Did you know that dogs can have strokes just like humans? Well, they can and they do. It isn't common but it happens. This is a great story of love, courage and sheer determination - here is Sheba’s Story from Brisbane, Australia.
October 28, 2005
It was 5.00am - Sheba, my Siberian Husky, and I set off for our early morning walk. I remember the temperature was 22 degrees Celsius but I forgot to check the humidity before we left. Shalimar, my boy Husky, decided not to accompany us this morning - he elected to stay in bed. Good thinking. We had only walked about 1km when Sheba suddenly sat down. I checked her paws - no foreign objects. Both my Huskies have been trained to sit and wait at all intersections before we cross the road but there was no road this particular morning - only a concrete footpath in a park. Sheba often sits and faces in the direction she would prefer to walk so at first I thought she was testing me. Husky speak for “let’s go that-a-way”!! Not this morning though, she continued to sit.
After a few minutes she lay down. Her eyes were bright, she was moving her head and looking around but she couldn’t stand up. I began to think a snake may have bitten her or a tick had somehow latched onto her several walks ago and that symptoms were suddenly appearing. I urgently examined her all over - difficult with all that thick fur and one pair of hands so after 15 minutes I called my husband to come pick us up and by the time we arrived back home, Sheba was in a deep coma. She had had a stroke at the age of 7years and 3 months and was completely paralysed on the left hand side of her beautiful body. It was 5.45a.m.
We called her Vet who advised to let her rest a couple of hours before driving to the clinic. We kept her comfortable and cool in the air conditioning at home and let her rest in quiet so that Sheba could hear the drone of our voices as we moved around the house. Later that morning after she had rested and was again aware of her familiar surroundings we drove to her Vet. Sheba was kept in hospital under observation that night, I didn't want to leave her but because she had lapped water and eaten a little food overnight, I was able to bring her home next morning as there was no need for a drip. She was very, very unwell and so happy to see me again, she was more than willing to come back home to familiar surroundings, usual noises and smells, her own bed and a doggie friend for extra support. Well....home is always the best place to recuperate.
The First Week at Home
Good old fashioned home nursing began. Sheba and I worked together around the clock. Every 2 hours, night and day, I turned her from side to side. I kept her paralysed limbs stimulated by massaging and gently exercised all her legs. Something was telling me I had to keep her legs moving so her brain wouldn’t forget what to do and to apply massage to help her circulation. I couldn’t bear to think my beautiful girl would never walk or run again - neither could Sheba. Like all dogs Sheba loves to run. Right now though she couldn’t work out what had happened but she knew we had to keep moving.
At this point it was critical she remained interested and alert so during the day I carried her to favourite spots in the garden, kept her mind stimulated with favourite toys and small portions of food. We played a bit and talked. We didn’t change any daily activities around the house and Shalimar, her doggie friend, was always there for constant support. She was never left alone.
Standing at the end of the Week
Thankfully, Sheba has a very strong will and by the end of the first week she was mobile. Whenever she wanted to stand, I placed a towel under her belly to take her weight - like a sling - and this allowed her to use her legs as best she could without bearing her full weight. It wasn’t too long before she told me to discard the “sling” and let her go alone. A Dog Lifting Harness would have been ideal but we didn't know about them then. If only I'd had a Ruff Wear Web Master Harness - the perfect solution.
Indoor Boots for Traction
Sheba was walking again - wobbly, but walking. Her legs were still very weak and whenever she attempted to stand she slipped and fell flat on her belly on our indoor tiles and on the concrete deck, both slippery surfaces. This didn't help her confidence at all, I could see she was becoming afraid to stand and the last thing she needed was an escalation of fear. She needed boots. Hot Doggers indoor dog boots with rubber soles were the answer as they grabbed the floor and provided the traction she needed to keep her upright. She quickly regained her confidence once she realised she wouldn't fall and slowly the strength in her legs returned so she could eventually stand alone.
Physiotherapy for Dogs
After lots of research, I found a wonderful Animal Physiotherapist - it took me a week to find Lindsay who is actually a human physio and also treats dogs and horses. We started on a special set of daily exercises for Sheba and concentrated on them for several weeks. Daily became every second day, then 3 times a week, once a week and then whenever Sheba was ready. She was quickly telling me "don't need your help thanks, Mum". Four months after her stroke Hydrotherapy was introduced with her Physio. Well, this doggie is not a swimmer and certainly didn’t like the pool but I’m sure the few sessions we had with the Physio made some difference.
Three Weeks Down, Time for a Run
One morning at home in the garden Sheba decided it was time to try a run. It was three weeks since her stroke. I could see her thought processes as she wobbled down the back yard, paused, took stock of her situation then slowly RAN! She did it. Not quite like her normal bolt of lightening speed but she was moving! What a joyous moment to witness. My wild, free spirit was so determined to beat this peculiar “thing” that had overcome her, for weeks she had been trying to break free and now her moment had arrived. So brave and courageous and more than determined.
Acupuncture for Dogs
Circulation was still a problem - I wondered if Acupuncture might help so we visited a Holistic Vet. Dr Rowan Kilmartin from Animal Options had been highly recommended to me. Sheba was still very ill but after each treatment there were obvious positive results. She loved her Acupuncture sessions. “If she wants to walk, let her go” advised the Vet. So when Sheba was ready we were off and slowly we increased the distance.
One thing was still lurking though - cyanosis. It was particularly noticeable on a lengthy walk or if Sheba over-exerted herself around other doggie friends. Since it's always good to know what causes something a visit to an Internal Medicine Specialist and Cardiologist was recommended and after Ultrasounds, X-Rays, Blood Tests, ECG’s etc, Sheba was pronounced to be in very good physical condition. Nothing unusual showed up, she was normal on clinical examination.
We had gotten to a point where we just had to manage the situation. Her Specialists recommended Sheba take 1-quarter Aspirin every morning to keep her blood thin. A tiny, tiny amount. After speaking with a Holistic Vet it was recommended Metagenics High Purity Fish Oil and N-Acetyl Carnitine plus Taurine 500 (to assist in brain cell and nervous system repair) be administered daily. These are natural products used for human consumption and I am certain they have helped in Sheba’s recovery. You can read more information at www.metagenics.com.au.
Water on Hand
Hydration is extremely important. Without water at the right time, Sheba’s blood could coagulate, this could cause a blood clot which would in turn cause an aneurysm leading to another stroke. Water prevents the blood from becoming sticky. Luckily I have always taken water with me wherever I go with the dogs - on walks or in the car. Now it is even more important. As we walk, I check her tongue and just as soon as it looks pale or like turning blue that is the sign for a rest and little more water.
Seven Months on
After the first seven months life turned into a slower pace for my doggie. We made a few adjustments to cope with exercising two dogs at two different paces to keep them both happy and pretty soon got back to normal routines again.
One Year on
Sheba had often pawed at the LHS of her face. Her teeth were checked on each regular visit to her Vet - nothing suspicious. I decided to get a second opinion (in fact, I got three!) and it was discovered she had an abscess on a tooth. How long had it been there? I will never know. One year later, almost to the day since her stroke, Sheba had the tooth extracted under a GA. I felt terrible because she’d been through enough and I wondered if this had triggered her stroke.
Six Years on
More than six years had passed since Sheba had her stroke and life was definately good again. My doggie made a brilliant recovery, not totally but enough to enjoy her daily walks, trips to different doggy parks, riding in the car just to go pick up the mail and best of all the wide open spaces of the beach where she could run free, using the beach like a runway to get her Husky speed up, explore to her hearts content, paddle and play with other dogs in the water and sometimes even try to keep pace with a low flying majestic Pelican!
July 18, 2011 and Sheba turned 13! What a courageous little girl. We spent a special day together in the winter sun, just the two of us, then later we walked her favourite neighbourhood tracks visiting dog friends and finished off with a tasty birthday dinner. My Husky was 13 years old!
The beach and the doggy parks were off our agenda now and the peace and quiet of home was more attractive with the occasional visit from a doggy friend or two. Sheba was still keen for her daily short walks, an important adventure to go explore her neighbourhood and let all the local dogs know she was still around!
A truly special day had arrived for my grand old lady. July 18, 2012 and Sheba was 14 years old. She was doing well, slow but well for her age. By now we had a few medical issues creeping in and her hearing was not so good as was her eyesight but she was happy and managed. Her daily walks were so important, we didn't go very far these days but she got to check out the doggy internet and exert her authority when she met up with a neighbour's dog. Her apetite never changed and she always looked forward to her meals, usually eating every morsel. No wonder....she had a good chef. Her food was prepared fresh every day. But she was struggling, some days she was energetic and other days she needed to rest. Quite suddenly she deteriorated.
December 13, 2012
Sheba and I got to the end of our long road we had walked together for 14years and 5 months. A long, winding road full of many adventures and wonderful moments together. I feel honoured to have been her guardian and I'm pretty sure she was honoured to be my guardian and teacher, a beautiful gift I held close for all those years.
I feel grateful for Sheba's strength and courage and for her utmost trust in me as we worked together recovering from her stroke. It is thanks to a loving home, a dedicated mother and a good professional team who truly understand animals that my Princess climbed back to being her normal doggy self again, as much as possible, for seven more years - naughty, vocal, gentle and loving - and somewhere in there, I’m sure, ever so grateful! Forever in my heart Sheebs, now running free in God's garden till we meet again.
Kathryn and Sheba
(originally written January 2006)
Updated January 2013
Sheba’s Professional Team in Brisbane:
Animal Physiotherapy Solutions
Telephone: 07 3841 7011
Non-invasive Holistic Treatment
Dr. Rowan Kilmartin
Veterinary Specialist Services
Dr Terry King (Internal Medicine)
Dr Brad Gavaghan (Cardiologist)
Dr Gary Wilson (Dentist)
Animal Emergency Services
If you have a story you'd like to share at TopDogs, please let us know! Send us an email using the form on our Contact page and we'll get back to you.