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Neurological disorder? Anyone hear the like?

Gloria Atwater

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Okay, people, I'm posting for a friend who's not on these boards, because she has a young dog with a very strange and frightening problem.


About 3 weeks ago, I was visiting my friend's house and we took the dogs out to have a run before feeding time. This young dog (18 months old) ran out with the rest of the pack like she always does, the whole pack careening out into the little front pasture, when all of a sudden, the dog gave this awful YOWL, staggered to one side then the other - and then toppled over flat on her side.


By the time my friend and I reached her - how long does it take to run 20 yards? - the dog was completely rigid and unconscious. The only slight movement was when the dog slowly stretched out full-length on her side, legs and body absolutely stiff. And she stayed that way. Her eyes were fixed and dilated, she was NOT breathing and her tongue was turning blueish purple. We thought she was having a seizure of some sort, but there was NO trembling, shaking or movement of any kind. Just rigid as iron - unresponsive and still not breathing. I put my cap over the pup's open eyes and began CPR while my friend dashed to put the rest of the dogs back in the dog-yard.


Let me emphasize: this young dog's respiration had utterly shut down, her tongue was turning a hideous shade of blueish purple, and her lips and gums were also blue and going cold. Nor did her eyes respond to light or movement, and her body remained completely stiff and motionless.


So, I breathed for her and did few cautious chest compressions (believe me, I'm no expert: this was sheer terror at work!) and within moments, the dog gave a jerk and thrashed sharply, rolling onto her chest. I caught her and called her name, and she flicked me a brief glance and began very tight, labored breathing on her own. Her color remained poor. My friend returned at that moment and we picked the dog up to carry her in. The dog was still quite rigid, though steadily returning to consciousness and her breathing finally deepened. In a couple minutes, she was panting and her color finally returned to normal.


We at first thought it might have been heat stroke, and even dunked the poor thing in the water tank, but we realized that simply could not be it. Minutes later, the pup got tired of being fussed over and we set her down at the door, where she trotted into the house as normal. She did seem exhausted, though, and wanted to be left alone. And that was the end of it.


But ... in the days since, my friend has been unable to find out WHAT it was. Nor has there been a repeat attack. The one thing we're sure of is that if I hadn't administered CPR, that pup would be dead right now.


When my friend's local vet came up blank, she took the dog over the mountains to UC Davis, and I'm not sure what tests they performed, but they still failed to come up with a diagnosis.


Here's what we know it's not:


It's not heat stroke.

It's not epilepsy.

It's not a heart attack. (In the vet's words, "she has the heart of an athlete.")

It's not border collie collapse.

There was no collision or impact of any kind, during that play-run, which might have caused brain injury.


Possibly it was a blood clot. But from where? The dog has suffered no known injuries.


So what the heck is it? Whatever it was, it not only stopped her breathing but it must have stopped her heart, because that dog was dying, turning blue and cold before our eyes.


There have been no repetitions of the attack ... but there have been some odd, other symptoms since then.


Several times now, my friend reports that the dog has experienced incidents of one leg or another suddenly going rigid. The dog shows no sign of acute distress or pain, when it happens, (unlike the yowl of agony that preceded the first attack) but the dog will be walking or even running as normal - and suddenly one hind leg will go stiff, pointing straight out behind her. She's also had each of her front legs go (at separate times) rigid and stiff. One time, my friend was in the bathroom and looked up to see the poor pup standing with the left front leg and right hind leg both thrust out, frozen, so she was teetering on just two legs! Though again, with no overt indication of pain.


Though there was one time she saw the dog suddenly give a yelp and run backwards, with one front leg held out stiff.


So ... she'll be taking the dog back to Davis for more tests when she can, but right now, the consensus seems to be that it's something neurological.


Has anyone even heard of something like this? People keep telling her, "See a specialist," but a specialist in what?




For what it's worth, here's the dog's story.


As I noted, this little dog is 18 months old. She was first of a litter of 4. She was naturally born, but the other 3 had to be delivered by cesarean. This pup was *very* small - thus the only one who could pass through the birth canal - and for the first few days, they weren't sure she would make it. But the pup proved a fighter and vigorous despite her small size. Nonetheless, she grew at a slower rate than her siblings and for a time was pretty funny-looking: big head, Yoda ears, tiny body. Maybe whatever time she spent in the birth canal could have caused some unknown damage?


At about 4 months, she began to put on faster growth and today at 18 months, she's normal-sized. She still looks a bit funny, with her Yoda ears and rounded head, and a bit bowed at the elbows. But otherwise, she's a thoroughly healthy-seeming little dynamo, and rockets around the place like a bat out of he11. In temperament, she's an active, friendly, inquisitive, intelligent and thoroughly normal young border collie.


My friend did keep this pup rather than selling her, because she held concern that the pup's initial smallness and slow growth rate might mean there was something wrong with her. Tests for liver shut proved negative, so maybe plain "runtiness" would explain the dog's small birth weight and slow growth rate, but, now it seems my friend's concerns were warranted. Albeit in a way none of us expected.


So, until she gets back to UC Davis and (hopefully) comes up with some answers, I just thought I'd ask: has anyone heard of anything like this? Any ideas what it could be?


I'm sorry this got so long, but it scared crap out of me when the initial attack occurred, and I want to get as much info as I know in front of you all.



~ Gloria

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How very scary!!! What a lucky pup to have had you there with the frame of mind to take action, I'm sure your friend will be eternally grateful!


I am NOT a vet, but if she were my dog, I would absolutely take her to a neurologist ASAP. Since so many other things have been ruled out, that seems the logical next step. Though quite expensive, a CT scan might give your friend some answers.

Please keep us updated.


Best of luck to your friend!

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The first thing I think of is some kind of mechanical choke. This can be caused by foriegn object....like a marble that acts like a flutter valve. Or some physical aberation that she has. The vet has to look very carefully because it can be hidden if its small.



Another thought is a toxic reaction to flea spray, tick drops or whatever.




But Boy it really sounds like air cut off!




You were good and brave.




Poor dog.




Let everyone know how she is doing.

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Seizures can look like that. They are called tonic seizures and can be generalized (whole body) or localized (face only, leg only, etc). Dogs can stop breathing and turn blue during this type of seiure. Take her to a neurologist.


The classic grand mal sezure is tonic-clonic. People recognize those easily enough, but when they see a purely tonic or purely clonic seizure they don't really what is happening.

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I thought seizure too. I think a neurologist is your best bet. Please keep us posted.


FWIW, when Boy had some "episodes" before I decided to put him to sleep, the best way I could describe what was happening was that it looked like a heart attack. I then discovered that dogs don't have heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) like humans do. Maybe Liz can speak to that issue; if dogs don't have heart attacks, what actually happens?



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I was thinking seizure as well. I've seen both tonic and tonic-clonic seizures in people, and that's what first popped into my mind when I read your description. The dog is right about the age that most epileptic dogs start to have clinical seizures, too. Another vote for going to a neurologist.

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Yes. And what I thought was Snycope, then the issue I had with my Eco, multi micro shunts. His was trauma induced. There is a thread on the boards, Robin & AKDogDoc, helped immensly. Ultimately it was diagnosed at UF. All the tests were negative until they did the *bubble* tests. I'll see if I can find the original thread, but your description scared the beejeebers out of me.


Here's the thread - http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php?showtopic=15500&view=&hl=&fromsearch=1

Sorry on a phone can't make it fancy :)

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Thanks, folks, for your input.


Tea, my friend doesn't use flea or tick stuff, so I doubt it was a toxic reaction. Nor do I think it's any sort of choke thing, given the other symptoms that she's seen. Just scary stuff! :(


Journey, the multi micro shunts could be something, if those don't appear on normal heart checks. As I said, I don't know what tests UC Davis actually performed.


Liz, Mary, Julie et al: the tonic-only type of seizure is new to me. I wonder if that is a warmer guess.


Am I understanding this right? That there can be a "tonic" phase seizure with little or no of the subsequent "clonic" phase?


Because unlike the more common tonic-clonic type of seizure, (as I've just been reading about,) the dog did not move at all, during the seizure/incident. She was just stiff and un-breathing, and then "came to" sort of all at once. There was no jaw champing, drooling, staggering, or random leg movements. No convulsions at all. The dog actually remained stiff for a few more minutes after regaining consciousness, but otherwise seemed pretty much aware of us and her surroundings - mainly concerned with regaining her breath.


The weird thing, though, is the other symptoms which make us wonder if it could be the heart at all. Namely, the limbs abruptly going stiff and rigid while the dog is not only wholly conscious, but sometimes going at warp speed! From a whole-body rigid seizure with an unconscious, un-breathing dog, to just the extremities going rigid with no loss of consciousness at all. What on earth is that?? :blink:


So, the purely tonic seizure thing could be a direction for my friend to look.


Oh, and she also said that once she was watering her garden and the dog walked into the spray. The dog jumped back from the water - but as she did so, one eye rolled back in her head! It blinked back to normal, but my friend said it was pretty bizarre, nothing she's seen before.


Anyhow, I was over there again today and she's going to go back to Davis for more testing, when she can. So a neurologist is undoubtedly on the menu. The hard part is just gathering the money for yet another battery of tests. :unsure:


Thanks for your input, everyone. Keep the ideas coming, if you have any more!


~ Gloria

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I hope her dog gets better! The reason I point out the choke thing is once we had a rescue come in with signs that looked like seizures and turned out to be a pea gravel stuck like a flutter valve in the trachea. We were very lucky to find this unlikely occurrance.

And it was very hard to see, surprisingly.



Tho with the hose spray incident that sounds like something neurological.




Boy poor old thing...!

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Gloria, sorry I didn't reply earlier. Somehow this thread did not show up when I asked to see new posts.


Tonic only seizures do not have the "twitching" or "jerking" movements that people imagine when they hear about a seizure. The entire dog or individual body parts become stiff. Dogs can remain fully aware during some types of seizures.


One of my own dogs had the opposite, a clonic only seizure. He looked like he was having a bad case of the hiccups and most owners would have had no idea what was happening. He jumped onto my bed and woke me up, clearly scared about what was going on.

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Thank you for that, Liz. Tonic only does sound like what this little dog suffered. She was *not* aware, but then she was so deep in the seizure we're pretty sure she would have died.


My friend will get the dog back in for more tests soon as she can - money is, as ever, the sticking point, but she wants answers ASAP. I'll be sure to come back and post here, if/when she learns anything new.


~ Gloria

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Journey ~


No, nothing new, really. :(


The dog's owner did take her to some specialists who said yes, it's probably something awry in the dog's brain. But the MRI and whatever other scans would cost at least $2,000, which my friend just doesn't have at this point. She's got sheep and horses to feed and a place to keep up.


Thus, all she can really do, at this point, is watch the little dog and love her and cherish her, and hope nothing catastrophic happens. There have been no repetitions of that awful collapse, and very little of any symptoms at all, in recent weeks. So ... that's where things stand. The youngster is meanwhile running around acting like a normal 1-year-old border collie, busy and happy and active. Maybe she's on borrowed time, maybe not. But there's really not much more she can do, for now.


Sorry to not have anything better to report. :(


~ Gloria

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  • 2 months later...



Greetings all!


It's taken a while, but I can FINALLY report a diagnosis for the affliction suffered by my friend's young border collie girl. It's been a long and harrowing road for them both, with no recurrence of the terrible seizure that touched it all off, but ... there were a lot of other unnerving things.


The weird little mini-seizure things continued, with the dog randomly "attacked" by moments where one leg or two legs or even part of her face would go completely rigid - sometimes while she was running at full speed! My friend could find no pattern or trigger for any of it, no apparent reason for the events at all.


Then ... in the past month, the little dog started losing weight and her appetite began fluctuating wildly. One day she'd be practically repulsed by the very idea of food, the next she'd be famished. Off and on, off and on, and her weight dropped at a frightening rate.


Well, my friend finally found a vet who was willing to really look at her blood panels - and he hit the jackpot. He sent the test results off to some university or other in Michigan, who confirmed his findings.


My friend's dog is suffering from a massive calcium deficiency, caused by - get this - hypo-para-thyroidism. That's a malfunction of teeny, tiny little glands located next to the thyroid. It is exceedingly rare and none of the consulting vets had actually seen this, in all their combined years of practice.


Here's an article talking about the condition.



Pages 4 and 5 of the article are particularly interesting, as they talk about the symptoms, the lack of calcium affecting myocardial contractility and causing muscle cramping, stilted gate and seizures.


The vet also said that the initial incident probably was indeed a heart attack, since the heart is just another muscle and this was one helluva cramp. We got, very, very lucky, there.


The condition is probably something this youngster was born with, per the vet's opinion, rather than there being an external cause. She was the smallest puppy, a little funny looking, and she took a seemingly long time to really start growing, unlike the rest of the litter. This is why my friend kept her, since she and her hubby feared there might be something a little "off" with her, and they didn't want to sell a pup that wasn't right.


So ... after getting IV calcium from the vet, to stabilize her, now the dog is being treated with daily Vitamin D and calcium, which she'll do for the rest of her life. It took a few days, but now she's making a marvelous comeback, eating heartily, gaining weight, and it's a little heartbreaking to see how much this had been taking her down, over time. Now she's being more playful, more loving, more engaged with her owner - and with me, when I visited today. She's always been an active little dog ... but we didn't realize that some things we'd attributed to her getting older and less playful were actually her losing energy.


Anyhow, that's that! I figured I should follow up on this, just in case anyone ever comes across something as bewildering - and frightening. Meanwhile, we're thanking God for an inquisitive vet who refused to give up until he'd nailed down the entire picture. He saved this little dog's life!


All's well as ends well. :)


~ Gloria

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Thanks, everyone. As the song says, "What a long, strange trip it's been," but what a relief to finally have answers - and a solution! Definitely file this under the weird and unusual, that's for sure! :) My friend is breathing many, many sighs of relief.


~ Gloria

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