Euthanasia because of seizures.
Age: 8-11 years
I am having extreme guilt over putting my baby down 3 days ago and I wanted a second opinion since everything happened so fast. I think I asked certain questions at the vets, but my emotions were so intense that I don't know that I asked everything or got the clear picture. Now, I am second guessing my decision. Her history is as follows;
Rainie was a healthy, happy dog until November of last year. At 10 years old, she started having grand mal seizures, 3 in one night. She was put on Pheno, handled it very well and controlled seizures until May. Had breakthroughs one day and had another 3 grand mals within the course of about 12 hours. Pheno dosed was up and did well....until a week ago. We had a hurricane approaching and I noticed she started shaking, mostly in her head. I attributed it to her sensing the storm coming even though she had never been scared before. Then a few times that night she had what looked like it could have been her straining to clear her throat. Nervous mom I was, I kept a close eye on her all night and into the next day. As the storm hit the next day, there was still the head shaking and more bouts of the "clearing the throat", although by now it looked to me like facial seizures of some sort. The next day as soon as the storm had passed, I brought her to a new vet since I couldn't reach mine after the storm. The new vet said that because she had so many teeth missing (she had to have 12 pulled) and that she subsequently had holes from the roof of her mouth to her sinus cavity, she most definitely had a sinus infection. Said head movements could be from nervousness from the storm or from the infection. Got antibiotics and went home with her. That was Thursday. By that night, the head shaking and "facial seizures" picked up. Took video of her to show the vet. I also noticed that night she would stand over her food and water bowl and her head would bob, but it seemed she couldn't get her head low enough to get food or water. This was disturbing to me, so Friday, back to the vet we went. Showed the vet the video and told her about the food bowl issue. She said give the antibiotics a week to work. She seemed to really think the sinus infection was the real culprit. I was also given Valium for her to minimize the tremors in her head. As a mommy though, I knew my baby wasn't right especially since we've had infections before due to the teeth. Friday night, we had a bad night with the tremors, even after the Valium. I was at the point I had to hand feed her soft food, but even with that, a lot fell out of her mouth. She wanted it, but looked like she was struggling. She only drank about 4 "laps" of water all day, most of which I think missed her mouth. A couple hours later she started pacing the house, which she never did before. I finally put her in bed with me and held her. About 5 mins after laying down, I saw she had soaked my shirt sleeve with saliva. She then started foaming at the mouth. A few minutes later, she vomited yellow thick mucus looking fluid. Still foaming. I called the vet because when we brought her outside she just stood there foaming, not moving. Made an emergency trip to the vet in the middle of the night. Vet gave nausea meds and something to dry her up, but said that's all she could do and would observe her that night. She called Saturday morning to tell me that she had the drooling stopped for "now" but she had tried to feed her and she definitely had to force herself to swallow. She said there was damage to one of the nerves causing this problem and that this could also cause her to aspirate fluid into her lungs. She asked where I was with the thought of putting her down. My response was I would if there was a chance she would waste away...but that is my BABY. I decided to go get her and spend time with her at home before I made the call. When I got to the vet, a new doc was there. She said the same as the other doc and that Rainie had "one foot on each side of the line". In hindsight, I'm not sure if that meant she was close to deteriorating or that we were touch and go with a possible "cure." I was so distraught that I feel like I may have misunderstood something. I do remember her saying it was definitely neurological but she couldn't say for sure if it was a brain abscess or a brain lesion. After watching my baby walking in circles, not come to me, have bubblegum seizures and having what looked to be some kind of other facial seizure (she would twist her neck as far as it would go almost to the point of where I was scared it would snap), my husband and I made the decision to end her suffering.
My hang up now is guilt and being scared that I was so upset about seeing her like that, that I didn't ask the right questions or I missed something. Based on what I have described 1) do you think there was a possible treatment, 2) could have it been a brain tumor, 3) do you think I made the right call? The third I know is completely subjective, but I want another opinion.
I know that the final gift you can give your pet is leaving behind their pain/illness, but I can't help but feel/wonder if I gave her that gift too soon.
Thank you for your time,
Dr. Marie replied:
Aw, I'm so sorry to hear about your difficult time.
We'll never know exactly what was going on but let me give you my thoughts on what you have written.
I'm really concerned about the facial tremors or seizures
that you have described. I do think it was worth a try to treat any sort of facial pain (i.e. possible dental problem) as often these can be difficult to diagnose. But, I have found that the majority of the time when a dog has facial tremors like this it means there is a problem in a particular spot in the dog's brain. By far the most common reason for this is a brain tumor.
Unfortunately the only way to know is to have an MRI done of the brain and this is very expensive and not available in every area.
I would definitely interpret the phrase "one foot on each side of the line" to mean that Rainie was close to death. To me that means that she was barely hanging on.
From what you have told me I would say that you definitely made the right decision. I can't see this condition being anything treatable. So, if you had attempted treatment what likely would have happened is that the seizures
would just get worse and worse. And in hindsight you would likely be very upset that you had put her through more treatment instead of humanely ending her life.
Seizures are one of my least favorite things to deal with, mostly because it causes owners to really panic and I find it is often hard to make rational decisions. Additionally, it is difficult to help owners to make a decision because we don't have any definitive information. If this was something different, like, say, renal failure, the vet would have labwork that they could show you and they could say, "Look, whenever we see kidney enzymes as high as this, the chances of recovery are very slim." But, with seizures
, without doing an MRI we don't really have anything concrete to go on other than our experiences in the past.
If this were my case I would definitely be advising euthanasia.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
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Thank you for such a quick and thorough response. I left a few things out, but I don't know that it would change your opinion...
Blood work was normal except for clinical dehydration, which makes sense if she was having trouble swallowing. Also, she seemed to be having tremors as well as facial seizures even with her pheno being at therapeutic levels.
Now, for the part that I have trouble comprehending - she played with another dog 2 days before us putting her down. She wanted to eat and drink although she seemed like she physically couldn't make herself. She had not lost any weight due to it at that point. She looked liked my dog that I always knew and loved even though she was not acting like it.
I know that it's possible that we saw what were early signs of her decline in that she still had some desire for things, but I just have the "what if's" hanging over my head. If what we saw was an indication of things (or worse things) to come, then I did make the right choice. I guess I am just hoping that I made a selfless choice and not one out of being overwhelmed.
Another reason in my being so thorough in my questioning as to my decision other than being reassured is that I know I am not the only one dealing with this same feeling of guilt and what if's. If my Rainie's story can ease the mind of one pet parent out there, then she didn't die in vain. I don't wish this agony on anyone. And if my description of the situation is something others out there are experiencing, maybe this will be the help they need in guiding them to the right choice for their beloved pet.
Your reply has helped ease my mind. I didn't spend the majority of the night crying. I can't thank you enough for that. Any other thoughts are certainly welcomed.
Thank you again for your time,
Robin AND Rainie
Dr. Marie replied:
I often hear that from clients - shock that their dog seemed perfectly normal one day and then suddenly very ill after that. It often happens that way.
I think all I can say is that it really sounds like you made the right decision. I know it was hard, but I can't think of any other outcome in this situation.