Monday, September 12, 2011

Six Months

We love you Dr. Barnes, Dr. Knowles, and all the vet techs!!!!!
It's been six months since Zephyr first got sick and was then diagnosed with immune mediated encephalitis.  It doesn't seem like it's been that long at all.  I am so grateful to Dr. Barnes in Flagstaff who recognized that something was effecting his brain and sent us right down to the Veterinary Neurological Center in Phoenix.  I am also extremely grateful to Dr. Knowles and all the staff at the neurology center for giving Zephyr the best treatment, which saved his life, and putting in extra effort the weekend he was there and the next week.  My boy would not be here if it weren't for all of these people.

"Look Ma, One Leg!"
Zephyr has been doing really well!  He hasn't had a seizure in 2 months!  WOOHOO!!!  I was pretty excited when he made it past one month but didn't say anything to anyone because I was afraid I'd jinx things.  Actually, at about one month some funny things happened.  One night Zephyr got up around 11:30 and I heard him walking around.  I got up and he was just walking around the house looking around.  Since he's got a pretty good appetite nowadays and I heard him bump the closet door (where he often hunts for treats left in my pocket) I thought maybe he was just up because he was hungry.  I also wondered if it was a small seizure because it seemed like he might have been a little confused.  It was definitely different than the night he got up and was walking around the living room because the cats had knocked the filled Kong out of the upper cabinet and were batting it around.  Then it happened again two nights later.  I'm still not sure what it was, another complicating factor is I'm always half asleep when these things happen.  But it hasn't happened again so I'm good with that.

"AAAHHHH!!  My mouth is bigger than yours!"
Zephyr's been taking procarbazine for about a month now.  Procarbazine is the milder chemotherapy medicine that he's taking everyday.  His white blood cell count doesn't drop really low like with the Lomustine (CCNU).  It was at 5,100 three weeks a ago which is just a little lower than the normal range.  So, his energy level has been a lot better and he's felt like playing and going on more walks.

"It feels so good to run!"
In the past week it's cooled off to highs in the low 70's, so even cooler in the morning and evening, and that has really helped him feel a lot more spunky.  The prednisone makes him sensitive to heat, plus he's pretty out of shape.  That meant there were many days this summer that he had to stay home.  

"Want to race?"
I've taken him on a few hour long walks in the last week and he's done really well.  This afternoon we went on an hour walk and then the beasts had a big play session in the house when we got home.  It was complete with running through the house, spinning around each other, flying on to the bed and then sliding across it.  :-)  That's when stuffy old Mom pulled out the treats and put an end to all the craziness.

Our pool for cooling the paws.  A few days this summer I thought about getting in myself.
Three weeks ago Zephyr had blood work done to check his white blood cell count and his kidney and liver function.  All of the medicines and chemotherapy can harm the liver.  Unfortunately, for the first time it did show that his liver is being effected.  His alkaline phosphorus had increased from 100 to 800.  The Drs. said that is not too bad, but it was enough to make me a nervous wreck for a few days.  Dr. Knowles suggested a supplement Denamarin that has SAMe and sylibin (from milk thistle) that helps the liver function.  As an added bonus the SAMe is supposed to help the brain.  I ordered some online and then called some local veterinary hospitals and luckily one had some in stock so I could start him on it right away.  Tomorrow he goes for a recheck, hopefully it will be better.  If not we'll have to consider a change in one of the medications, probably the phenobarbital.

"C'mon Zephyr, I double dare you!"
Zephyr's also gone to town a few times to the nursery and a bookstore.  He loves all the attention.  The boys also got to go to Crickets birthday party.  What a blast!  That was Zephyr's first time running and playing with other dogs in months.

The other day we were coming back from a walk and two women were walking toward us.  I could tell the older woman was sick.  She smiled when she saw the dogs and asked to pet them.  Zephyr and Astro were so happy to say Hi when she pet them.  They wagged their tails and were so happy.  The woman was so happy too, she said, "Do you think they can tell I'm a dog person?"  Then she leaned her face down and they gave her lots of soft kisses.  She told me about her three dogs that her son is taking care of because she's sick.  It was so sweet.  Someday we'll have to do the therapy dog certification.

"Oh no you don't, Astro!"
Since Zephyr's been more active I think he's built a little muscle and is looking a little more fit.  I've also stopped offering him food four times a day and, much to his dismay, I don't cook ground beef for him as often.  :-)  I have this thing about my animals eating a lot when they are sick.  It must be something like a mom that likes to cook for her kids and is always wanting to feed them.   

"Out of my way while I weave!"
To help combat Zephyr's boredom this summer and to keep his brain working well I started teaching Zephyr some tricks and playing games with them.  The best trick was teaching him to "shake".  This was a pretty big deal because Zephyr doesn't really like his paws touched.  I used the clicker and treats and was really impressed with how well he did.  It took a few weeks, but now he'll even do it for no treats and in places away from home.  We also play "Hide and Seek" and I've put them in stays while I hide treats throughout the house and then had them go find them.  Lots of fun.  Astro and I are taking a Rally class and I also practice the moves with Zephyr.  Zephyr's done Rally before too.  Zephyr also gets to practice agility; going through and around jumps with no bars, through the tunnel, and even weaving.  Astro's learning his weave poles, Zephyr was close before he got sick.  At first I thought he had forgotten them, but now he goes through them with guides.  He goes really slow, which is fine, because they are almost closed for Astro now.  I was just really happy that he figured it out and remembered.

Oh, remember how I said that I didn't think chemotherapy made dogs' fur fall out?  Well I take that back.  Zephyr's fur has thinned all over his body.  His chest, belly, and sides show it the most.  Some of those areas are almost bald.  But even the soft fur below and to the back of his ears is really thin.  Good thing I am knitting him his own full body Chemo Cap.

Still the sweetest goofiest boy.
By chance through GreyTalk I met a woman who's greyhound, Sara, went through the exact same thing as Zephyr and we have emailed a few times.  Sara was also seizing, couldn't walk, etc., and they thought they would lose her.  They did a very similar chemotherapy treatment, prednisone, and phenobarbital for almost a year.  It was so helpful to talk to someone who had gone through this and hear that all the things I was feeling she had felt too.  Encephalitis is a really scary disease and there's not much information available about it.  Sara's been off all treatment for at least 3 1/2 years and just turned 10!  :-)  Sara's recovery is the goal I focus on, it's so nice to know that another greyhound made it through.  Hopefully, Sara and Zephyr will also have their recoveries in common too.


jet said...

hope the liver function results come back OK.... it's good to hear he is doing better and getting a bit fitter and more active :)

gyeong said...

Glad to see him romping around again. My dogs get whatever they want to eat when they are sick too.

Sue said...

I am so pleased to read this positive post.

Love the photos of Zephyr and Astro playing:)

houndstooth said...

I know he's going to make it! It's so good to hear about all the progress he's making. Bunny says that both of the boys are looking very good there!

Two Greyhound Town said...

He looks great in the photos! I hope things continue to improve. I can only imagine how stressful this is for you.

The Barn Door said...

So glad to hear that Zephyr is making greyt progress!!

IHeartDogs said...

Wonderful update! SamE and milk thistle are very good supplements for liver issues, hope his next blood test show improvement. Wishing you three a greyt fall and winter. Sending more positive thoughts and prayers..

KF-in-Georgia said...

I'm glad Zephyr is doing so well. I just lost my 8-year-old girl to Immune Mediated Thrombocytopedia. I thought of you and Zephyr, especially when the vet mentioned the possibility of chemo for Jacey. But by that time, I think there was too much damage; vasculitis and DIC had been added to her list of problems. Jacey's platelet count was 200,000 on a well-dog vet visit on Tuesday, 8/16; she was fine on Thursday morning, sick with diarrhea and vomiting Thursday night, and had a platelet count of 18,000 when she was admitted to the ER on Friday morning. Massive doses of prednisone didn't make the slightest difference, and we put her to sleep on Monday. I've thought often of you and Zephyr since then, and I'm happy to know he's continuing to do well.

Hiking Hounds said...

Thanks for all the well wishes everyone! It's so nice to know you are all out there.

KF-in-Georgia, I'm so sorry that you lost Jacey. My heart goes out to you.

KF-in-Georgia said...

The day after we put Jacey to sleep, I got an email about a stray greyhound picked up by animal control south of Atlanta. I took her to foster-with-intent, and I signed the adoption papers a few days later. Her name is Silver (fka Silver Hornet), and she's been busy telling Sam how to behave. (He's never listened to any of his sisters, and he's not about to start now.)

She's very sweet, and is a true heart-healer.

She also doesn't mind being called Jacey. Daily.

Anonymous said...

So glad Zephyr is doing better and enjoying life! Wonderful :D

Waggin at ya,

Winnie said...

So glad to hear that positive update about Zephyr.

Also, love to KF-in-Georgia and Silver. So glad you have found each other.

Love and licks, Winnie

KB said...

I'm so happy to read about Zephyr having and romping. Long walks... Wow, he's come a very long way! My fingers are crossed that his recovery keeps on the same trajectory!

About 20 yrs ago, we had a Lab who had many of the same symptoms as Zephyr. We almost lost him. Vet medicine wasn't as advanced as it is now so they used trial and error to find drugs that would help him. Here's the amazing part - he ended up on almost the same drugs as Zephyr. He had to take prednisone for the rest of his life to prevent his WBC count from plummeting but, otherwise, he recovered and almost fully returned his former health. He lived to be almost 16 years old. I now think that he might have had the same thing as Zephyr. I wish with all my heart that Zephyr recovers just as well as our Chocolate Lab Astro did (the name is another funny coincidence).