Species: Dog Breed: Australian Shepherd Age: 11-15 years
Last March, I boarded Niko at the vet while on vacation. Until then he had been a extremely healthly, active 14 year old. I was told that he had a seizure the first night he was boarded. I have never witnessed him have a seirzure prior or after being boarded with them. They administered anti-seizure medication the 8 days he was boarded. When I picked him up he was lethargic and lost a lot of weight. They gave him a battery of tests and everything was normal, except for he "might" have a thyroid problem. I did not continue the anti-seizure medication as I was not convinced anything was wrong with him, he was fine when I brought him in. He gradually came out of his "drunkenness" but about a month ago, I notice he began to trip over his feet. He is still full of energy and eats normally. And I still have not seen him have a seizure, ever. What do you think is happening?
Dr. Marie replied:
Hi Gina...thanks very much for your question. I'm sorry to hear that Niko is not doing well.
I do tend to get worried when I see seizures in an older dog who has never had seizures before. While we do occasionally see dogs who get epilepsy, if seizures come on this late in life it usually means either some type of metabolic disease (I'll explain in a minute) or an issue with the brain such as a tumor.
It is not uncommon for a dog to have his first seizure when under some stress such as being at the clinic. It is not that the boarding caused the seizure, but it may have been the final straw to put him over the edge to cause him to seizure.
The "drunkenness" could be due to the medicines. He was likely given some valium for shert term seizure control or phenobarbitol, both of which can cause some sedation and stupor.
It is also possible that there was some type of metabolic condition such as a liver problem or a kidney problem. These can cause seizures. However, they should have turned up on the bloodwork. If this was my case I would likely be repeating bloodwork again as sometimes early in the disease there may not be elevations.
However, I am more concerned that there may be a neurological issue such as a brain tumor. The "tripping over his feet" can be a sign of "ataxia" which tells us that there is an issue with the brain or spinal cord.
There are other conditions that can affect the brain that are treatable such as infections or parasites but they are very uncommon in an older animal.
Unfortunately it is going to be hard to know how to proceed from here. Ideally the best thing would be to do an MRI but this is quite expensive (>$1000). Your vet may be able to do another exam to see if there really are neurological issues present now.
I wish I could give you better news. Let me know if you have more concerns.
Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.
Thank you for your guidance.
So, something like lyme disease is an unlikely culprit for his ataxia?
Dr. Marie replied:
From what you have described, Lyme is quite unlikely. Lyme disease usually causes vague signs of joint pain, but what you are describing sounds neurological. Lyme disease does not generally cause neurological issues.
There are some parasites that can cause neurological issues such as neospora or toxoplasmosis. These are very uncommon. They can both be detected by bloodwork. You can ask your vet if these could be a possibility. However, the chances are extremely small!
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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