Nikki came to rescue at 5 months old, due to major seizures. She’d had two clusters of three seizures two months apart, and after the second occurrence, her young owners realized they just couldn’t keep her. At her age, I suspected the seizures could be due to a liver shunt, and after she was surrendered to me, I called the veterinary surgeon and scheduled a bile acids test the following day, so that she could line up the surgery.
I then alerted APARN’s Finance Director, as liver shunt surgery carried a hefty price tag of anywhere from $2800-$3800 depending on complexity.
I dropped Nikki off in the morning, and was very surprised to get the call the next day that the bile acids were normal; there was no liver issue. When I picked her up, the doctor explained, “We tried to do an ultrasound on the top of her head, but the soft spot’s totally closed up. We’re pretty sure it’s hydrocephalus.”
“Not another one!” I was stunned. “I already have two hydrocephalic pugs. I don’t need another one.”
“If she gets worse, you can take her to Vet Neuro just to see if they have any further advice,” she said, handing the puppy back to me.
Back home, we went a several weeks before a seizure occurred. The first one I saw Nikki have took me a minute to realize what it was. She was on the sofa, and just started jumping all around. At first I thought she was just being her normal wild self, but then I realized she didn’t have any control over what she was doing, so I got to her and grabbed her so she wouldn’t bounce off the sofa and crack her head on the coffee table or the tile floor. She had another one the following day, and I was able to get some of it on video. I called and made an appointment at the Veterinary Neuro clinic the following day. Nikki had another smaller seizure the day before her Neuro Vet appointment.
The vet neurologist spent a lot of time observing and interacting with Nikki. “Well, she’s definitely not normal,” she said. I laughed, and agreed. “She does all of the things my other hydrocephalic pugs did at her age. So, if we did an MRI to officially confirm the diagnosis, would her care be anything different than if I just say, I am sure she is hydrocephalic based on your leanings, the opinions of the other two vets at the specialty clinic, and the fact that I have been through this twice already, and it’s pretty much exactly the same.”
The doctor thought a moment and shook her head. “No. Not really. I’ll give you a prescription for Phenobarbital and valium in case she has another really bad seizure.”
The Phenobarbital has helped Nikki control the seizures. She has not had an observed seizure since she started on it. That’s the good part. The bad part is all of the behavioral issues that accompany hydrocephalus. These pugs just never seem to get the hang of housebreaking. You can take them out 10 times a day, and they will probably go potty each time you take them out. But for some reason, they have active little systems, and they feel the need to “go” far more often than normal pugs. So in addition to going outside 10 times a day, they will also go inside 10 times a day. On the floor, or the sofa, or a dog bed.
Nikki peed so much and drank so much water, we even had her tested for diabetes. She was normal; it is just a part of her condition that she drinks a lot and pees a lot – whenever and wherever she thinks about it.
Nikki is a small pug, with big eyes, and a sweet face. She is the type of pug that people will say, “Oh, I love her; I would put up with the peeing in the house. I don’t care.” But the thing is, they would care. Because it isn’t just peeing in the house. She also destroys cardboard boxes. And anything paper that falls on the floor. And, like so many other hydrocephalic pugs, she doesn’t understand impulse control when it comes to biting. She has never grown out of the bitey puppy play behavior, although she has adult teeth. She doesn’t realize the strength in her jaws, although little, they are strong.
Due to these reasons, APARN feels it best for Nikki to remain with her foster mom, who has the most experience with hydrocephalic pugs of anyone we know.