As my own neck and shoulder pain continues to improve, our family health issues took a new direction yesterday when sweet Kadi had a stroke. She's much better today, and I'm encouraged that she'll be fine, but it was definitely a frightening experience.
Kadi had been sitting beside me on the sofa when she decided to get down. She dropped her front legs to the floor like always, but instead of pushing off the rest of the way with her back feet, her whole back end seemed to be stuck on the sofa. I could tell she was trying to move forward, but nothing was happening.
I should have recognized that that was unusual, but I still didn't suspect a problem as I helped her scoot her plump bottom onto the floor. Once on the floor, though, she fell over against the coffee table. She stood again and fell again. By that time I was on my feet, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. I moved across the room, called her to me, and watched her feet slip out from under her. Oddly, Kadi didn't seem to be in any pain or distress about the situation. Everytime she fell, she'd pick herself up and take another couple of steps, slipping and sliding all the way, until she'd eventually end up where she wanted to be.
In the meantime, I ran to get Kim, who'd arrived at my house about ten minutes earlier and was outside turning on the A/C in her studio. When Kim came inside, Kadi smiled and promptly rolled over onto her back for a belly rub.
It was about 12:15 on Saturday, the day when our regular vet's office closes at 1:00, and we live a good half hour away from there. We weren't sure we could get Kadi in the car and get there in time, so Kim got on the phone and, after way too much time on hold, got them to agree to wait while we brought Kadi in.
Kadi loves to ride in the car, and her eagerness to get to it seemed to overcome her wayward limbs. We got all 65 pounds of her loaded without too much trouble. When we arrived at the vet's office and got her out of the car, we were shocked to see her walk without much difficulty at all.
Once inside, it was a different story. Kadi wasn't falling, but her legs were still wobbly. I'd try to lead her in one direction, and she'd turn and move in a direction 90 degrees to the right. After a couple of turns like that, she was literally walking backwards down the hall to the exam room. It was weird.
As soon as we explained her symptoms to the vet, he said he suspected one of two things: a slipped disc or a stroke. Either condition, he assured us, could be managed. He checked Kadi's body, feeling all along her legs and her spine. He'd pick up one foot, then another, and watch what happened when she put them down. When Kadi put her foot down with the top of it against the floor, pads facing upward behind her, the vet said that was totally unnatural.
Next, he asked his assistant to lead Kadi down the hall while he watched. On the first try, Kadi walked as closely as possible to the wall on the right side of the hall. "She's using the wall," the assistant commented, so on the return trip she walked between Kadi and the wall. That's when it became obvious that Kadi was veering substantially off course.
The vet checked her eyes next and pointed out that they were jiggling, subtly but clearly, and not necessarily at the same time nor in the same direction. I'd been so focused on her legs that it hadn't even occurred to me to check her eyes.
After the tests were done, the vet explained that little strokes are not uncommon in older Labs and Golden Retrievers (Kadi turned 10 just over a week ago), and that the good thing about a dog's body is that it begins to repair the damage almost immediately after the stroke has occurred. He gave Kadi two shots of cortisone and gave us a bottle of cortisone tablets to give her twice a day for the next five days. He said we could expect to see improvement over the next 36 to 48 hours, but to watch her closely so she wouldn't injure herself while her body was out of control. He explained that Kadi wouldn't realize her legs weren't doing what she expected them to do. (That explains why she wasn't distressed about the repeated falls; her brain didn't register a problem.)
The vet also pointed out the positive signs: the fact that Kadi was already walking without falling, that she recognized that an open door was for walking through, that she responded excitedly to the leash and the car ride. He said she'd be better off at home than at the animal hospital as long as she continued to eat well, maintained control of her bowels and bladder, and didn't exhibit any personality changes.
If you'd seen Kadi yesterday, you wouldn't believe she could appear so normal today. Physically, she seems fine. She walks--and even runs--without difficulty, and follows the straight path of the backyard stepping stones without veering to one side or the other. She seems a little more lethargic than usual, but no more so than her lazy brother, Butch.
There have been a couple of minor incidents that make me think her brain is still misfiring a bit. Last night when I said, "Let's go to bed," Kadi ran into the living room and lay down by the coffee table. And this morning, when I asked, "Who wants to go outside?" she jumped up excitedly but ran into the bedroom. These are mistakes she's never made before.
The vet was quite optimistic about the outcome of this particular medical mishap, and I found his optimism extremely reassuring. We're supposed to call him at midday tomorrow to give him an update. So far, so good.