This is our new arrival, wobbly blind Briggs, fresh from his eye surgery and neutering on Thursday. Alayne drove over to Helena Saturday morning to pick him up. I took the photo of Briggs on the living room couch this afternoon. As I posted the week before, we had postponed his eye surgery after our vets, Brenda and Britt Culver, had found Briggs was suffering from a kidney disease called glomerulonephritis.
But what was causing the kidney disease? One of the suspects was a tick-borne disease of some sort, among other things, and Britt ran a new battery of blood tests to see what they could find. Well, it turns out that Briggs had Rocky Mountain spotted fever ... which he contracted while living in Georgia. On the titer for this disease, Brenda said you would typically expect to see a normal ratio of less than 1:64, and Briggs' titer was 1:2048.
What's interesting is that it's likely his wobbliness is a result of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which in long-term, untreated cases can cause movement disorders. We didn't think his wobbliness looked like our usual cerebellar hypoplasia animals, but we couldn't quite explain why ... it was just different.
And his blindness could also be the result of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever! As Brenda explained it to me, Briggs probably developed uveitis, an inflammatory disease of the eyes, because of the untreated Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The uveitis, in turn, caused his filtration angles (the "drain valve" in the eye) to plug up, which led to the glaucoma that blinded him.
As you may remember from my post about the type of eye surgery we were going to do for him, Brenda planned on implanting a prosthesis in the globe of each eye to keep his 'natural' look. Because his body still had the antigens from the Rocky Mountain spotted fever circulating in his system, thus putting his immune system on heightened alert, Brenda was concerned that this would increase the risk of his body rejecting the prostheses.
So she consulted with our veterinary ophthalmologist in Spokane, Dr. William Yakely, to get his opinion on this case. Dr. Yakely told Brenda that since they were already treating Briggs for the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and since he had received other supportive therapy even before we got the diagnosis, that this would lessen the risks for rejection. And if Briggs' body did reject the eye implants, then we still had the option of enucleation.
After reviewing all this with Brenda on Thursday morning, we agreed to proceed with the surgery as originally planned. Brenda called Thursday evening to say all had gone well, and Briggs had come out of anesthesia just fine.
It will be at least three weeks before we know if the prostheses "take," and as time goes on, the risks of rejection diminish. We've done this on several animals and never had a rejection, but all we can do now is keep our fingers crossed. Briggs was so happy to come home, and even though we tried to keep him isolated in a quiet room by himself, he wouldn't stand for it. He bayed and bayed until we let him out so he could be with everyone else. He's on multiple medications for his eyes and continues on doxycycline for the Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
How ironic that this poor little dog would have come down with Rocky Mountain spotted fever quite some time ago, was never treated for it, and then moved to the Rocky Mountains ... where he was finally diagnosed and treated! (Although as Medline reports, "Contrary to the name "Rocky Mountain," most recent cases have been reported in the eastern United States...." and it also occurs in Central and South America, too.)
For more detailed information on Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs, here's a great write-up from the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Just after I finished writing this blog post, I noticed Briggs sitting on the ramp outside my office window. Alayne had let him out after feeding him dinner. He seemed to be sitting there, staring at Ovando Mountain in the distance. Maybe he was just thinking how his future is going to be so much brighter from now on: