Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Corgi Awstin tested At Risk for Degenerative Myelopathy

It has been a long time since I have posted any blog entries. It has been 2 1/2 years since Llyr went to The Rainbow Bridge due to DM. It has been a difficult time on so many levels, but I am blessed to be owned by a wonderful Corgi named Awstin! Just like me. Awstin had difficulties dealing with Llyr's passing. Dogs mourn too in their own way. He is now 9 years 3 months old. He is a sweet, wonderful and playful boy and I love him dearly!


In December of 2013 I had his DNA tested for DM and he came back At Risk. I was heartbroken to receive this news. Even though being At Risk does not mean he will develop DM it does mean the possibility is there.  At this time there is still no way to prevent or cure DM, but there are some things that are important that may help your Corgi in case the symptoms of DM develop. I will preface this by saying that this is important for any Corgis good health.

Keep your Corgis weight under control. An overweight Corgi can cause many health problems, but if your Corgi is overweight and develops symptoms of DM it will be much more difficult on him or her when your Corgi needs to use a cart. Awstin weighs 23.5 pounds. Proper weight may vary some and this is best discussed with your Veterinarian. The highest that Awstin should be is 24 pounds. Despite his typical "starving Corgi" attitude I have been able to keep him at his proper weight. All dog owners know "that look" that our dogs give us! Those sweet eyes begging for more. Yes, we all give in at times, but remember you are your Corgis health advocate on so many levels. Many aspects of your Corgis health may be out of your control, but maintaining a healthy weight is one of the easiest to handle. Feed the best quality of food that you can and limit treats. Like Llyr, one of Awstin's favorite treats is Cheerios. They are low calorie and he can have extra without it hurting his weight. So find a low calorie treat that your Corgi likes. Awstin also loves green beans and carrots. If you have a Corgi that is more selective about what they like this may be more of a challenge, but there is not much that Awstin will not eat!

Along with weight control exercise is always important. Walking is the obvious, but any activity that your Corgi enjoys counts. One of Awstin's favorite activities is fetch. He will fetch almost anything. Balls, toys you name it he will run and fetch it. Swimming is also good exercise and Awstin has been doing weekly underwater treadmill session for almost a year. We still have our sessions at West Chester Veterinary Rehabilitation Speciality Center. From past posts you know that I love the people there and now Awstin does too. He does 20 minute sessions at varying speeds. This helps maintain his weight and also gives this "Helicopter Mom" extra eyes to pick up any possible changes in his gait and early signs of DM. Not everybody has access to rehabilitation facilities so just remember to keep up a good exercise program whatever that may be.

After Llyr went to The Rainbow Bridge one of the first things I did was have a Senior panel blood work panel done on Awstin. He was not quite a Senior, but I wanted a good baseline for the future. Gratefully, everything was fine, but this brings me to my next point. A yearly check up by your Veterinarian is always a good idea.

I am hoping and praying that Awstin does not develop symptoms of DM, but if he does we will face this together just like I did with Llyr. This brings me to my last point of this post. How I felt when Awstin's DNA test for DM came back At Risk..... First and foremost I will say again this does NOT mean your Corgi will develop DM. I was scared and still am at the thought that Awstin may develop this horrid disease called DM. I don't know how anyone could not think about it. It will always be in the back of my mind when he takes a misstep, but I try and remember that I am doing everything I can to keep Awstin in good health. Try no to let the thoughts on the possibility of DM consume you because that will take away from quality time that you spend together. For me, I remind myself that each and every day Awstin and I are together is a gift and we plan on living life to the fullest!

I am not sure where this blog will go, but hopefully it will just be about life with Awstin and not another journey with DM. I also would like to be able to help people stay current with what is going on  with research into DM and that will be in future posts. So for now Corgi on and Corgi strong!

                                            Awstin with his favorite Auntie Cheryl
                                      at West Chester Veterinary Speciality Center

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Llyr's final journey with Degenerative Myelopathy

I am long overdue in writing about Llyr's final journey with DM and having to help him go the Rainbow Bridge. Friday June 21, 2013 it will be one year from when he left this world. It has been an emotional and difficult year in many ways, but many friends and my other Corgi Awstin have helped along the way.

From the time your Corgi gets the tentative diagnosis of DM you know what the eventual outcome will be since there is as of yet no treatment or cure. I knew from the very beginning if Llyr did not develop any other problems during his journey with DM what would cause me to make that decision. When the time came that Llyr's DM was going to cause difficulties in breathing that it was time to let him go. This was my line in the sand, but you may have a different one. It is clearly a very personal decision.  Discuss it with your Vet, friends, family, fellow owners of Corgis with DM or whomever you have as a support system. If your decision is at a different point don't ever feel bad that you made it earlier or even later during the stages of DM.

I remember the day when Llyr and I were at the University of Pennsylvania and I asked Dr. Moeser when Llyr's breathing deficits would turn toward him having difficulty breathing. He thought possibly 3-4 months, but could not predict accurately. My heart sank because I knew we were getting closer to the end of Llyr's journey with DM. Llyr made it longer than Dr. Moeser's time frame. Once again, Llyr did better than expected. I was extremely happy, but at the same time starting to get worried.

Even though I always kept a close eye on Llyr now with the help of Llyr's team at rehab I was watching his heart rate and breathing even closer. After Llyr stopped his swimming therapy I also made sure that every appointment at rehab was made at a time when Dr. Stephanie Finley would be there so she could do an evaluation on how he was breathing in case I had missed something.The continued twice a week rehab visits also gave me an incredible piece of mind. In the almost three years of going to West Chester Veterinary Rehabilitation Speciality Center twice a week Dr. Stephanie Finely, Michelle and Cheryl had become my second family. I needed them as much if not more than Llyr at this point. Only Llyr's Vets, his rehab team, a few of my closest friends and family knew what was happening. Llyr was entering his final few months.


                                                   Michelle and Llyr 


                            Llyr and I with his rehab team - Our second family!

I had hoped that Llyr and I would be able to go to the Philly Area Corgi Picnic, but it all depended on how he was doing.  The picnic was June 9th and Dr. Stephanie Finley gave us the okay to go. Llyr was in his glory that day!

                                  Llyr loaded in his car crate and waiting to go!

                      We arrived! Ready to go see old friends and meet new ones!

                     Llyr enjoying his stroller ride around the picnic grounds!

                    One of my favorite photos of Llyr and I! We had so much fun!

                      A late afternoon group picture of everyone and their Corgis!

The picnic was a day that I will never forget. Llyr and I participated in the musical hula hoops game! We had a slight advantage since he was in a stroller. It did not matter that we did not win because Llyr was all smiles and so was I! Llyr was able to meet many new friends and we both had a fantastic time!

I knew prior to the picnic that Llyr would be going to the Rainbow Bridge sometime in the next week or so. It made the day very bittersweet. I had agonized over if I should let people know prior to the picnic that this was going to be happening. I had made many phone calls to a dear friend Amy to discuss this, but decided not to because I did not want people to be sad when they saw Llyr.  I only told one person at the picnic. My friend Kathy who had lost her beloved Corgi to DM. I know that she knew the moment I looked at her face.

I had much earlier decided that Llyr would have a necropsy and that his tissues and spinal cord would go to Dr. Coates at the University of Missouri for research on DM.  I hope that everyone will consider doing this. The research to find out more about DM is very important and it is also the only way to confirm a DM diagnosis. It does take some planing because a kit has to be ordered from the University of Missouri for the procedure.

The day was fast approaching and as you can imagine my emotions were hard to control at times. I made a post on Facebook about what was going to happen and the amount of support I received was overwhelming, but at the same time a God send. Llyr and I had touched so many people throughout his journey. I could never have imagined what he meant to what we Corgi folk call "Corgi Nation".

That morning Llyr had a special breakfast of kibble and his favorite fruits. He gobbled it with his usual gusto. We went for his last stroller ride. It was a beautiful sunny day.

                                    Llyr in his cart for a piddle for the last time

                                            Heading out for his stroller ride!

One last time around the neighborhood. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Llyr was all smiles and holding his head up high!                                      

         Back at the house and Llyr as always had a beautiful smile on his face.

The day I had dreaded for so long was upon us. My friend Joanne came over to drive us to West Chester. That one last and horrible car ride. Llyr did not ride in his car crate, but on my lap. I hugged him, talked to him, told him how much I loved him and cried my heart out. The pain I was experiencing was the most intense I had ever had, but I also knew that I was giving my Llyr the greatest gift. He would soon be running, frappining and there would be an endless supply of his favorite treats. He would see Gwennan again and he would be healthy once again. My Father met us there and Dr. Stephanie Finley, Michelle and Cheryl  had cleared the rehab schedule so it would be just for Llyr while we were downstairs. Llyr had lots of treats! He had three frozen treats, peanut butter and some other goodies too. We all said our goodbyes and then he was given a tranquilizer.  Llyr gave me his last big smile and the shot was given. Llyr had made his journey to the Rainbow Bridge. The sadness was overwhelming and I did not want to leave. Dr. Stephanie Finley took the day off to take Llyr to the University of Pennsylvania and would observe the necropsy and then bring him back to West Chester and have him sent to be cremated. She gave me an incredible gift that day to know that Llyr would with her. I can never thank her, Michelle and Cheryl enough for all they did for Llyr and I from the beginning to the very end of Llyr's journey with DM.

Tomorrow will be one year since Llyr went to the Rainbow Bridge. I miss him and think of him every single day. There will never be another Llyr. His loss has left a hole in my heart, but he taught me many things through out his life. He taught me strength in adversity, to live each day to its fullest and never ever forget to smile despite what may be happening.  Llyr, I will love you forever and will always remember  the incredible bond we shared. I will continue to strive to help  and educate anyone that I can about DM until that day comes that there is a cure. Give Gwennan a big kiss from me my beloved and most wonderful angel Llyr!

This is what I saw in the clouds above my house on the day I returned with Llyr's ashes. Look closely at the top and you will see Llyr in the clouds! What an amazing gift Llyr gave me!



Sunday, June 3, 2012

                         Some changes to Llyr's Therapy

A little over a week ago after talking with Llyr's therapy team it was decided that Llyr needed some changes in his therapy program. Llyr was barely using his front left leg when swimming anymore. Since his front legs have become weaker from his progressing DM swimming was no longer benefiting him. He was still watching me as he was going around the pool, but he was floating more than swimming. The spark in his eyes while swimming was disappearing and he was not enjoying swimming anymore. so, llyr is no longer swimming during therapy anymore. 

His therapy sessions are now only land exercises and those are limited as well. He is getting massage, stretching, Cold Laser Therapy and limited head and neck exercises. He is starting to lose strength in his head. This is the progression of Degenerative Myelopathy. Very sad, but true. This disease marches on slowly but surely. Llyr still loves getting his frozen treats and is now getting them twice a week during therapy instead of just once! Since Llyr is a very food motivated Corgi, of course there are no complaints!

        This was a day that I forgot his frozen treats, so it was a Peanut butter day!

               Llyr getting a massage and waiting patiently for more Peanut Butter!

           Llyr getting a neck massage from Michelle and enjoying his frozen treat!

                      Llyr is enjoying just relaxing with Dr. Stephanie Finley! 

                                       Llyr talking with Cheryl! He adores her!

                  Llyr taking time out to smile for the camera with Cheryl and I! 

                                  Last, but not least a big smile from Llyr!!!!     

                      More pictures of Llyr in his stroller

          Llyr gets to go to my Dr. appointments! With my CDE Marianne McAndrew!

                                                   How sweet is this!


                                           Llyr with Michelle my Nutritionist! 

              Llyr with my best friend Becky and I at Braxton's Animal Works!

    Llyr is upstairs after therapy. He is hoping for more for some more treats!

                     Llyr enjoying treats at one of our many visits to Braxton's!

Even though time marches on with the progression of Degenerative Myelopathy there are still many places you can go with your Corgi! Have fun and enjoy every moment! 

                         Llyr, out and about in his doggy stroller

                                       Some pictures of Llyr enjoying his stroller rides!

                      Visiting a good friend at the Devon Horse show and Country Fair!

                                       Llyr and I enjoying our day at the horse show!

                                        Ear scratches from a fellow Corgi lover!

                                       Llyr posing by the Devon Derby prize list!

                               Llyr enjoying time in the shade and watching people!

                                          Out and about in his neighborhood!

                                                       Llyr waiting to stroll!

                                                   Llyr visiting a local park!

                             Taking a stop by the baseball field to smile for the camera!

               Llyr visiting with his good friend Linda at Braxton's Animal Works in Devon, Pa
                                   A large orange monkey toy catching a ride with Llyr!  


Saturday, June 2, 2012

                  Time marches on with DM as much as you do not want it to

Because of Llyr's progressing DM he has stopped being able to use his front legs in his cart a little while after our last visit to K-9 Cart Company East. A very wonderful lady from the Wheelcorgi Yahoo Group lent me her Doggy stroller and Llyr has been loving it! I still use Llyr's cart to express him, to eat and for time in the grass. His stroller has enabled him to continue to enjoy life. Only now it is from a higher level so to speak!

Our last visit with his Neurologist Dr. Moeser at the University of Pennsylvania Llyr again charmed everyone! We also had a tour of the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital after our appointment.

                                                   Llyr with Dr. Moeser

                                      Llyr on our tour visiting one of the three areas in
                                      the hospital that now have new rubber flooring! 

                                                   A smiling, happy Llyr! 

                                     Llyr and I enjoying our tour of the hospital!

                      Llyr was given smile stickers for being such a good boy!

When the time comes that your Corgi can no longer use the cart please consider using a doggy stroller. There are many different types and price ranges. It has enabled to Llyr to go places he would not have been able to before. We now take "strolls". You may get some comments like "Oh, what a spoiled dog!", but it is a good time to tell people why your Corgi is in a stroller and educate people about DM. You will get more positive comments from most people and you and your Corgi will have many memorable times despite the progressing DM!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Llyr's trip to K9 Cart Company East 2-21-2012

Llyr had started knuckling with his front left leg about a month ago and recently he started knuckling with his right foot as well. Knuckling is when the paw starts folding over at the top of the paw. At first this may happen and they will right their paw on their own, but as time goes on as it is happening with Llyr he rights them less often and I have to help him. As a result of this our walks in his cart are getting harder. I have been pulling him in his cart for a while. He still uses his cart inside where I know he will not hurt his paws because of the rugs and yoga mats. Outside unless we are on grass he will scrape up his paws. I have tried socks, but his toenails go right through them. I have tried duct taping the socks at the bottom, but this makes him knuckle even more. Boots are just to bulky and he can't use them at all.

Llyr and I made a trip to K9 Cart Company East in Oxford, Md. 12 days ago. I was hoping that maybe some adjustments could be made to his cart to help him walk better. Dr. Parkes tried lowering the cart slightly which did not help and he also tried raising the cart some and this did not work either. He was able to make Llyr's cart narrower which has helped to keep him straighter in his cart. Llyr is at the point in his journey with DM that his time in his cart is very short as far as walks go. Now I mostly use his cart so that he can do his business outside. Llyr can only piddle now by being expressed. He is still pooping on his own thankfully. He also enjoys sniffing the ground and of course the occasional ground goodie! I also picked up Llyr's skis. Unfortunately, they do not work on grass and we have not had any snow since I got them.

Here is Dr. Parkes is doing the final fitting of Llyr's skis to his cart.

Here is Llyr with his skis! For the first time ever I am hoping for a little bit of snow!

This is a close up picture of Llyr's skis. This picture is not with Llyr's cart, but when Dr. Parkes was finishing the design. The skis are easy to put on and to take off his cart.

 Llyr did have a good time on his visit and Rebecca gave Llyr a wonderful bone toy and treats for  his Birthday!

Llyr also enjoyed getting his chin scratched by Rebecca! Llyr loves getting to see Rebecca on our trips.

The end of a long, but nice day at K-9 Cart Company East!

I am sad to know that there is nothing else that can be done to help Llyr walk with his cart. Dr. Parkes, Jamie and Rebecca have worked tirelessly to help Llyr. Without his wonderful cart from K9 Cart Company East Llyr's journey with DM would have been much more difficult. Llyr's time in his cart has given him 100% better quality of life. I can't thank everyone enough from K9 Cart Company East for all they have done for Llyr and I.