As many of you already know I am the owner of a four year old blue merle Border Collie named Luke. I got him from a farm in Hyde in March 2008, he was 7.5 weeks old and I’ve loved him unconditionally since the day I brought him home.
Luke is a typical Border Collie and loves to chase a ball, usually resulting in him getting filthy and needed a bath! When he was about two years old he had a fit whilst I was bathing him. The whole thing seemed to happen progressively, he started to stiffen up and I presumed this was because he didn’t want to be in the bath. A few moments later he was in the throws of a fit – foaming at the mouth, jerky uncontrolled leg movements, his body thrashed around in the bath. It last for about two minutes and all I could do was to watch, I wrapped him in a towel and gently lifted him out of the bath. The most distressing thing was watching him come round from the fit, he wasn’t able to walk properly, was bumping into walls and pacing in the garden. This disorientation lasted for about 30 minutes and then he was back to his normal self. I took him to the vet for a check up and was advised to monitor it as it could be a one-off event. The next time I bathed him the same thing happened again, so I stopped bathing him thinking that it must be stress-induced. Problem solved. Except it wasn’t.
January 15th 2011. It was a Saturday and I’d been woken up at 0715 by the sound of knocking on my bedroom door. I tried to ignore it but it got more persistent so I stormed to the door expecting to see my lodger waiting to ask some inane question. What I saw was Luke violently fitting: he’d emptied his bladder, the floor was soaked with foam and the knocking was his back leg hitting the door. I woke my partner up, we took in turns to watch him whilst we each got dressed. I rang the emergency vets and was told to bring him in, he was admitted and spent the next 24 hours in pet A&E. Luckily I live within a 10 minute drive of the pet A&E in Manchester, little did I know how often I’d be making the trip there.
Luke was given diazepam intravenously and monitored, he was discharged and put on medication for the rest of his life. He also went for an MRI scan and had his spinal fluid analysed, this was to rule out any hidden ailments that he may be suffering. In the absence of anything else, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. He was put on Phenobarbitone to be taken twice a day. The drug has toxic side-effects and Luke needs blood tests every three months to check the levels of the drug and his liver function. I also had some rectubes (Diazepam to administer rectally if he fitted and didn’t come out of it) to keep safely. The phenobarbitone worked well, there were no fits and life was normal for Luke and I. Luke loves cheese so his meds are given to him pressed into a small piece of cheese, he sits patiently waiting for his ‘treats’. These days he comes trotting into the kitchen when he hears the drug bottle being opened!
His epilepsy was well-controlled until October and then it went haywire. I was away on an Army Cadet Force course and my partner phoned me to tell me that Luke had had a fit. He actually had about five, whopping great big ones. Was taken to the vets, admitted to A&E, discharged, fitted repeatedly again, readmitted to A&E and finally, was discharged. This time a drug called Keppra was added to his meds, this gave him some weird side-effects. He almost seemed to be hallucinating, he would stand in a corner and stare at nothing. After chatting with the vet we dropped the Keppra and just went with a higher dose of phenobarbitone. It took another four weeks for him to fit again but on November 26th he fitted repeatedly without coming round properly, so for the first time ever I had to administer a rectube to him. Rather more difficult then I ever imagined it to be! He was fitting for 19 minutes and finally came round in the car on the way to the vet. 36 hours later he was back home and he’s been fit free since then.
Living with canine epilepsy isn’t so bad. The hardest thing has been keeping up a routine with his medication: quarterly blood tests require planning and timing to ensure I don’t run out of medication. I am also reluctant to put him in kennels as I don’t want to leave his care in the hands of people that don’t know him. Luckily I have a very understanding partner and some good friends who help out with his care when I’m away. Without their understanding and support I don’t think I would have coped so well.