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Upper Motor Neurone Disease - Tamar diagnosed

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Tamar is a Maltese/Shih Tzu whom I collected from a pound for another rescuer on Friday 2 July 2004.  She was approx 6 months old, severely traumatised and, surprise surprise, she ended up staying with me.  Although Jeune was totally ambivalent, Tamar clung to Jeune with a sort of desperation.  For years, if Jeune moved, Tamar moved.  If Jeune went downstairs or even went to look out the front door, Tamar followed and she always slept next to her.   For the last few years of Jeune’s life, this need for closeness ceased for which I was relieved as I knew Jeune would go before Tamar and was really concerned as to how she would cope.  

 

Some years ago, I noticed when we were out walking Tamar’s right back leg would bend over at the “ankle”; at first it was so fleeting, I thought I had imagined it or that she’d just caught it on grass roots or something.  However, over time it because very evident, but stayed at just that one leg for quite a while and then the same thing started with her left hind leg.  

 

After some time of no escalation, she became very wobbly on her back legs. By the time she had reached this wobbly stage, I had taken her to the vet who diagnosed nerve damage with nothing to do; on one of my visits with her the vet more or less said she would die before the condition worsened to the state she couldn’t use her legs.  

 

On 6 Feb this year, I saw another of the vets at the same hospital and he said she had UMN. 

 

I have noticed quite a deterioration in the past few weeks and had a very distressing experience yesterday.  I headed for the couch to read/watch television and, of course, fell asleep very quickly.  I woke a couple of hours later when it was dark and heard some sort of squeaking noise.  I raced around the house looking for but not finding Tamar, grabbed a torch and ran downstairs calling her.   The squeaks turned to squeals and I found her huddled on the ground in one of the gardens.   As you can imagine, I was so upset at her distress and, worse, because I’d been asleep, I had no idea how long she’d been there.   As she can no longer negotiate the stairs (up or down) or the ramp, I can only assume she must have tumbled down.  As the other two (Mezza and Sooty) can't go downstairs on their own either, from now on, I will be putting up a barricade when I go out 

 

The vet told me that UMN affected the hind legs, back part of the spine and brain.   

 

As to the latter, for some time now, Tamar starts walking around and around and around in a manner I have seen with brain damaged dogs.  During these wanderings she regularly gets caught up in chair legs, behind the curtains, plant stands and anything frankly.  I few times I have found her caught in the gap between the piano and the wall, and also the gap between the frig and the pantry.   I have attached photos to illustrate this.  

 

The vet who told me her condition was UMN has been away, but as soon as he returns, I will be taking Tamar to see him.  

 

In the meantime, I wonder if anyone has had any experience of this?  

 

Would Tamar be a candidate for little wheels?

 

Has anyone used leg braces for anything similar to this condition?

 

 

49865192317_ed173d5bc3_m.jpgIMG_1200 by Cynthia Waters, on Flickr

 

49864882851_75700ca2bb_m.jpgIMG_0690 by Cynthia Waters, on Flickr

 

49865127167_86037d3a23_q.jpgfullsizeoutput_c49 by Cynthia Waters, on Flickr

 

49864882661_d636388a32_q.jpgIMG_1201 by Cynthia Waters, on Flickr

Edited by Loving my Oldies
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stellnme   

I'm sorry your little Tamar has this.  I've no experience with dogs with MND but my father died from it and it's a progressive disease that only gets worse.  The specialist told our family that the progression (in humans) depends on where the symptoms first manifest.  In my father's case, he kept stumbling on his daily walk, so they think it started in his legs, but he didn't seek help until he had constant twitches in his arm - by this time it had progressed upward.  I think talking to the vet who diagnosed Tamar, as you were going to do, would be the best because progression in dogs may be very different.  It's my guess wheels may not be much of a help, as her muscles in other areas will probably not be able to support her, but be guided by the vet's experience.  It doesn't affect the brain at all.

Make your house as safe as possible for her and enjoy your time with her.  Not much help, but wanted to let you know I am thinking of you both.

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Thanks @stellnme.  I did some googling when my vet first told me about UMN, but found the below just today after doing more searches for UMN in dogs.   My vet also told me that little dogs manage better than big dogs, because of the difference in weight as the larger dogs cannot support their weight.  I thought the same re your comment about wheels and at the time my vet said she had UMN he said that despite all the wonderful videos we see on social media, etc, dogs can find wheels very difficult.  

 

That said, I think Tamar’s front legs would be very strong as, all her life, her way of doing wees was to stand on her front legs and totter forward weeing the while !!   I do have a video somewhere and will try to find it.   

 

"Spinal muscular atrophy is a collective term for a group of motor neuron diseases. Motor neurons are the nerve cells which transmit electrical impulses to the muscles in order to generate movement. The exact symptoms of these disorders depend on the specific condition however generally your dog will have difficulty in supporting their own weight, degraded reflexes, an awkward gait, and a loss of muscle mass. These diseases are currently incurable and with the exception of the German Shepherd they will also worsen over time. Treatment will consist of keeping your dog comfortable until they need to be put to sleep."

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Rebanne   

I don't see how having wheels will stop Tamar from getting caught up in things poor little mite. Might be time to think of letting her go with dignity.

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Oh dear, poor little darling....and poor 'Mum'.you're copping it this year. So sorry.

Wheels?I wouldn't  do it, if her brain is affected to the extent she is ending up under and between things, wheels won't  help.

You know when a dignified old dog has deserved peace and an end to confusion and pain....allowing a disease to progress? Not sure if that's a dignified way to taper off the life of a dear little scrap like Tamar.

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@Rebanne  @persephone  At the moment, Tamar is happy and healthy.  :)  :)   She eats well even if sometimes she falls over her bowl or ends up standing in it!!!  
 

When I take her and the others downstairs which I do several times a day, she still enjoys sniffing around.  I watch her to gauge when the enjoyment changes to “the wandering”.   The best is that she and Mezza still have their moments of puppy play.  
 

ETA:  Tamar is not in pain and if she were and it could not be controlled, I would never let her suffer.  

Edited by Loving my Oldies
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I’m so sorry this has happened...  it must be very distressing for both yourself and Tamar.

I have to agree with Rebanne and Pers... let her go with love x

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PepperP   

"Tamar is not in pain and if she were and it could not be controlled, I would never let her suffer.  "

That is how I see it, too.

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Dogsfevr   

I have owned a dog that required wheels ,its not simple in the house,you need to modify your home BUT if the dogs gets stuck they end up just as distressed or flip the cart which is worse .
My dog had a quick release cart but was never left in it without us being there if just wasnt a safe option .

We groom a dog that has very similar issues ,his degree of instability has been very bad the last few weeks,owners say its okay we see the change more than them ,there happy to ket him plod along if he was ours he would be given his wings ,mentally all there but the body is a sad sight & his diginty often lost in the process.

I guess the one area you need to modify after this experience is outside access when your not able to commit 100% .
Have been there with a blind dog ,we adapted for a year when out or unable to watch her as i couldn't cope if she died outside from the extreme heat or got stuck in terrible winter weather & passed away due to those ramifications  .Her quality was no longer there .

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Snook   

I'm sorry that you and Tamar are going through this. :kissbetter:  I realise it's easier for me to say when it's not my dog but I don't think I'd just be relying on physical pain to determine when it's time to give your darling girl her wings. I'd also be weighing up the frequency of her getting stuck in various places and her distress during those times, when assessing her quality of life. :heart:

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2 hours ago, Snook said:

I'm sorry that you and Tamar are going through this. :kissbetter:  I realise it's easier for me to say when it's not my dog but I don't think I'd just be relying on physical pain to determine when it's time to give your darling girl her wings. I'd also be weighing up the frequency of her getting stuck in various places and her distress during those times, when assessing her quality of life. :heart:

Thanks @Snook.  You are right - I won’t be relying on physical pain in terms of making any judgement, there certainly is more to life than just not being in pain.  Her stumbles don’t seem to disconcert her, but getting caught can a different matter.  Sometimes she just seems to go into a bit of a trance and even at those times when she realises she can’t extricate herself, she doesn’t seem to get too upset.  Last night’s experience of getting caught down in the garden was just awful though.  

 

 I am moving some of the dining table chairs into another room to help her in the house and I have put up a barricade at the back stairs.  

 

The vet I want to see is now back on deck and I have an appointment for Monday.  

 

Happier days when we were all a lot younger:

49755645023_1415112628_m.jpgTamar Jeune 2 by Cynthia Waters, on Flickr

Edited by Loving my Oldies
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Snook   

It sounds like the changes will help limit her getting stuck and hopefully the vet can offer some help or advice on what to consider going forward. It's not easy watching our dogs get old on us, as you well know. :kissbetter:

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4 minutes ago, Snook said:

It's not easy watching our dogs get old on us, as you well know. :kissbetter:

You bet  :cry:   :cry:   :cry:

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Tassie   

Such a tough time with your oldies  … they are so very fortunate to have you.    Good news that the savvy vet is back and that you can see him Monday.   Wishing you and Tamar all the best.

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Might there be canine cognitive dysfunction in the mix? That’s the first thing I think of with little ones getting stuck in furniture. Forgive me as I do not recall her age. 

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@Papillon Kisses, my vet told me that UMN affects the brain, too.  It became obvious a while ago that something was going on when I took her downstairs last thing at night; she wasn’t able to find her way upstairs. At first I thought it was a case of night blindness until my Vet told me about UMN.  I would also have to start talking to her before I approached and make sure she had computed my presence otherwise she’d jump a mile high and run away.  That seems to have stopped of late which is good.  It is horrible to see them startled because they’ve lost some of their cognitive abilities.   

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On 07/05/2020 at 2:31 PM, ♦ Marg ♦ said:

I’m so sorry this has happened...  it must be very distressing for both yourself and Tamar.

I have to agree with Rebanne and Pers... let her go with love x

She definitely will be let go with more love than I can express .... when the time is right.  Tamar is still a happy and, UMN notwithstanding, healthy little dog.  She loves her cuddles and her food and as I said above she and Mezza still have little bouncy mouthy play times.   

 

On 07/05/2020 at 3:34 PM, PepperP said:

"Tamar is not in pain and if she were and it could not be controlled, I would never let her suffer.  "

That is how I see it, too.

Thank you, @PepperP.  This is how the situation stands at the moment.  She is not in pain and I would never countenance that.  

 

There are 24 hours in a day and for probably half that time my dogs are asleep or snoozing as they are all very old.    Then there are the times downstairs, or with Sooty, dozing sitting up  :laugh:  :laugh: in the patches of sun on the deck, feeding, getting cuddles, eating, etc etc.   Those who think I should “let Tamar go” please be assured she is not at that stage yet and the second that happens, I will do so.  

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How is Tamar doing today ? I hope she is feeling ok.

My Sasha I suspect is almost blind :( twice this week she has smacked into the glass sliding door thinking it was open... I am starting to think she is starting on the downhill :( 

Once I can be with her at the vet I will see how bad her sight is.. although there isn’t much I can do except to make sure things aren’t in her way.

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Thanks, Marg.  Tamar is fine and, at the moment she has polished off a meal of roast chicken and kibble and has moved on to finish what Sooty left. :laugh: 

 

Yes, it is obvious she is getting worse, but she is amazingly resilient.  I have an appointment with my vet on Monday, so I hope I am allowed to be face to face - I actually forgot their Covid-19 regime when I made the appointment :( .

 

I have glass sliding doors from the house onto the patio and I always make sure the screen door is aligned with the glass door, otherwise dogs, whether sight impaired or not, will bump into the glass thinking the door is open.  With your Sasha it could be that she is just getting old and not completely blind or has your vet confirmed sight loss?  If you don’t have screens, perhaps you could put some decorative film over it.

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Snook   
2 hours ago, ♦ Marg ♦ said:

How is Tamar doing today ? I hope she is feeling ok.

My Sasha I suspect is almost blind :( twice this week she has smacked into the glass sliding door thinking it was open... I am starting to think she is starting on the downhill :( 

Once I can be with her at the vet I will see how bad her sight is.. although there isn’t much I can do except to make sure things aren’t in her way.

Justice can still make his way around my unit and jump on and off couches and beds in the dark but he's run in to my friend's glass sliding door in daylight more than once. As per what LMO said, we now make sure the screen door is always pulled closed so that he can easily tell the difference between when the glass door is open or closed. Hopefully something like that will help Sasha? 

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