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Hello all - I came looking here for help for my girl Xena, though I wish I'd seen this years ago. Ah, well...

To the beginning - she has very bad hip dysplasia, but I didn't know how bad till age 5 when I had the x-rays done - until then she went to dog parks every day (her favorite running partner was a Pharoh Hound!!! :eek:). Gradually over the years the hips deteriorated, then the knees - she was on senior food at age 5, supplements by 8ish. The playgrounds stopped between 7 and 8. She was always very active with an obscenely high play drive. She also chased a burglar out of the apt when she was 1.5, and got between me and a mugger at 9. She is now 13.


About 2.5 months ago she started to trip over herself and fall. I thought it was the hips/knees. Occationally she'd step down on her toes on the side with the injured knee - and I thought she wasn't picking her paw up high enough somehow. She ate, drank, and seemed happy enough so I just took it as another stage of old age.


Then I came home from work one day 2ish weeks ago and she could barely stand. Next morning, at the vet. He diagnosed her with Ataxia "Drunken Dog Disease" - a progressive neurological disorder that often affects the back end, causing them to fall all over like they're inebriated. It can have a gradual or sudden onset, and while it can have several sources there is no definitive cause or cure. My dog is not displaying any of the secondary signs very strongly to determine which type of Ataxia she has, though cerebular is suspected.

In the past few weeks it's gotten worse - she can't really stand without help, she drags her butt along. She thinks she's supposed to go INSIDE not OUTSIDE...and despite rugs, wee-wee pads and my best efforts the wood floor underneath is puckering from the piss while I"m at work. Most nights when I come home I'm cleaning for an hour or more.


She hasn't given me the look yet that she's ready to go, but since I can't be home all the time to clean when she goes she's covered in piss when I get home, and I know that's not good. This is my first dog, and I don't know what to do. Beyond that she's 77 lbs and too big for me to carry into the car by myself now (I'm a 145lb woman). I don't know what to do. I'm getting her back on Rimadyl hoping that it's the pain that's inhibiting her from standing/walking but the few steps she takes are almost sideways...which Rimadyl will not help. And if it is cerebular ataxia as my vet suspects my question becomes...when is it time to...you know... Because it's always fatal, though sometimes it can progress slowly. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case now.


:(


Thanks in advance for letting me write a three tissue post for my first time here.

--Xenas Mom.
 

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It sounds like you need to sling her for now.. u can buy them with padded handles or just use a sheet. Ypu put it under her belly just in front of her back legs and hold it like a sling to assist and steady her walking. Put a short leash on her to maintain control and guide her. This should enable you to rinse her back end off. Otherwise she can get urine burns and sores from ammonia.

Use a tarp on your floor, go to a thrift store and get absorbent towels and comforters and blankets to absorb and keep her comfortable. I say thrift store because you probly wont want to be using any of these after your shower. It may help to get rid of some hair on her hindend ..under her tail and anything else that is holding wet urine on her.

Hope it helps and Im really sorry about your dog. She sounds amazing and like a real loyal friend.
 

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dogs can get "drunk" on water , when they drink copious amounts at one time which then disturbs there salt ratio , an electrolyte imbalance.

I would recommend you pair these words Dogs Naturally magazine / ataxia and then go through the pages and pages of vet written articles that come up with some reference to ataxia .

I spent the better part of the day with the editor / publisher of this magazine today and she was saying that in the next issue Sept / Oct , there will be a new vet on board that will answer questions .

At least it will inform you so that you can ask better questions and get better results .

hope this is of some help

Carmen
CARMSPACK.com
 

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I'm so sorry to read this. I think you'll know when the time comes, and it seems like it's going to be coming soon. Even with her issues, Xena's had a wonderful life all the way to thirteen years old. She was a very lucky dog to have you, and I know you were lucky to have her. It would be a better world if we all had such a dog in our lives.

I hope you find peace.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Drunk on water...all the time? I'll keep an eye out for the article you speak of but forgive me if I look a bit dubious. Such an electrolyte imbalance in humans I'm familar with - it can be fatal and takes an insane amount of water, and the effects are usually fairly short duration (there was a radio contest to drink water for a Wii and the winner, a woman, died winning the Wii for her kids - it was all over the news at the time where I live).

As for the sling...I carry her butt now, that's not a problem but she won't walk off the porch. I get her onto the porch and she turns right around to go back inside - and as SOON as her hind end is through the threshold, she pulls her feet up and starts to piss in buckets even as I'm carrying her so I'm dragging her butt back outside - while she digs her front claws in resisting me pulling her back outside - she believe she's supposed to go inside....which cannot continue. My new house smells worse than a dirty dog kennel now. :(
 

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Many times the sling will not only be easier on you and your back, but allow her to feel much more steady and willing to walk. I was a vet tech for 25 yrs. I was just trying to help.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Tazor - I didn't mean it like that, sorry if it seemed so. :( I'll see what I can put together and try it.

Carm - thanks for giving the name, I'd forgotten. I'm dubious because she's not drinking buckets of water - far from it. And she's not outside - she resists every attempt I make to get her outside, even if just for a few minutes to try to get her to go. That's why I really don't think that's what this is. I'll read up as suggested regardless, thanks for the input. :)
 

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It could be some level of dementia. Linus (who left us at 15) NEVER did tell us he was ready to go and seemed happy till the end, and sometimes I wish I had made that decision for him as he died while I was away at work. He just got to where he would pee when ever he walked and then he got to where he could hardly walk and would pee and lay in it, and we went through two carpet shampoers...shampooing every night.

These are hard times I know -- I am afraid I can't offer any help. Just wish I had some answers. I like that magazine from what I have read though.
 

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your dog has achieved a very great age , especially for all the problems she had , so congratulations for your great care . The links to hypoanatremia were given to help explain what your vet did not , could not , and called Drunken dog syndrome.

wishing the best for you
Carmen
 

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Thats ok..I realize this must be so exhausting and emotionally draining. As I understand it she is experiencing lack of motor function and has weaknesses in her extremities, vestibular? along with a balance problem. Your vet is looking into the cause so therefore I was just trying to help make it easier for you.. maybe the sling will help, maybe not, but in my experience her fear of falling may be whats keeping her from wanting to go out. With you taking a little weight off and giving her a more secure experience..she may feel better about walking.

I sincerely hope for the best, and let us know how things are going.

Tazor - I didn't mean it like that, sorry if it seemed so. :( I'll see what I can put together and try it.

Carm - thanks for giving the name, I'd forgotten. I'm dubious because she's not drinking buckets of water - far from it. And she's not outside - she resists every attempt I make to get her outside, even if just for a few minutes to try to get her to go. That's why I really don't think that's what this is. I'll read up as suggested regardless, thanks for the input. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
your dog has achieved a very great age , especially for all the problems she had , so congratulations for your great care .
Thanks, I tried my best - I went to a reputable breeder and her parents were OFA good, so I got unlucky with the hips....but I got a wonderful temperment and was at least smart enough to know it and foster it.

I also belatedly realized that while I did about a years worth of research before I got her about the breed and raising/training a puppy...I never thought to read about what happens in canine old age, so stuff like this has left me like this -> :eek: I mean..hip/knee stuff I knew to expect but something like this? ....no. I feel like the first time parent that looks back and only sees all the mistakes they made, you know? Now that The Time is looming... :cry:

I'll shut up now. *Passes tissues around*
 

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Are you sure it's not vestibular disease? That's not uncommon in older animals and since they are dizzy all of the time, they often don't want to move at all.
 

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Can I be certain? No. But I went to a veterinary center with several vets on staff, including specialists, and that's not what they thought it was. Alas I must rely on the vets - I'm just a first time doggie mom.:shrug:

Though I do see it on the list of "other possible causes" on her paperwork. I'll call and ask for clarification in the morning, I"m supposed to check back in anyway.
 

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Although there are diff. Nuerological diseases, with diff symptoms, some just the back end, some all limbs, some wobbly...is it safe to say they all share a common denominator, and that being...nerves, spine, soft tissues, signals/brain?

Carm I went to the link, It makes me nervious as I see slight indications (early warning signs), that my guy has some issue brewing...
 

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Sorry to hear about your girl. My girl, Kiya, has ataxia but as a condition she has that was caused by her anti seizure meds. I have noticed she is getting a bit more wobbly, she's 8yrs old nowand has had bouts since 18 months old when she began the meds. Does she also drag her hind paws?
 

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just a little note...if she us knuckled under on her back end, it helps to put boots on her hind feet, just for walks so she doesn't scrape her hind feet and add more injury or sores. Again even if you pull up on the sling with 10-15 lbs of pressure it will greatly help her mobility.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Kiya she'll drag her foot occationally but the nails scrape, not her whole foot (which has helped keep most of her hind-paw nails down since I haven't been able to get her to the groomer to clip her claws).

I do have booties ready for that if it get to that point, thanks Tazor for the reminder. :)

Unfortunately aside from hip related issues and the occational bout of tummy trouble (she's always on the hunt for cat poop! :eek: ) she's always been very healthy, so Ataxia related to anti-siezure meds doesn't apply to me, but I have read that the meds can be modified (within reason) to work against the siezures and diminish Ataxial symptoms. Good luck Kiya...I couldn't imagine caring for a dog with siezures, holy cow.

Actually Tazor - you're not far from me, do you know of any groomers that make housecalls? Yellowpages.com for my general area (Just north of Philly), listed only one for Yardley and she wouldn't come.
 

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Perhaps some canine diapers would help you & she ?


Sling :
Dog Sling Harnesses | Dog Support Sling | Knee or Hip Recovery Sling

When my last GSD's CRF numbers were creeping higher even with treatment his severe incontinence and hind end weakness surfaced. we used a bellyband ( and added " feminine product " for absorption...i know i know tmi! ). That look he'd have that was so upset hed wet his bed and tinkled en route the door ( even though we NEVER said a word about it to him ). The diaper/bellyband, while silly looking, helped ( i think ) his dignity throughout his remaining time. Sure it took extra time to wash him each day but it meant extra time giving him some loving and attn. When in his sling we'd find a nice soft spot in the shade and bring along a fav chewwie and just plop down for as long as he wanted. My boy's eyes never told me he'd had enough. Unwaivering loyalty and adoration of a GSD i suppose to always be strong for you. Keep your beautiful girl's quality of life at the forefront. Putting their needs before our own emotional needs is the most selfless act we can do. Spend lots of extra time with her.

I hope bloodwork/xrays/ortho exam/neuro exam/etc can provide you a clearer picture and guidance moving forward with treatment.
 

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Ataxia is a symptom, not a disease or a diagnosis. Ataxia is simply a fancy word that means the dog is uncoordinated and unable to get their balance.

It sounds a lot like vestibular syndrome to me. It is common in older dogs, I had a dog who had several bouts of it, exactly the same symptoms as your dog. Acting dizzy, uncoordinated, "drunk", falling over. Thankfully it is not a painful disease, although some dogs will become very frustrated and grumpy when they cannot seem to control their own body.

The urinating in the house is NOT her fault, she has no control over it and probably can't even feel it happening. My old dog would poop in her sleep, wake up, sniff the air like "Who pooped? ...Oh my God it's ME!" And then struggle to her feet to get away from it, disgusted!

It may get better with time, but she may have several bouts with it. Vestibular syndrome comes on suddenly, improves gradually, then may come on suddenly again.

She may also have DM--Degenerative Myelopathy. Again, not a painful condition, but the nerves in the rear end begin to fail and the dog loses control of their hind legs, bladder, and bowels. Again, common in old GSDs. It does not get better with time, unfortunately.

To get her up and down and walking around, a sling around her belly will be useful. Make sure she is able to get to her water dish, as dogs can dehydrate quickly if they can't get up and around. Put a plastic tarp or waterproof liner and some towels under her so she doesn't get pee all over everything. Watch closely for diaper rash around her rear end and belly.

Most of all, give her LOTS of love. Lots of pets and kisses. She is slowly losing her body, and if there is some senile dementia going on, she may also be losing her mind, but she will appreciate your comfort and affection.
 
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