Niko overcame a lot of challenges in his life, apart from being a poor stray puppy left unclaimed at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. The positive side of all his challenges, is the ‘been there done that’ part that I can use to help others faced with some of the same. Not to mention that it really shows what a strong and brave boy I had.
Niko’s first challenge was an injury that happened well before he came into my life. His left eye had been punctured, likely by a litter mate’s tooth or toenail. It healed and he had vision, but it was not not clear. This injury is what we believe led to his glaucoma in that eye as a mature dog.
His eye began to bulge in the winter of 2002. That spring we saw Dr. Kelley Corcoran and she gave us 3 options. One was to remove the eye and close the lid over a prosthetic. The second was to remove the eye and give him a prosthetic in place of his eyeball. The third option was to administer a shot direct into the eye ball that would destroy the cells that produce aqueous humor. He could keep his eye this way, but it would be rendered useless.
Considering he had another good eye still, with no signs of glaucoma, we went for this option. This is how Niko got his ‘blue eye’. We watched the pressure in his other eye over the rest of his life, and luckily, he never developed glaucoma in it. Early detection is key to saving the eyes. I wish we had caught it sooner, but am thankful it was just his one eye. If you notice your dog’s eye looking a little ‘buggy’, might be worth a pressure test.
Vestibular Disease AKA Dizzy Dog Disease or Old Dog Vestibular Disease
Canine idiopathic vestibular disease begins acutely and resolve acutely. Usually improvement is evident in 72 hours and the dog is normal in 7-14 days, possibly with an occasional head tilt persisting.
Niko’s adventure with this disease started out really scary. He was fine in the evening and about 4:00 in the morning, we woke up to the odd sound of liquid pouring onto the floor. We turned on the light to see him struggling to stand and just peeing right on the floor. He then promptly fell over. We looked around the room to find vomit all over the place. We had managed to sleep through that. (Mind you, I was a heavier sleeper before Niko faced cushings and lymphoma. What I wouldn’t give to sleep through the night now!) Scared and confused we jumped out of bed. Niko was completely out of it and unable to stand. I was certain, ‘this was it’.
We were in the car racing to the emergency vet in a matter of seconds. I didn’t think he was going to make it. He was limp and had labored breathing. We burst through the door in a total panic and after checking him in, they took us to a room. The vet came in, and took one look at his eyes, which were uncontrollably darting back and forth quite rapidly and said “It’s just dizzy dog syndrome”.
“It’s JUST what?” I thought.
She explained what it was, and what was happening. How it was like a constant state of vertigo. She said she has seen worse cases… he was about a 5 or 6 out of 10 (10 being the worst). There was not much we could do, but wait it out and give him bonine for motion sickness. She told us he’d improve over the next few days.
I spent the week at home with him, helping him stand and walk. He needed support for both his front and hind end, so potty breaks were especially hard on my back as I hunched over him to keep him steady. Of course, it was worth it. Within a few days, he was about 90% normal, and in the coming weeks, he recovered even more.
For the rest of his life, his eyes would dart back and forth when he first changed positions. So from sitting upright, to laying on his side, and vice versa. He seemed pretty unaffected by this until the very end of his life, except when he took his Lysodren. That seem to always make him a bit more dizzy and we would take care to help him change positions slowly. As a person that now suffers from BPV, I can appreciate how horrible an onset like this is, but understand that you learn to live with the occasional dizziness… most of the time.
There is a lot of info on this disease out there. It really can be terrifying at first, but the outcome is usually pretty good. Just hang in there.