Monday, August 9, 2010

Eat Dessert First

"Life is uncertain; eat dessert first." All of us have heard that statement, but it doesn't really have meaning until something happens to emphasize just how uncertain life can be. We began to understand several weeks ago, and it's very sobering.

In late May, we noticed that Feathers, our Australian Shepherd, Guardian of Hearth and Home, and always before in charge of Security, was visibly squinting. Her beautiful golden eyes, so evident in a photo taken earlier this year, were no longer visible. The pupils of her eyes had dilated so much that no iris color showed...just deep black pools, and the pupils did not respond to light. Although light-sensitive, she was fortunately still able to see.

We took her to our regular vet, who could find no reason for the problem and referred her to a veterinary opthalmologist. He said her eyes were fine, and suspected that she might have been exposed to a plant or chemical that caused the pupils to be non-responsive. He suggested that we wait a week or so to see if they returned to normal. They did not and we went back to our regular vet for more tests.

At about the same time, Feathers began to be unsteady on her feet, and her regular gait changed, causing her to stumble frequently. Talking to the vets and doing research on-line made us realize just how many conditions, diseases, and circumstances might cause or contribute to her symptoms. Among them were Myesthenia Gravis, Meningitis, brain tumor, various parasites, and several others, all of them serious, but fortunately treatable in some cases. When our regular vet wasn't able to pinpoint the cause, we were referred to Dr. Locke at Central Texas Veterinary Specialty Hospital.

Dr. Locke ordered more tests, including a spinal tap, which pointed to Meningitis as the culprit. Feathers is now undergoing treatment, and we hope that she will be able to recover at least partially. So far, her pupils are still dilated, and she suffers from some loss of mobility. She still wants to go on walks with us, though; we just have to make them short. She wears her sunglasses, and, if we're walking on pavement she wears her trendy boots to protect her toes when she stumbles.

The most serious aspect of the disease at this point is a condition called Megaesophagus. This is a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail and it cannot propel food or water into the stomach. Feathers has this condition to some degree, so we're making sure she eats and drinks from an elevated bowl, and that we keep her head and chest vertical after eating. If we don't do this, she can regurgitate her food and water, and may aspirate it as well, leading to aspiration pneumonia. She seems to be having less problems with this in the last week or so, and we're hopeful the condition is improving.

So, in accordance with our "Eat Dessert First" philosophy, we're off on another adventure. We have just left Texas and are headed north to find some cooler temperatures. (Of course, the Bagley Pack members are with us, including our Feathers!) We'll keep you posted as we travel.

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