Skye: An Unfortunate Prognosis

Skye and Rain.

Rain gets much of her personality and energy from her mom Skye, who is approaching her 13th birthday. Skye is even more food motivated than Rain. She has historically been more barky too! When Rain was a young dog, she was almost silent while Skye barked her heart out—these days the tables have turned. And before Rain discovered the amazing game of playing ball, Skye was a bonafide champion at it.

Skye nurses the puppies, May 2010.

Skye didn’t start slowing down until well into her senior years—but we’ve been noticing some more significant changes in the last several months. We’ve been debating whether she has gone deaf or is doing the “selective hearing” that senior dogs sometimes do. She has needed more recovery from being physically active. Playing ball these days for Skye is more about prancing around in the sunny grass than it is chasing and returning a ball.

Taking a nap, 2007.

Skye has also been incredibly itchy lately—so itchy, in fact, you can’t touch anything but the top of her head without her back leg starting for that thump-thump-oh-that’s-the-spot motion. We bathed her using colloidal oatmeal. We made sure she had flea treatment. We even changed her diet to a salmon-based, grain-free food so the omega fatty acids could support her skin. Nothing was working.

Meanwhile, Skye seemed miserable. She wandered around the house restlessly, sometimes stopping with her head in a corner and just staring blankly. Skye’s happy personality, the reason my parents love her so much, was disappearing.

It came to a head Tuesday, when food-obsessed Skye didn’t eat much of her dinner. My mom had already made an appointment with our vet (Dr. R.), but it was still nearly two weeks away. My mom sprung into action, calling the vet out of worry. Dr. R. agreed that Skye should be seen earlier. Despite having surgeries scheduled all day Wednesday, we were invited to bring Skye down and Dr. R. would attend to Skye between surgeries.

Side note: Dr. R. has been our family vet since she arrived at the practice in the early 1990s. We love her! She has gone above and beyond for us several times throughout the last 20+ years.

My mom also did some internet reading, and when I came to collect Rain on Tuesday evening she showed me a list of symptoms associated with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (or as I will call it from here forward, Doggy Alzheimer’s). Staring at walls. Wandering around. Forgetting commands like “sit.” Falling off things. (Here’s a great list of symptoms.)

It was like a checklist of Skye’s recent behaviors.

Wednesday morning, I dropped Skye off at the vet’s office. Along with receiving information my mom had written down, Dr. R. asked me if Rain still also had the occasional nosebleed episodes she had had issues with before. Yes, I said—I remember just a few weeks ago when I noticed a couple of pink drops on my mom’s kitchen floor, but it wasn’t a full nosebleed and it didn’t seem to last too long.

Skye went with the vet tech, along with her cozy blanket and a stuffed Kong my mom had made so that Skye might feel more comfortable in a strange environment without her people.

In the afternoon, we heard back—and the prognosis is not great.

Skye’s skin irritation is likely a bacterial infection, so Skye is now on antibiotics to control it.

While Skye’s symptoms definitely suggest Doggy Alzheimer’s, Dr. R. did notice a little blood in the kennel Skye was stationed in during the day. Evidence suggests that the nosebleed issue that was originally “probably a foreign object like a grass seed stuck in her nose” may actually be a tumor somewhere in her nasal or sinus cavity that is now pressing up against her brain, which has led to the unusual behavior coming on over the last few months.

It’s not a certain diagnosis—to do that would involve a specialist and a specialized scope that would probably cost $1500-$2000. Surgical attempts to remove these tumors actually have a negative impact on the dog’s longevity, so it’s better to not do anything. If we try an X-ray at Dr. R’s clinic, we may or may not be able to see anything definite on the image…but there’s a chance we might. That looks like the most likely step forward we’ll take when we have our previously scheduled appointment.

Since her day visit at the vet, Skye has been pretty happy. If the antibiotics can keep her from itching and Skye’s usual Rimadyl keeps her arthritic joints from aching, Skye will be fairly happy and capable of prancing around in the sunny grass this summer. And as long as Skye is happy, I can accept the situation.

Did Rain sense that something was amiss with Skye? It’s hard to say, but Rain has still had some moments when she has wanted to hang out next door instead of my house. It’s time to give Skye as much love as possible while we still have her, perhaps I’ll join her.

Skye sitting for a birthday portrait in 2013.

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