Sunday 17 December 2017

Life on a knife edge

An epileptic fit was the first sign that tante the poodle would need brain surgery

Owner: Jenny Hale from Celbridge, Co Kildare

Animal: Tante Zoe, her eight-year-old Miniature Black Poodle

Background: Tante needed surgery to remove a brain tumour

Dogs are the centre of Jenny's world: she's a professional dog groomer and, until recently, enjoyed dog agility with Tante. They have competed as part of the Irish team in the World Agility Open in 2011.

In the early morning, two months ago, Jenny was woken by a strange noise. She found Tante having a 'grand mal' epileptic seizure: collapsed on her side, legs thrashing and her whole body twitching. Jenny gathered her pet up and rushed to the vet. By the time she got there, Tante seemed normal. But why had the seizure happened?

Seizures in young dogs are commonly caused by epilepsy, which can usually be controlled with daily medication. In older animals the cause can be more complicated.

In the short term, Tante was given tablets, but the seizures started to occur weekly. Just before Christmas, an MRI scan at UCD Veterinary Hospital showed that Tante had a large brain tumour. However, a review of the scan brought a glimmer of hope: the tumour was "meningioma", a benign tumour for which treatment is possible using surgery and radiotherapy. This would extend Tante's life by 18 to 24 months, and the hope of a permanent cure.


Without surgery Tante would rapidly deteriorate as the tumour expanded inside her skull.

Brain surgery is expensive and risky, but Jenny felt that she had no choice. She decided to give Tante the best treatment possible, working with some of the world's leading veterinary neurologists and surgeons.

Two weeks ago, she took Tante to a veterinary centre in Bedfordshire. Tante underwent major brain surgery. She came back to Ireland some days later, and her staples were removed just three days ago.

The little dog is in good form, and although she has continued to suffer occasional seizures, now that the cause of the problem has been removed, it's expected that they'll settle down.

The surgery needs to be followed up with radiotherapy to prevent the tumour from regrowing. This will need to be given in Liverpool, three times a week for four weeks.

It has been complicated logistically: Jenny works full-time as a self- employed dog groomer. She has been astonished by the support that she's received from her friends in dog agility and dog grooming as well as the wider dog-owning community. Some have even donated towards Tante's treatment. Jenny's determined to get her little friend back on the road to full health, and as she says herself, "where there's a will, there's a way".

Visit Pete's website at www.petethevet.com

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