Friday, February 13, 2015

Day 1886

After a long day of evaluations and tests, Dot is resting quietly tonight at a veterinary specialty hospital in Lewisville, Texas. Why one of the best veterinary neurological centers in the country is located so far away from one of the biggest cities in Texas is still a mystery to me. The journey to Lewisville normally takes about 30 to 40 minutes when traffic is light. Of course traffic is never light in Dallas. We spent over an hour on the road this morning, mostly because an accident on the freeway shut down everything but a single lane of traffic at one point.

The accident made us a little late for our appointment, but the neurologist couldn't have been nicer. She was thorough, professional, and patiently answered all of our questions. We had to leave Dot at the facility because the neurologist said their in-house CAT scan equipment wouldn't be able to adequately image her spine in great enough detail. After driving Dot all the way to Lewisville, the hospital ambulance then had to drive her back to Irving where she received an MRI at Animal Imaging. This advanced imaging center has an MRI machine large enough to scan a horse. Race horses are brought here from all over the country for diagnostic imaging. I have been to this center before. It is an amazing place and very expensive. After our initial exam, we left Dot in the capable hands of the neurologist and returned to Dallas to pick up Dash from another veterinarian where he was spending the day in doggie day care. Life becomes very complicated when you can't leave your dogs alone for long periods of time. Dash is still prone to seizures and of course Dot currently can't even walk.

Late this afternoon, the neurologist called us with the results of her MRI scan. It was worse than I thought, but not totally unexpected, especially considering her slowly deteriorating condition during the past year. Dot has multiple bulging disks, including one severely damaged disc that is already pressing against the spinal cord. Considering Dot's age and the length of time her spine has been injured, there is at best a 60% chance that surgery can correct the problem. That leaves a 40% chance that surgery will accomplish nothing or even make the situation worse. Spinal surgery is risky even with a younger dog. In the short term, treatment with cortisone or steroids has almost exactly the same rate of success as surgery, but the benefits aren't permanent. The hard thing with an older dog is determining exactly what "short term" and "long term" mean. If cortisone and anti-inflamatory drugs can keep Dot mobile for another two years, that might be all she needs. She is, after all, a very old dog. On the other hand if surgery is the only way she'll ever have a chance of walking again, it changes the equation entirely. It's a very tough decision.

We will drive to Lewisville again tomorrow morning to pick up Dot and take her home with us. We will also begin her cortisone treatment tomorrow and hope for the best. Usually, if anti-inflammatory drugs work, you'll see some signs of improvement in about a week. If the drugs don't work at all, we've got several weeks to make a decision about surgery. We can't wait three months to decide though. At some point the condition becomes irreversible. There is no way the neurosurgeons can even attempt to fix all Dot's bulging discs. It is far too invasive. The recommended surgery would only attempt to remove the pressure caused by the worst of these damaged discs. If the spinal cord has already been compromised, it will take a long, long time to heal even after surgery. Nerve tissue regrows very slowly. Again, there are no promises that the surgery will work at all. The 60% chance of success is as close to a promise as we are ever going to get.

All I can do at this point is hope for the best. Dot is very resilient and has bounced back from serious injuries before. The past two years have taken their toll however. The desire is still there, but I don't know how much energy she has left. We'll do the best we can. That's all anyone can do.

Tessa is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day