I CANNOT thank you all sufficiently for your professional and kind approach.
Few joys are equal to bringing a new puppy home and watching them navigate their new surroundings. Sure, they may be a little wobbly at first. But imagine seeing your puppy walking unsteadily, bumping into things, with no improvement over a few days, and you’d know something is not right.
This is exactly what happened with Lexi, a newly-adopted female mixed breed pup, who was first seen by Dr. Avril Arendse of Hope’s Neurology department when Lexi’s “mom” observed Lexi walking in a disoriented way, and appeared not to be able to see where she was going:
Lexi would cry all the time and we noticed she had lost her sight, she couldn’t walk and could barely stand up. Our other two dogs seemed overly concerned, nudging her with their snouts and pacing back and forth. Our primary care vet suggested we go to HOPE.
Dr. Arendse examined Lexi thoroughly, and did not detect any external cause for Lexi’s lack of coordination. The symptoms suggested a neurological deficit, and Dr. Arendse recommended an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) a non-invasive procedure that provides very detailed, cross-sectional images with excellent soft tissue detail. Lexi’s mom agreed:
I said we would do whatever it took to get our puppy healthy again. We set it up and did all the tests that day.
And this high-tech peek into Lexi’s skull revealed the problem: Hydrocephalus.
Normally, as cerebrospinal fluid (the protective and nourishing fluid that circulates around the brain and spinal cord) is created in the brain, it circulates and is reabsorbed. But sometimes, for various reasons, there is a fluid buildup— usually due to a drainage problem, but occasionally due to an over-production problem. Hydrocephalus literally means “water in the brain” and this congenital or acquired build-up of excess fluid in Lexi’s brain was causing her lack of coordinated movement.
Later, a spinal tap was also performed on Lexi to determine whether there was an underlying cause like an infection. The results were negative (positive results for bacteria would have suggested an infection such as meningitis).
The options to reduce this pressure from hydrocephalus in Lexi’s brain were medical management (specific drugs to inhibit the overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid and reduce inflammation) or surgery (to safely redirect the excessive fluid). With Lexi’s young age and small size it would be ideal for surgery to wait until she was a bit larger & older. Dr. Arendse therefore placed Lexi on a multi-drug regimen as her first stage of treatment.
Lexi initially showed improvement at home for about a week, but after that she developed a series of worrisome symptoms (including limb weakness, tremors & involuntary eye movement) that quickly brought her back to HOPE. It became clear that although Lexi was still a small puppy, the medications alone were not controlling her hydrocephalus and surgery was needed.
Dr. Arendse performed a delicate neurosurgical procedure on Lexi known as ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement. By skillfully threading a small tube from the brain through the body to the abdominal area, the surgery creates a safe one-way, pressure-sensitive pathway for the excess fluid. This procedure typically has a very good rate of success.
Lexi tolerated the surgery very well, and once she was discharged home her major symptoms rapidly subsided.
Dr. Arendse did the surgery on Lexi and then kept watch over her as if she were her own. She and the Staff at HOPE went ABOVE and BEYOND with Lexi. Watching her day and night they kept us posted on everything with her.
Lexi’s motor coordination has greatly improved, and she is now able to see her way around clearly. The one residual symptom, common in dogs with hydrocephalus, is an occasional seizure episode and this is being successfully controlled with a low dose of phenobarbital. Lexi is now free to be the happy puppy she was meant to be!
After about two months Lexi was almost 100%. She is now 10 months old and a playful joyous puppy! HOPE made us feel like family. We will be forever grateful for all they did and would not have Lexi today without their help and expertise.
The MRI scan conducted at HOPE was a key factor in guiding Lexi’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Cross-sectional MRI can provide extremely detailed information about the brain, spinal cord and other structures that helps identify, evaluate, and successfully treat a wide variety of congenital neurologic diseases.