I took Ellie to a neurologist today to have her seizures evaluated since they're getting progressively worse despite continuing to increase her medication. General practice vets had previously diagnosed idiopathic epilepsy; the neurologist said that's unlikely given the results of Ellie's neurological exam. Their diagnosis is an autoimmune brain disease.

Ellie has been started on prednisone. We'll know within the month if she is responding to treatment, but the prognosis is not good. The vet said that, if we're very lucky, Ellie will have "a couple more years" but probably not. She seemed to think the disease had already progressed quite far, but that steroid treatment was worth a shot.

I've known for awhile that Ellie's seizures weren't typical of epilepsy, and the rush of strange medical problems and behavioral changes before they started seemed connected (even though several vets told me they weren't). I thought we would get a diagnosis other than epilepsy, but I wasn't prepared for this. I'm devastated. Ellie will be 3 years old in 10 days. It doesn't seem right or fair that she's suffering from this terrible illness.

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Comment by Beth on August 19, 2015 at 10:04am

I am so, so sorry that you are dealing with such a devastating diagnosis while Ellie is still so young.  You are right, it's not at all fair.

I agree you don't want to have false hope, but also remember that with things like this there is a tremendous amount of variability in course of progression (or remission).   So there is room to hope without being in denial.

Enjoy every day.  I know it's hard but try to remember that all she knows is how she feels today.  She doesn't know how long she is meant to live or what life is meant to be like.   Dogs live in the moment.  I know it's not the same circumstance because Maddie is 10, but when she started going downhill I felt horrible every day about it.  And then I started looking at her FACE instead of her failing body, and I realized I saw a smiling, happy happy dog.   And I decided to take my cue from her and enjoy each day for itself and not think so much about what was coming. 

Hugs to you.

Comment by Becky Focht on August 19, 2015 at 8:39am

Heather my thoughts are with you and Ellie.

Comment by Heather & Ellie on August 15, 2015 at 1:19pm

I understand what you're saying about keeping a positive attitude, but the only "miracle" we can hope for is that the diagnosis is wrong. There is no cure for the non-infectious disease; there is only treatment to extend life. And there are really nasty side effects to suppressing the immune system to this degree and this length of time for a lot of dogs. I appreciate what you're trying to say, but denying the reality of what we're up against won't do us any favors. Am I hoping for some good news, like that it's a bacterial infection they can treat? Absolutely. But to expect it after being told it's extremely unlike given our region and Ellie's vaccinations is to have my heart broken all over again. Right now, I'm focused on enjoying every good second with Ellie.

Comment by Vicky Hay on August 15, 2015 at 10:22am

Anna's right. I also have friend who's on prednisone -- she has severe asthma -- and it helps her to have a normal life. She has not complained of any severe side effects from the stuff.

Also, Walt the Greyhound once slipped on the tile floor and hurt his back. He was so crippled that he couldn't eat. The vet tried several things, none of which worked. I actually had driven him back to the vet to be put to sleep, since it appeared nothing was going to resolve the pain. The vet said, "Look, let's try one last thing: let's give him prednisone." He doped the dog up mightily on the stuff. The result was amazing.

Walt quickly recovered, and the disability never returned. If there were any side effects from the stuff, they weren't noticeable to me, so presumably they must not have bothered him.

If it's an infection, is it possible they could treat it? Just because a disease isn't common in an area doesn't mean it's non-existent. With the changing climate, pathogens are moving into new areas just as other creatures are, seeking climates that fit their evolutionary niches.

Comment by Anna Morelli on August 15, 2015 at 9:33am

Don't worry about the Prednisone being dangerous. Yes you don't want to suppress the immune system unless for good reason, but I have a human friend who's had a lung transplant and has had a good, normal quality of life for the past three years although he's had lots of Prednisone and other powerful immune suppressing drugs to avoid rejection... Try to keep a positive outlook on the causes and treatment options.  Medicine is not mathematics and many have had good outcomes, or better than expected outcomes. Take it one day at a time, Corgis have angel help too.  Hugs to you and pets to Ellie.

Comment by Heather & Ellie on August 15, 2015 at 8:31am

Thank you all for your kind words. I'm working through my feelings about this. I'm not crying every time I talk about it anymore. It helps that Ellie has had a good day-and-a-half to cherish.

This disease can be caused by an infection, but it's not common in our geographic area. They're doing blood work to rule out a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection though. If it's non-infectious, this is considered an idiopathic disease, meaning there is no known reason. From what I've read about other conditions, that's a common problem with neurological conditions since we can't use a living brain for invasive research. This is a form of encephalitis. Even in humans, a severe case is a life-threatening condition. In addition to the disease itself, suppressing the immune system, which is the only course of treatment, is dangerous.

Comment by Vicky Hay on August 14, 2015 at 11:37pm

That's terrible news. Did the vet give any clue to what might cause such a thing in a young dog?

Comment by Abbey & Anne on August 14, 2015 at 9:15pm

Such a sad situation! I hope you and Ellie have many memorable  days! Blessings to both of you!

Comment by Michelle Cox on August 14, 2015 at 3:51pm

I am so sorry to hear this. Just hug her and love her for as long as you can.

Comment by Alison Prasavath on August 14, 2015 at 3:23pm

I'm so sorry to hear this. It just breaks my heart as I know your heart is breaking as well. I pray the prednisone will help Ellie and you will get to spend more time with her. Prayers for you and Ellie

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