor and slowly roll her over onto her other side.

I then repeat the same process as above for her other side. Sometimes I have to take a break in the middle because she demands a tummy rub by rolling onto her back. I figure she can get spoilt as much as she wants while she is sick - we are just happy to have her home and getting better!! This will probably come to bit me in the bum later on when she is better but I'll deal with that then.

Good luck with your Physio, keep it up no matter how tired you feel! Your dog will benefit from it and that is the end goal isn't it?

The Next Few Days - Milestones and Exhaustion!!

We have now gotten into a routine with Kiera which is great. Well, great for her, exhausing for me. I think I need to review how I am managing my time. I end up doing so much and them am so tired by the middle of the afternoon that I end up in tears.

I have started a diary of Kieras progress - both here and on paper. It is good to refer back to and I can take it to the vet so I don't forget (my memory is like a sieve on the best of days!). There is a checklist at the beginning of the days log and includes; bladder (I check 3-4 hourly), physio (3-4 hourly), her pills (she is on Antirobe for some toxins found on a blood test - possibly from eating cat poo - ick!), and if she poos. I tick things off the list and then log things in a diary format noting down the time. I've taken a week off work to look after her and thankfully our specialist offers a boarding service and I can drop her off before work and pick her up at the end of the day when I go back to work next week.

Kiera's symptoms have improved considerably since she came home from the vet. Her jaw has stopped chattering and her head has stopped shaking (similar to a Parkinson's sufferer). She can now sit up sternally (laying upright rather than on her side) from both her left and right side. When she was at the vet the shaking and jaw chattering normally stopped when I got her sitting sternally. The way I did this was to place her paws apart so they could support her once she was up and then raised her head and guided her up (similar to how you would guide a horses head into the direction you want them to go). Once I started the motion she was able to get herself up. Much easier than the first week when we had to lift her into the sternal position!!

Yesterday (day 2 of being home) we had a few milestones. I had been giving Kiera her Physio all through day 1. I will go into this in detail in my next entry. I have seen an improvement in just 2 days in how she holds her legs and paws and hopefully my technique will help you too. After her morning toliet, I put her on the front deck so she could watch the goings on outside and keep cool. It was time for her breakfast and I decided to see if she could support herself sitting. She had been pushing against my hands in Physio the day before so I thought - why not try it and see? I had to lift her into a sitting postition and once her paws were placed properly (she had been knuckling at the vet) she was able to support herself for a full minute! Yay Kiera!!! She was so pleased with herself.

Milestone #2 yesterday was when it was time for a toliet break. At the vet, they showed me a dog cart they had which Kiera was able to propel herself in. Only a little, but hey, anything is better than nothing at the moment! I have been researching dog carts on the internet and we are looking at the option of converting an old wheelchair, shopping trolley or baby carriage into a cart for her. To purchase one for her size would cost about $1200. In the meantime I have been racking my brain on how to get her up. A bath towel was the answer! I placed the bath towel between her front and rear legs which fit almost perfectly. Then I gathered it up and held on tight as close to her body as possible without it being too tight. Kiera is 38 killos (about 83 pounds) so she is pretty heavy for me to pick up. I lifted her up and found it was far easier than trying to scoop her into my arms or bundling her into a blanket and lifting her in it as a sling. She had a little trouble placing her feet at first because her front legs are much stronger than her hind ones. With a little coaxing though, she was able to stand with me supporting most of her weight. Man she was heavy!! Then we shuffle-walked from the front deck onto the lawn when she did her business. On the way back is when the magic happened. We got to the point where the lawn meets the deck and she was walking quite well so I slackened off on the towel a little and she took 2 steps on her own! As Homer Simpson would say - WOO HOO!!!

Kiera improved her steps again later that afternoon when my husband helped with the towel sling. Kiera took proper length steps though she couldn't take her weight herself.

I am now looking at Hydrotherapy and will call them today to see when I can book her in.

I must also say, if you are looking for more information on Coonhound please have a look at this blog; http://coonhoundparalysis.blogspot.com/ I have found it invaluable with the information provided. Thank you Bonnie and Gary for creating your blog and also giving me the inspiration to create my own one.

02 February, 2008

The buildup to and Kieras first week of being sick

This is a log of our experiences in dealing with Coonhound Paralysis in our dog, Kiera. I am hoping that this will help others dealing with this same affliction who are trying to find answers like me.

Here is a little background on Kiera:

Kiera is a 6 year old Black Lab - Rotti cross. She has been a relatively healthy dog aside from a growth on her tummy that was benign, and a couple of hot spots in mid 2007. She has a fantastic personality and touches just about everyone who meets her. She is my best friend after my husband.

About 2 or 3 weeks ago I took Kiera to our local beach for a morning walk. There is an estuary running down the beach which I never let her go in as there is runoff from farms going into it and other dogs use it as a toilet (yuck!). It was a uneventful walk, nonthing interesting on the beach for her to sniff or eat aside from the occasional pile of seaweed.

Later that morning after we got home my husband and I went out for about an hour. When we got home, Kiera met us at the gate looking like she had done something wrong. She is a relatively good dog but like all dogs, can get up to mischief. We thought that she had been eating rubbish because she came from the back of the garage where our rubbish bin is kept. Within the next 2 hours Kiera progressively got sicker and sicker. She looked like she had an upset stomach and wanted to throw up. I took her outside to see if she would be sick but she just stood there. She slowed down considerably and at the worst of it, she took a good 2 minutes to get from the kitchen to the lounge which would normally take less than 30 seconds. Because we thought she had eaten rubbish we didn't bother taking her to the vet. The next morning she was much better, still a little slow but nothing like the previous day. The day after that she was fully back to normal.

We had a long weekend and went away to visit some friends so put Kiera in the kennels on Friday morning. On Sunday morning we got a call from the kennels to say that Kiera wasn't able to get up when they went to check on her. The kennels took her to an emergency vet who said they thought she had Addisons but she wasn't displaying the full signs for it. They also couldn't test for it as they didn't have the facilities. Luckily we have a specialist vet in St Lukes which is meant to be one of the best in the Southern Hemisphire. The vet there said that they didn't think that she had Addisons. They said it could possibly be Myasthenia Gravis but that they thought it was more than likely Coonhound. I was completely blown away with this, we don't have Raccoons in New Zealand!!! When we finally got back to Auckland, we went to the Specialist to see Kiera. She was really happy to see us, was laying upright and wagging her tail. The specialist said that we would need to have Xrays, Ultrasounds and blood tests. The blood tests were to check everything from her Electrolites to her Protein level and weather she had toxins in her system. While we were waiting for her tests to come back we had to leave her at the vet. It was a VERY long week!!

Her initial symptoms were; paralysis in all 4 legs - we don't know how sudden because she wasn't checked between 10pm and around 7am in the morning but that is fast enough! Shallow heart beat, rapid shallow and laboured breathing. She could still wag her tail and raise her head. Excessive panting and she got very hot very easily.

While at the vet, Kiera stabilised. Iin the first couple of days she went from being able to support herself lying upright to not at all back to being able to support herself upright again. Her breathing became normal again. The entire time she was able to eat and drink very well though we needed to make sure that she sat upright because Coonhound can attack the muscles in the throat that stops food getting into the dogs airway which can choke them and cause reflux and regugiation. Most of the time she was happy enough but I could tell that she was very frustrated with not being able to walk or get up. She got quite depressed a couple of times at the end of her stay. It must have been so hard for her to have us come visit and then leave again without her! She wasn't in any pain though and that combined with her good spirits (most of the time) is the reason we decided to try to treat her rather than the unthinkable. She is such a strong dog normally and is very full on, it isn't in her nature to give up. Many people we know have said we are mad for spending the amount of money on her that we have just to get nothing conclusive. A dog that can't walk isn't much good is it?? Something in me tells me she will pull though and at the end of the day, I can always make more money, there will never be another Kiera. If she was in pain it would be a different story, I wouldn't hesitate in putting her down.