Saturday, September 29, 2007

Day 5 Post Surgery

Zane is clearly feeling much better today. We know this because he is driving everybody crazy again with his "insane Zane" antics. Apparently, he needs to make up for lost time and seems to be in over-drive today. My Crape Myrtle took another Dane hit today. Zane greeted me with yet another leafy branch that he had stripped from my favorite tree. He has also been taunting poor Zoe all afternoon...I think she had been enjoying her respite from his constant play attacks.
Zane started the morning out early by getting up with the other two in time for breakfast (6am). As per Dr. Durkes suggestion, we have switched Zane's food. He needs to be on a very low calcium food with low to moderate protein for the next year while his body continues to grow. Too much calcium in his food will allow a build up in his spinal column that could impinge the free movement of his spinal cord. All the dogs have been eating a very high quality holistic food for the past six months. Unfortunately, I have had to switch them to a lower quality food to meet these new requirements.
Zoe also has been gaining weight on the super premium food and we need to get her on a better weight control regimine. She has had two ACL surgeries and is just not fond of running around like the boys. It's really important that we keep her weight in check to not over burden her now arthritic knees.
Hopefully we have seen an end to Zane's fever. He appears to be responding to the change in antibiotic. He still tires very easily and we are encouraging him to not over do it too soon!

*** Editor's Note: Please be certain to breeze through the blog to get an idea as to how Zane has progressed. Gold Bead Implants were not successful in treating Zane's symptoms and we pursued surgical options with very good results. ***

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 3 Post Surgery

Zane is definitely not himself today. He has difficulty getting up and moving. He felt very warm, so I took his temperature and he is running a fever. I sent out a quick email to Dr. Durkes and he suggested that we change Zane's antibiotic and monitor him. According to Dr. Durkes, this is not normal to be so lethargic and listless. I already switched his antibiotic and will be making a stop in at our regular vets office later this morning.

Zeke decided to get Zane moving and initiated a game of chase in the house. Up and over the furniture Zeke went until Zane got into the game. Then they took it outside, crashing through the screen door and out onto the deck. Zane even chased Zoe through the yard. One thing was sure hard to miss, Zane is running much better! He could run faster and smoother and caught Zoe off guard when she couldn't out run him!

Later today...

Zane had a visit with his regular vet, Dr DeQuick of Lakewood Veterinary Hospital. He gave Zane sub-cutaneous fluids and we saw an immediate improvement. I also came home with ice packs for him to lay on to help bring his fever down. Zane was on Baytril (an antibiotic) which has a generic equivalent called Cipro. In the past, when Zane had an upper respiratory infection, he did not do well on Cipro and needed to use a different antibiotic called SMZ. I hadn't connected that the two drugs were nearly the same. Hopefully this switch to SMZ will have him feeling better in no time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 2 Post Surgery

Zane has been very sleepy today. He is not his usual self. I am concerned that he seems depressed.
He has alternated between laying on his mattress out on the deck and inside on the couch. Every now and then he gets a little energy and trots around the backyard. He seems to be moving more smoothly already.

Zane will only eat if I add canned food to his dry. He just isn't very interested in food right now. He hasn't even tried swiping anything off the counters all day!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day 1 Post Surgery

Zane was pretty groggy for most of the evening after his surgery. He took a walk around the outside of the hotel and then settled down for another long nap. He woke up hungry and gobbled down a small bowl of food.
Getting up from a lying down position is a real challenge for Zane. He needs to shift his weight differently now as a result of the neck brace. If we try to help him, he just gives up and puts his head back down. We find it's best to just let him figure it out on his own.

This morning he was eager to head outside for a walk and even trotted for a bit. He ate his usual amount of dry food. I also gave him some canned food to get him started. I could tell he was feeling more like himself when I caught him swiping Greg's donut off the table. He didn't get too much of it, just some frosting, so I saved it for DH (dear husband)to eat later. Anything at nose height is fair game to Zane!
Yesterday, we made arrangements with Dr. Durkes to stop by this morning before heading out of town. We paid him a quick early morning visit. Zane was happy to see him and gave him the usual leans that Great Danes are so famous for. Dr. Durkes seems to think Zane is off to a good start and is pleased with his good disposition.

We all survived the grueling 11 hour drive back home. At times, Zane was clearly uncomfortable. I propped him up with pillows whenever possible. I even sat in the back of the van sometimes to hold his head up. Zoe and Zeke were good sports about letting him have the back seat for most of the ride. Once home, Zane enjoyed pooping to his hearts content all over the backyard...must have been such a relief! Zeke was happy to be reunited with his favorite tennis ball. Zoe was just happy to eat dinner...she's such a good girl!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Zane's Big Day

Zoe's tummy timer, the one that says it's time to eat now, went off a little early this morning. She greeted us in bed with her usual onsalught of kisses and got us all moving after a very restless night.

Zane needs to be at Dr. Durkes by 8 am and with an empty tummy. He has not done his business yet as he hates to potty while on a leash. As you can imagine, this creates a problem for us when we are traveling. Make mental note to forewarn Dr. Durkes that Zane is rather full.

Dr. Durkes spent plenty of time explaining the procedure while examining Zane. He answered all our questions and the ones we didn't think to ask.

We left the office and went off to explore the little town of Marion, Indiana. We found a great pet store and stocked up on treats, bones, and toys for the pack. Zeke even got a new jacket...he hates to get wet but will gladly take a walk in the rain if he is wearing a jacket.

We noticed that wherever we went, people knew about Dr. Durkes! Just mentioning that we were only in town for the day was enough of a tip off for people to question us and ask if we were here to see Dr. Durkes. He is clearly a big fish in a small pond (make that a very small pond).

We arrived back at the office just before 1pm. Zane walked right into the room on his own. His wild happy tail let us know that he was glad we were back for him!

Here's the scoop:

  • Zane came out of the procedure and anesthesia very well. Upon waking, he stood up on his own. This is a positive sign as Dr. Durkes said that only half the dogs willingly get up on their own.
  • Zane's neck is wrapped from just behind his ears to where his neck meets his shoulders.
  • The neck brace is very firm but is crucial to good healing after the implants.
  • We were instructed in how to loosen the brace should it become too tight.
  • Don't get it wet! Did I mention how much Zane loves water?
  • We could see plenty of holes where the beads were implanted.
  • Zane has over 300 of these pinhead - sized gold beads in his neck.
  • Normal exercise is fine. No excessive jumping. No playing that involves twisting of the head or neck. No rough housing with the other dogs....Zeke, that means you.
  • Antibiotic for 12 days to protect against any bacteria.
  • Watch for the improvements.

Dr. Durkes feels that Zane has the potential to make good progress. Zane is one of the youngest Danes that he has treated. He feels that we have caught this early enough that Zane should lead a long healthy life. Heavy sigh

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Road trip

Today we set off on our 11 hour journey to Indiana. One wrong turn by Greg (dh) set us back an hour and a half, making the total trip time 12 1/2 hours! We are so lucky to have dogs that travel well. The entire Z pack came along... Zoe, a 3 year old Chocolate Lab and Zeke, a 3 year old German Shorthaired Pointer.

Comfort Suites offers a special rate for out of towners coming to see Dr. Durkes. They welcome dogs and don't charge extra fees. We had a beautiful room with 2 beds and a couch. As usual, we covered all the furniture with sheets to minimize dog hair being left behind. Zoe was happy to sleep on the couch and the boys took over the beds.

We drove the pack over to a beautiful park just up the street. Everybody burned off some excess energy on the walking trails. Then back to the hotel to get some sleep before the big day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Zane's MRI showed clearly that he has Wobbler's Syndrome. I wondered whether it was a necessary expense to diagnose Wobbler's in Zane. When I sent Zane's spinal xrays out to Dr. Durkes, the specialist in Gold Bead Implants, he wrote back that the xrays were inconclusive. This was a first for him, he can almost always diagnose Wobbler's by viewing xrays and looking for certain changes in the vertebrae. Not my dog, however.

I scheduled an MRI immediately to put the issue to rest. The staff at the Iams Imaging Center in Raleigh, NC (at NC State vet school) were awesome! They let me stay with Zane and keep him comfortable while he received his anesthesia. They called exactly an hour later for me to come into the recovery room while he woke back up. The doctor treated Zane as though he were my valued child and for that I am so greatful.

The test cost $1600 and my neurologist had the results the very next morning. I would definitely recommend going this route if there is any doubt as to the diagnosis.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What is Wobbler's Syndrome anyway?

Wobbler's Syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects primarily Great Danes and Dobermans. Other breeds can be affected by it but it predominantly shows up in Danes and Dobies. Signs of Wobbler's often show in the early "growing" years with Danes and in the middle years with Dobies.

Clinical definitions and the textbook signs to look for didn't always measure up with the symptoms that Zane was exhibiting.

In Zane, here's what Wobbler's looks like:

  • Walks with his head down....generally in line with his back, doesn't carry his head high and proud.

  • Rear legs don't move in sync with his front legs and looks very clumsy. When running, it looks like his back legs aren't keeping up with the front legs. He will use a jumping motion with the back legs to keep up with the front.

  • Tips over easily. Poor center of gravity. Loses balance while running and falls flat on his side.

  • Knuckling over with paws on any of his legs.

  • Difficulty coordinating his motions when tired. Has trouble getting in the van once he is tired. It's as if he doesn't know which foot to move next.

  • Incomplete head shakes. He does an abbreviated form of head and body shaking. He doesn't get a full ear flop going. He can't shake the water off after a bath or dip in the doggie pool.

  • Ineffective scratching....just can't get his leg to connect with that itch.

  • Holds head at a tilt.

  • Toenails are angled outward and worn down from dragging on the ground when he is knuckling over. They are hardly ever long enough to trim.

In the midst of all the symptoms, Zane still runs around and plays like any other dog. He gets into mischief, by digging up my plants and trees. He loves to dig holes under the deck and lay in the fresh wet clay. He will play chase the Pointer with the ball and terrorize the Lab looking for bunnies in the woods. Counter surfing is Zane's specialty and he always knows when we have, by accident, left something within his reach. His favorite grab was a huge apple pie that flipped over on the way down to the floor. Bad dog!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This is not the beginning of my journey with Zane towards those ever so elusive Gold Bead Implants. We have been on this journey since last April when I first researched treatment options for dogs with Wobbler's Syndrome.
I met Zane back in the middle of April. He was a tall handsome fellow with a beautiful dark face and the most expressive eyes that I have ever seen. I found his unusual way of walking me while holding my hand in his mouth rather endearing.
Zane is a beautiful Great Dane puppy that suffered from some unfortunate circumstances in life that landed him at Great Dane Rescue of the Carolinas at a mere seven months of age. I started volunteering there in April, just eight weeks after his arrival. I knew something was not right about this dog as he could not walk but a few steps without looking as though he might tip over. I began researching possible reasons for his problems. Everything pointed to Wobbler's Syndrome. The treatment options and the long term outcome for dogs affected by this disease are not great. Traditional surgery to correct the spinal problems can cost anywhere from $3000- $5000 and up depending on the severity. The risks that accompany the surgery are also high...paralysis being the most frightening.
As I searched the internet, I came upon stories of other dogs that had Gold Bead Implant surgery to slow the progression of Wobbler's. I saw hope for this sweet dog.
The GBI surgery also comes with a high price tag, one that the Rescue can not easily afford. By Mother's Day, I knew what I needed to do. Zane would just have to come home with me while I raised the money and pursued the medical treatments necessary to make him healthy again. Zane became our first foster just two days after Mother's Day.
We spent the summer undergoing acupuncture treatments, fighting a nasty bout of dog flu, spinal xrays, and testing for a variety of other diseases. Although everything pointed to Wobbler's, we didn't have anything definitive to prove it. Most recently we met with a neurologist who also saw clear signs of Wobbler's. The only way to know for sure, however, would be to do a MRI. So we drove out to NC State for this ever so expensive test ($1600).
We now have our answers...