Nothing gives me greater pleasure than being able to truly make a difference in a pet’s quality and quantity of life. Veterinarians and pet owners commonly work together to do just that. My patient, Mylee Rodriguez, is a perfect example of the success of this alliance.
Mylee was already nine years old when I met her for the first time. On that afternoon, my schedule was particularly full, so Mylee and her owner, Chris, had to wait longer than I would like. I entered the exam room and apologized for my delay. Her owner graciously accepted my apology then readily expressed that she was more than concerned about her dog, a senior Papillon. I glanced down at the little dog resting in her owner’s lap and readily discerned two things: this little dog was loved A LOT and she appeared “drugged.”
Chris went on to explain that Mylee had begun to have seizures and, therefore, was started on a commonly prescribed anticonvulsant called Phenobarbital. I asked to see the medication to review the dose Mylee was receiving and I soon had an explanation for her drugged state. The dose Chris was giving was double the dose that most patients are initially started on. I instructed Chris to skip a few doses of the Phenobarbital to detoxify her, then to begin giving her on an appropriate, lower dose.
When pets start having seizures in their senior period, the underlying cause is likely to be a metabolic disorder or a lesion in the brain. Because brain lesions are harder to identify and even harder to treat or cure, I opted to look for a metabolic cause with an available treatment instead. The first tests I like to perform for seizing pets are organ wellness testing and thyroid testing. Both of these blood tests are routine and readily reveal a lot of information about the patient.
Luck would have it that Mylee’s cause for her seizures was revealed in her testing as she did indeed have low thyroid hormone levels or hypothyroidism. Mylee was started on thyroid hormone replacement medication twice daily, along with her Phenobarbital. Follow-up blood tests were performed at appropriate intervals to confirm the new dose of anticonvulsant, and now thyroid medication, were appropriate. Because Chris was conscientious about administering Mylee’s two medications, her little dog was soon back to her old self and seizure-free.
Chris then elected to schedule a dental cleaning for Mylee that I had recommended at her first visit. Papillons, like all small breed dogs, are more vulnerable to plaque and tartar build-up, and Mylee was no exception. So, within the first four months of coming to see me, Mylee was started on two chronic medications, and she had her teeth cleaned and sealed.
With these health problems behind her, it was natural to assume that Mylee would now finish out her senior period in good health. This would not be the case, as Mylee returned one month later, this time struggling to breathe. My heart sank, as the most likely new diagnosis was confirmed. Mylee now had congestive heart failure, too.
Chest X-rays were taken to confirm her heart disease and Mylee was started on a prescription diet, two heart medications and an antibiotic to remove fluid and bacteria from her airways and help her heart beat more efficiently. After a few, scary days of close monitoring, Mylee recovered from her congestive heart failure crisis and Chris added two more medications to Mylee’s daily pill box.
Seven months later, Mylee cashed in her “frequent flyer card” once again. This time it was early kidney disease knocking on Mylee’s door, as she was wasting albumin, her body’s most important protein, through her urine. A drug named enalapril was the next medication I prescribed for Mylee to boost the ability of her kidneys to do their jobs better.
While Mylee seems to have stopped developing new diagnoses, she does occasionally bounce back in with mini kidney failure crises that, working in tandem, Chris and I continue to rescue her from. There is no doubt in my mind that our teamwork and Chris’ diligence and love for this special little dog have prolonged Mylee’s quality and quantity of life.
I like to remind pet owners that some people walk with you in life and some walk for you. The same applies to pets as your veterinarian will walk for your pet so you can walk many more miles with your pet.
Thank you, Chris and Mylee. It is my pleasure to walk with and for you.
Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital along with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM. She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985. Walking with and for pets is one of her greatest passions.