Phoenix, the Miracle

On Thursday night we got home from a week in Waterloo to find Phoenix in terrible shape. Dad was watching him and Aspen, since they don’t enjoy the traveling and aren’t a huge fan of my friend’s current foster puppy. Huib carried him out to greet me and I was in shock to see how immobile he was. We worried all night and had him sleep with us so we could monitor his health and help him when needed. He could not sleep well on his right side, finding it hard to move and find a comfortable head position, but on his left he was a bit more settled. We set off for Guelph around 9am and called the vet from North Bay.

Dad told us that on Wednesday morning around 10:30 he came out of the bedroom and stopped in the doorway. He said he all of a sudden began to tremble and fought to stay on his feet, but eventually fell over to the right and couldn’t get up. Dad didn’t have a phone or car so cared for him the best he could. He said it looked like a stroke and he was so worried.

When we first arrived, Phoenix couldn’t stand and didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He was drooling excessively and his nose ran. His head was at a tilt to the right and his eyes twitched. I was so upset, but knew we had to take him to his vet in Guelph because I knew she would do everything possible and be honest with us regarding his prognosis. We decided to stop at his foster family’s house before the vet just in case the worst was to happen, we knew he needed to see them and they needed the visit. After visiting for 10 minutes we set off to Guelph (they live in Etobicoke). It was the longest hour I’ve ever spent in a car and couldn’t stop crying and thinking that this could be the last drive we sat together.

We arrived at the office around 6:00pm and were greeted by Dr. b and one of her assistants, who just happened to attend the University of Guelph when Phoenix and I were there. Huib carried him into the examination room and placed him on the table which was covered with a blanket and towel for comfort. Dr. b asked us questions and then began examining him. After a few heart wrenching minutes she looked up and I said “it’s bad, isn’t it?”. She said it actually wasn’t as bad as we’d thought and that dogs do not really have strokes, but that they are more common in cats. She diagnosed Phoenix with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease and said that he should almost fully recover, but that I had to be willing to put in the time and effort to get him back to “normal”. I told her I’d do anything necessary and asked what was needed. She explained that there aren’t any treatments, it just takes time and patience since this condition seems to appear all of a sudden and then go away within a week or month’s time. She said there shouldn’t be any ill effects, but that he may have a permanent head tilt and his eyes may not completely stop twitching, but that he can see perfectly fine and will slowly get used to all of this. She explained that the reason he cannot walk on his own and tends to fall to the right is because IVD effects his balance and causes dizziness – I guess sort of like Vertigo in humans. Dr. B went to prepare a homeopathic remedy while her assistant and I stayed with Phoenix. He didn’t like being up on the table so Huib picked him up and put him onto the blanket on the floor where he felt more comfortable. After giving Phoenix the remedy, Dr. b assessed him further and asked that we call her on Saturday with an update and then set up a phone consult for Tuesday or Wednesday. She asked that we put him onto a mixture of mushy kibble and canned food so he won’t inhale his food and aspirate – this was her biggest worry since he could get pneumonia. After picking out some gluten-free food and paying the bill, we set off for home. It was a long day, we barely slept Thursday night and couldn’t relax in the truck on the way so slept off and on during the drive home – thankfully Dad came and drove most of the way home.

On Saturday, Phoenix woke me up around 8:30am wanting to go out and eat breakfast. I put one of our doggie life jackets on him so we could use the handle to support him as he tried to walk. I found improvements in the way he held himself, standing straighter and actually weight baring, rather than needing assistance to both stand and walk. When in a down in the kitchen – while I ate breakfast – he was able to lie semi-normally and look around at all the action. At one point he even got up on his own and walked over to the water bowl for a drink before I noticed. I put him on the couch for the afternoon while I surfed the internet and watched some television. Whenever I got up and he was still asleep I attached a bear bell to the back of the life jacket so I’d know when he was awake. Dad and Huib carried Phoenix inside the last two times he went out for relief because he seemed to freeze in one spot and refuse to move any further – guessing the outdoors got a little overwhelming at night for him. The other times Dad or I took him out during the day he seemed willing to help as much as possible as long as we were patient enough to wait for him to try a step. Huib and I slept with him between us last night and once he was put onto his left side he fell asleep and didn’t stir until about 7.5 hours later.

Today he seems a little stronger on his feet and actually wanted to stand while eating breakfast. Huib tried to get him to lie down, but he refused, so we just held his bowl up and watched to make sure he didn’t lose his balance. I took him out around 10 this morning and he tried to walk further than yesterday, but it is sort of a blizzard out there so I convinced him to go back inside. I have to almost carry him down the stairs, but he tries to help on the way up. He’s been sleeping on the couch beside me this afternoon, but I’ll probably take him out for relief soon and see how he does.

From the research I’ve done on IVD Phoenix should continue to improve and like Dr. B said not have any real side effects other than the slight head tilt. I’m so blessed to still have Phoenix and am relieved to know that he will soon make a full recovery.

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