SAD UPDATE 2/11/2011: Darwin didn’t make it. I received this note from Amelia today: “It pains me to say that Darwin will be put down today. He developed strong epilepsy from the brain damaged caused by distemper and now his brain is pretty much fried.”
By Amelia Rohrmoser
Jan. 22, 2011
We can’t tell for sure when it started but at around four and a half months our Beagle puppy was diagnosed with the Distemper virus. Despair. All that was prescribed were vitamins and fatty acids to strengthen him, which would be followed in a couple of months by euthanasia. As any pet owner knows, this isn’t a treatment one can settle on. And so the search began for anything at all that could help our pup, Darwin. A name that come to think of it now, a month and a half later, suits him quite well.
The diagnosis and symptoms
Darwin went through a variety of situations from the moment he was born. At a month and a half the little rascal thought it convenient to feed from an adult Bulldog’s plate. Big mistake, he was bitten badly, and we think, not properly treated. This happened the day before we bought him and we were given nothing but a cream to apply to the wounds by his previous owner (from a “respectable” breeder). He had a very bad bite in his tail that we noticed was getting worse and worse and so we took him to our veterinarian. After several tests and X-rays it was clear that the tail had been broken and was quite infected. Amputation of half the tail followed. Since he was with antibiotics, vaccines had to be deferred, a very unfortunate business.
Runny nose started soon enough, eye infections, ear infections. We went to the vet almost every week where he was put on antibiotics, which kept him from getting his shots. Skin problems soon followed and our veterinarian started getting suspicious. He had a lot of dandruff and so had medicated shampoo, to be applied twice a week. His hair started falling a lot and soon after he got pustules mostly in the insides of his hind legs, but also in his stomach and neck. His paws developed keratosis. He may or may not have gotten diarrhea and vomit, but we never saw signs of it and well at this point we weren’t looking for it consdering we weren’t sure what we were dealing with. You see, Costa Rica lacks a lot of tools for veterinarians to work with.
The clarifying symptom came soon after. Seizures. Not full bodied as of yet, he only got the “chewing gum” type but could hold his bowel movements. Six seizures in 24 hours. By the 4th one he could hold it and began losing control over his bowels. To say he was scared would be an understatement. We rushed him to our veterinarian where he got the 7th seizure. He was admitted and put on heavy anti-seizing medication. The veterinarian made all kinds of tests that would unfortuantely take a while to give results, but he warned us the he was almost sure that it would be Distemper.
The first test came as a false negative a week later, and he hadn’t seized ever since he came back home. We got our hopes up, but they soon crashed when he got a full body seizure. We took him straight to the National University’s Hospital, thinking they might do something more for him, it was a University after all. But alas, they could only control the seizures. They released him 3 days after being admitted, and didn’t get a seizure at all after that.
The second set of tests came soon after and Distemper was confirmed. At this point his bone structure was beginning to get affected. His left hind leg now had a second growth line and was getting deformed. He began to avoid using it as much as he could.
The seizures left behind many consequences for him. He had tremors in the top of his head, all day long. He also began with an up and down movement of the head, kind of like a bobble head toy, something he couldn’t control and that never stopped. He stopped measuring distance and depth, something that affected his walk and made it very difficult for him to eat or grab things.
Our veterinarian had seen many distemper cases before and told us that there wasn’t much to be done. He sent us some vitamins to help strengthen him and fatty acids. And a warning of soon to come euthanasia, pointing out that soon enough he wouldn’t be able to walk or eat at all by himself.
As most people tend to do, when looking for something or trying to understand it, one turns to the Internet. I came upon a website which gave some natural solutions to strengthen the immune system, being this what is in charge of fighting off the virus. Oat tincture, or oatmeal if this was too hard to find, so we began feeding him oatmeal mixed with his usual pellets. It also mentioned some vitamins and plant to get him, but we stuck with only vitamins, the plants were hard to find. Still, this wasn’t a solution to our problem.
Soon enough we were lucky to find Dr. Sears’ treatment and Ed Bond’s webpage. I soon got in contact with Mr. Bond and Dr.Sears who were kind enough to answer my many questions and help me as much they could. The Spinal Tap was what should be done for Darwin, he was way into the neurological stage. Our hopes went up once more, it was a dangerous procedure and the chances of success at this point of the disease were slim, but they were better than the alternative.
We contacted our veterinarian soon after that and after a week or so the procedure was scheduled. Unfortunately for us, the La Sotta strain of the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) had been erradicated from Costa Rica, and therefore nowhere to be found. All we had available was the B1 strain. After Dr.Sears’ green light we gave it a go.
The procedure went along with no complications, and the days after that as well. He stayed in the hospital for three days, for pain handling. When he was released we were told by our doctor and by the website that he would have to stay in dark room with little to no noise, for a week or so. Darwin wouldn’t have that, once he got home he got out of his dark room and started walking along, trying to go out to the sun and play. We of course, stopped him from doing so, we let him roam around the house but prevented him from his usual sunbathing. In a day or two he was active and playful, no signs of pain or discomfort were much noticed, although we knew it was there.
He got his first bath almost a week and a half post-procedure, easing our worries, he had no seizures, no noticeable pain either. He was up and running in no time.
As is our poor puppy’s luck, two weeks after the procedure he got a cold and began teething, all at the same time. His appetite lessened considerably,
as did his usual active state. He didn’t want to walk, he didn’t want to play and he surely didn’t want to eat. His water consumption lowered radically, which worried us the most. Costa Rica is a very hot and dry place in January, the dehydration potential skyrockets. We started feeding him soups and canned food, and began giving him flavored saline solutions. Forcing him to drink from a needleless syringe. His weight dropped dangerously, so we got him on a dietary supplement to help him gain more body mass. Two weeks went by this way and now he is back to eating, playing and running, slowly but surely.
Now he is six a half months old and there has been great improvement in our puppy’s health, approximately one month after the procedure. His skin improved dramatically, in fact his has a beautiful and shiny coat of hair, no pustules noticeable. He can measure depth and distance now, his walking has improved and he has no problems grabbing things, or eating. He’s had no seizures, no infections and the keratosis has disappeared. His overall state has improved exponentially.
However, it seems the neurological damage was quite extensive and so the tremors remain, weaker though, than they were. The bobble head movement has also diminished greatly, but is still slightly there. His hind leg though, has been deformed and may continue to do so, the second growth line being already there. This is what troubles him the most, it hurts him to walk, he falls down a lot and it’s hard for him to stand up; but he’s a strong puppy and he doesn’t give up easily.
We’ve been doing some therapy on him to strengthen his muscles and help him with his leg so we hope, that in time, he’ll learn to live better with it. He’s still young, so we have faith that his brain will produce more connections and that eventually the tremors might disappear altogether.
Be that as it may, he’s getting healthier by the day and we can’t thank Dr.Sears and Mr.Bond, as well as our veterinarians, enough for Darwin’s improvement. We hope, that this tale of his misadventures through the Distemper Virus, will help other pet owners and give them hope, that no matter what one should never give up on them. With enough love and proper care, there is always a chance for them to get better