Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canine Epileptic--and feeling horribly helpless

Today was horrible. This is more of a vent than anything.... 

I didn't sleep much last night because I wasn't feeling well and when I finally got to sleep (somewhere around 4 AM) I suppose I passed out.

Randy and his friend, Solomon

At 7:10 AM, our puppy started barking incessantly.  Waking up, I looked at the time and told my wife Randy needed his pill.  Randy is an 8 year old golden retriever who started having epileptic seizures last August.  I won't go into much detail but we brought him to a vet (not our primary one) and he prescribed phenobarbital.   So for the past five months, Randy has been getting pheno twice a day.  It seemed to help.  He had some mild seizures (his first two were grand mal, major episodes) but the drug obviously had reduced the intensity and there really wasn't all that much frequency. The pheno doses have to be given about 12 hours apart.  Last night he had his pheno at around 8 pm and I rather err giving him a little short of the 12 hours because he has had all his episodes in the morning.

Dietre and Randy

The puppy, Randy's best friend, was barking because he was telling us that Randy was in the pre-seizure phase and by the time Maryann got to Randy, he was working up to a seizure.  He spat out the pill the first time she gave it to him and she called me.  We THINK we got the pheno down at the back of his tongue the second time we tried.  But Randy went into a major gran mal episode.  After about an hour and a half he seemed to be recovering from that.  He went to the water bucket (five dogs, a bowl just isn't big enough) and drank an awful lot of water.  He wandered around the house restlessly (normal behavior after a seizure).  This went on for over an hour.  Feeding time (usually his favorite part of the day) came and he barely sniffed at his food.  A bit later he went into the living room and lay down--just wanting to be alone, I think.

Around 11, he started seizing again...another major episode with all the classic signs of an epileptic seizure.  Maryann called the vet around 11:30 to let him know what was going on.  They scheduled an appointment for three IF we could stabilize him.

At 1:30 he was still having seizures of various degrees.  I called the vet's office and spoke with the vet tech.  He told me we needed to either get the dog down there or one of us should come down to chat with the vet--again around 3:00.   All the while, in the background the vet tech could hear Randy whining and yipping--vocalizing which apparently isn't uncommon during these things.  This was the first time he'd done this.  I tried to stress the urgency to the vet tech and he basically blew me off.  EVERYTHING I have read about epileptic seizures in dogs has said that multiple and prolonged seizures are extremely dangerous and demand immediate veterinarian attention (this clinic has more than one vet).

After I got off the phone, I called our primary horse vet (who unfortunately had been out of town when Randy had his first seizure).  He was out of cell range but called me back as soon as he could make the call. I described what was going on and he was on his way (our "good" vets know that if we call, it's almost always an emergency).

When Dr. Jake arrived, he quickly evaluated Randy--who was still having a seizure and then gave him an IV shot of Valium/Diazapan.  This almost immediately stopped the seizure (besides being a tranquilizer, Diazapan is also an anti-convulsant).  Jake spent a half hour reading our log and discussing what had been done and how Randy had acted before/during/after previous episodes.  He told us Randy would be out at least 4-6 hours.  Then he made arrangements to return tomorrow to draw blood to test for pheno levels.  He also left us with 3mL of Diazapan in case he had another seizure.

Randy slept solidly for three hours and then started to come out of the drug induced sleep.  As he did, he started showing us signs of going right back into a seizure.  The vet called while this was occurring and the concern in his voice was definitely there. He told us to keep the dog quiet and in a dimly lit room.  It was far too soon to dose him again.

Over the next three hours, Randy drifted in and out of deep sleep.  For the first couple of hours he would show signs of seizure and then sleep again.  For the last (now) two hours, Randy has been sort of "out of it".  He must be exhausted.  He has a blink reflex if you put a hand near his eyes and his breathing is a bit elevated.

I spoke with the vet again about an hour ago and described what was going on.  We're all hoping that Randy will spring out of this enough that we can give him his pheno dose.  We can't until we know he has a swallowing reflex.  It's going to be a long night.

The ramifications of this entire day of epileptic seizures is unknown at the moment.  There could indeed be brain damage.  If he has another major seizure on the back of all that has occurred during the day, he could have a heart attack and die....   We just don't know.

Randy and Dietre on a better day

This dog is vigorous.  He's 95 pounds of energy normally.  Watching him in one of these episodes, indeed watching any creature in an epileptic mode, has got to be one of the most horrible feelings of helplessness a person could have.  All we can do is be there for him.  And we have.

I'll update you as we know since I'm publishing this.  Thanks for letting me vent.


  1. It sounds like what in a human is called status (?) epilepsy. In this the seizures can go on for hours. My youngest sister had this form of epilepsy in her later life. I hope that Randy gets better. It is not something easy to live with.

  2. Yes, Diann. It is called status epilepticus and although it hasn't been said, I think that's what is going on. I'm supposed to be sleeping. Maryann and I are going to take turns sleeping on the couch tonight--hoping he wakes up enough to get his meds. IF he snaps out of it, there are protocols we can follow. Only time will tell. Thank you, my friend

  3. Larry and MA, I cried thru this whole post. I had a cocker spaniel that had seizures like this and it is the most helpless feeling in the world. My dog had one going down a winding set of stairs, that had to be most the most traumatic thing I ever witnessed. I have no words of wisdom for you (other than keep him away from the stairs!) - just keep doing what you are doing, talking soothing to him, keeping him safe, and giving each other a hug (you and MA) for giving this beautiful dog the care that you do. You are in my prayers.

    1. Janice, thank you and thank you for the pm you sent MA (she let me read it). Randy knew he was loved and we knew he loved us, definitely a two way street. Maryann will share more with you. He's definitely still here.

  4. I am so sorry to hear this. I too had a dog who was epileptic many years ago. He was a young dog, so this was something I dealt with for many years. It's not easy. God bless you and your wife for sustaining Randy's life with such diligence.

    1. Darlene, Randy was our first experience with epilepsy. I don't want to have to experience it again...but will if needed. I'm happy for Randy that he doesn't have to go through them any more but I'd put up with them for ten more years to have him here still.

  5. I'm crying. I read this after your latest post, knowing that Randy didn't recover, and I'm heartbroken for you. I wish you comfort in knowing how much you loved him and he loved you.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. He will always be remembered and more tears will be shed. Right now, it's the little things that involved him that we are stumbling over.


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