Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Parkinsons in Dogs?

AP here:
Tonka's neurologist discussed the big furball with a Doctor at the University of Missouri who knows all about movement disorders in dogs. Is seems that dogs can get just about all the same diseases that humans do and one of those is Parkinsons. Parkinsons is a degenerative disease of the nervous system which involves a specific area of the brain. This area is key in coordinating movement, especially movements we generally are not aware of -- such as balance, walking and the degree of flexibility needed in a limb. There is not much research online related to canine Parkinsons but the symptoms can be:
  • Tremors in muscles
  • Stiffness in muscles or stiffness in movement
  • Difficulty in balancing and in walking
  • Changes in mental alertness
  • Lethargy
Since Parkinsons is associated with decreased levels of dopamine we put Tonka on Ritalin (yes the same drug for ADHD in people). Ritalin works by stimulating the release of dopamine so if Tonka could improve on Ritalin it might mean a diagnosis of Parkinsons or something going on in the Basal Ganglia of his brain.

The problem with Ritalin is the wide range of possible side effects including increased tremors, panting and elevated heart rate. Since he already has a heart issue I started monitoring his heart rate and talked to Cardiology about an EKG if he was going to be on it very long. Tonka of course (nothing ever easy with him) displayed a fair number of the side effects associated with the drug. He became very restless, panting heavily and whining all night. For the last 3 days he was on it we got very little sleep. He would lay down for an hour and then pop right back up. Mistaking some of the signs for pain I took him in to see a doctor (much thanks to his therapist Diana and all his girlfriends for the support on this nerve wracking day). The exam showed nothing that would be causing him pain. After a long conversation about the Ritalin and the lack of progress that he had made in the 8 days he was on it I made the decision to stop the drug.

We have been fighting whatever this is for a full year as of next week. We have had ups and many downs and though it all there was always hope. There are times that I talk to his doctors and they seem to suck all the hope right out of the room. I realize that they deal in a clinical environment and I have much respect for all of them and their knowledge and experience. That being said I also know me and I know my dog and that we need to stay in a place that fosters hope. I am not saying we live in denial just that-
 #1   I stop trying to control the problem and have a definitive name for the problem
#2    We stop listening to the doom and gloom and be happy

#2 is only going to be attainable if I stop being the type A that I am and just accept that there is no name, no point A-B that I can map out and plan for. Tonka is happy as long as those around him are happy and he can be mobile and get out in the world. His new wheels from Eddies Wheels should be here any day and hopefully we can get rolling again.

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