Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Bad Night

Late Wednesday night I was reading in bed when I heard a bang bang bang on the wall. I figured it was Maudie scratching, only it went on too long and had a strange rhythm and so I got up and went over to her bed to find her in full seizure mode. Her mouth was open in a foaming grimace, her legs were running and she kept hitting her head on the wall.

I knew right away what it was. I put my hand between her head and the wall and waited, staying very calm and present. There was a strange twilight mode of creeping back to consciousness and some 3-4 minutes later, she struggled to her feet and paced around and around the house in a disoriented, driven state. When I held her still, to get some Rescue Remedy into her mouth, she cried.

I looked up dog seizures on the net. As soon as they are able to eat, it is good to give them an additive free vanilla ice cream…like Hagen Daze or Breyers. Barring that, a TBL honey and a TbL unsalted butter (for a 50 lb dog) will affect the same result, which is to suspend sugar in fat so it won’t spike and then drop in the body while it raises the blood sugar level. Luckily she was very keen on the honey mix and lapped it all up.

I’m not sure how much time passed after that. M and I sat up and watched to make sure she didn’t smash into anything; we let her out a few times and then settled back into the bedroom. She paced. I said, “Maudie go lie down now and go to sleep” and that is exactly what she did. But neither M nor I slept very soundly, scared and alert to the possibility of another.

At some point in my fitful sleep, I remembered that the day before had been heartworm day. They had gotten their pills with dinner.

We know that Maudie has the mutant MDR1 gene:
The problem is due to a mutation in the multi-drug resistance gene (MDR1). This gene encodes a protein, P-glycoprotein, that is responsible for pumping many drugs and other toxins out of the brain. Dogs with the mutant gene can not pump some drugs out of the brain as a normal dog would, which may result in abnormal neurological signs. (

And so she was taking Interceptor rather than an ivermectin drug. I did some research and discovered that milbemycin oxime, the active ingredient in Interceptor has also been known to cause neurological episodes, only, it seems, the number of cases is lower.

Her breeder, who I talked to that next day, told me that she knows of no epileptic dogs in the pedigree, but she does know of another collie who had a bad reaction to the drug. She was shocked and upset. If it is not epilepsy, then it could be a reaction to the drug---which seems likely given the proximity of the events.

Of course I have begun a massive layman’s research project on the drugs and the diseases (heartworm and epilepsy). We have an app’t with our vet next week. In the meantime, I can administer nutritional support— enzymes, vit B6, magnesium, manganese in particular---and watch her. She has been fine since that evening.

It is a trauma to watch a seizure in someone you love. I did learn that unconsciousness ascends during the active part and that there is no pain, but the surprise and confusion and fear of it is striking and for 24 hours afterwards we were both a little wobbly.

It reminds me ---again---of the poisons we live with, the blows against our immune systems, the fragility of organic life. Years ago, when my corgi developed Cushings Disease—adrenal malfunction—I set out on a long journey of learning. What had begun, as a “lifestyle choice” in graduate school back in Massachusetts became an obsession. Nutrition, herbology, acupuncture, homeopathy.

I am not against allopathic medicine, nor am I an alternative only purist. I do believe strongly in developing mindfulness about all the ways we can support life systems in a toxic world. Once you become aware of systems theory (that life operates as a system in which every occurrence impacts every other) there is no turning back.

That mindfulness is empowering. Seems like we are about to add another branch to the library.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find out what caused it, or if she’ll have more. My hope is that this was a one-time incident related to sensitivity to the milbemycin. You can bet she won’t be getting that again…and we’re now on the hunt for safer ways to control the possibility of heartworm disease.

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