Coonhound Paralysis

This blog talks about our experience when Goya (our 150lb English Mastiff) came down with coonhound paralysis (also called acute idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis).

Monday, July 09, 2012

Short note about this blog

Bonnie and I recently moved to Manhattan. We have a great apartment, and take our 3 dogs for a walk in Central park 3 times a day. We now have 2 mastiffs, and an English setter. The first walk of the day and the last walk is when dogs can be off lead. The setter loves that part, and runs all around us easily getting more exercise than she got in Pittsburgh. One mastiff we got from rescue, is about 5 years old, and is a little slow. The other mastiff is Bonnie's mid-life puppy, and is about 2 years old. They stay on lead all the time.

Our dogs get lots of interest, and they are often photographed as NYC points of interest. One of the people we were talking to, mentioned that one of her dogs liked to chase raccoons on Long Island where she spent the week as a vet tech. This dog caught a strange disease that her vet had only heard about in Veterinary school. Bonnie and I both said coonhound paralysis? Yes it was, and she was fairly certain that she had read this blog and found it both useful and inspiring. Her vet didn't know what to do. He had never seen a case. He thought she had learned more from this blog and other internet sources than he knew.

The key point for me is this interaction was evidence that this blog is still serving it's purpose. It is giving people hope, and providing them with ideas on how to handle this illness. It was great to run into someone that actually had read the blog and found it useful.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Progression of Disease and Recovery

Emmit is a 6-yr-old black Lab recently diagnosed with coonhound paralysis. So far, he became fully paralyzed quickly, was back walking (shakily) at about day 4, and then at day 7 got worse again.

Emmit's dad asks:
Can anyone provide insight into the typical progress? It seems to be two steps forward and one step back... Is this typical? I hear a lot about steady but slow progrees. We had pretty rapid progress, and BAM! it all went sideways... Any insights would be helpful...

My Goya certainly did the "normal" get worse until hitting the bottom, then make slow but steady progress (no back-sliding) until he was recovered (about 8 months). I have not read anything to the contrary in my reading on the web.

The timeline of Goya's first bout is in Gary's post on 28mar2006 "Details of first bout with coonhound paralysis", with some longer-term history in our post on 27mar2006 "Overview of Goya's History". The whole blog is the timeline of the rest of his disease and recovery the second time he had it.

Can everyone with experience with this disease please tell us the course of weakening, paralysis, and recovery as comments to this post, so we can collect as examples here as possible?

Thanks, Bonnie

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Yes, we are still here and answering questions

I just want everyone to know that although Goya is gone and we aren't actively posting, Gary and I are still notified when there are questions or comments and we do answer them pretty quickly. Also, if anyone else has a blog or finds other information on the web, send me the URL and I will put it in the links in the sidebar.
Good luck to all of you who have dogs in distress.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Everybody's Blogging

Wonderfully, several more blogs are appearing about dogs with coonhound paralysis. It's not wonderful that other dogs are afflicted, but it is wonderful that the internet lets us find each other and share information.

When people tell me their URLs, I will put them in the sidebar of this blog. I've put two there already, about Kiera and Lexi.

The best part about these blogs is that these dogs are recovering much more rapidly than Goya did and so this disease doesn't seem as unmanageable as it was for an old 150-lb mastiff. Keep the faith, folks!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Even in passing, Goya's heart is bigger than his big body

It has taken me 10 months to write this: Goya died of cancer in April 2007.

He had recovered to a good quality of life from his long bout with coonhound paralysis -- getting onto the couch himself to lay his head (or butt) in our laps, going up and down stairs (though he looked at the stairs to our bedroom as if it were Mount Everest each night), walking to Starbucks each morning, in short, doing things normal old mastiffs do.

In late March, 2007, he started to limp very badly on his left front leg. His shoulder seemed to swell up rapidly and we thought he might have hurt it coming down stairs or something. We called in the vet and he took one look at Goya, laid his hands on him, and told us that Goya had a very aggressive tumor in his shoulder and that he was in a lot of pain; there was nothing we could do but decide when to end his pain. The vet gave us patches with pain medication (a highly controlled substance in the US; more powerful than morphine) and showed us how to use them to keep him comfortable while we decided what to do and when to do it. This was on a Thursday.

We immediately called the girls, both off at college on different coasts of the US. We redeemed frequent flyer miles so the girls could come home to say goodbye that weekend. Laura managed to stay for 1.5 days; Liza only made it home for about 4 hours. Goya was soooooo happy to see his girls! Cuddling him all the while, we discussed what to do with his body. Gary mentioned that we are all organ donors -- was something like that a possibility for Goya? Maybe someone could study the effects of coonhound paralysis on his body and how he recovered, or something. I pledged to find out and we took the girls to the airport.

The next day, I surfed the web and called the Ohio State Vet School where Goya had been diagnosed. They couldn't help us. Since coonhound paralysis is related to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in humans, maybe the Neurology Department at the University of Pittsburgh PA (near where we live) would want him, so I called there. The wonderful woman who answered the phone said it wouldn't be appropriate for the department to accept a canine cadaver, but that she would spend some time surfing the web to help me find something and she took my phone number so she could get back to me. I corresponded with a researcher who was now retired but used to study coonhound paralysis - he directed me to another researcher who was interested but had no active research program and couldn't help. Seeming dead end. The woman from Pitt's neurology department called me back and told me that she had found the Educational Memorial Programs website -- I might want to look into it.

The Education Memorial Progam, UPenn being the nearest to us, was exactly what we were looking for; a way for Goya's death to help other animals. Dr. Lili Duda, head of the program at UPenn, ( was wonderful to us and to Goya. She told us that we could choose to have our own vet put Goya down and then drive his body to Philadelphia (about a 5 hour drive) or we could drive him to her and she would put him down, it wouldn't make a difference to the value of his body to the program. Since Goya loved car rides, we decided to drive him to her. Gary and I took Wednesday off (less than a week since he was diagnosed) and drove to Philadelphia, stopping for hamburgers at McDonalds along the way. Dr Duda was wonderful -- we called when we were about 20 minutes from her hospital and she met us in the waiting room so Goya didn't have to be in the waiting room for long (loving cars, he hated vet waiting rooms). She knew just just how to scratch his ears and under his chin to make friends and calm him. She gave us all the time we needed to say goodbye. I am crying now, remembering how this was the best we could all do for this wonderful boy -- very painful for all, but the best we could do.

I had given Dr. Duda all I had found about coonhound paralysis researchers and she said that she had contacted them about what might be able to be learned. She had a surgeon ready to extract the nerves that might be helpful and would ship them to them. No one knew if it would really help, but it was the most we all could do.

So, Goya survived the coonhound paralysis, twice, and was struck down by cancer a few days short of his 10th birthday. Every dog is special, but Goya was my heart.

There will no more updates on Goya. But I am notified when people put comments on the blog, and I will continue to answer what I can. Now that I have written about his death, maybe I'll have some closure and be more willing to be active on this blog. However. Goya's trials were over 2 years ago now and my memory is growing dim. PLEASE, if you have information to pass along, put it in comments on this blog so other people can find it - or link to your own site so people can find your dog's story. Let's share everything we know to the benefit of our friends who can't read the internet for themselves. An please consider an Educational Memorial Program, when there is nothing more you can do.

A sappy, teary post, I know,

Monday, April 09, 2007

URGENT - to Murphy's owner, sro

Dear sro,
Your vet is wrong, wrong, wrong -- the vast majority of dogs with coonhound paralysis RECOVER if nursed. Some in as little as a few weeks (like Goya's first bout with it three years ago), some longer. PLEASE find a new vet; someone who can help you with nursing questions.
Please read about Goya's recovery -- it wasn't 100% but he was mobile and happy to walk to Starbucks every morning. And please follow the links Gary put in the first post or two in this blog -- they point to veterinary pages talking about the disease and prognosis.
Good luck to you and Murphy,

Friday, December 15, 2006

Climbing onto the couch

Just two quick notes, but before I want people to know that it has been just over a year since Goya came down with coonhound paralysis. The first note is about Goya's progress from Bonnie:

Dad and I went out shopping last night and left Goya on the floor in the basement. When we got back, he was on the couch!!!!

He has been asking to get up on the various couches in the basement for several months now, but he has always needed help. Last night he made it all by himself! Good boy. I'm going to leave him in the basement today since he seems to be able to move around and be where he wants to be better there than he can upstairs.

The second note is about the kindness of strangers. As I believe Bonnie has mentioned, we take Goya to the local Starbucks every morning. It is only a little over a block away. This distance was almost infinite in June, and now is routine. While at Starbucks, we get a cheddar cheese brioche as a treat for Goya. He has to get to a standing position from a sitting position to get a piece. The sidewalk at Starbucks is rough enough that he can get to a standing position (he still has difficulty on our slippery floors). The goal is to get him standing about 10 times every morning as part of his rehabilitation. As a benefit he likes the brioche.

Today one of the MANY people we've met while outside Starbucks, bought Goya a starbucks card to pay for his brioche as a christmas present. It was really a nice surprise.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nursing Tip: Hoisting a paralyzed mastiff

Here's some information about how we got Goya outside when he was totally paralyzed.

We used a cattle sling which is two aluminum poles attached to a million adjustable straps, with six eyebolts to attach to chains. These slings were designed for cattle and horses who need to be kept vertical to recuperate from whatever disease or injury they have, but they also have slings for dogs of all sizes. The company is called Munks Livestock Sling Mfg. in Washington State. They are very helpful over the phone, both with ordering and fitting once it arrives.

Although this sling worked well, we did make one mistake when ordering. We got this sling when Goya first went down and we didn't realize how much weight and muscle mass he would lose. So when Munks told me to measure his chest and his measurement was on the cusp between two sizes, we went with the larger one. This was a mistake. I ended up having to sew a pleat in the webbing to make it fit him after a few weeks.

To move him around, we rented a hoyer lift, a hydraulic lift on wheels available in medical supply rental stores. We took off the apparatus that is used for handicapped people and connected its arm to the cattle sling with six chains chains that came with the sling.

We got Goya into the sling by putting two of his feet through the right holes between the straps, then roll him over on his back and put the other two legs through the straps. We then rolled him over onto the side where his back was parallel and close to the legs of the hoyer lift. With the lift in the lowest position, we connected the six chains on the lift to the eye hooks on the aluminum poles. We also emptied his urine back and crimped and clipped the tube from his long-term catheter so no urine would flow backwards, and hung his urine bag up on a hanger on top of the lift. We then pumped up the hydraulic lift, while standing on the leg furthest from his back so the lift wouldn't tip, until Goya was lifted all the way off the ground. Lowering him was just the reverse (always remembering to put the urine bag down first and un-crimp the tube after he was back on the matterss).

Here's a picture of Goya in the sling in February 2006. At the time, he couldn't even hold up his head, so we had to prop it up with pillows. First we tried using just pillows, but they were too floppy. We finally found a solution, though. We had an old plastic 35-gallon garbage can which we wanted to get rid of anyway, so we cut it up into a piece about 3 feet long that extended along his chest, down about as far as the bottom of his rib cage and forward a few feet to giv him a place to put his head. We put a pillow on it for him to rest his head on. The plastic was thick and the curve that was the side of the garbage can kept the plastic rigid enough to support Goya's heavy head.

Once he was all set in the lift, we rolled him outside. We had built a ramp out the front door and onto the small stone porch in front of our house. Once outside, we rolled him to the edge of the porch and put his head near a bush so he knew he was in foliage where he always liked to relieve himself (although his backside was stillon the porch). We then lowered him down into a crouching position so he could defecate, which he often did (good boy). When it was a nice day, we let him "hang out" just to get some air and be vertical. When it was cold, we draped a baby blanket over him just for a little added warmth. The worst was when it was a cold rain. I got a shower curtain and draped it like a tent over the entire lift and the tall bush in front of Goya. This wasn't terribly successful, in that it kept blowing off, but sometimes I could get it to keep the rain off him. Luckily, mastiffs don't mind the rain, so he never cared, but our living room smelled like wet dog more than we liked.

Sometimes instead of lowering him back onto his mattress on the floor, we lowered him onto the couch instead for a while (e.g., while we changed the bedding) and unhooked the chains. He lay on the couch like a normal dog, enjoying putting his head on the arm of the couch and looking out the livingroom windows. Little "normal" things like that seemed to lift his spirits (and ours).

Eventually, he could hold his head up and didn't need the plastic and pillows any more. Then, after a few months of just hanging there, he started trying to move his legs when we rolled him, so we lowered him so his toes were touching the ground, which helped him remember the walking movement. We also tried to lower him slowly so he would put some weight on his legs himself. That wasn't as easy as it sounded, as his legs never seemed to be in the right place to hold his weight, but we must have been doing something right because he is walking now, almost one year after he went down. Yeah, Goya!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Update on Goya's limping

Just a short post.
The vet said that Goya seems to have severe arthritis in his left front shoulder. The turn in the weather last week (from being in the high 70s to being in the low 50s) brought a lot of pain with it. His back legs aren't strong enough to support the "loss" of one of the front legs, which is why he was falling down by the end of the week.
Goya is now on doggie ibuprofen and I will be off seaching for information about canine arthritis (as soon as I get out from under the work I am so behind on). He can support his weight better, so I assume he is in less pain. But he is still limping. He makes it to Starbucks, but can't do as many "deep knee bends" (get up, sit down, repeat) for his cheese brioche as he could before. We are supposed to callthe vet back to report on his progress at the end of this week.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good news and bad news about Goya

First the good news.
Sometimes Goya surprises us. When we got home from work three times this past week, Goya was not in the room where we left him. We don't know if he managed to get into a standing position and walked, or whether he crawled (well, once he was on the back landing -- 5 steps down, so I hope he walked). He never does this when we are home. When we are watching him, he only gets into standing position on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks. He claims the other surfaces (grass, carpet, tile) are too slippery for him to get up.

Now the bad news.
He is limping on his left front leg now occasionally. It does not seem to be associated with the days he surprises us. Sometimes it is in the morning, sometimes at night. It has been getting worse since Sunday. Sunday morning he limped a little, we gave him some aspirin and he seemed to feel better, so Gary walked him to Starbucks. Monday it seemed worse and he didn't want to walk all the way to Starbucks. He just walked to the corner, got distracted by meeting another dog, and wanted then wanted to walk home again. This morning, he was limping so badly that we didn't even try to take him to Starbucks. We are trying to get an appointment with the vet because he now seems to be in pain, whereas before he just seemed weak. I'm worried.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Response to comment - Dakota

(Lara, I hope you don't mind that I elevated your comment to the top level. We find that people don't seem to find information if it is in comments and responses to comments.)

We got this comment recently:
I have been reading through you blog, and it is helping us alot with our Golden Retriever who is believed to have coonhound paralysis. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Our golden 'dakota' had a VERY fast onset, and we thought she had ingested something at first. We rushed her to the vet, and they dismissed her thinking she had drank some beer. The next morning her front paws weren't able to move either, so she was hospitalized over night. We have had her at home now for 2 days. She wags her tail, and has really happy moments. The medications seem to depress her alot. And I cannot imagine how frustrated she is. Any advice on ways to keep her moving? She will shimmy out on the lawn to go to the bathroom. And we are encourage her to crawl...we just don't want to push her too much. Any advice would be much appreciated!

I am glad our experiences can help Dakota.

As we've said a bunch of times, coonhound paralysis is hard to diagnose -- there is no specific test for it, so the vets have to do a lot of tests to eliminate other things (see Gary's post on March 28th). If it is coonhound paralysis, the vets say there is no medication that helps, so once they determine that it is indeed coonhound paralysis, they will probably take her off medication. What is she on? Antibiotics in case is it lyme disease? Or an anticholinesteras medication in case it is Myasthenia Gravis. If the latter, you need to be very careful about her seeming sluggish. It can be a sign that she doesn't have Myasthenia Gravis and she is having a bad reaction to the medication. They put Goya on that the first time he had this problem and it almost stopped his heart.

I also felt that I couldn't imagine how frustrated Goya was. Mastiffs are tempermentally suited to laying around the house anyway, unlike Goldens, so Dakota must be even more frustrated. To keep Goya less depressed I made sure that the other two dogs were almost always with him (they thought that a mattress in the living room was a real luxury, so they wanted to cuddle with him). We brought the TV into the living room, and I worked on my laptop all day in the living room, so we were in there with him the vast majority of the day. We bought a video game chair that was really comfortable, but put me on the ground instead of on the couch, so I could work right down at his head level and give him a pat often.

We did physical therapy with him. Slowly doing "bicycle" with each leg, getting him to push against my hand, or if he couldn't push, holding on to his paw and tickling his toes so he would jerk back against my holding his paw -- bicycle always worked, but the others only worked once he could move a bit. It sounds like Dakota can still move, so these exercises should work.

I got one of the "as seen on TV" ionic dog brushes and did a lot of brushing because he was geeting stinky from just laying around. I kept up with cutting his toenails so when he did get up to walk, they wouldn't be in the way.

I got animal movies and played them on my laptop put right in front of his face. That seemed to cheer him up for all of 5 minutes, so it probably isn't worth the bother.

When he was well enough, I held his favorite chew toy for him (a plastic gallon milk bottle). This made him move around a bit, trying to keep contact with the chew toy that kept moving away. (But it was frustrating too, so I had to keep moving it back to him.)

Mostly, we just stayed with him. If there are any people she especially likes who could visit and pet her, I'm sure that would cheer her up.

Good luck to you and Dakota. If you have any more questions, please post. Bonnie

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Goya history of physical progress

In response to someone's email, I dug out the notes gary and I had made about Goya's progress oving his body through this disease. It might help others get a picture of the fits and starts and how slowly he started to come around. These dates are before we started the blog. Aftr April 1, we put progress on the blog (like sitting up, walking, taking stairs, and standing up), so you can find that progress in the posts.

Here's the timeline of his physical progress.
  • 12/05/05 -- weakness in back legs in morning; couldn't stand at all by nighttime -- it took a few days for him to hit bottom with the tail and bark being the last to go.
2-weeks passed when he was really bad and we were figuring out how to care for him. We didn't take notes during this period.
  • 12/17/05 -- I saw him move his foot while dreaming -- a vet-tech told me this was not a sign of anything but I took it as hopeful anyway
  • 12/19/05 -- definitely wagged his tail when my daughter walked in the room, wagged often by 12/21
1-1/2 months passed with no notes about physical progress. We were writing notes every day about what he ate, drank and eliminated, so I believe no noticable physical progress was actually made in this period.
  • 01/31/06 -- jerked his foot when I squeezed his toe (while cutting his toenails). Did this repeatedly. This was the first movement we had seen in almost 2 months. (Unfortunately, I didn't write down which foot moved.)
  • 02/04/06 -- moved his front feet while dreaming very definitely. We hadn't made any notes of that since the middle of Dec so I assume we didn't see it in the interim.
  • 02/05/06 -- interested in chewing a plastic milk bottle (his favorite toy). He did it on his side, with me holding the bottle, for about 5 minutes. This was the first sign of him showing much interest in activity other than being petted.
  • 02/08/06 -- front paw moved while dreaming
  • 02/09/06 -- 1-2 inches of movement in back left foot when I tickled between the pads. He tenses th muscles in his front left leg when I squeezed his front paws. It is now 2 months since he went down and I can finally get any movement repeatedly in response to an action I take.
5 weeks passed with no notes about physical progress.
  • 03/16/06 -- in anticipation of getting a hot dog, he _almost_ rolled from one side to the other. This is the first note of him rolling. NOTE: He _still_ (August) can't roll from one side to the other on his back reliably, even though he can walk. To get from one side to the other, he pushed himself up on his belly and tucks his legs under him (it looks painful, but he never complains). He did roll over 3 times on March 16th, but hardly ever again.
Almost 2 weeks passed.
  • 03/29/06 -- he pushed against my legs with his front feet.
  • 04/01/06 -- took "steps" while in the cattle sling (that is, he didn't have any weight on his feet, but he moved them appropriately when they brushed the floor as I rolled him from the couch to his mattress).
This is where the blog picks up on his physical progress and notable improvements appear in the blog from here on.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nursing Tip: Wearing the Walkabout

On June 13th, I talked about the "walkabout harnesses" that we had gotten for Goya.

Today I want to tell about a trick we learned for using them.

We have both a front and back harness, which have handles on them to give us something to hold on to when he needs extra help walking. He has now gotten so good at walking that he only needs help to get up into a standing position or to up and down slippery stairs.

The problem:
The harnesses (which my daughter calls "handle pants" and "handle vest") are not the easiest things to get on and off, so we want to leave them on while he walks around the yard by himself. We had a lot of trouble with him keeping the pants on. He would just walk out of them as he sniffed around. Then we'd have to struggle to put them back on him.

The solution we found:
We often said "Goya needs suspenders" when he would walk out of the pants. It only took us a month to figure out that the walkabouts had the equipment to be their own suspenders. The neoprene pants and jacket have long strips of velcro to keep them in place and, in addition, two buckles each with adjustable straps to strap around the dog. We finally figured out that if we took the lower strap on the vest and the upper strap on the pants and made them the longest they could be, we could attach the vest strap to the pants buckle and the pants strap to the vest buckle, making "suspenders" that keep the pants on as Goya walks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Note to pinenut77 and your dog Mo

I just saw your comment on an earlier post (I can't figure out how to get this blog to notify me when a new post comes in).

I am so sorry that Mo is afflicted, but glad you can carry her outside. Goya also always had control over elimination, it's just harder because we couldn't carry a 150-lb dog.

I realize that Goay's saga is extreme. His age, size, and weight has exaggerated everything, especially the time course of the disease, the nursing requirements and his recuperation. I am worried that what we have helped him through will actually discourage people rather than help, so please remember that much of the time recovery from this disease is a matter of weeks, not months. (See the post with the link to "another dog's story".)

If you want to talk or correspond, we would be happy to do that. Just leave contact information in one of the comments and we'll get back in touch.

Good luck,

Goya stood up by himself!!!!

We were sitting outside Starbucks this morning and Gary came out with Goya's normal treat, a white cheddar brioche, and sat down a few feet from where Goya was lying. I went in to wash the dog drool off my hands before eating and when I came out again, Gary said "You missed it! Goya got up and walked over to me to get his brioche!" We were so happy tat we decided to buy Goya another brioche as motivation after we had finished our own breakfast (giving him about half an hour to rest). Sure enough, when I brought the brioche out, and stood about 10 feet from him (after showing him the brioche close up, of course), he got up and walked ov er to me to get it. This seems like the last major breakthrough!!!!

The conditions fopr him doing this were favorable. It was flat sidewalk, not a grassy hill which has beenthe only surface he's been able to get up on before. But Starbucks has a very rough pebbly concrete outside by the tables, so it is an easier surface than most for pushing against. And, bext of all, it was about 65deg instead of the 85deg it had been last week in the mornings. We all felt more energetic this morning.

We are hoping for steady progress from here on in the standing up department. Starbucks will certainly get our business every morning!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Goya walks further and does stairs

It's been more than two weeks since Goya walked to Starbucks for the first time and stood up by himself with a little help from gravity (sitting on a hill). I have to report that progress has been slow in these past three weeks. It's been very hot and maybe that has something to do with it (nobody wants to exert themselves, why should he?).

He is walking further. We go to Starbucks every morning and that is getting easier and eaiser (expecially if its a little cooler). Gary has been taking him around the block (it's a loooong block with a prety big up-hill section) and that takes about an hour, but gary takes a book and lets Goya rest wenever he wants to sit down. Only once has he been able to get up by himself even when sitting on a hill. We walked to the bank tonight and he almost got up by himself at a curb. He had been so well-trained to sit when we got to a curb before crossing the street, that he did that tonight several times. This was the first time we used a collar and leash instead of the walkabout "handle pants", so maybe he felt more like his old self. At one curb, his front feet slipped into the street while he was trying to get up and they was almost enough to help him get up, butnot quite.

He is now going up and down the front stoop steps -- 6 rough concrete steps. He doesn't slip on those, and he is very careful. Good boy!

We really wish he would hurry up and stand by himself. We have to take our daughter to college in a few weeks and his regular "doggy sitter" can't take him if he can't get up by himself. We'll have to put him on a regimen of deep knee bends.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Two breakthroughs today! Starbucks and Stand-up

Just a quick entry on a busy day.

Goya had two breakthroughs today.

1. He walked all the way to Starbucks and back (about 1.5 city blocks each way). A few days ago he only got half way there, so this was progress.

2. On the way to Starbucks he stopped to sit for a little rest on a nieghbor's lawn that slopes up from the street. When I thought he had rested enough, I said "OK, let's go" and started to get behind him to help him stand. Before I could get there, he stood up by himself!!! Now, he did have a little help from gravity, because he was sitting on a slope, but this is the first time he has successfully gotten into a standing position without human help. His body still remembers how to do it, and his will is still trying. We'll probably take him back to that little slope often to practice.

You go, Goya!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another dog's story

I just found another dog's story about coonhound paralysis on the web and wanted to include it here. Phoebe is smaller than Goya, had a rougher time in the beginning, but recovered fully within 7 weeks, so her story is different than ours.
Phoebe's coonhound paraylsis story.

Bonnie added the following on DEc 31, 2006:
The above link is now broken, because the author seems to have moved it into an "account only" area. The only thing non-members of can get to is at
and it says:
"Later that night, Dr. Davis called. The staff neurologist had examined Phoebe and felt there were four possible diagnoses: Coonhound Paralysis, Botulism, Tick Paralysis, or Myasthenia Gravis. Dr. Davis gave me an update on Phoebe's condition. The paralysis had extended as far as her face. Now she couldn't even blink."
I'm going to send the author email and ask her if she can make her full post accessible again for coonhound paralysis sufferers.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Goya is released from Physical Therapy

Friday (June 30th) Goya was released from Physical Therapy. He walked, all by himself with no help, into the PT building and walked all around the waiting room (and caused a minor ruckus with two cats in a carrier). When it was his turn to go into the PT room, we lifted his back-end up, then he walked all through the two PT rooms -- exploring here and there, bck and forth, wagging his tail a mile a minute the whole time.

Sally thought that doing land exercises would be better for him now than being in the water tredmill. She had him doing circles (healing in a tight circle, both clockwise and counterclockwise) because the side closest to the ccenter of the circle has to hold more weight, so doing both directions exercises each side separately. Then she had him doing sits-to-stand, with as little help as we can give him. It is now quite easy to pcik up his backside with your hands on his "butt bones" -- if I pick him up a few inches, then he gets his feet under him and once he does, he can almost push his way up himself. When we are home, he also is supposed to go up the one step to the back porch and stand there for a while. Evidently, dogs support most of their weight on their front feet and he need exercisse on his back legs, so we need to do things that exercise his back legs. Elevating his front by having his front feet one step up puts more weight on his back feet. Likewise, making him walk up a small hill in the backyard elevates his front and helps him exercise his back legs.

Since these are all things we can do with him at home, Sally suggested that we exercise him at home several times a day and come back to PT only for two reasons. (1) if he doesn't progress for 2 weeks in a row, or (2) he gets 100% better and we come back to showoff! Hopefully, the latter is only a few weeks away.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pictures of Physical Therapy

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get some pictures up, but here are a few of Goya in physical therapy.

He is put into a tank that has a tredmill at the bottom, and it fills with water to help support his weight and to give resistance.
First, they put him in the tank.

Then they fill it with water and help him stand.

Then they turn on the tredmill and he has to walk.
His front feet do fine, but he needs some help with his back feet.

Goya has to walk for about 15 minutes, with some breaks (this is hard work!). When he's done, he gets to the part he likes the best -- with all the attention he gets, it's like being at a spa.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Goya goes to school

Goya is in the middle of a very active day. Gary is out of town, our daughter, Liza, is at a HS graduation party, and I have to teach all day. So Goya gets to go to school with me. He is mobile enoug now that Liza and I can lift him into the back of the car (no different than when he goes to physical therapy). So Liza drove us in to school today and Goya has been walking from room to room as I have meetings with student project groups and class. He's a little puzzled about what he is doing here and where he should go (he's never been to this new building before), but since each meeting or class takes an hour, he finds a place to lie down, pants for a few minutes, then settles down for a nap. Except for an occasional snore (ALL mastiffs snore), he doesn't disrupt meetings or class at all. Despite his size, even the students who are wary of dogs don't mind because he obviously can't chase them. He is getting more attention and exercise than he has had since December. This is really good for him, both physically and, I think, mentally.

The floors are carpetted in short industrial carpet, so it it probably the easiest surface for him to walk on. It doesn't slip like the slate and tile and cork at home, and he is doing really well. He isn't knuckling in the back very much and when he does, he works at it until he rights his foot. He seems to be getting the hang of taking some weight off the knuckled foot and flipping it -- at least that's what I deduce must be happening, although the weigh shift is too subtle to see. But he is successful more times than not, so that must be what is happening. Also, he has to get up and change rooms every hour, which is much more getting up and down than I have been doing with him at home. This sort of exercise is exactly what the physical therapists tell us we need to do with him every day.

The only drawback is that the building is on a city block with no grass at all in sight. Goya only elimnates willingly when there is grass. When he's mobile, he lasts all day from the time we leave for work until the time we get home, but he's less active than he is today. Hopefully his mastiff will and muscles will not fail him and he'll have no accidents (he'd probably be banned from the building if he did have an accident).

This is working so well, I might bring him in more often.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Goya urinates like a mobile dog

Earlier today, Goya showed progress in another area. Gary walked him from the porch to the yard this afternoon about 5PM with just a belly sling. Goya stopped near the top of the driveway, a few feet onto the grass, and started to squat, just like a mobile dog.

He urinated a river -- staying with his knees bent a little for several minutes. Gary says he did have to support Goya's weight a bit, but Goya's legs weren't shaking or giving way.

This is the first time we have seen him pee since we took the catheter out on Monday morning. We assume that he has been peeing while laying in the grass this week, because he isn't going into "distress", there have been no accidents, and the vet at physical therapy says that his bladder is not full, but that's hard for us to know because the grass is often wet and he crawls several feet while he's in the grass.

Anyway, we are very pleased that we saw him pee and that he attempted to "assume the positon" all by himself. It's amazing how he just keeps trying to be a normal dog and eventually he can do it. A person might loose heart after 6 months of being down, but not Goya!

Goya takes steps all by himself!

Just a quick celebration!
Goya had been sitting in the yard on this beautiful Saturday and Gary and I decided it was time to put him back on the porch. He sat up to show he was ready to have us put on the front walkabout and we just used a belly sling for supporting his back legs. He walked quickly back to the porch with only a lttile assistance. Sally (the physical therapist) had encouraged us to let go and see if he could stand at all by himself, so we made sure his feet were flat on his pads (not knuckled under). Goya stood a few seconds (yeah!) and then actually took about 6 steps in a circle before laying down. He did knuckle under on his back feet a few times when he took these steps, but when this happened he stood there trying to get his foot in the right position long enough for me to flip his foot for him a couple of times. When he sat, he didn't just collapse either, he went down pretty slowly and under control.
Yeah Goya!! What progress!!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Goya's fun morning ("camping out", grazing, and playing ball)

It's been a long time since I posted, but Goya has been getting better and better. He can now walk with assistance. We got took the hoyer lift back to the medical supply rental store, and put the cattle sling in the garage. He now uses "walkabouts" which are a set of neoprene vest and pants with handles for us to help him. (You can find these harnesses at He hardly needs any help with his front legs, but his back legs are still weak and have to be kept rather high (little weight on them) in order for him to be able to right them without knuckling. But this is great progress. We are sure we'll get those back legs strong enough to support himself sometime!

We finally got a rain-proof awning for the back porch and the weather has been warm enough that we have moved most of our living out to the back porch. This means we could take Goya's catheter out and let him remember how to urinate like a real dog (and we can always hose off the slate porch if it takes him a while to do so).

We set up our 4-person tent on the porch for sleeping. We put a twin-size blow-up mattress in it for a human (Gary, Liza and I will take turns sleeping with him) and a baby pool for Goya to sleep on so it can catch any accidents he might have in this transition phase without soiling the tent floor. We put blankets in the baby pool so he isn't losing a lot of heat to the slate porch floor. Goya and I slept out there last night for the first time. He didn't wake me up at all (though I woke up a few times myself because I was too cold but too lazy to actually get inside the sleeping bag). He turned over all by himself and seemed to sleep very well.

This morning, after I had walked him out to the grass to eliminate, he ate his breakfast heartily. Then, instead of putting him back on the porch, I decided to take him for a short walk further into the back yard. There are some weeds on the side that he always used to like to munch on when he was mobile and I thought he might enjoy some grazing. At first he was happy to walk, but got lazy before we got to the weeds and I had to drag him a bit. But then he seemed to understand that I was taking him to his beloved weeds and youi should have seen the tail wag as he took the last few steps and began to munch.

After a little grazing, I noticed that his indestructible ball was under a tree from last fall. I dug it out and rolled it to him. He had a BALL (literally) pushing at it with his nose and his front feet, and scooting along the ground and rolling over to get it when it was just out of reach. I am sure this was great exercise for his head, neck, front and especially those weak back legs. Yeah Goya!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Physical Therapy experiences so far

Goya has been to Physical Therapy (PT) three times now.

The first, about 3 weeks ago, was an evaluation session that lasted about an hour and a half. A vet, a physical therapist and three vet-techs surrounded him (all women -- Goya loved that) and gave him lots of attention while figuring out what shape he was in. They determined that he did not yet have normal reflexes yet, especially in his back legs. They took videos of him in his livestock sling, with 4 of them holding it (2 on each side) so they had a record of his state when he started PT. He mostly dragged his feet during that video. They told us that he was not yet a candidate for any of their fancy machines, so they gave us several exercises to do with him several times a day. These were the following.
1. put him into a sternal position and, tempting him with a treat, lure him to move his head far left, far right, far up and all the way down.
2. put him in the sling on the hoyer lift and lower him slowly until his feet are just on the ground. Hold his legs in standing position (body width apart, back as far as a normal dog stands) and lower him just a little more so he supports his weight for a second.
3. do bicycle with his legs to get them warmed up, then do range of motion (ROM) with each joint (we had already been doing this).
4. Get him to push with his legs against our hands.
We had varying success with these exercises at home, which we will write about in a separate post.

At the second visit, 10 days later, Goya was stronger -- lifting his head higher and more often and laying sternally for longer periods of time. They decided to put him in the submersible treadmill. This is a basically a treadmill in an aquarium, that they fill with water and put a life-preserver on the dog so the dog mostly floats. This allows him to not have to support his weight, but when the treadmill is turned on, he has to move his feet in a walking motion to keep up with the treadmill. He seemed to like this -- or at least not react negatively in a violent way (he was mildly stressed, e.g., panting). They decided that he did so well, that he should come back twice a week, but I had to go away for a conference and so did the vet, so we didn't bring him back for another 10 days.

At the third visit, yesterday, Goya was even stronger. We took him straight to the teadmill. While putting on the lifting "duds" (sort of a neoprene vest with straps, neoprene pants with straps, and a chest&stomach life preserver), we kept having to roll him over, but as soon as we did, he would pop back up to a sternal position. He had been doing this at home quite a bit, but he was doing it a LOT during his prep for the treadmill. It's great that he is strong enough to do that, but he was a pain to prep. He did well in the treadmill, but the best thing happened when we were carrying him out to the car. He was in his sling and four of us were carrying him (2 on each side, just like with the video taken during the first visit). I was in the front and i could see that he was placing his front feet appropriately for walking and even supporting a little weight. Sally (the physical therapist) was in the back and she said "hey, he's walking!" (moving his legs appropriately and bearing a little weight) and made us pass by the car to make a circle around the parking lot so he would keep making his legs work right until he got too tired to do so. So good day at PT!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Goya sat up today by himself

I just watched Goya muscle himself from lying on his left side to lying sternally (like the sphinx). A position that really isn't "sitting", but we call it sitting relative to lying on his side. When we help him do it, we give the command "siddup" (as opposed to "sit", which he knows from his mobile past).
Anyway, this is the first time he did it on the mattress in plain view of people (Gary thinks he did it in the middle of the night two nights ago, but Gary was too sleepy to be able to attest to it and distinguish reality from a dream).
Yeah Goya!

Wait -- he just went back on his side, and then he sat up again! It's not a "one time wonder" movement. He must feel so much more in control, being able to shift his position without barking for us to help him. Yeah Goya!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Veterinary rehabilitation center near Pittsburgh!

I just got a call from Sally Woller at the Twinbrook Animal Clinic not too far north of Pittsburgh. She found out about Goya through the TOPS veterinary rehab clinic outside Chicago. I had called them because they were the only rehab center I could find on the web and their doc said she would put a call out for help on a discussion list she belonged to for veterinary rehab specialist -- and I got the call! We really do live in an age of information and communication.

Anyway, Goya has an appointment for next Tuesday. We'll see how that goes (and blog about it of course).

Here's the link to Twinbrook (near Pittsburgh) and TOPS (near Chicago).

Veterinary rehabilitation centers

It is amazing that it has taken us 4 months to discover that there are rehabilitation centers for dogs, but I just found some things on the web since I've been Goggling our blog with "coonhound paralysis" to see how high it was on the list of returned sites.
None of the rehabilitation centers are near Pittsburgh, but we are considering trying to take Goya to one near Gary's parents' house in Virginia.
Here's a link that has a list of centers around the US (about half way down the page)
This page also has links to physical therapy special interest groups of professional organizations and lots of other information that we haven't looked into yet. They seem pertinent now that Goya has some control of his limbs again.
I wonder why the several vets we have contact with never mentioned this subfield. Maybe its because there isn't a facility near Pittsburgh and they need so much special equipment? I dunno.

Goya takes "steps" - 4 apr 06

Another "baby step" in Goya's recuperation.
He "righted" his front feet two days ago for the first time. Today I wheeled him a few feet forward, with his front feet just touching the ground, and as I rolled him he took "steps" along with the forward motion. That is, instead of dragging his feet, as he always used to do if we didn't raise him up enough, he picked his feet up one at a time and put them down ahead of the motion just as if he was walking (but he's not supporting any weight -- the livestock sling is supporting him). I did this for about 3 feet, maybe 6 "steps" before he got tired and started dragging his feet again.
Yeah Goya!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Goya "rights" his feet - 2apr06

Good news. When Goya was "hanging out" in the livestock sling this morning, he "righted" his front feet as I was lowering him down to get into position to defecate. All previous days, as he was lowered, his front feet would curl back towards his chest and his weight would be on the tops of the foot instead of his pads. We would have to take each foot and place it into position. The vet said this would be the last ability to return to him as he gets more and more control over his extremities.

Later, I had him hanging next to me near the flowers while I read the Sunday comics. His feet were was touching the ground, so his legs could be out straight and he could get the feel of some weight on his feet, and he moved his feet appropriately for a few "steps" to deliberately move his body closer to mine to put his head on my lap. They didn't turn upside down, but kept the pads touching the ground. Good boy!

I'm sorry that we haven't had time to type in all the precursors to this progress -- like how we use a livestock sling to get him outside. So readers might not have any idea what I am talking about. But I also want to enter progress (and set-backs) as they happen so we get an accurate account instead of vague months-old memories. So this blog will be a combination of real-time events and reminiscences.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The start of this bout. The first full week.

Bonnie wrote that Goya started to have serious problems the week of December 5th. I want to describe what we did that week, to diagnose and set ourselves up to handle a 150 lb bag of potatoes, which is about what Goya was.

Monday 12/5 - We went to the local Orthopedic vet. This was the same vet that wasn't able to help much the previous time. However, our normal vet was unable to move forward, and we had to go through the Orthopedic vet to get to the next level of support. Given Goya's previous experience they didn't try anything beyond the initial test of Myasthemia Gravis (negative). They also ruled out brain and spinal issues again. Goya had already been on antibiotics for several weeks, and that pretty much ruled out tick borne paralysis. So the next step was to get Goya an appointment with a Neurologist. There were 2 possible Neurologists, one near DC and one at Ohio State. The DC neurologist couldn't see him, so we made an appointment at Ohio State on Wedneday.

Wednesday 12/7 - We headed to Ohio State in the morning. We had an appointment at around 1 pm, and Ohio State is about 4 hours away. We got to the clinic and got Goya carried in. There was the first chat with the vets, a Neurologist and an intern (this is a teaching clinic so there always seems to be a vet intern involved) that covered history etc. They had the previous information, and the little more we could tell them about this time. After checking for all the obvious issues, the Neurologist claimed that this really looked like coonhound paralysis to him. One of the reasons he was not diagnosed with coonhound paralysis last time was because he still had some motor capability. He was not down. This time he really was down. There is no diagnostic test for coonhound paralysis. However, since he was down, and since he didn't show positive for anything else, it meant coonhound paralysis was the diagnosis. The prognosis however was ok. He would be down needing nursing care for 6 weeks to 6 months, and then he would get better. We decided to nurse him and took him home. It was a long day.

Thursday 12/8 - We were back in the house and had Goya on the first floor. After being here for a day though he started to show real signs of distress. So we got a neighbor to help and loaded him in the car and took him to the orthopedic vet. It turned out he just had to urinate and defecate which he did as soon as he got into the vet's office. The vet checked him over and claimed he seemed to be just fine for a dog that couldn't move. We talked about what needed to be done. While Ohio State had sent us home with daily catheters, this vet thought a permanent catheter was a better option. Less likely in the long run to cause infection. The exact opposite of Ohio State vet's comments. We opted for the permanent catheter, because it was easier and our orthopedic's comments made sense. We also weren't sure we could maintain the level of sanitation necessary for a daily catheterization without bladder infections.

However, we weren't ready to handle this large dog and stairs at home. So we left the dog at the vet's for 4 days while we got the house ready for him.


Goya's first bout with coonhound paralysis occured in the summer and he and we could sleep outside. He also was stronger, and could drag himself across the grass, or to Bonnie's dismay the driveway.

This time it was December. In Pittsburgh, it is cold in December. He also lost contol of much more of his body. For example, he couldn't hold his head up. Everytime we took him to the vet he would urinate at the vet. Maybe he was trying to tell us something, maybe not. By the time we got home from Ohio State, we weren't planning on going to the vet every day. We also couldn't leave Goya out in the cold.

The vets at Ohio State recognized that this would be an issue and gave us a 5 minute lesson in daily urinary cathetorization. They then sent us home with a set of catheters, purple latex gloves (too small for Gary, and too large for Bonnie, but one size fits all). We were supposed to cathetorize Goya twice a day. The procedure was to expose the penis, and slip the catheter in until urine starts to come out. We should expect at least 1 liter of urine a day.

We ended up taking Goya to the Orthopedic Vet the first weekend, mainly because we just weren't ready to handle a 150 lb dog who couldn't walk. We needed the weekend to get our house ready to handle getting him out, and just sleeping in the livingroom. The local Orthopedic vet had a different opinion about urinary catheters, and we decided to follow his advice.

His advice was to put in a "permanent" catheter. A permanent catheter has a small balloon at the end. The catheter is inserted (by a vet-tech) and the balloon is blown up. I think the balloon is about the size of a marble when blown up. The balloon serves two purposes;
  1. It keeps the catheter tube in the bladder because the balloon is larger than fits through the urethea.
  2. It blocks the urethea from being a pathway for urine.
Ohio State thought that permanent catheter's were pathways for infection. Thus it was better for the dog to use a sterile use-once catheter every time.

Our orthopedic vet thought that permanent catheters were safer. His thinking was based upon his opinion that novices (like us) couldn't be careful enough to not introduce infections with the use-once catheters. Also the possible bacteria in our home were not as dangerous as the bacteria at the vets. So Ohio State was not considering the at-home aspects in their risk/benefit tradeoff.

We were incompetent to really judge the issue. So we selected our orthopedic vet's view as correct because it meant we had less to handle with an already difficult situation. However, this decision had implications we didn't forsee.

Before getting into the implications, I wanted to describe the apparatus. Goya has a thin white tube going from a bulbous piece into his penis and up to his bladder. The bulbous piece has a component that one can hook a syringe to, and using the syringe blow up a balloon at the end of the tube that is in his bladder. You can also use the syringe to deflate the balloon. Attached to the bulbous tube is another tube (about 6-15 feet long) that ends in yet another bulbous device that can attach to an IV bag. The IV bag fills with urine and can be detached easily. We detach the IV bag about once a day, to empty it. Goya produces about 800ml-1,500 ml of urine a day.

The first implication was that the urine wasn't always clear. Bladder infections were occuring. It was never clear that they were more/less prevalent because of the permanent catheter. However, we had to give antibiotics to Goya to handle the bladder infections. After 3 months we had a different vet come to our house, and he looked at the urine and said "lots of sperm in that urine". Thus we (and some of our vets) may have been interpreting unclear urine incorrectly. However, the vets were inspecting the urine with a microscope and counting bacteria, so my guess is we were doing most of the mis-interpretation. Goya has been on 4 treatments of antibiotics, and is about to start another.

The second implication is that we had to be careful with the handling of this tube. The first time we had a problem, occurred because I wasn't careful at about 3AM when Goya wanted me to roll him over. The tube for some reason wasn't free, and rolling him over caused his weight to pull the tube (with the balloon) into his uretha and block his uretha, and the tube. We had to go to the orthopedic vet the next day.

The vet replaced the permanent catheter and, chastized us for not collecting 2 liters of urine a day (thus we weren't forcing enough water down his throat). This chastizing pissed me off because we were making water available to Goya all the time, he just didn't want to drink it. Did the vet give us any instruction as to how to get him to drink 2 liters of water a day? NO. We were documenting what he drank (about 1 liter) , and it approximately equaled his urine production. Were we to squirt water down his throat? Hold him down in a tub? We had no idea, so we ignored the vets concern. Later when we got a vet to come to our house, this new vet was very comfortable with the amount of liquid that Goya was processing. We still don't know which vet is right, but we also don't know what we could do to get Goya more water.

Goya had one other time when the permanent catheter partially came out. At that time, we decided to try the at home vet solution because taking Goya to the vet was both hard on us (and I had broke my shoulder) and hard on Goya.

The at home vet was APALLED yes APPALLED that we had left the permanent catheter in for so long. Also Goya had a bladder infection. He left us with instructions on replacing all the equipment that attached to the catheter every week. He also left us equipment for replacing the current tubing and IV bag. He also put Goya on a round of Cipro.

Goya now seems to have his bladder infection somewhat under control. The vet thinks he needs another couple of weeks of antibiotics. He is still urinating at about 1 liter /day.

The only other issue I didn't discuss is that we have to tape the catheter to Goya, so that it doesn't flop about, and so it doesn't get kinks. We sliced some aquarium air tube and placed it over the relatively thin catheter tubing so that the air tube supported the catheter tube around bends, and the catheter tube didn't kink. However, we haven't figured out a good way to tape the bulbous catheter dohicky to Goya. The problem seems to be that the white bandage tape is optimized to not hurt humans when pulled off, and thus doesn't stick well to hair. Goya is covered in hair. His stomach is also more narrow than his rib cage, so the entire device and tape belt slides down his body. We need stickier tape, and haven't found any at any of our drug stores. Alas always problems. If stickier tape is the worst problem, then life isn't so bad.

Details of first bout with coonhound paralysis

This is my description of Goya's earlier experience with coonhound paralysis. Bonnie asked me to post it, because it described different aspects of our shared experience.

We believe Goya had his initial experience coonhound paralysis in the summer of 2003. The progression of the disease was fairly typical, he had a fast onset of the paralysis with a slow recovery. The details are below. At the time of the onset, Bonnie was on a business trip, and our kids were away. The main reason to go over this here, is that this experience eliminated many false starts in diagnosing Goya's current condition.

  • One Wednesday in late June, Goya started to stumble. By Thursday evening he was having difficulty walking, so he went to the local Emergency Vet. They had no idea what was happening, but did notice he was having difficulty with his back legs. I had to drive across the state on Friday, and the Vets assured me that he would be fine.
  • When I got back Friday evening, he couldn't move his back legs. I could still help him move by putting a towel under him and holding up the rear of his body. Rather than going back to the emergency vet, I waited until Saturday morning to take him to his normal vet.
  • By Saturday he definitely needed help moving, but I was still able to handle him myself. Our vet did the standard blood work, and found nothing. However, this also meant that we probably didn't have an emergency situation. We made an appointment for Goya at the Orthopedic Surgery Vet for Monday morning. Bonnie would be home by then also.
  • Over the weekend, Goya was sleeping on the first floor of our house because getting him up and down the stairs was difficult. He also had several accidents in the house because we didn't really know how to take care of him yet.
  • On Monday morning the Orthopedic vet, was also convinced there was something wrong. It was pretty obvious by this point. He had 3 hypotheses since it didn't look like a spinal problem or brain problem but instead a peripheral nerve problem:
    1. Myasthenia Gravis which is a general muscle weakness. It can start almost anywhere, but the main problem with this disease is that it can affect the esophagus causing a type of pneumonia. Goya showed no response to the in-house test (Tensilon). The more complete test for this disease takes about a week to come back from San Diego. The common treatment was to nurse and give an anticholinesteras medication. The side-effect we were told to watch for was a weakening of the heartbeat from the medication. The vet wanted to start this medication immediately, because of the pneumonia danger while we waited for the San Diego results.
    2. Tick based disease. The most common is Lyme disease, but there is also Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tick based paralysis. The diagnosis for this disease requires a blood sample to be sent to a testing center in North Carolina. The vet sent a blood sample to the lab, but since this is an enviromental situation, and the vets hadn't seen other dogs in the area come down with tick based diseases, and the vets didn't find any ticks on Goya, the vets thought this diagnosis unlikely.
    3. Everything else.
  • We started the Tensilon treatment, and Bonnie monitoring Goya's heart stopped the treatment when she couldn't sense his heartbeat anymore. Goya recovered from the treatment but still couldn't walk.
  • We moved out to out back porch. Sears had a tent meant for a picnic on sale that we bought and set up on the back porch. The tent kept the bugs and rain away, and we moved out to the back porch, sleeping on air mattresses.
  • After a several weeks all the test results were in, and were negative. We had exhausted the vet's capabilities in Pittsburgh, so we loaded Goya in the car and took him to Ohio state to see a neurologist.
  • At Ohio state, they kept Goya overnight and did minor surgery to see if they could stimulate the nerves to move, and if not then to take a muscle sample to send to a lab in LA. In the process, they also thought it was Myasthemia Gravis, and gave him Tensilon. They did this even though they had the test results, and Bonnie told them Goya's previous experience on the drug. Sometime during the night they stopped the Tensilon, because they noticed a weakening of his heartbeat. At the end of all the tests, they told us they had no idea. It might be coonhound paralysis, or a missed diagnosis of a tick borne disease or some muscle myopathy. They said we had to wait for test results, and they gave us an antibiotic.
  • 4 days later he was starting to walk. When we called Ohio State, they asked why he could walk. We were convinced that he had a tick borne disease and the antibiotic helped cure him. We are now convinced he just happened to recover from coonhound paralysis at the same time that we gave him the antibiotics.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Overview of Goya's history

Goya is mastiff, born in April 1997. He had a lot of allergies as a pup and, after several vets couldn't help with the allergies, at the urging of his breeder, we started feeding the BARF diet (biologically-appropriate raw food) when he was about a year old. That really helped with the allergies and he has been healthy and happy for many years. He is small for a male mastiff, about 155 lbs adult weight. He has his Canine Good Citizen's certificate and is just the most loving, perfect family member.

(Lisa Nicollelo is Goya's breeder, see her page at
See some pictures of Goya as a young dog at Lisa's "extended family" page, about half way down.)

In late June 2003, Goya suddenly lost control of his back legs and over the course of a few days, lost the ability to walk at all. We took him to our regular vet and then to an orthopedic surgeon and then to the vet school at Ohio State. No one could diagnose him. They did many blood tests and a nerve biopsy and his symptoms fit no pattern they could recognize. Coonhound paralysis was mentioned, but they kept saying he wasn't "down enough" (he could always lay sternally and roll over). Finally, after about 5 weeks of tests, they gave him doxycycline (just to shut me up) and within 4 days he was up and walking. He was on doxy for about 8 weeks, and 3 weeks after going off it, he collapsed again. They put him back on doxy and he recovered quickly -- this time he was on it for about 16 weeks. Then he was fine for a good long time.

He had weakness in the hind quarters in spring 2005 and we put him back on doxy and he never collapsed -- just got stronger in a few days. The vets still had no idea what was going on with him, but doxycycline seemed to be his drug of choice. (They always did full blood work-ups before putting him back on the antibiotic, to make sure it wasn't something else, but nothing ever came back out of the ordinary.)

Then, on Nov. 19th 2005 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) he started looking weak in the back legs. He "tells us" he is starting to get weak by taking the stairs one at a time on the way down. I called the vet and they prescribed the doxy over the phone this time, so we started it on Saturday and gave him the right dosage until Wednesday night. We were going away for the Thanksgiving holiday and Goya was going to the kennel with our other two dogs (Cherry, the mutt, and Joe, the younger mastiff). We forgot to pack the doxy, so he didn't get four days of doses. The kennel lady said he was fine while he was at her house (she is very vigilant -- I'm sure she would have noticed if something wasn't right). We started giving him the doxy again. 10 days after coming home, on December 5th (I think), he was weak in the morning and needed help with a hand-held sling to go out in the morning. By the afternoon, he couldn't walk at all. That's when the latest, and most severe, bout began, and those details will have to wait for another post.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why we're doing this blog about coonhound paralysis

My husband, Gary, and I, Bonnie, have a 9-year-old Mastiff, Goya, who was stricken with coonhound paralysis in early December 2005. Now, in late March 2006, he is still recovering and we hope that he will have a full recovery. Although we could find a lot of information on the web about diagnosis and prognosis, we could find very little practical information about how to nurse our dog and what to expect through the course of the disease. We hope that this blog will help other people who have dogs with this affliction.

It will take us a while to populate this blog with Goya's history with this disease, and it will probably be a mixture of current updates and remembering back to what was going on in December, January and February, but we'll try to remember to date our stories with the day they happened, so you can sort it out. (It's too bad we didn't think of this when this all started, but we didn't, so this retrospective will have to do.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.
Especially if you have experience with a dog with coonhound paralysis, please help by sharing your expertise.