In mid-December I took in a dog for hospice from Pets Alive Westchester: Face, a fun and friendly nine year old pit bull who had been in residence since 2007. I’m pretty sure he was named for Dirk Benedict’s character in The A-Team.
Face had several seizures at the shelter. He’d come out of them with ominous symptoms: wasting of facial muscles on one side of his head, loss of balance, head tilt and possibly impaired vision. The shelter’s veterinarian said he almost certainly had a brain lesion or tumor after running various tests to eliminate tick-borne diseases and other bacterial and viral causes, but the only way to absolutely verify that would be an MRI, which would be prohibitively expensive. His treatment (steroid therapy) was started immediately assuming that there was a lesion in the brain.
After I’d had him home for a few days I took him to my own vet, who arrived at the same conclusions but recommended a consult with a neurologist and recommended New York City’s Animal Medical Center. Drs. Biegen and West reviewed what had been done with Face so far and confirmed that we were most likely dealing with a brain lesion of some sort, but only an MRI could definitely confirm that. I elected not to do the MRI due to the cost and continued with Face’s steroid therapy.At about five weeks into Face’s time with me he showed signs of serious aggression toward one of my other dogs, which was very unusual for him – he lived at PAW with a VERY active dog for years and was not known as a fighter. I became concerned that the lesion might be in an area of the brain triggering aggression. I slept on it for a few nights and decided that it would be unwise to continue without knowing the full picture, that I had to have the MRI to make the best decisions on Face’s behalf. I emailed Dr. Biegen and scheduled the MRI.
Face had his MRI today. It showed no signs of a brain lesion whatsoever.
I am overjoyed. Now there seems to be some inflammation of nerves in the brain causing his symptoms: it could be an autoimmune disorder, or a tick-borne disease that the initial panels missed, or even (and hopefully not) a sign of lymphoma – but whatever it is, as of today Face is not a hospice dog and we are on the hunt for what might be causing his symptoms.
And the aggression? I can handle that. As long as I know that it is not likely to suddenly accelerate, as would be more likely with a brain tumor, I can work that out. So far it is only against one specific dog, and it may just be that they need to be kept apart, which I can do.
Face is my sixth dog. Normally I keep the sixth slot open for a hospice dog, but Face’s medical puzzle will likely take some time to unravel and he’s a bit of a special case. Besides, how could I bring a dog back to a shelter who has been waiting for a home since 2007? He seems pretty happy here. I think he’ll stay.
Welcome home, Face.