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Adverse Dog Vaccine Reaction Setback and New Symptoms

If you’d asked me last Thursday night about Lilly, I would have extolled her recovery virtues. Friday morning, however, Lilly suffered another major setback in her quest to heal from vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord).

It’s a good thing we already had a “routine” veterinary neurology appointment scheduled that day.

Many weeks that looked a lot like a solid 90-95% overall recovery came crashing to an end Friday (6/29) morning. Lilly began:

  • Having trouble walking –- slipping, wobbling
  • Shivering / having tremors
  • Carrying her tail really low (which is a good indicator for how she feels)
  • Seeming confused about needing to go outside to potty (like she has forgotten how)
  • Falling down a lot
  • Using walls to help herself walk, etc.

I had big plans of asking if I could video-record Lilly’s exam for you, but Lilly required and deserved my full attention.

Our veterinary neurologist gave her a complete neurological exam, and he thinks we’re seeing medication side-effects, rather than primary disease issues. At Lilly’s last appointment in mid-May, blood tests showed that her potassium bromide levels were wildly high — 1.62. Normal (if I’m reading the research right is around 1.0). At that point, we dropped her from 0.8 ml twice a day to 0.6 ml.

While we wait for the latest round of blood tests, I’m dropping her to 0.4 ml twice a day (on my own). It’s a little dicey since this is the only remaining medication that prevents seizures. (As you may recall, we’ve weaned her off both phenobarbital and keppra already.)

BUT, since Lilly hasn’t had a seizure since early February, I think a lower dose is OK. Our neurologist told me that some dogs just don’t metabolize it quite right. He has one 125-pound dog in his caseload who can only tolerate 0.125 ml doses. That’s a tiny amount for a dog so large.

Rear-end wobbliness is a side-effect of potassium bromide, so that just might be the issue here.

The blood tests, when they come back will tell us more. Then, it’ll take 2-3 weeks to see if a change in dose makes a difference.

New Symptoms

However, Lilly is also suffering almost-paralysis-like symptoms that we’ve never seen before … even when she was at her absolute worst while hospitalized for a week right after receiving the rabies vaccine.

Lilly is having pooping issues. Sorry, kids. Yes, we’re talking poop.

I wrote a while back about Lilly’s weird potty accidents in the house, almost like out of the blue she couldn’t control it. (I cannot find the link. Sorry.)

Well, the pendulum has swung the other direction. It’s as if Lilly has forgotten how to “go.” Really, it’s likely that the nervous system signals are just not getting through her spinal cord, but it’s really sad to see.

Lilly wanders around outside, looking for a good spot, but never actually goes. It’s as if she has pooping Alzheimer’s.

So, I told our neurologist about both kinds of trouble — no control and NOT going.

In fact, I could NOT get Lilly to go for love nor money before our appointment Friday morning, and I told him that.

Somehow (and I’ll have to learn how to do it), the neurologist triggered Lilly’s pooping reflex. And, she did indeed go in the exam room. Hate that, but there you go.

So, the reflex is there and working.

Later that day, Lilly had another sudden accident in the house, then she did not go for more than 30 hours.

Saturday night, I was on the verge of another veterinary emergency hospital run. Instead, I posted a plea on our Champion of My Heart Facebook Fan Page, and Susan Tillman (one of our loyal readers / followers) posted a link to ideas on how to trigger Lilly to go potty. [Thanks, Susan, we owe you a prize or something.]

And, thank goodness, one of them worked (see the Q-tip idea … eeeewwww!).

Right now, that’s the ONLY way I can get Lilly to go, so I will keep Lilly on her normal schedule until she can do it for herself.

She had another accident in the house Sunday, while I was gone visiting my mom. Thank goodness for tile floors.

I really hope this resolves as we get her meds at the right doses for HER — no matter what the books say the dose should be.

I made a quick video so that you can see for yourself what this setback looks like. It’s 2 minutes long.

Oh, and because it’s our strange-strange life, one of Lilly’s knees is going bald for no apparent reason.



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.

Jane Boursaw - July 4, 2012

Oh she’s such a sweetie. So sorry you guys are still struggling through this. Will keep you in my prayers. Good to see her playing.
Jane Boursaw recently posted..Would You Pay $5K For a Hat Worn by Kate Middleton?My Profile

Hilary - July 3, 2012

This doesn’t help, but I broke into tears when I watched this video. Looked like Frisbee did when he had his degenerative myelopathy, but I know that’s not what Lilly has. I know how upsetting and frustrating this can be, but I’m hoping for a recovery back to where she was before these new episodes.

Sam - July 2, 2012

That was hard to watch. 🙁
Sam recently posted..Marge Turns 5My Profile

Jodi - July 2, 2012

That poor baby, it is heartbreaking to watch I can only imagine living through it. I hope the vet hits the right dosage of meds for her.
Jodi recently posted..Why My Vet Shouldn’t Give Me Her Cell Phone NumberMy Profile

Jackie Bouchard - July 2, 2012

Poor sweet baby! It’s good to see her playing still though at the end of the video. Sending pawsitive thoughts out to you both.
Jackie Bouchard recently posted..It’s All About the Ears… And the MeatballsMy Profile

Alexandra - July 2, 2012

Well, this video is heart-breaking. I hope the vets are able to help Lilly and she pulls through.
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Jo - July 2, 2012

I’m very sorry to hear of Lily’s relapse. Hoping that med changes may make the difference. Prayers, Lily!

Thanks also for the material on managing incontinent dogs. This is something we should all keep on file until the day it might be needed.


Ingrid King - July 2, 2012

Oh Roxanne, I’m so sorry to hear this! I’m keeping you and Lilly in my thoughts and prayers.
Ingrid King recently posted..New tools to manage feline painMy Profile

Vicki Cook - July 2, 2012

I am so, so sorry to hear that Lilly has had another relapse. I will keep you both in my thoughts and prayers.
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