Veterinary Diagnostics, and The Importance for You and Your Dog

Canine MRI

For those of you that regularly read my articles and keep up with me on Twitter or Facebook you know that I have many years of veterinary technician in my background and that I love the world of veterinary medicine.  I should have gone to vet school!

AND for those of you who keep up with me, you know that my main squeeze “NIX” my 11 year old Malinois started having seizures about a month ago.  I have admittedly been devastated.  11 year old dogs typically don’t develop epilepsy or seizure disorders.

He is also having focal seizures and that is typically a sign that something is wrong with a certain part of the brain.  In short, it is most common for dogs of this age to be suffering from a brain tumor if they start having seizures.

Being a tech or a former tech is a double edged sword, you know more information and information is power…but you also know when something really bad happens or something is a really dire sign.  And, it is easier to give someone else the information in such cases than it is to deal with it in your own dog.

When it comes to my own dogs, sometimes all sense of normalcy and the ability to rationalize or interpret information.  I am good in an emergency because that comes down to my hard wiring, but I completely lose it all afterward.

After his first seizure and my panicked visit to the vet early the next morning, I was trying to plot my next move and determining if he needed an MRI or what could come next.

I was assured by my vet that jumping into an MRI after one seizure might be jumping the gun.  “He may never have another seizure again” he said.  But in my gut, I knew I probably wouldn’t be that lucky.

So after his 3rd seizure in 3 weeks I was forced to make some hard decisions.

How much is too much to spend on your dog for diagnosis and what can you expect?

Images of a Dog's Brain

There is no right or wrong answer to this one, unless I suppose you have all the money in the world but you decide your dog isn’t worth it…and let’s face it, those people aren’t reading this article!

People’s finances are as different as people themselves.  I grew up basically living from paycheck to paycheck and not always having money for food.  We shopped in the black and white “generic isle” when I was a kid.  My father worked in the coal business and often lost his job.  And, I must admit that things are pretty much the same, financially strained, right now.

MRI’s I found out ran about $2,000 not to mention the many hour drive to get to a facility that could do the test on a dog his size.  On top of that they would probably have to do a spinal tap, and a CT scan.

I like black and white information; I detest shades of grey especially in medicine.  This is silly, because I know how medicine works AND I am a fan of watching “House”.  Black and white rarely exists in medicine, especially veterinary medicine.

Fortunately I still have a best friend that is a vet and so I always know I can call on her and at least get appropriate information.  She wont lie to me, sugar coat anything, or press me to make a decision she thinks I should.  She only supplies me with good information and allows me to choose what road I want to take.

I tried to get her to convince me it was a tumor, but diagnostically we both knew an MRI was the next option.  I tried to get her to tell me how much brain tumor surgery would cost, but she accurately reminded me that it would depend on the location of the tumor, if there was a tumor.  See, I knew that information deep down, but I can’t think clearly when it comes to my animals!

I knew there was no true definitive answer until I took the next step, as much as I wanted to make my investment count.

Because of a secret stash, I did have the ability to take him for his test although my transmission went out the same week.  I weighed my options and deciding to spend that kind of money was difficult.  I decided that I needed to do what I could for my best friend for the last 11 years; I would walk everywhere else if I had to!

He wouldn’t hesitate to invest his money (or dog bones) on me if put in the same situation.  I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t made the choice to at least see what my next options would become.  I would take one step at a time.

So I scheduled the MRI and prepared to hear the worst news possible.  I even begged my husband to drive me after a nights work, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive home after the visit.

Turns out despite my “half empty” attitude (I was just readying for the storm), he didn’t have a brain tumor.  He actually has autoimmune meningitis.  Meningitis can be lethal, but with treatment the swelling on his brain can probably be controlled and with anticonvulsive we can probably alleviate his seizures.

The treatment isn’t necessarily pretty; the steroids have already made him urinate on himself and my new bed and the Phenobarbital leaves him stumbling around like a drunk.  But, when asked if I was happy with my decision, I couldn’t be more adamant or more emphatically shout YES!  Because of the advances in veterinary medicine I should be able to spend hopefully a few more years with my very best friend and furry soul mate!  I am blessed that we had the ability both financially and geographically to have these tests done!

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  1. Denise says:

    Hi Nix and Minette,

    Nix, I hope you feel better soon. Your mom loves you very much. I’m glad she had the resources to pay for your care.

    Take good care,

    Denise and Barry


  2. Valerie says:

    Dear Minette,

    I cannot tell you how relieved I was/am to read today that Nix’s seizures are not caused by a brain tumor. I felt so terrible for you and Nix, when you wrote of his seizures. While autoimmune meningitis doesn’t sound very good, I am hopeful from what you wrote, that Nix will be okay, perhaps in a different way then he was, but still, there with you, enjoying life, and you enjoying his company.

    Take care



    Minette Reply:

    Thank you soooo much Valerie! I am so glad that there are good people out there that care!! I try and write my articles from the heart and discuss some of the things I am going through knowing others have the same questions and issues and I like knowing there are people out there that care about us 🙂

    I am as thrilled as could be about autoimmune meningitis, because at least it means I will have more time with him. At the time I wrote the last post he was really having trouble with his new medications and stumbling and falling, but I am pleased to report he is pretty much back to his naughty, snuggly self 🙂 He is just more in love with water and food now that he is on steroids ha ha.

    Thank you again, you have made my day 🙂 <3


    Valerie Reply:

    I bet he is in love with his food, the phenobarbital also gives rise to an increase in appetite, a ferocious appetite. We have a beagle/dachshund mix who has been on phenobarbital for 10 years for a seizure disorder. She has an enormous appetite and our vet says it is due to the medication. Her weight is okay, though, due to exercise and careful diet.

    I am very, very happy to hear that Nix sounds like he is pretty much back to himself. That is just such good news! 🙂

    Please take care, my best to you, Nix and your husband.



  3. Helena says:

    Hi! Minette,
    I have 4 little dogs,one of them Susie 6years has been having seizures for a few years now, she used to get them every few days and they were very violent lasted for about 1hour.She is now on Pred-X and now she has an attack about once every 2months,not nearly as violent as before,now it’s more shaking and still lasts for about 1hour. She is not as exausted as she was before. The Vet suggested an MRI and maybe a spine tap as he thinks it is something called GM something it comes from the brain.She is a smart little dog, the runt of the litter, and it’s a shame she suffers with it. Her dad has about 3 seizures a year, he is nearly 9yrs old, they are not as bad as Susies and don’t last as long.
    I am pleased that your dog is getting better



  4. Joe says:

    My dog is 5 1/2 years old, he had 5 seizures in a 16 hr period, 1400.00 later from vet sent home with meds hope to control this we will see, next is Mri, I’d this don’t get better..Good luck to all dog owners who can go the extra mile for one of their family


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