In the continuing saga of “old dogs are old,” Licorice has done her level best to fill the void Duncan left behind. (Understand that by “void” I mean “need for expensive trips to the vet.”) I mentioned before that she had some accidents in the house (unusual for her), but—in the immortal words of Billy Mays—WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
One day this summer, and honestly I can’t even remember when, now, Licorice started limping. She was favoring her back left leg. We’ve always joked that Licorice is part gazelle due to her impressive vertical leap, and because she is an old lady now (you never really know with a rescue, but between her assigned birthday and assumed age, we think she turned 15 this August) we figured perhaps she had leapt off the bed or the couch and landed a little wrong. I hadn’t witnessed anything like that, hadn’t heard her yelp or cry, but we figured that must be it. I pointed it out to Otto when he got home that day and we agreed to wait and see how she was the next day. Maybe it would get better on its own!
HAAAAAAAAhahahaha. The next morning, she’d stopped using that leg altogether and was refusing to bear any weight on it. Off to the vet we went!
What followed was a flurry of appointments and x-rays and consultations with specialists that yielded a diagnosis of… “we’re not sure.” Small dogs are prone to luxating patellas (which she definitely has) and because of that, ACL tears. Usually (but not always) you can see that sort of tear on an x-ray, but they didn’t see it. What they DID see on the x-ray was a couple of degenerating discs (sad face) and something along her hip that they referenced in very vague terms until I grew impatient and said “ARE YOU SAYING YOU THINK SHE HAS A BONE TUMOR??” They sent those films out to a specialist, who sent them back saying it looked like a previous fracture and not a tumor (sigh of relief). They offered to send her out for further (expensive) scans, but said the treatment would be about the same, so we declined.
First we had to find a pain reliever she could have. Licorice is in “early kidney failure” which means she is on a low-protein diet of expensive food to prevent its progression. (Sidebar: she hates the kidney diet food, so at least it’s expensive AND we often end up throwing it away.) Most anti-inflammatories usually prescribed to dogs stress the kidneys, so first the vet had to find something she could have that would both work and not impact her kidneys. That involved some trial and error, the purchase of expensive meds, and follow-up blood tests to make sure everything was okay. In addition to that rigamarole, we were told to keep Licorice on strict crate rest while they began laser treatments on the affected area.
At this point my eyerolls ranneth over. Licorice HATES the crate now that Duncan is gone. She never wants to be alone, and even having the crate in the same room as us is not okay with her. So we were charged with essentially keeping her from walking at all times, which meant a lot of placing her on the couch or bed and then lunging for her the moment she decided to move. Or we would scoop her up, carry her outside and down the steps, set her down to pee, and she would finish her business and do a three-legged dart back up the stairs before we could catch her. I spent a lot of time hollering HEY LICORICE, STOP, YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RESTING which was super useful.
And laser treatments? What the what? I figured the vet had just finally figured us for easy marks. BUT. I still cannot explain to you what it is or how it works, but it worked. She got better pretty quickly. We are still doing “maintenance treatments” once a month, but she is back to her usual four-legged self, save for the fact that her vertical leap does seem to have been permanently altered. It often takes her several tries to get on the couch, now, but it doesn’t seem to bother her much. And again, she’s (at least) 15! That’s 105 in human years! She’s entitled to slow down a little.
Anyway, that was kind of an odyssey but all’s well that ends well, right?
Welp. During the leg injury time, she would often sort of… vibrate. Tremble. And when we talked to the vet about it, they said that can happen when dogs are in pain, so give the pain med and see if it stops. It seemed to, so that was good.
But then the leg was all better and she started trembling, again, mostly in the evenings, apropos of nothing (it seemed), so I talked to the vet about it, and again they said to try giving the pain med to see if that helped, and I did, a few times, but it didn’t seem to change anything. We had the “old dogs sometimes develop tremors” conversation, and I kind of shrugged and Monkey started calling her Vibradog and we all went on with our lives.
About a week ago, Licorice seemed restless the entire day. She trembled. She occasionally lay down and squeaked a little and got up and rearranged herself. I kept a close watch on her. By the time Otto got home I told him I was definitely going to take her to the vet the next day, but as we petted and fussed over her, I noticed she was keeping one eye mostly closed.
I Googled. Google informed me that she probably had a corneal scratch and this constituted a VETERINARY EMERGENCY due to pain and infection risk, so while I wracked my brain to try to figure out if she had been squinting earlier (I don’t think she had), we headed to the vet hospital ER. We handed her off with some explanation of the suspected eye injury, and we waited.
Eventually they came out and took us to a small room and explained that the good news was that Licorice did not have any evidence of an eye injury! And the bad news was that Licorice definitely had advanced glaucoma in that eye. Her ocular pressure in the affected eye was something sky-high and later Googling revealed that glaucoma is apparently very painful for dogs, so ACK but also I think we caught it pretty quickly. More good news: they felt she still had vision in that eye, and there are eye drops which are very effective in treating glaucoma. They also briefly explained that glaucoma can be primary (you have glaucoma because you have glaucoma) or secondary (you have glaucoma because something else has caused it), and they felt pretty confident that this was primary glaucoma, but did we want an ophthalmological consult just to be sure? We declined. We believe you! Bring on the eye drops!
They sent us back out to the waiting room while they administered the first round of drops and waited a bit to recheck her eye pressure. And also during that time they called over to ophthalmology to confirm the right drops and apparently ophthalmology gave them the information and then said MAKE THEM SCHEDULE A FOLLOW-UP WITH US BECAUSE WE THINK IT’S SECONDARY. So by the time we were able to take her and her new collection of eye drops home, I had done more Googling and was terrified MAH BAYBEE had cancer and was already bargaining with the mystical powers of the universe, asking that we please please please not have to say goodbye to this dog so close to bidding farewell to Duncan.
A few days later we brought her back to see the eye specialists, and after waiting a loooong time (during which we met and befriended multiple dogs in the waiting room, including one that could’ve been Duncan’s brother, who Otto did NOT allow me to dognap because he’s a big meanie), they told us they saw no evidence of other disease (read: no obvious tumors). They also told us that they believe she is already blind in the affected eye, and you could tell they were worried we would be devastated by this news, but we were all OH THAT’S OKAY, SHE HAS ANOTHER EYE and had to explain that we’ve already done the mostly-blind-dog thing and that’s not a huge deal. They also haltingly relayed the information that the drops may stop working at some point, and then we would have to have her eye removed, and again we were like COOL NO BIGGIE. I mean, how cute would Licorice be with a little eyepatch?? She’d be an awesome pirate.
They further explained that there were plenty of other diagnostics that could rule out contributing disease, all of which are either invasive or expensive or both, and while it’s not impossible that there’s something else happening, we are comfortable right now waiting and seeing. She’s had recent bloodwork because of the meds and the kidney stuff, and it would be unlikely for her to have some sort of Awful Baddy happening with normal bloodwork. So we’ll stick with the regular bloodwork and the eyedrops for now.
For her part, Licorice seems fine. In retrospect we realize this must’ve started a few months ago; she has been a little clumsy, and we thought that was related to the leg injury, but now it makes sense that perhaps she ran into things because she was already blind or at least severely compromised in that eye. She doesn’t seem to mind the eye drops at all (maybe because she can’t see them coming?), and she’s back to running around and killing her toys and begging for human food.
Listen, I’m not saying she has to live FOREVER, but I’m relieved she’s gonna be sticking around for a while.