Saturday, January 30, 2010

Holding My Breath

It's been 4 1/2 weeks since Iris' last seizure. Iris generally goes 3-5 weeks between seizures, so we're pretty solidly in her "red zone." I haven't posted about it because I've been very afraid of jinxing a good thing, but I did get a couple of photos from Iris' last acupuncture appointment.

Iris has gotten more relaxed around Dr C, which is good. Last week, the only time she really flinched was for the two midway down her back. She was definitely uncomfortable for that but such a good girl, she just twitched her muscles like a horse shrugging off a fly and keep still for Dr C.

Dr C told me that the point in the center on the top of the head increases blood flow to the brain. When Dr C took his final acupuncture exam, every one in his class had a needle in that point on the top of their heads. Too funny! If you look closely at the next photo, you can see the three needles across the top of Iris' head - the one in the center and the two "bug antennae" near her ears. You might have to click on the photo to make it larger to get a good look.

Once all the needles are in, we wait for 15-20 min and Iris pretty much just lays down and hangs out. She was demanding belly rubs but I couldn't get a photo of that. She says "Hey mom, put your face-box away and get back to petting me!" She's too fluffy to really see many of the needles once they're in. There's one near her right rear paw that you can see.

We're going to do another appointment next week (that will be acupuncture treatment #5) and then I think the plan is to spread her visits out a little more depending on how she's doing. The longest she's ever gone between seizures is 6 weeks, and that was last summer when she first started on Keppra. I'm holding my breath for the next two weeks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Six Words

Patricia McConnell recently lost her dog, Lassie. She wrote a short story for Lassie in the style of a challenge Ernest Hemingway gave to his friends. McConnell suggested that her readers do the same, and it seems like quite a few bloggers have joined in. I think it's a very cool way to celebrate your dog.

My six words for the red dog:

Hiking! Happy dance. I am yours.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No News

No news is good news! I really don't have anything new to report about Iris' epilepsy. The funny thing about epilepsy is that's the whole goal of treating it - to have no news. Right now Iris is laying at my feet while I type, acting perfectly happy and healthy. If you didn't know Iris and met her on the street right now, you'd think she's completely healthy. That's the funny thing about it. The point isn't to alleviate a symptom, it's to prevent one.

At least that's the way it seems. Although maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way. From a TCM perspective if there's an imbalance in Iris' Qi, then we are treating the problem and not just preventing it. I admit it, even though I know this is a 50/50 shot I'm really hoping it works. And really trying not to get my hopes up too high. Still, one of these days we're going to get a break, aren't we?

Iris had her second acupuncture on Tuesday. It went well, Iris was very good and very relaxed. She got more needles this time than last. Three across her forehead, one right between her eyes, two behind her ears, one between her shoulder blades, two midway down her back, one a few inches above her tail, one on each of her back legs, and one on the inside of each of her "ankles" (I write this down mostly so that I can keep track of it for my own curiosity!) 14 needles total. Iris only flinched once. It was for one of the needles behind her ear. Other than that, she was completely relaxed.

The 27th will be four weeks since Iris' last seizure. That means we should be able to get in one more appointment next week and then her fourth appointment will be on 27th. Iris has not gone longer than 6 weeks between seizures since this started, and she hasn't managed that since last summer. Holding my breath.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Iris finished out 2009 with a couple more seizures. Had to end it with some sort of bang, didn't you Iris? Iris' last seizure actually happened while I was at work, which is very unusual for her (she usually has them at night) and was on the one night where I didn't go straight home from work, which is very unusual for me. Because Iris lost bowel control during the seizure, I'm pretty sure she was a nightmare for my roommate to come home to. I only saw the mess in the crate when I got home, but if the crate was any reflection of what the dog looked like, she was a complete mess. By the time I got home, Iris was shiney clean from her bath, had gotten her meds, and been fed her dinner (which included the job of chopping up raw beef heart). You know you have a good roommate when she'll bathe your sh*t covered dog without a single complaint. I think I'll keep her around :)

Now it's a New Year, and it's time for a new treatment plan for Iris! Iris had her first acupuncture visit yesterday. Dr Caviness was very gentle with Iris. The first thing he did when he got in the room was kneel down to give Iris a couple of cookies. Then he gave her a couple of minutes to check him out while we talked. Very nice for my dog who can be nervous around men!

While we were going over Iris' history, we talked very briefly about her diet. Dr. C seemed pretty knowledgeable and was supportive of Iris' raw diet. His only suggestion was adding a multivitamin daily (and definitely keep giving bone daily. A vet who's ok with bone!) I've been giving a multivitamin somewhat sporadically. He did say the brand I'm using is a good one (Vetri-Science Canine Plus).

Dr C said her coat and overall condition are great but actually said she's looking a little pudgy! She's gained two pounds since her last vet trip (November) which is probably because of the phenobarbital. It's definitely something to pay attention to and I agree, she is looking a little heavier than she was a couple months ago. He asked about heartworm preventative and I told him I have been giving it year round. Dr C suggested taking her off the hw preventative for the winter to give her body a break. He even noticed her slightly pink front paws, which I'm pretty sure is a stress/boredom behavior for her. She rarely licks her paws when I'm home. It's only when I'm at work.

We talked about her seizure pattern. He asked if I could think of anything that triggers her seizures, and I really can't. Other than the regular time interval, and there's nothing else in my life that occurs at roughly 4 week intervals. I mentioned that Iris' regular vet thinks she has epilepsy and the ER vet thought I should be considering a brain tumor or just about anything other than epilepsy because of her age. Dr C thinks that even though Iris had just turned 6 when the seizures started, epilepsy was still the most likely candidate. Also he said if it was a brain tumor, I probably would have seen a lot more progression by now. So that's very unlikely. Phew!

So now what? Because Iris is on two different medications and we've been increasing her meds without any significant improvement, Dr C agrees that Iris is a good candidate for acupuncture. He did tell me that about 50% of dogs have dramatic improvement with acupuncture but for the other 50%, it doesn't seem to do much. I am glad he gave me realistic expectations. If Iris responds well to acupuncture, Dr C has had success with gold bead implants for epilepsy patients (it works like a "permanent" acupuncture). If Iris doesn't respond to acupuncture, Dr C has also had success with Chinese herbs. For now, he'd like to try one thing at a time.

Next, Iris got her first acupuncture treatment. Three needles across the top of her head, two behind her ears, two on her back, and two on her ankles. I wish I had a camera with me. Two of the ones on top of her head looked like antennae and they moved whenever she moved her ears. It was adorable and pretty comical too. Iris didn't even flinch when Dr C inserted the needles, and she didn't seem bothered by them at all while they were in. Nice and easy for the red dog.

The plan now is to do acupuncture every week for four weeks and then reevaluate where we're at. Iris' last seizure was on December 30th, so we should be able to get in a couple of acupuncture visits before she's "due" for a seizure.