Sometimes, even the worst situations can have excellent outcomes - especially when we’re talking about neurotically intelligent dogs.
In fact, my parents are currently living with one such seizure-sufferer. Flor, a nine-year-old Jack Russell terrier, managed to capture and mangle a toad a couple of years ago. In South Florida, these toads of the Bufo marinus species secrete a highly toxic slime through their skin, thereby ensuring prompt release from their now-poisoned predators. Dogs are notorious victims. Physical reaction begins with oral irritation and can end in cardiac arrest. Seizures, however, are often the first visible hallmark of intoxication.
Before her battle with the toad, which she lost, hands-down, Flor was a remarkably intelligent, darn-near neurotic beast of a dog. With a quick-wit that bordered on human potential, her obsessive desire for prey of most any species drove her to gain and lose weight depending on the season and its available victims. She’d completely ignore humans during squirrel season, and we worried she’d kill herself corralling fearsome raccoons or venomous snakes. Ironically, the dim-witted toad got to her first.
Flor’s seizures were the most dramatic I’d ever seen. She started in the car on the drive to the hospital. All fourteen-pounds of her were actually flying off the seat and banging against the dashboard, the windows, everything. I almost killed us getting her there. The standard regimen of drugs wasn’t enough. Finally, a steady infusion of a powerful anesthetic tamed the toxic effects on her brain, but the damage had already been done.
Today, Flor seems like a perfectly normal dog. Somehow, the aftereffect made her much more normal than before. She interacts more with humans, engages in much less of her obsessive pacing at floor-level windows, seems generally more relaxed (content?), and is actually a far better pet.
OK, so I’m not advocating seizure-therapy for neurotic dogs. After all, a Jack is a Jack. Jacks have been bred to hunt and kill, and enjoy doing it, non-stop and with energy to spare. But considering how stressed they must be when achieving such an energetic state, is it so bad to glory in the newfound serenity in my parents home? Should we feel guilty that her calamity is a source of general relief to the household? I mean, was she really happier before?
I know other pets that have suffered similar misfortunes (though none were toad-related). They all followed the same general pattern of brain injury through the means detailed in my introductory paragraph. Most owners remark on the changes in their pets - rarely in the positive - but still, most seem just glad to have a pet that survived, and that they can still cuddle and love, even if they'll never be the same...
Dr. Patty Khuly