Update 3/22 after vet visit.
Well, through no fault of the vets we know no more now than we did before. Madison has so much going on. She has other neurological symptoms besides the back end. She has some mild tremors around her head, and she has pretty noticeable head twitches when she relaxes. She also doesn't track thrown objects or walking people at all any more, beyond what you would expect from vision loss. She has no concept that things will continue to travel in the direction they were already going and actually loses track of us on walks-- when she is on a leash no less. So we are most likely looking at a combination of things. Whether it's brain issue + arthritis or brain issue + arthritis + DM is impossible to say.
We are starting her on fish oil for its anti-inflammatory effects, and milk thistle for liver support due to her seizure meds. We are also going to try a harness with a handle so we can help her if she gets wobbly on walks.
We are worried about our Madison.
About a year and a half ago, she had some seizures and we started her on seizure meds. Predictably, she was a bit unsteady on her feet when she started them. However, she never completely returned to normal function and I wasn't entirely happy with how she was doing. The seizures were under control, but she didn't move quite the way she used to.
The problem improved to a new baseline, but then last summer she started getting worse. She was a bit reluctant to walk at times and had some trouble with steps. She had a thorough workup at the vet. I was leaning towards something neurological, but the vet seemed to think orthopedic. Maddie's nails were wearing more on the right rear and right front from not picking up her feet correctly and x-rays showed arthritis in her hip and spine. She passed the foot flip test, correctly righting her feet when her toes were turned under.
We started her on Metacam as needed and that helped a bit for awhile, but over winter we noticed some things I don't like. Her back end seems very unstable, far out of proportion to any pain she may have. I have had dogs with bad arthritis before and she does not move like an arthritic dog (she isn't starting stiff and working out of it, or being careful). She will tip over and get right back up with a grin on her face, or confusion, but never pain. She runs diagonally instead of forward, as if she doesn't know where her hind end is.
She started wearing her nails worse once we walked on pavement after the snow melted. I e-mailed her breeder to see if she had any experience with nail caps and got an answer that I was not hoping to hear: Maddie's litter brother is showing early signs of DM.
All the pieces clicked into place. I suppose it COULD be severe arthritis compressing the nerves in her spine yet not giving her much pain. It can happen that way. But the other day I did the foot flip test again and Maddie failed miserably. Bend her back paw under and she makes no effort to right it. She just stands on her knuckles. The right leg is worse than the left; sometimes she will correct the left and sometimes she won't, and the left nails are not wearing.
We have a vet appointment on Saturday. We may learn more than.
The bright side is that she is happy, bright, eager to do things, excited about treats, and still interested in her toys and barking and hopping after other dogs. She is sweet, upbeat, and loves being handled so if it comes to it, she would be a good candidate for a cart.
But she is only 10, and a young 10 at that.
3/22/15 update at top of original post. She now officially needs a spreadsheet to keep track of her meds and supplements. :-)
Oh Beth...I'm so sorry for the both of you. I remember when Bella had stomach problems years ago and she had shots and meds...I had to write them down and mark them off so I knew I gave them. Not fun!
I'm sure you already know this Beth...but do make sure you are checking if/when she gets new meds that they don't interact negatively with the ones she's already on.
Thanks for the reminder Jane. I am sure to ask whenever we add anything new. My vet is pretty on top of things. The reason she takes Metacam instead of Rimadyl is that Metacam is the only NSAID that is processed more through the kidneys than the liver, and her seizure meds are already hard on her liver so the vet didn't want to add more work for the liver.
Really she is on two meds and the rest are supplements. Unless the clostridial infection flairs up and then she is on an antibiotic as well.
2 meds aren't so bad. Are the supplements more like the supplements that people take?
Yes. She gets several:
Glucosamine 2x day for joints
Fish oil capsule 1x day for inflammation
Probiotic (doggie version) 1x day to help prevent Clostridium recurrence
Pumpkin in food 2x day also for Clostridium
Milk Thistle (will be starting soon) 1x day for liver support
Seizure meds 2x day
Metacam (anti-inflammatory) 1x day most days, with occasional break days
Antibiotics if Clostridium recurs 2x day
So sorry Beth! I hope it helps her live a good life.
Thanks. It's hard not knowing and so many symptoms overlap. She seems to have some gait abnormality in the front as well. And then she has two different tremors: She has "intention tremor" where her head shivers a bit when she is intently looking at a treat. And she has a recurring twitch in her head and shoulder when she is relaxing/dozing off. Both can be signs of brain tumor in the cerebellum, apparently. Which can also lead to motor coordination issues.
So it's hard to know what is going on. If it's primarily the brain tumor and arthritis, then onset of problems was around the time we started her on the seizure meds about a year and a half ago. And if it is primarily DM, then onset is more like late last summer. While in the end the result is the same, if it's the first scenario it means she has periods of stability marked by decline as the tumor grows, and then stability again. And if it's DM it means she has gone downhill steadily for 8 months or so.
We will keep doing what we can as long as she's happy. We'll let her tell us what is working for her.
Aw man, my Pem's name is Madison too so it makes me super extra want your dog to get better.
Good luck in figuring it out. Don't give up researching! You might be able to put all the pieces together :)
Every day is a gift.
Thank you, John. You are right. I try hard to remember that. Works some days better than others, but I'm learning.
Beth, Im so sorry to hear this. It is so hard when our pets aren't feeling right. Prayers for you all.