Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
There isn't much scarier than witnessing a seizure. Although seizures may seem like an eternity to owners when their dog is suffering one, they are typically well less than a minute when timed. During this time the dog is unresponsive, lying on its side with rigid muscles, often panting at a rapid rate, and his body temperature has the potential to reach a dangerously high fever that could have permanent implications. That is why when I got a call from someone in Buffalo dog sitting for one of our clients late on a Friday night, I was hoping they could find an emergency clinic much closer to their house to treat Riley's seizure.
They called back and said they were heading to Watkins because no other clinic seeing emergencies was closer, and my only thought was that I hoped the seizure would stop on its own, otherwise Riley would have been in "status epilepticus" for an extremely dangerous amount of time, likely well over an hour since its onset by the time I could see him. Unfortunately, when they arrived he was carried through the door still rigid, trembling, unresponsive, and his body temperature was 106 F, when a normal temperature might be around 101 F. To make things worse, his seizure was not responding to the drug of choice, even after two doses. We contacted the owners explaining the problem Riley was having, and they were faced with having to euthanize Riley without even being able to see him or say goodbye since they were out of town. I did have one other potentially dangerous drug that could be used in cases of refractory seizures, but due to the duration and severity of his seizure, I wasn't sure it would work. Even if it did, would he immediately relapse when it wore off or could he have permanent damage? I administered the second drug hoping for the best, all the while icing his body to bring his temperature closer to normal. The medication seemed to relax him, and his body temperature had reached its normal level within a few minutes, but just as we were about to breathe a sigh of relief, Riley's legs began twitching again, and I had to administer the absolute last dose of medication before it would have reached a potentially lethal dose. We had hit the point where the situation was out of our hands, and Riley's seizure would either have to respond, or we would have to euthanize him to relieve his suffering.
Much to Riley's relief as well as ours, he finally was relaxed and anesthetized, and only time would tell what his physical and mental state would be when the medications wore off. We discussed the ideal situation which would be to bring him to the St. Cloud emergency clinic for 24-hour observation since it was already in the wee hours of the morning, but the decision was made to take him home, and if the seizure relapsed, to bring him back for euthanasia. If the next morning he appeared to have suffered permanent damage that would prevent a reasonable quality of life, they would also bring him back for possible euthanasia.
I'm thrilled any time the alarm clock goes off before my phone does the nights and mornings I'm on call, but I felt particularly good when it was the alarm waking me on Saturday morning. That was until shortly after 8 a.m. when I saw an addition to the morning's schedule: "Riley" for euthanasia. He was again carried in, but this time he was quite relaxed, unable to carry his weight, and was slow to respond to sight or sound stimuli. I asked his caretakers if they would mind waiting to euthanize him until he had some more time to possibly recover from the ordeal. I wanted to observe him through the weekend because I saw a glimmer of improvement and wasn't convinced that the deficits we were seeing would be permanent. They agreed, and over the next day and a half I saw Riley make steady progress until Sunday night when he was picked up as good as new, even jumping into the bed of their truck before I could lift him! With daily medication, Riley should be able to lead a normal seizure-free life. Miracles are real.
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