A week that starts to go bad on a Saturday does not bode well. It began a full week ago, actually. We’d gone for a long walk with the dogs and then headed home to make some dinner for them. As Tashi (our cocker spaniel) was walking through the house after dinner, she started moving as if on a tilting ship and then collapsed. She kicked a bit, but couldn’t immediately get up. We grabbed and steadied her a bit. Then she popped up and was extremely amped up for a long time, pacing through the house and sniffing around, with her ears cocked up and her eyes not really seeming to see. This went on for while, as we watched carefully for any repeat.
Of course, these things always happen on a weekend evening, eh? Our regular vet out of the office enjoying his weekend, and the only option being the 24 hour Emergency Service, with certainly competent but unknown doctors on staff. We’d been through a vestibular episode one night a few years ago, and this was nothing like that*. She finally calmed down and sacked out after a while, but it took a while before her heart was not racing.
*(”That” - the vestibular event - started with her tossing her chow
and then wobbling, but with rapid, back-and-forth eye movements and a
consistent imbalance. These subsided slowly over several hours.)
Things seemed good the next day, and we were prepared to write it off to her just being overtaxed by the length of the walk. But, then we had another episode the next day. It seemed to happen right around dinner time again, and she bounced right back from it, though again padding around in laps through the house after getting upright. The next morning I called our vet, who was attending a conference until Thursday. As she seemed fine most of the time, and wasn’t showing any symptoms of poison, sustained confusion or 3 or 4 other things the vet tech asked about, we made an appointment to wait until he returned. That lasted until midday, when she had another bit of wacky walking and did her tumbling routine. We punched the red button and zipped her up to the vet - luckily the partner of the clinic was there, a very good doctor. By the time we got there, she wasn’t actively (?) in a heap on the floor, but he took his time and checked her out. He listened to her heart and said, “Whoa!”, cocked his head and listened again.
At that point I was kind of grabbing some part of the wall behind my back and the room felt pretty warm. Turns out that her always-very-low heart rate was taking a rest every few beats. It was not something, he said, that he was expert in, so he was recommending that we go to the canine heart specialist.
As with a lot of things, you find yourself gaining information that you wish you could have ignored in this life. This has happened a few times that I don’t care to go into here and now, but in this case both my wife and I got to know about “High Vegal Tone” and “Sick Sinus Syndrome”, which one responded to atropine introduction, and what the options were for the other. A canine pacemaker was discussed. One side of my brain is processing all this info while the other is considering how absurd it sounded. But, and since you don’t know me all that well, this really must be said, I’m pretty crazy about this little dog, and she had some tough times through the years. It just didn’t seem fair that things now hinged upon this.
Well, to not stretch out this story more than I have - the first medication choice was a bad idea, and resulted in her buzzing around like a 3rd grader on iced quadruple espresso shots. That morphed into her exhibiting seizure-like episodes which came in waves over the 8 or 9 hour duration of the drug. When it finally petered out at 11 pm, my wife and I had traded off restraining her (well - holding on to her) for the day. We didn’t get a lot of work done. I spent that night sleeping next to her, to make sure that she didn’t have any recurrence of the reactions. She didn’t, but awoke every two hours (on the nose) to head for the door and enjoy a good case of the runs. During the end of things, my wife took some video snippets of the seizes, which we shared with the heart doctor the next day. The doctor thought that we needed to make sure it was a heart issue (one of the things we were wondering about while dealing with the full-body-clench and tooth-clacking), and so fitted her with a monitor - I guess the canine equivilent of a Holmes Monitor (sp?). She was pretty sacked out after the drug-induced workout from the day before.
Pretty interesting tech - when she has an “event” we tap the red button and it saves the heart rate from 30 seconds before and 30 seconds after. Then we call the monitor service and hold the device to the phone, press the button again and listen to the howl of carrier tones for a while. After the upload, the doctor gets notified and she can view the results.
We’re trying her on a different drug, building up the dosage reasonably slowly. Obsessing a bit over her as she knocks the monitor into the furniture - she isn’t used to the protruberence. She’s had a couple of recurrences, and the doctor has had a few looks at the output. She gets it off in a couple of days, so we’ll see how things go.