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Chick's Story: Doing What's Best for Your Dog

A story of a dog and her handler when medical issues strike.

Story by Julie Harbo; edited by Mychelle Blake

The roller coaster ride began August 30, 2013 with Chick's first seizure. She was just shy of three-and-a-half years old. We had just woken up and all the dogs were running around when I heard the scratching and breathing noises that I would grow so accustomed to hearing at the beginning of a seizure. She was half way under the bed and subconsciously I thought maybe she had just hit her head.

I started to believe it was just from hitting her head as time went by. Her blood work and exams were normal. Then on June 28, 2014 she had her second seizure. Now the waiting game began-when is the next one going to hit? Am I going to have to start medications? Am I going to have to stop running agility with her? I talked to neurologists and they told me to "run her while I still could, Border Collies can progress to the point of having to be heavily medicated and can be very difficult to manage." These were not words I wanted to hear but we continued on with training and trialing.

On August 28, 2014 the third monster came. At this point I started medications and backed down on training. Each time she had a seizure, which were coming with increased frequency, we upped her medications until we got to the maximum dose, then would add another. I continued to discuss her case with the neurologist throughout all of this. One of the medications made her very hyper. She ran fast and was crazy happy. One of the medications made her a little confused at times.

On December 20, 2014 we had to add phenobarbital. This was the third medication we added and between the three, she became very wobbly. She lost her happy personality and could barely relieve herself without falling down. Chick was no longer Chick. To make matters worse, when I ran blood work on her a month later, one of her proteins had dropped precipitously indicating her liver was having troubles with the phenobarbital. I ran multiple tests and with talking to the neurologist and an internist we elected to leave her on the current medications and monitor blood work. Since she had not had a seizure since starting phenobarbital, we stared tapering the other medications down to try to alleviate the stress on her liver.

Her seizures were short and relatively mild but during the post-seizure phase she was hyper and excited-running around, wagging her tail ferociously, almost grinning. I would put her in a crate so she wouldn't run into my other dogs and start a fight and she would scream like a puppy that had never been in a crate.

By June 2015, we had her down to an extremely low dose of bromide. She was much more stable on her feet and we were running agility again. Her protein was still below the normal range but it was slowly improving. Best of all, still no seizures. We started tapering her on her Zonisamide and she continued to improve. In agility, she was fast, had tight turns and had become graceful and happy again. She would warble and chat with me on course, happy with life and happy to be running. Needless to say, I was having the time of my life running her.

We started trying to qualify for the 2016 USDAA agility nationals in the fall of 2015. She qualified for performance versatility team October 18th and Grand Prix November 27th. December 6th, 2015 the monster came again. She was still on a very low dose of bromide, an extremely low dose of zonisamide and actually a sub-therapeutic dose of phenobarbital but because her proteins were still a little low and we didn't want to raise any of those drugs so we added Kepra, which was the last drug at our disposal.

She was still running well. By now I had started noticing some trends. For the most part she would only have seizures after the alarm went off in the morning. I saw a couple of them start and she would be running around very excited when she would stop, stare into space and her head would start to twitch.

On December 13th she qualified for performance speed jumping. We competed at regionals in January in Grand Prix and PIII gamblers. She placed second in Grand Prix round one. She had already had a bye into round two from a previous Grand Prix win so we were able to play in both rounds.

The end of January she had a couple more seizures, again in the morning after the alarm went off. We started raising the Keppra. February 20th, 2016 she ran an amazing performance master challenge standard and placed third. On February 21st she earned her PDCH bronze with that elusive PIII pairs. She seemed a little tired by the end of that weekend. We were entered in a trial the following weekend that I had entered in December so I had put her in a lot of classes. She was running so well and I was having the time of my life running her. I had entered her in team with Billie Rosen's Klev'r. Chick has a seizure the Friday night before the trial but again, but it was mild so I elected to trial her the next day.

Chick and Klev'r ran their hearts out. Every time they stepped into the ring they were not only clean but many times placed high in their respective classes. By the end of the day, their team was in first place with only gamblers and relay to go. It was a relatively warm day but I didn't have a reason to believe anything was wrong with Chick. Then on the way home, I heard it. What I thought was just her rolling around in her crate turned into the funny breathing that I was so accustomed to. I couldn't see her but I could see the way my puppy was staring at the back of her crate. Then I asked her to sing to me. Usually that gets a howl for a response but there was nothing. Instead I heard her start to whine.

When I got home I noticed the saliva all over her chest and front legs and I knew for sure that she had a seizure. In the next moments everything started to flash through my head; she had never had a seizure during the day, never had one associated with a trial, she had had two seizures in 24 hours, she was on the only drugs she could be on and her body couldn't take any more medications. Something had to give. I emailed Billie to tell her I couldn't run Chick in agility anymore. She was very understanding. I owe her so much for that.

The next day I returned to the trial without my dog. Billie and Klev'r racked up some more points in team gamblers. We ran the relay with me breaking the barrier and handing the baton to Billie. She ran her half with Klev'r flawlessly. And then we found out that we had actually qualified in team without Chick running the last two runs!

So now Chick stays at home. She is happy and sings to me every day! We ran blood work on her last week and her proteins are in the normal range. The best of all is she hasn't had a seizure since the drive home from the trial!

In part two of this story on Monday, the 25th, we'll learn about the story of Klev'r.

Photo Credits: "Jump" by AleksWoodroffe; "Weave" by Denise Titzer; "At the veterinarian" by Susan Paull


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