Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Nola Update

Wow...  It has been a while.  And unfortunately, a lot has happened with Nola over the past few months.  And none of it is good news, which is why I have been fairly quiet about things, here, on Facebook, and on the forum.

Nola had a major tonic-clonic seizure on November 17, 2011.  That seizure caused either a brain aneurism and/or a stroke.  We are not sure because due to costs and location, an MRI was not performed.  Nola stopped eating for almost an entire week and had to be carried outside and back inside again.  Due to the symptoms and the nerve issues that she was having in conjunction with this (knuckling of her paws and the inability to control her back legs), the vet felt that Nola had some pretty major swelling of her brain.  The vet and I discussed things for a very long while and decided to do a 'last ditch' steroid round and see if that turned her around.  If after 48 hours she was still not eating and not able to get around, we decided that it would be time.  We chose a hefty shot of dexamethasone, which is a strong, but fast (and short) acting steroid supplemented with prednisone. Nola was also very anemic, which could be contributed to many things, bleeding in her brain and not eating being the two most likely causes.

After the vet visit, I took Nola home and went back to work.  When I came home from work, the sight that I saw when I opened the door made me fall to me knees and weep.  Nola was up on her own feet and gave me a VERY watered down of what used to be her normal greeting.  I grabbed her up, held her, and just cried.  It was the first time in over a week that she had gotten up on her own.  She even ate a little bit of cottage cheese that night.

After a week, Nola went back to the vet for a follow up.  She was finally eating better and able to get around a bit better.  The vet was very impressed with her turn around and drew some blood to run a CBC panel on her.  Well, we got some very disturbing news with that.  Her red blood cell count was still very low, but her white cell count was through the roof.  The vet prescribed some antibiotics and we discussed iron rich foods to supplement Nola's diet, chicken livers being what the vet suggested (EWW!).

(I should also mention that before Nola had the huge seizure, she had been having some recurring infections, both ears, UTI, right ear, respiratory.  The first ear infections were so bad, she had to have emergency 'surgery' to clean them out and inject an anti-inflammatory directly in them.  The ear infection came on so suddenly that it was literally one minute they were fine and less than 8 hours later they were completely inflamed.)

Nola, a few days after her stroke/aneurism.  Notice her shaved ears and blank stare.

Well...  Apparently chicken livers are a delicacy here in the mountains of Virginia...  It took me going to three different markets before I found some.  Which, was a waste, because believe it or not, Nola would not touch them.  So, I ended up just giving her some of my spinach, which I chopped up and mixed with some cottage cheese.  She loved it (and so did Bella!).   

The next week, Nola went back to the vet to check her CBC panel again.  This time, her red blood cell count was still low, but higher than it was the previous week.  However, her white blood cell count had completely bottomed out.  She had absolutely no immune system.

Her WBC count bottomed out near the end of November.  Since then, she has been on Immunoregulin shots twice weekly to try and boost her immune system.  She has also been on about 10 different types of antibiotics to try and fight infection after infection.  During the middle of January, Nola lost control of her bladder functions for about 3 weeks.  During that time, she also had more trouble controlling her back legs and fell several times a day.  We stopped going to the vet weekly, and increased our time between visits gradually to once every 3 weeks. 

Over the past 2 weeks or so, she has regained control of her bladder and has had no leakage issues in almost a week and a half.  (YAY!)  She is still having a lot of issues with her back legs and has started to knuckle her front paws again, but not as often as she was before.  Nola has also snapped at me twice over the past week and a half.  For a dog who seriously has no idea that she has teeth, that was a major development.  The first time, she grabbed my pants and tore a hole in them.  The second time, she managed to grab my calf, but luckily did not break skin.  I did get a pretty nasty bruise, though.  She has also started to chase her tail almost every time that she gets up.  She started to do that about a month ago, but it has steadily gotten worse and more frequent.  She has also started to grumble and moan for no apparent reason.

Nola and I had our last vet visit on Friday.  The vet and I talked for a long time about everything that has been going on.  The vet feels that the brain tumour is growing and causing more pressure on her brain.  She warned me that things will probably get worse regarding her behaviour.  So after a long talk about options, it was decided that we would take Nola off all treatment except the phenobarbital.  We talked about treating the infections as they occur instead of doing a blanket treatment and trying to boost her immune system.  The shots had not helped so far, so I felt stopping them should not be an issue.

I know that it is only a matter of time before Nola's time is up.  But I want to make the time that she has a stress free as possible.  I want her to enjoy life as much as she is able.  I also want to make sure that I know when it is time for her to leave this world.  It is a fine line that we walk as guardians to such amazing beings.  I know that I would never be able to forgive myself if I gave up too soon or if I did not act quickly enough. 

I am sorry that I do not have a more uplifting post or better news.  But I know that most of you love Nola and have been curious to know how things have been going.  I apologize for not updating more or sooner, but I know that you guys understand the heartbreak that I have been going through.  Nola sends her love to each and every one of you.  And so do I.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Good News... The Bad News...

Well, it has been a long couple of weeks.

The good news is that Nola has been seizure free for over a week. (YAY!)


The bad news is that Bella & Nola tag teamed a praying mantis and the praying mantis lost...

Honestly, it was quite comical to watch the two of them go up against a mantis. The mantis definitely put up a fight and the dogs were very curious but wary. That is until Nola waited until the mantis was pre-occupied with Bella. Then she grabbed it from behind.

Unfortunately, I just wanted to watch them play with it. I was not expecting Nola's attack from behind. Otherwise, I would have saved the mantis before it was too late.

However, I was THRILLED to see Nola in action again.

She has improved dramatically since putting her on the Phenobarbital. She has had minimal seizure activity. And the last seizure that I witnessed was last Wednesday. She has also not had any issues with getting 'stuck' since last Tuesday. Her anxiousness has decreased as well. So even though she is still confused and still having issues with food/weight gain, I think that she is improved overall.

She goes back to the vet in a couple of weeks, so hopefully we will have a better idea of what is going on with her then. But, as of now, I am very happy with how things have progressed/improved. :)

In any case, I have been getting kicked off the couch recently...


Friday, October 14, 2011

A Nola Update...

Things have been quite rough over the past week and a half. But little by little, bit by bit, there seems to be small improvements.

There have been some side effects from the phenobarbital. She is having some ataxia (weakness and loss of coordination) in her hind legs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Vet Visit

So, Nola had her vet visit today.  Unfortunately, we did not leave the vet's office with good news. 

If you have not kept up with things via the forum or through conversations with me, here is a little background information:

Nola, over the past couple of months, has had quite a few disconcerting personality changes.  She has gotten quite a bit more anxious and never fully relaxes any more.  She has had several episodes of major confusion and forgetfulness.  She has been very lethargic and has lost interest in playing, toys, chews, etc.  She has also gotten very clingy and spends most of her time (when I am home) curled up either at my feet or beside me on the couch (she never has curled up at my feet before, and the couch buddy thing used to be very sporadic and for very short periods of time). 

The biggest concern for me has been the forgetfulness.  Not only does she forget little stuff, like that I am home or to eat, but several times over the past couple of weeks she has forgotten how to make herself sit or lay down.  It has been like she just forgot how to make her body do those motions and it takes her about 20 minutes of walking around and standing to remember how to sit/lay down. 

It has completely broken my heart to see my happy-go-lucky fur face turn into an anxious neurological mess.  And it breaks my heart even more to know that there may not be anything I can do to help her.

So the vet visit:

We went to the vet's office this morning.  And thankfully Nola LOVES the vet.  She is a very wonderful person who is understanding and very good with dogs.  We had to wait in the outside waiting room for about 10 minutes while they got our room ready for us.  There was a VERY friendly kitty hanging out and Nola was a very good girl and said hi several times and they even rubbed noses.  This was super cool for me to watch, because normally Nola wants to eat every kitty that she meets.  The kitty then proceeded to climb into my lap and sit there begging for attention until we were called back.  Nola was fine with that because she was paying attention to the birds that were in the waiting room.  (The vet's office is filled with tons of rescue animals, birds, rabbits, kitties, little yappy dogs...  The little animals are all caged so as to not get eaten.)

Once we were called back, Nola got weighed.  She has gained 3 pounds despite more exercise and less food and treats.  We hung out in the room for a bit while I got Nola very excited about the vet coming in to visit with her.  She was all psyched when the door opened...  But it was not the vet...  It was a MAN!  Then of course, Nola scurried under the chair to hide from the scary man (who, was, in fact, the vet tech).  After a couple of minutes of the vet tech and I sitting on the floor, Nola came out and met him.  She then got told how beautiful she was and had her temperature taken.  She was running a low grade fever.

After the vet tech left, I got out a beef rib for Nola to chew on, but she ignored it and looked out the floor length window.  She did, however, enjoy the cookies that I brought while we waited.  After a few minutes, the vet came in and let us know that her fecal sample was negative (she had been eating cat poop, so I wanted to make sure she was worm-free).  We also talked for a bit about everything that had been going on, and she agreed that we should do some blood work and get a urine sample.  So, Nola had some blood taken, she was very good and only squirmed a little. 

After the blood draw, Nola got to take a walk as a reward for being so good...  However, I did have to interrupt her potty break by shoving a plastic cup underneath her.  She was NOT okay with that.  She walked around with her tail between her legs for the rest of the walk.  Poor Nola.

On the way back in, Nola met a HUGE chocolate lab.  Unfortunately, the lab was not very well behaved and his owner was having a very hard time keeping control over him.  Nola was a little overwhelmed by his size and his exuberance, so I had to pick her up to take her back to our room. 

We had to wait about 45 minutes for the blood work and urinalysis results to come back.  During this time, Nola hung out under the chair I sat on the floor beside her playing a game on my phone.  It kept me calm, therefore keeping her calm.  She ended up snoozing for most of the wait.  

When the vet got back, she had some bad news.  All of Nola's blood work came back normal, even her thyroid function.  The only abnormality is that she has a mild UTI, for which the vet prescribed Clavamox. The UTI does not explain any of her symptoms except maybe the velcro dog symdrome.

The vet and I sat and talked things over for about 20 minutes or so, while she let me know what she thought and why she thought it.  While we were talking, the vet noticed Nola kind of space out and go through one of her confused spells.  The vet explained that Nola's behaviour and personality changes seem to be what is called complex partial seizures.  These types of seizures are usually the result of a brain tumor, which could explain a lot of the other symptoms that Nola has been presenting.  The only definitive diagnosis would be to have an MRI.  Since the MRI is quite expensive and would be pretty stressful for Nola, we have opted to not do that at this time.  Especially since a definitive diagnosis would not change how we handle things.

For now, the vet has decided to put her on a low dose of phenobarbital.  This will raise the threshold for the seizures and will hopefully lessen her symptoms.  We are going to give this a 30 day trial period and note any changes, for better or for worse.  We will then go from there.

Nola was such a great girl while we were at the vet's but she was most definitely VERY ready to head home.  She was so ready that she ignored another kitty that was in the reception area and tried to pull me to the door.  We did have to wait for the phenobarbital prescription to get filled before I could pay (OMG that was expensive!).  One of the little yappy dogs did come out to say hello to Nola while we were waiting.  It was interesting to see them interact, because Nola has never been around an adult dog that was smaller than her.  She did not really interact much with the other dog, but kept watching her rather suspiciously.  It was rather comical. 

Once we finished up our business, I took her on a quick walk outside the office and then we headed home.  She was pretty tired and zonked out for the ride.  When we got home, she was immediately accosted by Bella and was sniffed pretty much from nose to tail.  Once Bella decided she was okay, Nola drank some water, grabbed a mouthful of kibble and promptly curled up in her bed while I got ready to go to work.

It was a pretty stressful day for her, but she is now snuggled up next to me on the couch.

I, on the other hand, am doing everything I can to think positively about all of this.  My silly little goofball baby either has a seizure disorder, brain tumor, or both.  I love this dog more than anything in the world (with the exception of Bella, of course, whom I love equally as much), and it really does break my heart to know that if the phenobarbital does not help, there may be nothing that I can do to fix my girl. 

The only thing that I can hope for is to keep her as happy as possible for as long as possible.  


Friday, August 12, 2011

Sometimes We Party...

So I have been neglecting the Inus lately.  Not actually neglecting them, but since it has been so hot, we have not had much of a chance to do fun stuff outside together.

Today, that was supposed to change.  Unfortunately, due to the fires in the Dismal Swamp, we have been coated in a nice thick layer of smoke.  Neither myself nor Nola do well with smoke.  However, you do get to see a cool photo of what the smoke has done to the moon.  Interesting effect, if I do say so myself:
The Smokey Moon

So instead of going on an evening hike like I had planned, we had a nice Basement Party instead.

And typical of me, I forgot to bring down the camera to capture all the fun we had.

So, instead of cute Shiba photos, you get to hear all about it.

We started off by playing hide and go seek.  This is done with a spoonful of peanut butter (a favourite at my house).  I start off in one location, tell the dogs to 'stay', then I run go hide.  After I am 'hidden', I yell 'come' to the pups.  Then the fun starts.  They have to come find me.  But once they do, they get to lick some yummy peanut butter.  This type of fun generally can last up to 30 minutes, depending on how much peanut butter I have.

After I ran out of PB, we played 'go fetch the crack ball'.  This is a fun game in which I squeak a ridiculously annoying ball, throw it, and watch them race to get to the ball first.  If Bella gets it first, she brings it back and we play again.  If Nola gets to it, then it is time to play 'mum go fetch the crack ball from Nola'.  She really enjoys that game.  Haha.

After we got tired of the crack ball, it was time for dinner.  Since it was a special Shiba Night, the girls got something special.  Merrick's Campfire Trout Feast.  They LOVED it.  And in typical Shiba fashion, begged for more.  Which, much to their dismay did not work.

They did get some extra treats when we started the dance party.  This involves me having them sit, and then twirling my finger over their head getting them to 'dance'.  This is a fun exercise that is especially good for Nola's hip.  (apparently it helps strengthen her hip muscles)

After the dance party, we came back upstairs and had a nice sing along.  This ended the Shiba Night by me playing a little guitar and singing to the girls.  Nola sang along for about five seconds before she plopped down and passed out.  Bella just stared at me until she nodded off.

So, since I have no photos of our fun night...  I present you with a photo I took a couple of weeks ago.  I call it...


We Sing!

Happy Shiba Night!  :)

Friday, August 5, 2011


So I have been riding quite a bit lately.  And it has been a blast!

Road bikes are FAST.  However, they are also very bumpy.  It has been interesting getting used to not having a front suspension.  It has also been interesting getting used to those skinny tires.  However, I think I am getting better at balancing, going fast downhill, and maneuvering.

And while it is definitely no where near as thrilling as mountain biking, it has its place.  (Which is getting me through the next 10 1/2 months until I can get back on a mountain bike!)

Tonight, I went for a ride around Blackwater.  I got in about 22 miles and made it up Kemper Station without killing myself!  I also dodged some traffic since Jefferson Street was closed off due to Friday Cheers (by the way, the band SUCKED).

I ended up stretching at the Awareness Garden and took a really nice photo (with my phone) of my bike.  Here is SynSi (the road bike's name...  It took me almost 3 weeks to name it)!

11 - 1

Meanwhile, the pups have been battling the heat.  Nola has been having a terrible time, as she is still halfway in full coat.  We have been playing in the basement during the day, since there is more room to run around down there and it is cooler than outside.  Our morning walks have been cut super short, because even at 0600, it is 85 degrees and ridiculously humid.  B&N are completely ready for Autumn!

Nola has been a complete bum, which is so cute for her...

11 - 1(2)