Kee's Story - Myasthenia Gravis

The Saturday, the 30th of March during the early evening, Sam and Kee were doing what they did most nights, playing 'Tug'. Both play to win, and are not defeated easily but this night was different, Kee was losing, because for some reason she was tugging while sitting down.

For someone who spends hours watching our dogs, we knew something was not right, so we stopped the game, and spent the rest of the evening asking questions like:-

'Does she look a little wobbly on her rear legs?'
'Is she limping?'
'Which leg do you think she is favouring?'

It was hardly noticeable, but there was something.

Sunday morning found Kee a little worse, she didn't seem in any stress or discomfort, but for some reason she would only walk a few paces before finding the need to sit down, and when she sat, she couldn’t seem to find the strength in her rear legs to stand, a couple of minutes were needed before she moved on again, only for the same thing to happen again.

The following morning was the Bank Holiday Monday, but thankfully the vet practice in Oban was open, so we set off on the 2 hour trip with Kee in a 48" cage. When we got there Kee couldn't stand so the vet, called John, came outside, we unloaded the cage with Kee inside, and because she couldn't stand up John carried her into the treatment room.

John examined Kee, we were wondering if she had hurt her back, John said that he didn't think that she was hurting, she didn't show any signs of stress. He thought she may have damaged a disc, and when she felt uncomfortable she wanted to rest, an x-ray would tell us that, but to take an x-ray she would have to be sedated, and that might do more damage than good. He asked if Kee could stay in Oban overnight, so that he could monitor her better.

It was the first time Kee had ever been away on her own, and we probably fretted as much as she did, it was a big relief to go back to collect her on the 4th of April, three days later. We came away with pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication, and instructed to be very careful with her, she must have strict cage rest 24/7 except for toilet outings on the lead and support help if needed. John would also make a referral to the vet hospital in Glasgow and we should arrange an appointment, he said that Kee would probably need am MRI scan and possibly an operation.

It was hard work, harder on poor Kee than on us I am sure, she has always been an active dog, to suddenly find herself caged was a shock to us all. But we did as instructed, and were very careful, and made the Glasgow appointment.

By the 10th of April, Kee was no better, in fact she was now starting to show completely different symptoms, not only was she still weak in her back legs but she had started to trip up with her front legs, collapsing completely. She would rest for a while and then continue only to fall again and by the 13th she was also drooling a lot, panting, and making a sort of slight coughing sound.

So on the 16th we made another visit to Oban, again John had to help us get Kee out of the cage, we all thought that she was bound to get stiff being cooped up for a couple of hours but we managed to get her in.

Unbeknown to us John had something else in his mind but had not said anything on our last visit partly because it was so unusual. Thankfully he had kept an open mind, it was when he saw Kee again this time that he became more sure of his first thoughts, she was showing all the signs of a rare disease called Myasthenia Gravis. The last time he had seen it was seven years ago. He asked us to leave Kee in Oban again overnight, and almost as if to confirm John's thoughts we asked ourselves how we were going to carry Kee to her accommodation, when she got up and I walked her without a problem. John said that while we were on a roll try out in the car park, she walked great, then as we were about to go back in her front legs started to shake and down she went.

Myasthenia Gravis is an illness that effects the nerves and the muscles. To put it in a very simple way the nerves send a message to the muscles to walk and the dog walks, but every now and again after a few good paces the message gets lost and the muscles stop working. After a short rest the dog gets up again as if nothing is wrong. There are other problems too, the illness can also effect the face and the throat. Kee's face was fine but she was drooling and panting because her throat muscles was not working as they should do, and that there was a chance that if not dealt with properly that food could enter the lungs instead of the stomach and lead to Kee getting pneumonia. Kee stayed in for one night in order to have x-rays and a blood sample taken, the results of the blood test would take about 10 days.

The next day, the 17th of April I got a phone call at work from John, telling me that he had taken an x-ray of her chest and confirmed she had a chest infection. He had also taken the blood sample, to give some idea of how rare the illness is her blood sample had to be frozen and sent to California to be tested. But the good news was that she was now ready to come home again, this time we didn't have to be so careful with her back which was some sort of relief at least, but we had instructions to only feed and water her while standing so that the food went to the stomach and not the lungs.

Next morning we started by trying to get Kee to take her tablets, she had no appetite at all. We tried the pills in butter, this always worked, until now. We tried grounding them in egg and milk but no she didn't want that, so we put the pills in cheese, she liked that and so did we. At least she had taken the antibiotics but still no appetite for her usual foods, except for cooked chicken which Allison had made for her own dinner! After that the rest of the 18th went very well considering that she would not be getting any medication for the Myasthenia Gravis until the conformation of the blood sample from America. She was off and walking very well now having full range of the house and garden but still needing help with the steps, she would walk when she wanted and rest when she needed to, we were very pleased indeed.

Sadly the next morning and for the whole weekend the 20th-21st she couldn't gain her feet at all without some help, and I don't think she managed to walk more than three steps at any one time. It was hard trying to feed her, having to have up standing or at least sitting to feed, in the end we put a foot stool under her chest so that when the back legs had to rest she was at least in a sitting position, she seemed very comfortable like this.

Taking her out for the toilet was even harder, in the end we used a garden trolley that was just the right size for her, it had soft tyres and negotiated all the bends and steps easily, we used this to get her around all weekend.

But more worrying was that despite the fact that Kee was eating well and drinking normal, she had not gone to the toilet once over the whole of the weekend, it was because of this one fact that Allison, having her day off on the Monday, said that she would drive Kee to the vets again.

John could see right away that Kee was bad, so he asked if she could stay in Oban again that night, he said that because she was so bad he couldn't see why we couldn;t start and treat her with steroids now. This would be the treatment she would get once a positive result for Myasthenia Gravis came back anyway.

The next morning was Tuesday the 23rd of April we phoned Oban first thing, John told us that Kee wasn't responding quite as he had hoped so he would continue the treatment, we were asked to phone back later.

We never got that chance, John phoned and said that Kee had taken a real turn for the worst, her throat wasn't working as it should do and she was having a lot of difficulty breathing. Putting Kee to sleep was something we had touched on before but now it was becoming a real option.

I always promised Kee that I would always be there for her, the last thing I wanted was to have her end her life in a strange place on her own, so I started out for Oban. I knew that John was on a call and that I would have about half an hour with Kee before he arrived back. When I saw her my heart sank, her breathing was like air being pumped into water but she was so pleased to see me. I sat with her keeping her cal, and continually talked to her. From time to time she licked my hand and twice lifted her head to look me in the face, I knew I couldn't help her.

John arrived, we both knew what had to be done, we did talk about it briefly then it was time. John was so good to Kee, he wanted her to slowly fall to sleep before the final injection so for several minutes Kee breathed easily while she rested her head in my hands. Slowly and peacefully she went to sleep, only then did John end it.

Tonight Kee is buried in her favourite spot where she spent so many hours looking out over the land watching everything that went on. Kee was in the prime of her life, not yet seven years old, I will miss her so much.



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