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Neurology Exam – 14 Weeks Since Adverse Vaccine Reaction Relapse and Counting

This week marks 14 weeks since Lilly’s massive brain inflammation relapse in August. This recovery streak eclipses her previous record of 9 weeks without a setback from earlier in the year. I went into today’s neurology exam expecting we’d continue to wean Lilly’s steroid dose. I was wrong. Here is an update on what we’re keeping, what we’re dropping, and what we’re adding to her treatment plan.

Here are the highlights of today’s neurology exam:

  • Steroid Status Quo: We will NOT make any changes to Lilly’s steroid dose, like going to every other day. She is doing well, so she will remain at 0.75 mg of dexamethasone daily for at least 2 more months.
  • Drop Incontinence Med: The DES for urinary incontinence is NOT helping much (if at all), so we will drop that from her routine. She had been getting it every third day.
  • Add Fish Oil: We will add fish oil back into Lilly’s diet. We dropped it when she first got sick. I had interpreted that as it being a no-no, but I asked today, and there is no reason we cannot add this known, powerful anti-inflammatory back into her diet.
  • Drop Coconut Oil: Lilly had been getting coconut oil to replace the fish oil, but now that we’re going back to fish oil. We will ditch the coconut oil.
  • Keep All Other Meds, including cytarabine: We will maintain Lilly’s doses of other meds / supplements, including the one given to people after organ transplants and the one for seizure prevention. This includes the cytarabine (“chemo”) injections every 3 weeks.

As you may recall, the decision to use the cytarabine wasn’t easy inside our house. We originally committed to 8 cycles / 5 months worth of injections to give this treatment option a chance to work (or not). That essentially takes us to the end of January 2013, which is a full YEAR since Lilly got the rabies vaccine that started us on this journey.

Today, I said to our neurologist, “I think it’s working.”

He replied, “I know it’s working.”

So, we will talk about cytarabine’s continued use at our next neurology exam in 2 months. Honestly, other than the cost and logistics of driving to / from 4 appointments in 2 days every 3 weeks, the treatment itself doesn’t seem to knock Lilly off her stride. And, it’s the safest possible option. There are other at-home meds we *could* try, but they aren’t as safe or potentially as effective in her case.

Lilly’s next set of injections are slated for Thanksgiving weekend.

As for the decision NOT to mess with Lilly’s steroid dose, it’s ultimately all about keeping her in “remission.” We will NOT risk a relapse, especially over the holidays that are going to be tough for us anyway with this year’s losses.

While the original goal may have been to drop the steroids entirely at some point, the new goal is more about getting to the lowest possible working dose — for the rest of her life. That dose just might be 0.75 mg + cytarabine injections.

As for the unrelenting incontinence (both ways)? It seems to be the new normal. It’s time consuming and frustrating and messy and smelly, but Lilly cannot help it.

Our dog diaper plan seems to work well most of the time, and I’ll just keep doing LOTS and LOTS of laundry. (Our dryer died … even though I almost never use it. Our washer is on its last legs, and soon Tom will need to replace our well-pump pressure tank, but those are $$ details for our next $$ update post.)

I would still like to try some acupuncture for the incontinence, if I can find the time and money for it.

While no one on our team is ready to say everything is going to be OK, today was as optimistic as we’ve been in a long, long time.

I forgot to bring our camera to the veterinary hospital today — amid remembering everything else Lilly might need for the trip, so here is my lame / best attempt to get a cool photo of Lilly’s eye.

(That’s my red sweatshirt showing.)

best dog blog, champion of my heart, close-up border collie eye



Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Pup Fan - November 19, 2012

Keeping you guys in my thoughts… glad to hear that things seem to be going well!
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Susan and Wrigs - November 18, 2012

I’m so glad the cytarabine is continuing to work well for Lilly! You, Tom, and Lilly are amazing. I hope you’ll be able to get a new washer and dryer soon! Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
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Christie - November 14, 2012

Hello! I happened to come across your blog on Twitter.

My dog Lulu had a reaction to her rabies shot earlier this year. She just got lethargic, and then her mood was off for a few weeks, but it scared the crap out of me. I can’t imagine what this is like for you, and I’m glad to hear Lily is doing better. I hope you eventually get some restitution from this, especially since so many local governments MAKE you get rabies shots.

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Jana Rade - November 14, 2012

Yeah, I’d also think that if things are working, not to mess with them. Sounds like Lilly is holding up really well. (((hugs)))
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Sam - November 13, 2012

We are continuing to say prayers. Keep us posted!

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Jane Boursaw - November 13, 2012

So good to hear things are going well, Rox. Wish I could drop a bucket of money on your doorstep.
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Candy - November 13, 2012

I was thinking about Lilly and you today. Thanks for the good update.

Sue at Talking Dogs - November 13, 2012

All in all, sounds like good news… good news about/for Lilly. Can’t say the same for your budget, unfortunately 🙁 And I have nothing brilliant to suggest about that.
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KB - November 12, 2012

I think that all sounds like good news, compared to where you were 14 wks ago. I’m thrilled that Lilly is in “remission” and the neuro thinks that the chemo is working…

Acupuncture is an interesting idea but I know that your plate is already pretty full.

I like the photo of Lilly’s eye. One of the things that I love about eye photos is the reflections in the eye. When it’s my dog, I feel like I can myself like they see me… if that makes any sense at all.
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aTXtumbleweed - November 12, 2012

I’m glad Lilly is doing better and that your neurologist is so positive! These “baby” steps forward are great, but I know it must wear on you emotionally and physically!! But…they are steps forward none the less. Still praying and hoping for continued improvement for your Miss Lilly!!

Jen - November 12, 2012

I’m glad to hear that something is working!
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Rissie's Raiser - November 12, 2012

Wonderful news! Docs are rarely that definitive, so this is extremely encouraging! Sending our puppy love and senior dog strength that L continues on her path of healing.

Debra Jones - November 12, 2012

I’m so happy for you, Roxanne! What a milestone!

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