I’m really angry right now and have been since Thursday of last week. I know I sound like a broken record but I wonder every time Riley suffers from something new why he just can’t catch a health break? What did he ever do to deserve all the health issues he suffers from? In a way I blame myself because of the auto-immune conditions he has. I beat myself up over not researching vaccines before just playing follow the leader by doing everything according to the law such as vaccinating my dogs. Well, here we are again, another health scare for my boy.
This past Thursday mid-morning Riley went for his vitamin B shot which is part of his treatment for his IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). We got home and I leashed him and his two sisters up for a walk. I noticed he was walking slower than usual. Normally all three of them are neck and neck out in front of me but not that day. He lagged back by me which told me he wasn’t feeling well. He asked to go home sooner than he usually does as well. I was watching him and every now and then I thought I saw just a very slight limp in his left rear leg. Of course my first thought was that his arthritis was acting up or that his hips were bothering him and the limp was so slight I couldn’t even be sure.
So, when we got home I called his internal medicine vet to see what I could give him for his pain because that’s what I thought was going on. He can’t take Rimadyl anymore because his liver enzymes are out of whack and Rimadyl can affect the liver. While I was waiting for that vet to call me back things started going downhill fast. He was beginning to sway in the rear end when he walked and he was not doing well with his balance either. I called my regular vet who said they could see him at 4:30 that afternoon.
By the time we arrived at their office Riley was having a lot more difficulty and his walk was really strange, very stiff in the front and wobbly, swaying in the back. He couldn’t balance right. One of the techs came outside as we were walking up and asked me to wait right there, she’d seen me walking up and told me that she wanted the vet to see him walk because it was obvious something was wrong. A couple minutes later both the vet and and the vet tech were watching Riley walk and both said “This is general (meaning an all over thing) that’s not just his hips or just arthritis.” The vet came down to meet me and said “This is spine or brain, you need to get him to the neurologist at the eVet immediately. Do not delay one minute.” He mentioned Degenerative Myelopathy which is another German Shepherd thing and I flashed back to the one German Shepherd we’d met years ago that was suffering from DM. It was pitiful and so very sad. This poor dog had no use of her rear legs and had to drag herself around with her front legs. Why her owners never got her a cart (doggie wheelchair) to help her get around I’ll never know and I remember being angry at them for allowing her to have to get around as she did when there was help to be had for her. Panic set in to say the least and I rushed him the 30 miles to the eVet having trouble seeing through my fear tears.
They took Riley to the back and left me helpless in the waiting room, my mind was racing and I couldn’t stop crying. I was scared to death and all by myself. A very kind lady came over to me with a box of kleenix and put her hand on my shoulder. She was waiting for and worried about her own dog but took the time to come and comfort me.
About 30 minutes later a tech came out and said they needed to keep Riley overnight so they could do some tests and have the results ready for the Neurologist in the morning. Riley hates being without his Mom, he’s a homeboy and is not comfortable anywhere else but home. He’s also had to stay the night at so many vets he’s almost afraid to walk in the door even for a checkup because they might not let him go home with his Mom. They led me to a room so I could visit with him for a few minutes. I could see his entire front chest and leg area was swelling up and he was getting very stiff. I told him I’d go home and get him some dinner and his Carley who is our granddaughter and his second favorite person in the world. When the tech went to lead him away he backed himself into a corner and you could just see the fear in his eyes and the desperation to not leave him here again. They almost had to drag him away and my heart was breaking for his fear.
I rushed home picking up Carley on the way. We ran to our house and got his dinner and all his night time medications and then rushed back to the eVet. By then it was about 9pm and my boy was even more swelled up and stiff than he was an hour and a half before that. He didn’t want to eat he wanted to go home but Carley fixed him some little bites of chicken sandwiches with his dinner in the middle. In other words, she used the plain grilled chicken we picked up from McDonald’s on the way back as the “bread” and put his raw dinner in between sandwich style and he ate this. We gave him his “after dinner mints” which are his nightly medications. By then it was after 10pm and she had school the next morning so we had to get her home.
It was going to be another long night for me. The thought of him having DM and having to get around in a doggie cart was heartbreaking. I wondered how I would manage, but knew I’d find a way. The longer the night the angrier I got because it’s like one thing after another health-wise for my boy. By 6am I was standing in the shower crying, I guess I was trying to wash my anger away but it wasn’t working too well. Over and over all I could say is “Why him? Why can’t he catch a break? What did he ever do to deserve all this crap?” And then my Dog Mom switch flipped and I started to fight back with “He’s only 8. You’re not taking my boy, you’re just not!”
The eVet called about 7:30 telling me the neurologist was going to check him over next and would call me shortly. I learned in that phone call that his symptoms had worsened overnight, he was falling over sideways and having dizzy spells and his eyes were doing strange things. About a half hour later she was on the phone telling me that she felt he was suffering from a bad reaction to his Metronidazole which is an anti-biotic/anti-inflammatory medication for his IBD.
She said that what she’d like to try is to put him on a valium drip and that if MT was what was wrong with him we should see improvement quickly. I asked her how long was quickly and she said almost immediately. I gave her permission to go ahead with it and she said she or one of her techs would call me soon.
About 45 minutes later the phone rang. I was afraid to answer it. He was coming around! His symptoms were subsiding, he was beginning to stand and walk and his dizziness was lessening. They said I could pick him up at 3:30 that afternoon. I learned later that day that Metronidazole Toxicity is again one of those not so well known health issues that not a whole lot of vets are familiar with and I was soooo grateful this neurologist did know about it. She’s my wonder vet!
I arrived at 3:30 and a tech came out to the waiting room. She had a fancy colored brochure with her advertising a harness with handles that would help me to help Riley get around. I freaked and looked at her almost screaming and said “I was told he was getting better so why does he need this contraption?” She quietly told me yes he’s getting better but he’s still having some trouble and they thought this harness would be helpful. That he has been improving but it will still take some time to get all the Metronidazole out of his system. In the meantime, he would need help. After a few minutes of thought, he’s 8 years old, he’s got two bad hips and I’ve already been lifting him in and our of my SUV for quite some time. I decided the harness might be a good thing to have. So, she took a harness from the drawer and said she’d be back shortly with my boy. There I sat on pins and needles.
Suddenly Riley came through the door straight to me but he was walking real funny. Ohmahgosh! I was horrified and for a moment thought they’d brought me the wrong dog! Who was this dog? Certainly not my Riley! He was about half his height, both his rear and front legs bent almost in half and he appeared to be crawling rather than walking. But he was ecstatic to see me of course! He couldn’t get to me fast enough. The tech handed me the leash and he turned around and was on a mission to home and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I watched him walk/crawl through a mixture of happy, sad and panicked tears. I had all kinds of restrictions to follow in his discharge instructions.
I got him home and in the house, glad I’d gone along with the harness because he could not get up even the two stairs to the door on his own. He made a b-line for the back yard and pee’d a lake then wanted in the house. He’s doped up on valium and just wanted a big drink of water and to go to his crate where he crashed for several hours and I got a much needed nap.
One of the requirements is to crate him most of the time until he finishes up the 5 days of valium caps they gave me. He has to rest and be as calm as possible especially since this involves his entire nervous system and they still had not totally ruled out other things such as spine or brain issues. When I went to get him he stepped out of his crate standing almost his real height and the crawling effect was gone! He went outside with a little bit of help, came in and had some dinner and then he went back to sleep in his crate. A few hours later I went to get him and he was standing tall! His real height, albeit still a bit wobbly and still unable to shake his head normally. He could turn his head somewhat but not shake it like dogs do. It’s like in slow-mo and he still had a limp and a sway in the backend but he was definitely doing better!
He’s steadily been getting better each day, although he’s pretty quiet on the valium. He still can’t shake his head like a dog but he’s walking just fine and everything else seems to be near or at normal. I took the harness off him because he doesn’t need it anymore. He’s eating and drinking fine and happy to be with his family. He still has to be kept quiet so we’ve taken precautions to help him with that. He’s not allowed near any windows so he isn’t in protect mode every time someone walks by the house and he’s monitored out back so he’s not doing any fence guarding. And the doc has said he should never wear a collar again, only a harness. I have to ask her why on that and I will when we go back for his recheck on Thursday. I am assuming it’s because they haven’t yet ruled out brain or spine involvement and they don’t want any pressure on his neck just in case.
I’m so very grateful for this vet who knew what to do and of course hope that this is the end of it and the end of his health problems. He’s got quite enough to deal with as it is.
In talking about this with some other German Shepherd lovers I learned that although most dogs tolerate Metronidazole very well, there is the occasional dog (like anything else) who have bad reactions. As compared to some symptoms I’ve heard about, Riley’s were scary enough but not as bad as some of these other dogs. Google “symptoms of metronidazole toxicity in dogs” for more information and you should learn that the symptoms vary. I’m sharing this to help others become aware of its existence and that in Riley’s case his symptoms were a lot like a dog suffering from Degnerative Myelopathy and the only thing good about DM is that the dog is not in pain because they can’t feel their legs and eventually, their rear end either.
I don’t know at this point if Metronidazole Toxicity is an auto-immune condition but his Irritable Bowel Disease is and he wouldn’t have been taking Metronidazole if it weren’t for his IBD (he’s off it now). So whether the condition is or is not auto-immune as far as I’m concerned (and remember I’ve got no veterinary training) they must be related somehow.
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