Where to begin. Had to take Poppy to the vet this week as her intermittent cough is getting worse and she was not eating too well. She had a thorough check up and we decided to try to eliminate the obvious possibilities: lung worm (scary) or a long standing low grade infection. After physical examination her heart seems to be good. Another possibility is something in her trachea but it's impossible to see clearly into her throat as dogs gag too much. So she has a ten day course of Panacur and antibiotics. If these don't make any difference then we'll have to think about tests, x-rays etc. The Panacur is an extra precaution as Poppy has been treated with Advocate but not on a monthly basis because I hate putting this stuff on my dogs and so I stretch it out as much as I can.
Anyway, I decided that I should put the damn stuff on the dogs again to give Poppy as much protection as possible in case her cough is lung worm-associated. Normally I put it on just before we go for a walk so that the dogs don't really think about it. I also take other simple precautions such as separating dogs that are likely to lick each other etc. I am very aware of the risks for collies and other herding breeds (including shelties) but have been persuaded that the threat of lung worm is greater.
For a variety of reasons I decided to put it on them first thing on Thursday morning and then immediately give them their breakfast so that they would forget about being treated in their excitement for their food. That seemed to work fine. I applied the Advocate carefully, parting the hairs between their shoulder blades and all seemed fine. Then I separated the various dogs and went to work in the office where we had a busy morning scheduled.
At about 1.00 pm I got ready for our walk and it was as I was putting on Niamh's harness I noticed that some of the Advocate had travelled from the application site down her shoulder. Shit I remember thinking and that I would wash it off when we got home. Off we went on our walk. I decided to do a long walk as it was a lovely sunny day and for the first half everything was fine. As we started to turn for home something was niggling in my mind about Niamh. I think we all know our dogs so well and we can immediately spot tiny little things when their behaviour varies from the norm. Niamh just did a couple of silly, different from normal, things that caused me to take notice but I put those thoughts aside.
Then as we entered the last third of our walk her behaviour began to give me serious cause for concern. Niamh, by her nature is quite a jumpy dog: she leaps in the air if anything touches her or if she treads on a thistle etc. She started to do this in the middle of a grassy field. It was if she was treading on hot coals. She was leaping about as if each time a foot touched the ground it was being scalded. Then she started to sniff (another thing which she does when stressed) but this was sniffing in the extreme. She couldn't get her nose off the floor and every few paces the leaping continued and she was acting as if everything she sniffed was a huge threat and that something was trying to get her. I decided to call her in to me as I was beginning to worry that she might bolt and in her current state I doubted I could get her back to me. She seemed relieved to be put on the lead but continued all the weird behaviours and they were getting worse. I also noticed that at times she was unsteady on her legs. I got very frightened and even at that point I knew it was associated with the Advocate and that she had somehow licked the residue that had run down her side. I checked her eyes; her pupils were dilated and her eyes seemed wild and unable to focus for any length of time.
I walked as fast as I could back to the car and loaded the dogs. Normally after a walk Niamh curls straight into a ball and goes to sleep. She is a very 'satisfied' dog and loves to get back to bed after her walk. However, this wasn't the case today. She paced in her car kennel, back and forth. She was panting heavily and sniffing and jumping into the air. I was beginning to panic.
I got home and took her straight indoors and called for Andy. She was getting worse and was quite frantic indoors. I was in a state by this point and so Andy went straight back to the office and called the vet. They made us an appointment for an hour's time but said come straight down so we could wait there in case she took a turn for the worse.
It takes us just over ten minutes to get to our vet and by the time we got there she was becoming quite unstable on her legs. I was not coping well and our vet took us straight through. He agreed that my suspicions were likely to be right in that she had licked the Advocate that had travelled down her side. He explained that her symptoms were due to intoxication but that the worry is always greater with a collie due to the possibility of MDR1 gene defect. He decided that we should get her registered with a specialist in case she should become worse. So he rang North Downs Specialist Referrals and off we went. We are very lucky that this is only another 15 minutes on from our vet.
We went straight into our appointment and saw a vet called Rodolfo Cappello. He was a really nice person and very down to earth. He examined Niamh and the most positive thing was that her reactions to the standard neurological tests were good. But she was staggering and very frantic. He said she would need to be admitted as the worry was that the next stage would be that she would begin fitting. To begin with he thought she would be in for at least the coming weekend but after he did the neuro tests he hoped we could pick her up on Saturday. This was of course assuming that she didn't worsen. He explained, as had Nico our vet, that nothing can be given to the dog to help the situation. I had wondered if she should be sedated but all of the drugs used in sedation can accelerate the problems with the intoxication. So all that can be done is to treat symptoms as they occur. If Niamh started to fit then she would be anesthetised using a slow release pump to keep her just under. NDSR is one of only a very few places in the country where this facility is available. So she was in the best possible place. Niamh would be treated simply by keeping her in a dark place and observed, nothing else would be done unless her condition worsened. They told me they would wash off the residue of the Advocate and she would be cannulised in case they needed to anesthetise her further down the line. It is very difficult to cannulise a fitting dog.
We left her and I was relieved she was in the best hands but very distressed as I felt devastated to have done this to my beautiful dog. I felt a little better after I got home and googled Rodolfo Cappello to find that he is possibly the top man in his field not just in the UK but in Europe. He had promised to call us after 10.00 am on Friday to give an update. Needless to say I didn't sleep much on Thursday night.
He was more than true to his word and called at 9.30 am. Andy came running into the kitchen to say that if we heard nothing more that day then we could pick her up after 4.00 pm on Friday. She had improved hugely and it was looking like she just suffered from intoxication and nothing more sinister. Thank god. I was so happy I burst into tears!
We collected her soon after 4.00 pm and had another long chat with Rodolfo Cappello. He said he was very happy with her improvement and that he didn't believe she had sufferered any long term neurological damage, just a case of intoxication. He explained they hadn't been able to wash off the Advocate as she was too agitated and wild, instead they'd had to clip it off so she has nice bare patch on her shoulder but guess what, I'm not bothered!
He very kindly explained how careful one should be when applying the Advocate and I listened politely but I know I applied it to Niamh exactly as with the other five dogs and I said this to him. He told us a story about a lady who had put the advocate into her spaniel's dinner. She hadn't listened to her vet or read the instructions. Her dog did not survive.
Going back to Niamh, the only thing I can think is that her coat is of a different texture and that liquid runs down it more easily. I'm not just plucking this thought from the air. When we dry the dogs we always moan that Niamh is the hardest to dry off. Her coat is slippery and the moisture just seems to travel further down her coat rather than soak into the towel or cloth we're using; whereas as with Becky and the shelties who have fluffier coats the drying process is quicker and easier. Who knows.
What I do know is that right now I don't want to hear the name Advocate. I am going to treat my dogs for lung worm using Panacur every three months, I know this choice is to treat rather than prevent but I think I will take my chances. My own vet called last night to see how Niamh was doing and we had a good chat. He asked me what I was going to do going forward as he believes that Advocate is the right product. He told me that Niamh is the first case he personally has seen with such a severe reaction but that he has dealt with five fatalities from lung worm. So, I can see his point of view but right now I can't bear the thought of using the stuff and he is totally understanding of my standing on the issue. We have certainly found a good vet in Nico.
Niamh was very subdued and desperately tired. She ate well and slept all evening. Andy kindly moved into the spare room so I could have her on the bed with me. She didn't move all night. This morning she was a lot brighter and today she has presented me with a toy to play with. I am, on the advice of the vets, keeping her quiet for a few days. It would seem that the intoxication could have been accelerated by exercise, not certain but a real possibility. I am watching her like a hawk for any signs of odd behavior and so far she seems good. Last night I just sat looking at her as she slept peacefully, so different from the frantic little dog of 24 hours before. I am very lucky to have her with me still.
Obviously I wanted to record this experience on the blog and I have gone into quite a bit of detail in order to share the experience with my dog loving friends.
Hug your dogs. Here is my beautiful girl snuggled up in her bed, on my bed! Thank you to my lovely friends for your comfort and support.