The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth will ever be.
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.
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.
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.