I've decided to share Cabela's story with all of you as a means of spreading the word about canine meningitis and it's potential for fatal consequences if not caught in the early stages.
My husband and I have been watching Cabela grow up since she was born, on Christmas Eve 2010. Her mother was a rescue dog and had been taken in by New Spirit Aussie Rescue Group. She was pregnant with a litter of 10 puppies. From birth, the rescue group provided a webcam of the puppies that was available for us to watch whenever we wanted. It was wonderful to be able to watch her and her siblings grow. At 6 weeks old, we were able to finally take Cabela home with us. We initially thought it was too early to be taken from her mother, but the rescue group assured us that it was time because the mother was no longer feeding them.
Cabela was a rambunctious, wild little puppy. She gave us a run for our money day after day. It was a ton of work to train her. We brought her to puppy kindergarten classes and my husband was very diligent about teaching her commands and tricks. After a few short weeks, Cabela knew just about every trick in the book. Sit, speak, roll over, lay down, stay, paw, play dead etc... She was by far the smartest, most adaptable dog we both had ever owned.
More importantly though, she brought so much love and joy to our little family. Cabela brings laughter, love, hope, and compassion, and life without her is unimaginable. She has the most uplifting personality and funny, yet warm smile (yes, she smiles) that would make the worst day seem better. When I look at her, I feel as though I can see right into her soul...I always say she has soulful eyes.
Diagnosing Cabela's disease did not come quickly for us. We had been noticing a lot of different symptoms that led us to different conclusions about what may have been wrong. Initially, we thought she may have had Lyme's Disease. Overall, a dog who is usually highly energetic and lively, was lethargic and depressed at just a month over being 2 years old. I knew something wasn't right.
We first noticed something was wrong when Cabela started to struggle with getting up from a sitting position. It seemed very difficult for her to get her back legs to work, so she was using an extreme amount of effort from her front legs to pull herself up to a standing position. At this time, we ran tests for Lyme's Disease, which came up negative. We continued to monitor Cabela, some days were better than others. We felt that maybe she was just a bit out of shape, so we started to exercise her more thinking that maybe she had just gained a few pounds. When we saw little improvement from this, we brought her into the vet again for an X-Ray to look for inflammation or tumors in her back. The orthopedist examined her and found nothing alarming in her examination, but they seemed to notice she had some sensitivity in her lower back.
At this point, we began laser treatments 3 times a week for 20 minute sessions and started her on an anti-inflammatory medication. Initially, it seemed to work well, but on week three of treatments, she was still struggling. I brought Cabela back into the vet for another examination, where at this time it was noticed that her muscles in her back seemed to be seized up and very stiff. She was beginning to get very rigid in her movements. Our next step from here was to put her on a muscle relaxer and continue the anti-inflammatory medication and look into getting acupuncture and other treatments on her back.
However, the next morning when Cabela woke up, she couldn't move her neck without squealing in pain. We rushed her to the vet again, which is when we finally got referred to see a neurologist for an MRI and spinal tap. Unfortunately though, we couldn't get an appointment for 2 days since it was the weekend. Needless to say, we all had a pretty miserable Easter. All we could do was try to keep her still and pray that she would be OK.
My husband and I were convinced that she must have had a bulging disc in her back. She is after all a border collie who loves to leap and fly through the air catching Frisbees and sticks. She could have easily thrown something out of whack with all the jumping she does.
Meningitis was the furthest thing from our minds. I didn't even know a dog could get meningitis! After the MRI came out clean, the spinal tap was done, which showed high levels of white blood cells and therefore leading us to our diagnosis. After weeks of not knowing what is wrong with our typically spry little pup, we finally had a diagnosis...but I didn't know whether to be happy that we finally knew what was wrong, or horrified at what was actually wrong all along.
Like meningitis in humans, early diagnosis is VERY important for recovery. I'm glad we were persistent in finding a diagnosis, but praying we found it early enough to make a full recovery.
Cabela is currently on an aggressive dose of steroids to treat her autoimmune disease. She will be on these medications for 10+ weeks, treating aggressively and weaning slowly. We've since learned that there is a large chance of relapse once she is off the steroids and we'll have to monitor very carefully for signs of deterioration.
Since we've began the steroids, we've noticed a lot of improvement. She is no longer struggling to get up, her limping has greatly subsided and we barely see it anymore, she is more perky and lively and even trots outside when we go for a walk. Every night my husband and I have been praying for her recovery, and we'll continue to pray for her recovery. I truly believe in the power of prayers and am so appreciative to the large support group we have in helping Cabela to recover.
I know that this post is not about fashion, but I felt I had to share my dog's story with you to help prevent any more cases of this disease. If sharing Cabela's story helps just one person diagnose their dog earlier, then it did it's job.
*Prayers for a full recovery for our sweet pup*