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Taffy's auto-immune disease - 18 months on!

April 01, 2016

Many of our lovely friends and customers have been asking for an update on Taffy since he was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition called GME - a progressive inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. We wrote a blog about his symptoms and diagnosis at the time. Well, it's over 18 months since this particular journey began and Taffy's still with us, despite one rather nerve-wracking hiccup along the way.

Taffy sleeps a lotTaffy has been visiting his regular vet every 3 weeks for Cytarabine injections to suppress his immune system. He needs 4 injections at roughly 12 hour intervals, which means we need to be there at each end of the day for 2 consecutive days. Fortunately, Taffy just LOVES going to the vet. In fact, he consider the surgery to be 'his territory'. The receptionists, nurses and even the vets are 'his staff'. Any other animals arriving while he's there require 'his permission' to enter. He trots into the reception area, goes straight to the weighing scales and performs his very best sit on them, waiting for a treat. His Cytarabine injection takes seconds to administer, but the squeezing of the liver paté tube and licking of the hand containing said liver paté after the injection takes a while longer. One thing is guaranteed, he leaves the consultation room licking his lips looking very pleased for himself.

So all was going well. His condition seemed under control and apart from a slight tremor in his hind legs, you wouldn't really know he had a chronic illness.

Then one morning last year I was on Facebook and it showed me a memory on my timeline - 'One year ago today you were...' It was the day I posted about him looking poorly and acting a bit weird. I remembered how awful it all was and thought to myself how pleased I felt that his condition was stablised and he now had a good quality of life. I went downstairs to feed Taffy and Reina. I put his food bowl down and he sniffed at it and totally out of character, he walked away. Without realising, it had all started again, exactly 1 year later!

Apart from his loss of appetite, Taffy was also quite wobbly on his hind legs, walking a little sideways and his neck looked a little stiff, although not as bad as it was when he was first diagnosed. But it was his eyes that told me he wasn't happy, so I called the vet straight away and took him in.

GME isn't an easy condition to diagnose (only confirmed after an MRI and a spinal fluid tap last year), so the vet had to rule out all other possible reasons for his symptoms - upset tummy, physical injury, virus, etc - by running blood tests and trying him on Metacam and antibiotics. Several visits later over the course of the next few days with no improvement, she went in with a steroid injection. After a very wobbly moment with Taffy looking quite 'drunk' on the surgery floor, he was 10x better the next day. After consultation with the original vet at the North Downs Specialist Referral Centre, Taffy started a new course of steroids, in addition to his regular Cytarabine injections to keep his GME under control. Ever since then, although I've been able to reduce his steroids down to a bare minimum, this is where we are now.

There was no apparent reason for his relapse. It's just 'one of those things' with this condition. It's under control for a while and then it might flare up. I'm dreading the 2 year anniversary of his diagnosis, in case it might be some kind of internal ticking time bomb, but at least I feel better prepared.

Taffy in the gardenHow is Taffy now? Well, he's OK. Just OK. He struggles to jump up onto the settee or into the car now, due to the muscle wastage caused by the steroids. His tremor is now very marked. His whole body shakes and he just can't control it. When I take him out people think he's cold or anxious, then I have to explain it's due to a medical condition. It's not obvious when he's trotting along, just when he's standing still or lying down. He's constantly thirsty and hungry, begging for food, again, as a side-effect of the steroids. He sometimes seems uncomfortable in his spine and I have to be very careful how I pick him up and handle him otherwise he can wince with pain. He sleeps an awful lot. And I'm not sure how much he feels through his paws any more because if I accidentally tread on him, he doesn't yelp.

Taffy enjoying the sunshineThose are all the not so good bits, but on the plus side he loves his walks, although he doesn't have to do much otherwise he gets really tired. He loves his food. He enjoys sitting in the sunshine. He still terrorises the postman. He chases birds, squirrels and other small furries...just not very far as he's not that fast any more. He loves a cuddle. But most of all he looks forward to his visits to the vet. It's his 'special place' where he gets fuss and attention...and liver paté!!



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