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Canine Epilepsy

Quaid Quaid was sold as a show prospect puppy. When his seizures started, we bought him back and started down the long road to get control. Quaid had seizures in clusters starting at 10 months of age. Through medication (a combination of phenobarbital and sodium bromide), we had reduced the severity of the seizures and kept him from going into status epilepticus. However, he was still having clusters about every other week, and even outside the clusters his ataxia was severe. Rather than continue to increase his medication, we decided to get gold bead implants done by the acupuncturist that developed the technique, Dr. Terry Durkes of Marion, Indiana, USA.

Since then, he has only had a few minor seizures. We have been able to reduce his phenobarbital down to 50 mg. SID, which he seems to need for interaction with the bromide.

Below the link list is a compilation of messages I posted to a canine epilepsy e-mail list about the decision to take Quaid for gold bead implants July 31, 1997, the trip, and his subsequent recovery.

Canine Epilepsy Articles

Quaid's brother Patrick - a more conventional success story         Photos from Quaid's gold bead implant surgery
1999 article on gold bead implants by Dr. Durkes         Preston's story - controlling seizures with gold bead implants
Milk Thistle for liver protection         Diagnosing hypothyroidism in an epileptic - a case study
Why phenobarbital is still the first drug prescribed         Link Library - other informative sites

Other Pages on This Website

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Quaid’s Diary

July 16, 1997

Subject: Gold for Quaid? Maybe...

I just got off the phone with Dr. Terry Durkes, the vet who specializes in the gold bead implants. If anyone else is planning to call, their area code just changed - it’s now 765-664-0734.

He does not know anyone in my area (north Texas) who does the implants, so I am seriously considering taking Quaid to Indiana. He quoted a 60% chance that the seizures will stop and we can reduce phenobarb, versus a 20-30% failure rate. Cluster dogs are harder to control (figures). Also, he has had no success reducing bromide for some reason.

The good news is, he feels that Quaid’s ataxia should improve even if we can’t reduce the medication. First, just stopping or reducing the seizures will help. Second, unlike in a human, animals can compensate for brain damage, which I did not realize. If we can stop causing more damage, he can start recovering from the existing damage, which is very good news indeed.

I am not looking forward to 4 days of driving with a dog who can barely walk, but it does sound like it is worth a try. Luckily, we do not have two-legged kids, so that makes things easier. Now I just need to convince my husband, who is heavily grounded in Western science. I am too, but I can’t argue with the fact that acupuncture works.

Quaid & Patrick (Road trip!!! Can I go???)

July 27, 1997

Subject: Quaid's Journey

or...How I spent my summer vacation.

Quaid’s appointment with Dr. Durkes is this Thursday. Marion, IN is just under 1000 miles from here, so we’ll leave Tuesday morning. I’ve gone a little extreme in my packing, on the logic that if I pack all my emergency equipment, I won’t need it. Quaid has never traveled before, so his response is one wild card I can’t control.

The good news is that he’s doing much better. I haven’t seen a seizure in 2 days, and he’s back “behind his eyes.” He is still very wobbly, but can stay on his feet for brief periods if he’s not bumped. This bright boy actually seems to be learning to fall, twisting over to one hip instead of sprawling. We even managed to get him brushed and bathed, which should help him feel better.

Patrick AKA Mr. Road Trip (MOOMMM, take MMEEEE!) & Quaid, Collies

Quaid’s story: Quaid is a 3 year old Collie who has had seizures in clusters since he was 10 months old. Through medication, we have reduced the severity of the seizures and kept him from going into status. However, he still has clusters about every other week, and even outside the clusters his ataxia is severe. Rather than continue to increase his medication, we have decided to get gold bead implants done by the acupuncturist that developed the technique. There’s no one close that does it, so if we have to travel, we might as well go to the expert.

August 2, 1997

Subject: Hi Mom, we’re home!

The See America With A Sick Dog Tour - 5 days, 4 nights, 2,004 miles

A thumbnail travelogue (from a very limited perspective!):

Indiana - corn fields and NASCAR Country (Brickyard 400 is today)

Illinois - road construction and speed traps - The Illinois State police must make a fortune off the stretch of I70 between Terre Haute and St. Louis

Missouri - beautiful Ozark countryside, but tough to pass trucks on the hills and curves - really nice rest areas

Oklahoma - I HATE driving in Oklahoma, and this trip was no exception!

Seriously, we’re home, and Quaidie is very glad to be back in familiar surroundings. The other dogs are not sure what to think about his haircut. He’s shaved from his eyebrows to behind his ears, and a 4 inch strip from his shoulders to his croup. If you want to attract attention in a busy rest area, step out of the car with a gold and white Collie with a reverse mohawk and polka dot scabs on his skin. One teenage girl took one look, and just said “Neat!” and kept going. Shaved head, body piercing...Oh no, my dog is a fashion statement!

The little guy was very stressed for most of the trip, but it could have been much worse. He didn’t have a seizure, but was exhibiting typical post-seizure behavior (staring at the corner, trying to get behind things) when we were in Dr. Durkes’ office. He was a bit better coming home, but that could be due to the implants, his getting used to traveling, or the enforced relaxation while he was sedated.

I observed the implant procedure, and will write more when I’m a little less brain dead.

Quaid (Hey Emily [a Chinese Crested friend], I look kinda like you now!) (No, son, Em has a topknot)
Patrick (Uh Mom, about that road trip I volunteered for...)

August 3, 1997

Subject: Quaid's implants

I’ll try to describe what I observed as Dr. Durkes did Quaid’s gold bead implants.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t fully understand acupuncture. I normally study things more thoroughly, but I couldn’t argue with that predicted 60% success factor.

Dr. Durkes identified several problem points on Quaid’s head and back in the initial exam. He explained that with a cluster dog, it would be necessary to treat all the meridians. If he only treated the currently detectable problem points, the energy would just be blocked at another point.

They then anesthetized him, and shaved his head and back (probably the worst part of the whole process).

The beads are quite small, about the size of a poppy seed. His assistant loads 3 at a time into a large bore needle on a syringe. He injects all 3 into each point, about 1/2 inch deep on the head and 3/4 inch deep along the spine. He did an initial group of points in a pattern. He had warned me that points that need to be released will ooze blood. About half of the initial points bled, mainly on his left side.

He then went back over him searching for points that became detectable after release of the initial points. He kept finding more and more points, all of which bled. He explained that other acupuncturists can do the initial points by measurement, but his technique for finding the subsequent points is very advanced. He holds a finger to his ear as he moves the needle above the skin, and can detect a change in his own pulse when he is over the point.

I didn’t keep count during the procedure, but a later dot inventory shows that he did about 19 points on the head and 30 along his back. The one question I forgot to ask was whether Dr. Durkes would adjust his estimated odds for success after actually doing the implants. I think the fact that he found so many points which bled is a good sign.

If Quaid goes a month without a seizure, Dr. Durkes recommends dropping his phenobarb from 400 mg./day to 300 mg./day, then down another 100 mg after another month. For non-cluster dogs, he has stopped phenobarb cold turkey with no seizures!

This sweet guy has been good since we got home, still very wobbly but with no sign of a seizure. We will keep you posted. I’ve been through so many searches for the “magic bullet” that I can’t afford to get my hopes too high, but I am cautiously optimistic.

November 1, 1997

Subject: More good news

Simply stated, my little boy is back. His eyes are bright and alive, and he is even galloping and playing a little. Every bit of exercise makes a dramatic improvement in his physical control. He can trot across the kitchen tile now, while before he fell almost every time he stepped on it. He is even sleeping normally, not the “dead dog” unconscious state he used to be in for hours at a time. We’ve been reducing his phenobarb by 50 mg. every two weeks, now down to 50 mg. BID from the 200 he was taking. He has been completely seizure-free since we made the trip to Indiana for his gold bead implants 3 months ago.

For those who don’t know his story, Quaid was so stoned on phenobarb and bromide that he could barely control his tongue to drink, and was still having almost daily seizures. His quality of life was so poor that we were seriously considering euthanasia. As a last resort, I took him to Dr. Durkes for the implants, and they have made all the difference in the world.

Please, don’t anyone feel guilty if making this trip is not feasible. I am the first to admit that a fortunate series of circumstances came together to make it possible for Quaid. My co-workers still think I’m nuts!

Patrick is also doing well after we added bromide and pulled down his phenobarb slightly to get rid of some minor ataxia (or Collie-wobbles, as we call it here).

December 6, 1997

Subject: Not quite off Pb

Since Quaid’s gold bead implants, we had been gradually reducing his phenobarb, until he was down to 50 mg. a day (from 400), and completely seizure-free. Thursday we stopped that low dose. This morning he has had several dozen very mild partial seizures, where his forelegs drop out from under him. After the first two I gave him 100 mg. of phenobarb, and I’ll add to that if I need to. So far, the seizures have been so minor that he is not even aware of them.

In addition to phenobarb, Quaid is at a near-maximum blood level of sodium bromide, and we have made no changes to that dosage. According to Dr. Durkes, the gold bead implants do not reduce the need for bromide if a dog is already on it. I recall at least one list member reporting her neurologist’s recommendation that a dog on bromide be kept on a tiny dose of phenobarb. My inclination is to just keep him at 50 mg. a day, even though that can’t be a therapeutic blood level.

We are sailing uncharted waters here at a junction between Eastern and Western medicine. I would appreciate your opinions or experiences with the need for phenobarb to support bromide treatment.

December 6, 1997

Subject: Quaid update

Quaid is back to doing just fine. The one dose of phenobarb broke the little cluster he had this morning. We're going to stick with 50 mg. a day on the assumption that the bromide needs the interaction with the phenobarb. I e-mailed Dr. Boeckh at Texas A&M to get his opinion. I've known all along that this might be a complication, since to the best of my knowledge Quaid is the only gold bead dog who is also on bromide. The difference between this low dose and being completely off phenobarb is nothing, so I still consider his gold beads an unqualified success.

May 12, 1998

Subject: Two Milestones

Patrick has gone a full year without a seizure. We started him on sodium bromide last July, and I credit that for this level of control. We have been very gradually reducing his phenobarb. The latest reduction will probably drop his trough level out of the therapeutic range, so we are holding our breaths a bit. He doesn't seizure often any more, but when he does he strings together monster clusters.

Second, we will celebrate Quaid's 4th birthday next Tuesday. This time last year, I didn't believe he would live to see this birthday. He was drugged to the point he could barely function, and was still having almost daily seizures. He has not had a significant seizure since his gold bead implants last July 31, and has made a miraculous recovery. He is a bit brain damaged, but otherwise is a healthy, happy boy.

For those of you that are new to canine epilepsy, I urge you to be aggressive early with medication. We were too conservative and let both boys establish cluster patterns before we got control. Looking back, that is the one thing I would change (except to wish I had this list 4 years ago!)

Patrick - 500 mg. NaBr BID, 75 mg. Pb BID - 25 mg. every other day (getting creative with my razor blade), milk thistle 1 wk/mo
Quaid - 1,250 mg. NaBr BID, 50 mg. Pb SID, milk thistle 1 wk/mo
(Mom, why do you still look at us THAT way when we dream about chasing squirrels?)

July 31, 1998

Subject: A year ago...

A very out-of-it Quaid and I were a thousand miles from home, on what felt like a last ditch effort to save him. On July 31 he received his gold bead implants from Dr. Terry Durkes of Marion, Indiana.

What a difference a year makes. Quaid has not had a grand mal since the implants. Even with no seizures, it took several months for his physical improvement to be noticeable. His body needed time to recover from the high levels of medication, the loss of muscle tone, and some brain damage. We have been able to reduce his phenobarb to a token 50 mg. SID. As predicted by Dr. Durkes, we can't reduce his NaBr. He only had some minor dropping seizures when we found these medication limits.

Quaid even grew a full coat last winter. Collies and other double-coated breeds shed their undercoats after being anesthetized, and he had to be knocked out so many times his coat never grew in. Being "a little slow" in more ways than one, he is finally "blowing" coat - after 37 days over 100F this summer!

Patrick (also doing well) & Quaid (Hey Mom, do you think I might be a little cooler if I took some of this hair off?)

May 19, 1999

Subject: A birthday

We're celebrating Quaid's 5th birthday today, along with his sister Tricia. Who would have ever thought that he would be the sole survivor of the three epileptic brothers? There was a time when I didn't believe he would see his third birthday. He was so maxed out on medications that he could barely function, and was still having almost daily seizures. His case was somewhat unusual, because the meds seemed to "dilute" the seizures - making them less severe, but more frequent. By early in 1997, he was staying in a post-ictal daze for weeks at a time, and we were seriously contemplating the quality of his life. His gold bead implants on July 31, 1997 were the miracle cure for him. Quaid is significantly brain damaged, but we all just make allowances for our special needs boy.

A little history, since we have a lot of new list members. Patrick was from our first litter, of only 2 puppies. He was our first Champion, and the love of my life. We did a repeat of his breeding; then Patrick had his first seizure 3 days before they were born. In retrospect, I'm glad we did the repeat breeding and produced two more epileptics, because otherwise I would have convinced myself that Patrick's seizures were the result of hypoxia at birth. Keeper was the least severely epileptic of the brothers and lived happily with another family. Unfortunately, he went into a cluster and the emergency vet tried to treat him exclusively with valium. (These guys are extremely resistant to valium.) He went into status and a decision was made to euthanize him. Patrick, with his flair for the dramatic, was my cluster dog. He would have monster grand mal clusters, with fairly long intervals between them. Once we discovered bromide, he stayed completely in control. We lost Patrick to heart failure this March, which is why my verb tenses get confused at times.

Deb & the birthday boy and girl

June 24, 1999

Subject: Levels too high - good news!

I realize that subject line sounds strange, but it's true. We got Quaid's bromide level back today, and it's at 3.66 with a therapeutic range of 1.00 to 3.00. That definitely explains his lethargy, so we will do an immediate reduction to get him back near the 2.6 of his last test. Why it went up is a question, but at least we're not looking at a heart problem.

Deb & Quaid

November 6, 1999

Subject: Help for ataxia

Quaid has had moderate ataxia in his rear for years, and it got worse early this year when his bromide level went too high. We're getting that level back down, but he has still been unsteady on his rear. Lately we have been taking him to a veterinary chiropractor. After two professional adjustments and 3 weeks of stretching and massage exercises at home, he is doing much better. As the doctor explained it, Quaid has built up muscle along the lumbar region of his spine to compensate for his shaky legs. That muscle is tight, and has locked up his spine. We're working to limber up that area, which is giving him better control of his rear. We really saw the benefit this morning when we did his nails. He has always been very difficult to groom because he doesn't feel stable on the table. This time, though, he seemed much more comfortable, even on 3 legs.

We found the doctor who is treating Quaid through the AHVMA directory.

Deb & Quaid (81 lb. Collie - last grand mal 7/97 - gold bead implants, 700 mg. NaBr BID, 50 mg. phenobarb SID, milk thistle, CoQ10)

May 27, 2000

Subject: A new plan for Quaid

Dr. Durkes' 1999 comments about the relationship between gold bead implants and bromide clarified Quaid's situation for us. Quaid broke his 2 year 9 month seizure free streak last month with a single grand mal. That makes sense now, because we've been gradually reducing his level from the peak of 3.66 it reached last June. He's now down to 2.6 (scale 1.0 - 3.0), which is where he was at the time of his implants. Based on my earlier discussions with Dr. Durkes, I thought we needed to stay at that level. I consulted with him this week, though, and he agrees that we can continue the reduction. We will likely trigger some seizures temporarily, but that's worth it if we can get him totally off meds. We're a little out of practice, but last month's seizure showed us that we haven't forgotten the drill. Wish him luck!

Deb & Quaid - gold bead implants, NaBr level 2.6 and dropping, phenobarb below therapeutic, 150 mg. milk thistle SID, Nutro Natural Choice, veggies and garlic

August 20, 2000

Subject: On watch again

I had a new experience this weekend after 6 years of fighting epilepsy - Quaid telegraphed a seizure. All yesterday morning something just wasn't quite right. He had what I can only describe as a startled expression on his face, and he didn't seem to want to settle down. This time of year, all the dogs sleep about 22 hours a day, and Quaid is usually the first down and the last up. Instead, he wanted to cling to me and follow me around. It was similar to how he behaves post-ictally, but there was no evidence he had had a seizure. I gave him some Rescue Remedy and molasses, then followed that with cottage cheese. That seemed to help, and he slept all afternoon. He got up for dinner and seemed normal until he dropped into a grand mal at 8:30 this morning.

So far he has only had the one seizure. It has been 3 months since we reduced his NaBr dosage, so that level should just now be steady state. It's only been 26 days since his last 4-seizure cluster. If he doesn't cluster this time, we'll keep his dosage where it is for a while. If he does cluster, I think I'll increase by half the reduction - we went from 700 mg. to 500 mg. BID, so I'll go up to 600 mg. BID. The seizures so far have all been grand mals, but the clusters have had good separation. Even better, he hasn't had much of the post-ictal crazies at all. Stay tuned...

Deb & a soundly sleeping Quaid

Update: That seizure was the first of a fairly serious cluster, so we did the dosage increase. Quaid had another very mild cluster September 7 - 9.

May 16, 2001

Subject: Seven years ago

Seven years ago this evening, our lives changed forever. Patrick had his first seizure three days before his little brothers and sisters were born. It seems like an eternity has passed since then, and yet I remember it as though it were yesterday. I still find it amazing that Quaid is the survivor of the three epileptics. He's doing very well. He had two seizures today, his first in 3 months. While I would like to get back to our almost 3 year seizure free run, I don't worry too much about these infrequent, mild seizures. The first this morning was so minor that I didn't give him extra phenobarb, but I won't make that mistake again.

For those of you that are new to dealing with seizures, take heart in knowing that even impossible-seeming cases can find control. Patrick was an allopathic success, completely seizure-free after adding NaBr. Quaid was even more difficult. The medications at least bought us time; then his gold bead implants changed his life. The histories and some other articles that might be of interest are on this website.

Deb & Quaid, Patrick & Keeper

August 25, 2002

Subject: The Final Chapter

I’m sorry to tell those that knew him that Quaid lost his battle Thursday morning. Epilepsy alone couldn’t kill him, although he was one of the most extreme cases I’ve known. In March he was also diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the weakened heart muscle can’t pump the blood effectively. Still he fought on for five more months. Last weekend he had a minor cluster, no worse than the few others he had after the diagnosis. But this time he didn’t come back. As far as we can tell, the lack of oxygen finally caused acute brain damage. His body just shut down, and we made the decision to let him go in peace.

Hopefully some good can come of Quaid’s case. His DNA, along with other family members’, is part of the Canine Epilepsy Project .

Quaid was one of the most gentle souls it has ever been my pleasure to know. He didn’t deserve the trials that filled his too-short life. This was the last photo taken of him:



My Guard Dog

I hope this is premature, but somehow I know it isnít.

Today I took Quaid in to the vet because heís been down. He had a series of seizures this last weekend and we medicated him as usual, extra phenobarb. He developed the usual ataxia and the seizures seemed to be lessening in strength and duration. But this time he never recovered from the meds and neurologicals. The vet thinks he has an infection of some sort, possibly related to his bad teeth. (Weíve had to delay teeth cleaning due to the fact that he goes into seizures every time we take him to the vet). He is running a 105 degree fever with relatively normal blood work. This would normally indicate an infection except his white blood cell count isnít elevated very high. I hope the vet is right, but I just donít feel it.

The real important thing, however, is what happened just before I took him in today. He got up on his wobbly legs, (first time in a day and a half), and headed for the back door. I took what I thought was the opportunity to let him go pee. Out the door he goes. Iím trying to bracket him in case he falls, and coax him over to the side where itís a little less steep. But he just kept going, right off the deck, as if he had a job to do. He then proceeded to make a complete round of the people yard as he always did, (to protect us from neíer do wells, and the Pekinese next door). I called him back to the deck, but he wasnít satisfied that everything was ok yet. So he made another round, this time checking the gate as well. Then he was satisfied that everything was secure. He came up on the deck and into the house. Three feet into the room he collapsed again. He hasnít really gotten up again. I think it was his final patrol.

He gave his last strength to protect me. Maybe it was only in his mind, but it was real to him. It was his job, and he did it well. Man will never know true devotion, loyalty and love until he is loved by a dog. And a Collie is the purest form of that. Quaid isnít a show dog, and doesnít have any performance titles. But he has the Collie heart, that devotion to an unworthy specimen we call man. I only hope that someday I will be worthy of that love.

ďTo live in the hearts we leave behind, is not to dieĒ
                       - Scottish author and poet, Thomas Campbell


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