This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write. What I want to do here is kind of a living memorial to the most precious creature I have ever met, my Boston Terrier, Gizmo. I struggle to (usually can't) hold back tears when I write, talk, or even think about her. She has touched me more deeply than any person I have ever met. She showed me what unconditional love is. I am 38 with no kids so she is like my own child. My love for her has no end. God blessed me by bringing her into my life, but He also blessed her with us because I don't think she could be more loved, and I shudder to think of the life she might have had with different owners, especially now and in the future.
Gizmo is actually my Girlfriend (Rene) and her daughters (Jordon) dog. I knew Rene for almost 20 years prior to us starting dating in Dec.2004. I met Gizmo the next day. She was 3.5 years old then. It was love at first sight. We bought a house May 2006 and all moved in together. I was never the same after that day. My bond with Gizmo became so strong, I was the one with separation anxiety, I hated when I had to go to work. (I'm a self-employed electrician so I might work every day one week, then be off the next two.) We decided to live separately in Aug. 2008 for reasons I won't go into, but we still love each other very much. With a little luck, I’ll be home soon. Meanwhile, Gizmo went with Rene & Jordon.
Now to the purpose of this writing:
Its partly for me, as a way to deal with whats going on, but I really want to make people aware of Gizmos condition in hopes that maybe it will help other dogs/owners/vets when SM is suspect. I get kind of long winded sometimes so I apologize for that, I just want to have a complete record of her history, present, and future condition in hopes that owners won't mistake early warning signs for normal behavior. I am NOT a vet so my observations may or may not point to SM, but it is our personal experience.
Gizmo has always been a very active doggie, loves chasing squirrels, loves people, and playing with her toys. She seemed normal until July 2008 when she had a sudden change. It seemed to come from out of the blue. She has always been a very healthy doggie and never suffered any major trauma. She lived the life of a Diva. She was the runt of the litter and her brother (Boscoe) was taken by Rene's brother. He has no problems.
As alot of info on SM can be found on other websites I will only talk about her possible signs, but here are some things she used to do that I thought was normal or cute but now I'm not so sure...
1.Air scratching. She would do that alot, would actually scratch skin but would sort of drift off into thin air. Also when excited if company came over while walking over to them she would "Air Scratch". She was diagnosed with allergies as a pup, but that might have been a mis-diagnoses. I read that the spinal fluid flows with every heartbeat, with SM the fluid is under higher pressure than normal and feels like needle pricks causing the "Air Scratch".
2.Head rubbing. She would lie on the carpet and turn her head sideways then push with a hind leg. That would rub on her forehead and kind of push her in a circle. Then she did the other side. Then would roll over and do her back. I suppose that the needle prick feeling caused that also.
3.Bunny Hopping. When She would run fast She ran like that. Not sure if that was connected or not.
4.Shaking. That came up over the last 1.5 years prior to July 2008. Even sweet talking to her caused her to shake. Suspect excitement caused the needle prick feeling to cause pain.
5.Gait. While walking away her bum would be to the right of her front shoulders. Maybe 1/2 to 5/8 inch off. Running she was almost straight.
6.Fly Biting. Alot of times flying bugs would buzz her, she got stung 3 or 4 times that I know of because she whelped up on her back (and screamed when it happened), but sometimes there were no bugs cause we were inside.
All she does anymore is the Shaking. She hurts too much to do any of the other... If I think of others I'll add them. She does NOT yelp in pain when her head/neck is petted. (yelp is a sign) She only cries loud when she tries to get up, using her hind legs. She is still eating normally and going to the bathroom ok.
This is the e-mail from her doctor after her appointment at NC State Vet Hospital.
I hope this e-mail finds you and your family safe and well...here are the
discharge instructions for Gizmo. Our radiology department will get me a
final report on her MRI, and we will discuss potential surgery for her in
more detail to offer you more information in making your decision.
History: Gizmo is a 7 year old spayed female Boston Terrier that presented
to the NCSU VTH Neurology Service on 1/5/09. She was last normal in July
2008 when the owners noticed that she was acutely lethargic and unwilling
to jump or play. Gizmo was initially worked up at the rDVM with
radiographs and prescribed Prednisone, Tramadol and Methocarbamol.
Gizmo's owners feel that these medications helped with her pain but did
not lead to any improvements in her condition and she has slowly worsened
over the last 6 months. Her signs have progressed to the point that she
screams when she is helped to stand up or lay down, has decreased strength
in her hindlimbs, is off-balance and shaky, falls over instead of laying
down and is unable to use the stairs. The owners also report that Gizmo's
spine appears crooked and her appetite and water consumption are
decreased. The owners have noted weight loss.
Physical Exam Findings: T 100.3 F P 120 bpm R 42 breaths/minute
Wt 4.0 kg (BCS 3/9)
On initial physical exam, Gizmo was quiet, alert and responsive with pink
mucous membranes and CRT less than 2 seconds. Thoracic auscultation and
abdominal palpation were within normal limits. Abnormal findings were
limited to the neurological and musculoskeletal systems (see below).
Pain Score: 3/4
Neurological Exam Findings:
Mental Status - Alert
Posture - Head turn to the right, slight head tilt to the right, left
scapula extended, scoliotic thoracolumbar spine
Gait - Stiff and stilted in all 4 limbs wild tetraparesis and ataxia
Palpation - Resists head manipulation to the left, pain on palpation of
the neck (C1-C5) and thoracolumbar (T3-L3) regions
Postural reactions - decreased postural reactions most notably in left
forelimb, but also diminished in left pelvic limb and right pelvic limb;
proprioception intact in all 4
Cranial nerves - anisocoria with mydriasis OD
Spinal reflexes - Increased spinal reflexes in the hindlimbs (clonic
patellar reflex RR), withdrawal present in all 4 limbs; crossed extensors
noted in pelvic limbs
Sensation - intact with cervical +/- thoracolumbar hyperpathia
Lesion localization - C1-C5 with possible multifocal involvement at T3-L3
Results of Diagnostic Tests:
CBC: No significant findings
Serum chemistries: No significant findings (mild ALP elevation consistent
with prednisone administration)
MRI: severe syringomyelia throughout cervical spinal cord. The spinal
cord parenchyma is markedly diminished in the scanned area and appears to
extend further down the spinal cord (scan stops after T2). No overt
evidence of caudal fossa dysplasia. Final report pending.
CSF: normal cell count and protein level; final cytology report pending.
Diagnosis: Syringomyelia (fluid dilatation of spinal cord) of unknown
Procedure: MRI; CSF collection
Case progress: Gizmo has a severe change to her cervicalspinal cord which
is likely affecting her diffusely. The majority of her spinal cord is
compressed by increased fluid within the cord, which eventually leads to
destruction and loss of spinal cord tissue. This leads to signs of pain,
weakness, and incoordination. Due to the severity of her change, her
prognosis is guarded in terms of response to medications - we can try to
make her more comfortable, but it is unlikely we will be able to improve
her neurologic dysfunction. A surgical procedure (shunt placement) may
remove the pressure damage and alleviate her signs, but due to the unknown
cause and the severe level of change, her response to this therapy is
unknown. We will discuss among the neurology department what we feel to
be the best treatment for Gizmo and contact you further with all options
if you are interested.
INSTRUCTION FOR CARE
Prednisone 5 mg: Give 1/2 tablet by mouth every 24 hours.
Gabapentin: Give 25 mg by mouth every 8 hours (three times per day).
Activity: Please continue to restrict Gizmo's activity at home (which she
has already been doing on her own). Please don't let her run, jump, climb
stairs or play with other dogs. Use a harness at all times instead of a
Other: Please call us with an update on Gizmo's condition in 3-5 days, or
earlier if her signs are worse.
If you have any concerns with how your pet is doing, or would like to
schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Service at
919-513-6692 or 919-513-6714 (fax). For after hours emergencies, call
919-513-6911. There is a veterinarian on call 24 hours a day.
NOTE: If your pet is in need of emergency aid and you are not able to get
to the NCSU VTH quickly, please seek care at the nearest veterinary
emergency facility. Take these discharge instructions and current
medications with you so that the treating veterinarian will know as much
as possible regarding your pets' medical condition.
Zachary E. Niman, DVM
NC State College of Veterinary Medicine
Gizmo is currently very sore, sluggish, and sad. She is a totally different girl than the
one I used to know. She has better days and when she does she will play with her toys, and
talk with us. She does not run much anymore, I kind of doubt that she ever will. A new
chapter in her life, as well as ours has definitely began and its scary. But she brings me
more joy than ever, and we will do the best that we can for her to make her life as happy as
we can. Even if medication only ends up being the road we take, I am so glad we had the MRI
if for nothing more than knowing why she was hurting. Also with this disorder appearing more
often, it has to be better for the doctors to have more case studies to compare.
At least now we can care for her in the best possible way.
Well I guess that covers where we were and where we are now. We are to speak with her
doctor in a few days for the final verdict. I will post back how that goes and what we
decide to do. I also want to try to get the scans, If I do I will post them. I feel that
this is pretty rare in Boston Terriers as opposed to other breeds, also the doctor doesn't
feel she has the skull deformity that is common in other breeds (King Charles Cocker
Spaniels), And that gives me some hope. So if your dog scratches or bites at the air, don't
panic, it may be fine, just be aware it may not.
Thanks so much for reading this, and Rene, Jordon, And Gizmo, I love you girls so much!!!
First I'd like to thank Bryan for these great forums, you have done a wonderful job here and I hope you continue for a long time to come.
Also, Thank you to everyone for their kind thoughts and words, it means so much to us in this tough time.There are so many wonderful people here and I am so glad that I can share Gizmo's story with you all.
That link you provided GroominPuppiez is spot on. What is happening here is just heartbreaking. Its just not fair to these wonderful animals to have to endure what they are going through. All so that a dog will look a certian way. I am thankful for the uniqueness of each of our babies, what fun would they be if every Boston looked and acted the exact same...The methods of line breeding/inbreeding have to stop. People want the 'Perfect' dog, but the imperfections that Gizmo has are what makes her perfect to us. She was not bought as a show dog, she was bought as a 9 year old girls pet, and that girl deserves a friend that will live a long, full, healthy life. Just as Gizmo deserves a long, full, healthy life...
The Kennel Club feels that "The vast majority of dog breeds are healthy", well what about the minorty of dog breeds that aren't??? What about the Cavaliers??? Those poor, poor, dogs. They are estimated to be 1 out of 3 affected with Syringomyelia. Also, their brain is too large for their skull causing even more suffering than SM alone... What kind of life is that, for the dog and the owner??? I am so sad for them, but I am thankful that Gizmo does not that to deal with on top of SM...
Anyway... Gizmo seems to be doing better, the Gabapentin is helping her alot. I haven't seen her in a few days but Rene said she is getting around much better, not as shakey walking. She can get up from laying down without as much pain as before. She used to really struggle to stand up before. I think her system is getting used to it, she had upset tummy the first few days after coming home, but that is getting better.
Rene did get Jordon another puppy, a German Shepard. Her name is Sage. I think that it is good for Gizmo to have a friend to be with her so she doesn't feel alone now. I didn't know that Rene was going to do that, but I had wanted to talk to her about getting Giz a new friend. I was scared that Gizmo would feel like she was being replaced, but I think she knows that she is #1. They seem to get along ok although Gizmo will let the pup know who's boss. I think Sage will care for Gizmo and take care of her as time goes on. After all, thats what Shepards do is watch over things...
We still have not herd from NCSU yet. Dr. Niman said that he wanted to talk to the Peidatric Neurologists at Duke University to get their input on her condition and options for treatment. He did say that he would apply to NC State University for a grant for Gizmo to help her. That would mean that she could get the rest of her treatments/MRI's for free. We still need 2 more MRI's to fully image her lower back and see the rest of her spinal cord. She may end up with a shunt tube to drain fluid off the cord to reduce pressure. He said that in places 70% of her spinal cord is gone... He also said that dogs only need ~14% of cord to function so she still has hope.
He is going to mail us a CD-ROM with her MRI images and when I get them I will post them. Untill then we will hope for her, pray for her, and love her!
Here is a pic of her almost 4 years ago to the day. She stuck her tounge out at me. She's such a silly rabbit...
Also on that page they talked about paw licking as a symptom. Gizmo licked her paws alot, also she would lick the bed comforter leaving a large wet spot. At first I thought she wee wee-ed in the bed. She also bit her nails alot, on a daily basis sometimes...
Anyone else with experience with SM, or a BT with SM, please feel free to post here.
I joined this forum to reply to you about Gizmo. That is sad indeed. I have had 7 Bostons in my life and my Lilly died 2 yrs. ago after developing Cushings disease.They are such wonderful dogs.
My concern now is for my Brussels Griffon Oliver who I got after Lilly died. He too is such a sweetie.
He began having random pains a few months ago and thru research on the internet I suspected Syringomyelia. UGA in Athens is doing a study and accepted him so we went last week and spent the day so that he could have an MRI. We were surprised and disappointed to find that he does have it.
He is our baby! I have convinced myself that this may not advance due to not seeing any symptoms for a while. Tonight I am searching for all the information I can find and that led to your story.
This is heartbreaking. Losing your dog to pain and the life an active dog had is just so sad.
I will keep posted on your dog and hope for the best. Thanks for sharing your story.