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MDR1 Testing for Herding Dogs

In a previous Post, I briefly mentioned MDR1 Testing for herding dogs because of Marina’s hind-leg weakness.  I ordered a test kit this week from Washington State University (College of Veterinary Medicine).  According to the order confirmation, I should receive the test kit within two weeks.

Treating Marina’s seizures and balancing the side effects of her meds has been a challenge at times. Once she was off the Potassium Bromide which causes an increased appetite, her interest in food dropped dramatically. She is still taking 125 MG of Zonisamide twice a day, and one of the side effects is decreased appetite. This poses a huge issue with getting her to take her pills. I’ve tried every trick in the book, and she’s way too smart for all of them.  The bad thing is that she has spit her meds out so many times now that she ended up with the first seizure in three years.

As soon as the test kit comes in, I’ll need to take two cheek swabs from her and mail them in for testing.  I’ll write a follow-up post when I receive the test results and any changes to her meds if she tests positive.

I would love to hear any stories about your experiences with the MDR1 results – please share in the comments below.



Potassium Bromide and Hind Leg Weakness

Marina AdoptionThe bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.
Konrad Lorenz

Life with our fur-kids is a constant learning experience. The picture on the left is Marina’s adoption photo. It’s hard to believe she’s been with us for over eleven years.  She was a feral dog – most likely abandoned by her owner, and thankfully saved by San Diego Pet Rescue.

She was a handful, not fully house-broken but as smart as as they come, and very food-motivated which made working with her  much easier. She is now a sweet girl, still with a bit of a wild streak I hope she never loses.

A month ago, I thought our journey together might be nearing the end and it was brutally painful. Over the period of a few weeks, her arthritis seemed to be getting worse and worse. It was harder for her to lay down and she stopped jumping on her favorite sofa.  When we took her on short walks, she had a hard time controlling her hind legs.  It had happened once before, but not nearly as severe. Her hind legs seemed to be getting weaker by the day.  I made an appointment for her with Dr. Peter Slusser, the miracle worker that saved Petey from IMHA and gave us several more years with him.

At the time of our appointment, Marina was taking 1 Yunnan Baiyao capsule twice daily to control a tumor, 25 mg Tramadol twice a day for her arthritis pain, 125 mg of Zonisimide twice per day to control idiopathic epilepsy, and 2.5 ML (500MG/ML) of Potassium Bromide once per day that was added approximately five years ago when the Zonisimide alone stopped controlling her seizures. She has been seizure-free for at least three years.

Background information:

I did a lot of research prior to our appointment. I learned that many herding breeds have a gene mutation known as the multidrug resistance gene, also called MDR1. In short, the mutation allows certain drugs to build up in the brain. Side effects can be as mild as tremors and severe as death.  As soon as I read about the mutation, several things came to mind. Marina’s seizures first started years ago when her flea medication was changed. She became lethargic, and I switched to another type suggested by one of her vets. She still had a reaction to that one – lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Our vet even called the manufacturer to see if there were any other known or reported side effects – nothing.  Both of the flea medications contained Ivermectin – one of the drugs that can build up to toxic levels in dogs with the MDR1 gene. The side effects are ataxia (muscle weakness), seizures, and even death.

The Solution:

During our visit, Dr. Slusser ordered CBC and Potassium labs. He let me know that Potassium Bromide can build up in the system to the point that it causes hind-end weakness. I also mentioned that she was a rescue and she was listed as a mixed breed of Cattle Dog, and possibly Australian Shepherd.  I let him know that I didn’t know about the MDR1 gene until recently, and was wondering if that might have been the cause of her seizures to begin with – they seemed to start and stop with the use of flea medication.  I started to taper her from the Potassium Bromide after that visit. There was a significant difference within a matter of a few days. Within a week, she was jumping up on the sofa, and is now back to jumping on “her” sofa, and running home from the park. As I told Dr. Slusser, when I took her in, I felt as though she had aged years in a month – and now that she was off the Potassium Bromide, it was as if she was five years younger.

There is always the chance that her seizures may return, but for now, we’re keeping her off the Potassium Bromide. I’m happy to say that she’s doing beautifully and we couldn’t be happier or more grateful. Once again, Our Miracle Worker came through.

Goodnight Sweet Petey

We Love you Petey

We Love you Petey

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. ~Gilda Radner

It is with great sadness that I let you know of the passing of our dear, sweet Petey. Many of you started following this blog because of his battle with IMHA, and it’s similarities to Evan’s.

It was not IMHA that took him, rather his tired body, and our desire to always return his unconditional love .  For this reason, we made the most painful, yet responsible decision when it became clear that his qualty of life would no longer be what he deserved to have.  Because we loved him, we did not want to subject him to a life of pain from advanced osteoarthritis and a now fragile and unforgiving body.  We are heartbroken over the loss, but better for having had his love in our lives.

We cannot thank Dr. Peter Slusser and the amazing team at VCA Animal Group for their outstanding care. It is because of their care and compassion that Petey pulled through his bout with IMHA. I give them my highest reommendation, and my utmost respect. If you know me, you know that is not something I give easily. Thank you Dr. Christine Wilson for referring us to Dr. Slusser.

Our entire family would also like to thank Dr. Kristi Freeman, who, through her kindness, compassion, and dedication to animal companions, allowed Petey’s final moments to be filled with love and peace.  Without a doubt, Petey’s second chance at life would not have been possible without Forte Animal Rescue and it’s volunteers Raquel Magro and Diane, who quietly work behind the scenes to create forever homes. It’s because of them, that the unwanted, forgotten and abused come into the lives of those lucky enough to be chosen to be their forever caretakers.

Following is an excerpt of my letter thanking Marie Atake, founder of Forte and volunteers Raquel and Diane for all they do. They are my heroes and I am eternally grateful to them for introducing me to Petey and allowing us the honor of caring for him for the last eight years. We love you Petey, we will miss you, and you will forever live in our hearts. Goodnight my dear “Sweety Petey.”

Email Excerpt:

Thank you for sending Petey your thoughts and prayers today. During a most difficult time, Dr. Kristi Freeman helped us give Petey the best farewell he could have possibly had. She is the kindest, gentlest person you could imagine and Petey took to her immediately, she even won Marina over and she is much tougher to win over.

Since we were at home, Petey was very comfortable and had all of us around him. He was given a deep sedative/anesthetic and you could tell when he became pain-free, there was such a sense of peace. He was awake with us long enough to experience the relief of pain and know without a doubt that he was very loved. That love is the last thing that he was aware of. When he was in the deepest sleep, Dr. Freeman gave him the second injection and he was very peacefully released from his tired body. All I sensed, in every moment, was peace. It was the best one could hope for at such a difficult time, and the best send-off our dear friend could have had.

His ashes will be back to us in a week or so, his love will never leave us. After some time at home today, we went to the ocean, it’s the place where Eddie and I both feel the most connected to the universe. As we were walking towards the sand, the very first thing we encountered was someone walking a big pointy-eared dog and the second thing we encountered was a man walking a dog who could have been Petey’s twin, big ears and all. It made my heart feel good to see him running. Maybe it’s just to make myself feel better, but I liked to see it as a sign that our Petey boy was free and happy again. They were the only dogs we saw our entire time there.

And so it goes, our hearts break, but they are a little bigger for having had such a wonderful companion in our lives. Thank you both for all you do and thank you for giving us the opportunity to have Petey and his unconditional love in our lives.

Canine Vestibular Syndrome

Happy New Year! We wish you and your current or future rescues a fantastic 2012!

Last month Petey gave us a bit of a scare. As I was walking through our front door, our eldest son let me know that “Petey was walking funny.” Now, this was a bit of a concern because Petey has a permanent limp, partly from his osteo-arthritis and partly from a bone infection quite a while back. I wasn’t sure what “walking funny” meant given his normal limp.

When I made it all the way through the door, Petey came to greet me as he always does when I come home. My son wasn’t kidding when he said he was “walking funny.” The best way I can describe it is that he was high-stepping with every step, his head was tilted to one side and he seemed to want to tip over. It was as though he didn’t have any sense of balance or perception of where the floor was. So many things ran through my head – did he have a stroke? Did he lose partial eye sight? Did he have an ear infection or something worse? I examined him and he was able to follow my finger so it seemed as though his eyesight was ok. His limbs all seemed to move normally so it didn’t appear to be a stroke.

Being a researcher, I went to my laptop and started the search. There were several posts from people that had a dog with similar symptoms.  After reading through several responses from vets, I started to feel a little better. The diagnosis of “canine vestibular syndrome”, “vestibular disease” and “old dog vestibular syndrome” seemed to come up time and time again. Our vets office had already closed for the evening and based on what I was seeing and reading, I opted to wait until the office opened. With Petey’s very long history, I felt more comfortable waiting for Dr. Slusser.

I called the office in the morning and described his symptoms – the initial thought was – canine vestibular syndrome! He was due for his annual check-up later in the month, so we decided to move it up a and check him out all at once.

I was able to make an appointment for later that week and by the time I took Petey in, he was almost back to “normal”.  I found out that in some dogs, the symptoms are so bad that they can’t even walk, they literally “roll over” to move.  The good thing about canine vestibular syndrome is that it typically resolves itself in approximately two weeks, and once they’ve had it, it usually doesn’t come back. In some cases, the head tilt can remain but it doesn’t seem to bother them.  If the symptoms are severe, your dog may not have an appetite – imagine being sea-sick and trying to eat. If this is the case, anti-nausea medication can be prescribed.  Hopefully your faithful companion won’t encounter this syndrome, it is difficult to watch. If the symptoms ever appear, please contact your vet for a full exam and proper diagnosis.

And now for the happy ending to the story – All of Petey’s labs came back as “normal”. No sign of his immune mediated hemolytic anemia, and his thyroid (T-4) levels are normal as well!


Top Toxic Foods to Dogs


Petey listening for food sounds

It’s that time of the year again – we’re cooking, baking, and having parties. It’s ok to include your fur-kids in the festivities – however, it’s NOT ok for them to enjoy the same foods as you.  Some seemingly harmless foods can be fatal.  Most people know that chocolate is deadly to dogs – but take a look at this list, and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by several items…

If you’re a super messy animated cook like I am, you really have to keep an eye on your little darlings. Mine can sniff out goodies a mile away and can catch anything falls their way well before it ever hits the floor. Take a look at the list below – courtesy of the ASPCA


Food Reason Toxic Food Reason Toxic
Alcoholic Beverages Alcoholic  beverages of any kind can cause vomiting, decreased coordination, intoxication, tremors, coma, and even death.
Apple Cores Apple Cores are not safe for dogs. Carefully cut and peeled apples are okay but never let your dog eat the stems or the core or seeds of an apple.
Bones Bones – It’s best to not give your dog bones of any kind. They can splinter or get lodged in the  intestinal tract or can cause choking. In any case, it’s not worth an emergency room visit. Just say no to bones.
Chives Chives, are also part of the onion family and damage blood  cells.
Chocolate Chocolate affects both the heart and nervous system and can cause seizures, coma, and death! note: the darker the chocolate the more dangerous.
Citrus Fruits Citrus Fruits including oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, etc… can cause vomiting upsetting the digestive system.
Coffee,Tea, Caffeine Coffee – Tea – Caffeine should never be given to a dog as it affects the heart and nervous systems.
Fatty Foods Fatty  Foods – All fatty foods should be avoided especially for Schnauzers who are prone to life-threatening pancreatitis.
Garlic Garlic,  although less toxic than onions has the same effect – causing anemia in dogs by damaging the red blood cells.
Tomatoes – Green Parts (Leaves,Stems) Green  parts of Tomatoes (leaves, stems) can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems.
Hops Hops  which are used to make beer as well as other foods, are very toxic to dogs causing heavy panting, increased heart rate, fever, seizures and death.
Lunch Meats/Cold Cuts Lunch meats or cold cuts contain way too much salt and nitrates which can lead to digestive and kidney problems. Store bought cold cuts are bad
foods for dogs.
Macadamia Nuts Macadamia nuts cause weakness, muscle tremors, and vomiting in  dogs.
Moldy Foods Moldy foods or Spoiled foods – Dogs can die from eating moldy or spoiled foods which cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and death.
Mushrooms Mushrooms can contain toxins which can lead to death.
Nutmeg Nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures and death
Onions Onions damage red blood cells causing anemia.
Peach and Plum Pits Peach and Plum Pits – the pits of fruits contain cyanide which is deadly to dogs. Other pitted fruits to stay away from are apricots, cherries, etc…
Potato Peels or Green Potatoes Potato Peels or Green Potatoes can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems.
Raisens Raisins and Grapes can cause kidney damage or failure in dogs.
Rhubarb Rhubarb plant can affect the digestive system as well as the urinary and nervous systems.
Walnuts Walnuts which become moldy after a rain become infected with fungus and mold that produces
toxins. If ingested, your Schnauzer can become extremely ill and possibly  die. Signs of walnut poisoning are vomiting, trembling, drooling, lack of coordination,  lethargy, loss of appetite, and jaundice indications such as yellowing  eyes and gums.
Xylitol Xylitol – a sweetener used in many human foods that can cause liver failure & death
Yeast Dough Yeast  Dough causes gas and digestive problems. It can also expand rupturing the or stomach.

All this and more can be found in the Dog Do Workbook over there on the right. Download it and let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see covered!

Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy Treatment


Marina catching a bit of sunshine

By March of this year, Marina’s seizures had steadily become more frequent.  The most frightening episode was when she had an instance of cluster seizures. Rather than having seizures weeks or month apart, they were days and hours apart. This is a dangerous situation – if your dog is experiencing this, please have them evaluated immediately, it can be life-threatening.

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful vet. She was able to consult with a top veterinarian neurologist who recommended adding a new medication to use in conjunction with the potassium Bromide. Marina is currently on 2.5 ML daily of Potassium Bromide (500MG/ML solution) once daily and 125 MG of Zonisamide twice daily.

This new regimen has helped considerably.  She has only had two seizures, months apart.  She goes in regularly for blood work and check-ups, and hopefully her condition will remain stable. If your companion is experiencing seizures, please seek treatment immediately. Don’t give up faith, sometimes it may take a bit to find the treatment, but it will make a difference in your companion’s quality of life. He or she deserves it.   😉

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