Really Angry Vet: Winston’s First Seizure

by Dr. Robert Foley, DVM

A wonderful client of mine brought her 12-year-old Boxer to see me.  

Dog Conditions - Real-Life Stories: Winston's First Seizure

Last night, the dog had his first seizure and the owners found themselves at a local 24-hour veterinary facility because we were closed.  They were in today to see me to discuss what had happened last night, to have me examine their pet, and to get my opinion as to what was the next step to take.

I typically subdivide my seizure dogs into one of three categories based on age.  

A three-month-old puppy, for example, that starts having seizures typically has a congenital malformation (liver shunt, hydrocephalus, etc.).

A middle-aged dog, let’s say 3 to 5 years old, who begins having seizures is typically your epileptic patient.  Epileptics are simply animals predisposed to having seizures with no identifiable cause other than genetics.  We all have a seizure threshold, an accumulation of neuronal stimulation where the brain will have seizure activity.  Epileptics have a lower threshold and thus seize more readily.

The third category, unfortunately, the one poor Winston fell into, is the older patient that begins to seize.  

This, unfortunately, is usually due to an intracranial lesion ( a lesion like a tumor in and invading or surrounding and compressing the brain).  As an added clue, this patient is a Boxer, a breed that is notoriously known for developing cancer ANYWHERE.  Of course, there is the outlying infectious disease that can infect an animal of any age and cause seizures but let’s dismiss them for the moment as they are certainly rare.

The reason that I am giving you this background is to provide a perspective on the “treatments” that were given to Winston at the emergency hospital.  

They ran some baseline tests (appropriate) and some other tests (that were aggressive) without discussing options to the owner (the words MRI, neurology consult, cancer, or guarded or poor prognosis were never mentioned).

Then they proceeded to dispense Amoxicillin to treat possible pancreatitis (the dog demonstrated no signs of pancreatitis and Amoxicillin would not be the treatment if he had).  They gave the dog multiple pain medications (notice I didn’t say anti-seizure medications or sedatives but pain meds).

Then the kicker. They VACCINATED the dog!

To the unfortunate and unknowing pet owner, the illusion of care and compassion was provided; to the knowing and discriminating veterinarian, this is criminal.

Treatments (some unnecessary and some downright dangerous) and tests were performed simply to pad the client’s bill.  The client received no education and no options.

They simply were gouged then “shipped”.

A little secret…we never really started Angryvet because we were “angry”.  It was a catchy name that would hopefully draw people to our site to help bring attention to some issues that we felt warranted more study and more accessibility to pet owners.  I never intended to be a whistle-blower or to bad-mouth veterinarians.  Today, in this post, I will skip the obligatory qualification that most vets are good, honest, and educated people.  Today, I am angry.  Really.

Dishonesty and price gouging are not unique to veterinarians by any means.  

If someone goes to any professional to seek advice on something with which they are not educated or familiar, they run the risk of encountering a dishonest person.  I am not well-versed at all with construction or auto mechanics and have definitely been taken for a ride or two over the years.

Am I angry with humanity?  Why do we do this to each other?  Is money that important?  Is it too difficult to take pride in an honest day’s work and to receive an honest day’s pay?  Do the pressures of making money and surviving the stress and pace of life cause some of us to forget ethics and decency?

Am I angry with veterinarians in particular?  Should we be held up to a higher standard?  Did we not take an oath that includes the words “Primum non nocere” , or “First do no harm?”  Do we have an unwritten code amongst veterinarians to not blow the whistle on another veterinarian when they are acting unethically or is it our responsibility to the client who may not understand what is being done to them to do just that?

Once again, as I often state, I don’t have all of the answers.  Today, I feel good because I not only explained all of this to my valued client but because I have a following of people who actually are out there to listen to what I have to say.

I just wish I had a better story of humanity to share.

Categories: ConditionsDiagnosesDog health advocacyMisdiagnosesReal-life StoriesSeizures

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

One Comment
  1. We got so lucky with our care in a similar situation. I want to share my experience to help other pet parents be a little more at ease with something that is so traumatizing.

    My 24 hour emergency vet is also home to our local pet oncologist. So after our first seizure and an appointment with our regular vet, we were able to go exclusively to the emergency/oncology practice anytime we needed to for continuing care through the final hospice phase of our dog’s life.

    Our dog was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, and we chose to assume the seizures were related to a brain lesion or tumor. Our dog was 12 at the time and still holding up really well between seizures, so we treated his final 9 months as sort of a last hurrah holiday with our cherished boy.

    Eventually the seizures began taking more of a toll on our boy despite anti seizure/sedation meds.

    We bolstered his diet with homemade food to keep his weight and spirits up.

    Eventually the single seizures turned to cluster seizures, and we knew our time was drawing closed.

    By the end it was ongoing seizure with semi-lucidity periods and anxiety. He was at the maximum meds. The last few seizures he started losing control of his face muscles and could not stop pacing.

    We spent his last 24 hours taking turns snuggling him in bed and just watching tv together.

    We knew when it was time.

    He made is final visit to the ER and we said goodbye with gentle understanding staff.

    I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone but I want you to know, if you do go throught this, you aren’t alone. <3 <3 <3

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