One of the scariest illnesses around has to be epilepsy. A nasty disorder that can lurk unknown for months, or years only to appear out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of everyone involved.
I am blessed to have never experienced this issue in any of my gimpy dogs, but I know a lot of people who do and have. I don't envy them at all. I've dealt with spine, knee, and hip issues. I've dealt with blindness, cataracts, and a myriad of other gimpy issues, and would much rather deal with them again than have a dog with epilepsy. Its not that I wouldn't deal with it... I just would rather deal with something I can see, treat, or help with... seeing one of my poor pups dealing with a seizure would break my heart, and its very hard for me to understand how the brave epi dog owners can handle it.
It is a great honor that I had an opportunity to interview Dorothy Wills-Raftery, author of the FiveSibes blog™ who recently wrote a children's book about her Siberian Husky, Gibson, and his battle with epilepsy.
Gimpy Dogs: What is the biggest message the book will give to both kids and their parents?
Dorothy: It is my hope that the message kids and parents get will be that it's okay to have a pet with epilepsy. Today there are medications, diets, and vitamin therapies that can help a dog live a good life, even as an Epi-Dog. I also hope that it takes some fear away for children. They may have a pet of their own that has Canine Epilepsy, or even a family member, friend, or they themselves may epilepsy, so I hope this helps them know they are not alone. And there are real tips in the book, such as the bag of frozen peas... cooling a pet's body after a seizure is important and when Gibson had his first seizure I didn't have an ice pack in my freezer so I used a loaf of frozen Italian bread and bags of frozen of peas. If a child sees their pet seizing and they remember to get a bag of frozen peas or a dish of water or even the vanilla ice cream ready, then they will feel they are helping, and that's important.
Gimpy Dogs: Even though its in a kid's version format, can a dog owner just starting out learning out Canine epilepsy learn from reading it?
Dorothy: Yes, I believe so. The "Tale" is based on true facts from Gibson's seizures, so the things that Harley instructs the pups to do or she does herself are true. She has them stay calm. She has them get a first aid kit - every Epi-Dog household should have one. Harley and the pups help steady Gibson and get him safely inside - a dog who has just had a seizure will be confused, disoriented, and even have temporary blindness, so they need some guidance and should not be left alone. Harley jots notes in a journal and a journal is important to have to mark down seizure dates, time, length of seizure, meds, emergency vet numbers, etc. Having ice packs or frozen peas on hand. Water to drink. And even the ice cream is fact for a few spoonsful of natural vanilla is good to help bring a dog who has just seized sugar levels back up. We always have a pint or half gallon of Breyer's All Natural Vanilla in our freezer just in case!
Gimpy Dogs: What is the one thing in the book that a first time epi-dog owner may discover that is not commonly known?
Dorothy: In the book, I'd have to say first-time Epi-Dog parents may not know about the First Aid Kit. In my blog I have a link to what is good to have in a First Aid Kit. The thing about Canine Epilepsy is that even a dog who is being successfully treated, there is always a chance a seizure could still occur. We pray it never will, but having the First Aid Kit keeps us prepared just in case. I'll be happy if it gathers ten inches of dust and never has to be used again, but I will always have it on hand.
Gimpy Dogs: You've talked in other interviews about how hard it is to just "let him live his life" without jumping at every little hiccup or snort, what helped you let go and just let him be a dog?
Dorothy: That was the best advice my vet gave me...but it's not always easy. I always keep Gibson under watch and I am vigilant in timing his medications, vitamins, and meals and also opt to have his blood levels checked every six months (sooner if I think something may be off) rather than annually. I think the biggest thing that helped me adjust though is time. As each day turns into a week that turns into a month that turns into a year passed without a visit from the "seizure monster" is what really helps. I let Gibson lead me. If he is happy and talkative and is eating and playing with the others, then he makes me feel good and that's the key. When he has the days of stomach upset or is really lethargic, then I am on high alert. Having a baby monitor by his bed helps too!
Gimpy Dogs: What was the biggest resource, other than experience, that helped you learn more about epilepsy in dogs?
Dorothy: There are three. First, a gal who I met via social networking when I posted a notice on MySpace explaining what was happening with Gibson. She is a nurse with an Epi-Dog and she talked me through so much in the early days, including what to expect and side effects from the meds. I also have a wonderful - no, make that awesome - veterinarian team. They care so much about Gibson, all of my Huskies, and are open to discussing the best treatment for him. They are also pro-holistic treatments combined with medication. I like that. They do not believe in over-medicating a pet, and they just really work hard to keep him healthy. Then there are some valuable online resources (which are also listed in the blog link) including the Canine Epilepsy Resources, the center I will be donating a percentage of profits from the book to so they can keep up the great job of providing valuable information and resources to Epi-Dog parents worldwide.
Gimpy Dogs: Who would you recommend this book to, and for what reasons?
Dorothy: I'd recommend it for everyone! All ages of children as young children like to help and this book will help them to understand Canine Epilepsy so hopefully they won't be afraid if they see a seizure and they may even know what to do in the event one happens. The story is also creatively illustrated by artist Michelle Littler. She has created the Huskies so adorably that everyone can't help but smile when they see their expressions! It's a good book for teachers and parents to read to children and then hopefully have a discussion afterwards so it can be an important learning tool. I also think adults and pet owners will like it as well. It's a book that will appeal to the child and pet lover in all of us, while also discussing the important topic of Canine Epilepsy Awareness.
The book "What's Wrong With Gibson" is available at ArcticHouse Publishing
If anyone is interested in purchasing the book, they may do so at the ArcticHouse Publishing website. Books can also be personalized, if a reader would like, just leave a message in the "comment" section of the order form.
If you want to learn about canine epilepsy, want to teach a child about it, and help a worth cause at the same time, please consider ordering your copy!
Thank you Dorothy and the FiveSibes for helping others understand this invisible disorder that affects so many!
- Gimpy Dogs