Diary of Latte’ and Espresso


Sunday, May 18, 2003

Latte’, in jumping about for cookies, kept falling back on her haunches.  I didn’t think much about it because she could easily have been knocked off balance by the other pups.  Shortly after that I noticed that she appeared to be “drunk” – stumbling, weaving, etc.  My first thoughts addressed what she could have gotten into but quickly dismissed that thought, as there were several other dogs out at the same time.  Then I noticed Espresso also exhibiting the same symptoms though not as exaggerated.  In that instant, the realization hit that I was looking at early symptoms of CA.  I called Mary Ann and asked her to come down and observe the pups.  The best description I could give was that they appeared drunk.  When she arrived she said that was quite an appropriate description.  We went inside to watch the two tapes and the first one showing the white bitch walking in the parking lot was so close to what we’d just observed it was eerie.  Any doubts that I had dissipated.  We then went back out to observe the pups again.

They were –

Latte’-  First noticed falling back in jumping up for cookies.  In retrospect, this has probably been going on two weeks or more.  However, that is the only thing that was “off”.  Prior to 5/18, there were no signs of “drunkenness”.  This could best be described as “stumbling drunk” with weaving, crossing of limbs, actually getting legs tangled up and falling over.  Pacing rather than typical trot, bunny hopping with more vertical than horizontal distance coverage.  Splayed stance to maintain balance when standing still; tended to lie down often.  Symptoms intensified as she tired from playing.

Espresso- Again, no prior symptoms whatsoever.  On this day he appears drunk through not as extreme as Latte’.  Symptomatically, he seemed not to be able to judge where the ground was so “high stepped”.  Going from patio to breezeway, appx 2” step, he stepped as though it were 6” or 8”.  Pacing, some crossing of limbs, noticed he was “scuffing” his feet rather than picking them up.  This was more exaggerated than Latte’.  He seems to be more in control than Latte’ so perhaps she has been developing symptoms and they were so subtle that I missed them.  I will say that until he got tired from playing hard for several minutes, I had not noticed any symptoms on him.  Espresso seems to be walking on the backs of his feet, turning his toes up.



Symptoms still there but started out much more subtle than when first noticed the day before.  Ability to motivate deteriorated the longer they played.  Latte’s symptoms are more pronounced than Espresso’s.  Possibly more advanced or because she’s smaller and doesn’t have the muscle mass to allow control?



Symptoms are more noticeable than the prior week, especially on Espresso.  He is extending his front feet and is putting his feet down flat or on the back pad which gives the appearance that he is turning his toes up even more.  Dragging the toes as the feet are picked up are more noticeable in Espresso than Latte’.   It is more difficult to explain Latte’s movement because it is more bunny hoping and bounding rather than walking or trotting.  Espresso, being the calmer of the two, will walk so we can actually see the weaving, pacing and crossing of limbs.  Both pups are very active and wanting to play.  We did notice that the longer they played the more pronounced the disorder became.    After running and retrieving toys over a 15-30 minute period both would stumble and fall.  They would quite often lay down to rest.



I think the symptoms in both puppies have increased significantly.  Though Latte’ continues to leap and bound, she falls or stumbles more often.  In watching her it doesn’t really seem to bother her as she gets right back up and takes off again.  Probably because he is more methodical, Espresso appears more unstable on his feet.  His movement at a slow pace is very impaired.  Maybe that’s why they want to run all the time; easier to get there.  Must check into that…  Both tend to stand “spraddle legged”, probably to help maintain their balance.



When Beth Roberts (human doctor) saw them going up and down their run, she immediately said that there was Cerebellar involvement.  When asked how she knew, she said because people with a disorder of the cerebellum walk with their toes up because they can’t tell how to put their feet down.  They also hold a wide stance and will wobble and weave like they are drunk.  She will contact a neurologist friend to see if he would like to observe them.

The puppies are more discoordinated but are still happy go lucky and play with the abandon of any 7-month puppy. They are obviously not in any discomfort and seem to compensate for their inability to move with finesse.



Noticed that the pups couldn’t coordinate one foot at a time to go from porch into mudroom.  Latte’ had trouble getting out the dog door and finally just sort of tumbled out.  Espresso finally leaped out the door onto the breezeway.  Lots more stumbles and weaving.  They are both dragging their toes more often, actually wearing the toenails on top.  Latte’ has trouble with following the movement of throwing a toy.



Took pups to see Dr. Arar.  He noted that the symptoms are consistent with Cerebellar degeneration.

Beth came over and watched them more and noted that there is more difference than the several days before.  We did note that they were able to go up the step into the house on this day.  The “menace reflex” has deteriorated but more significantly in Latte’.



Espresso’s rear movement is becoming more vertical when he runs.  Latte’s movement is even more exaggerated and she tires very quickly.  Both pups can only play hard for short periods of time before they weaken to the point of stumbling and falling.  Espresso got his front feet onto the picnic table to get a toy but had trouble getting back down.  When throwing toys to retrieve, they have to be directly in front of the pups and not too high or they cannot note that it has been thrown.  This is more advanced in Latte’ than Espresso.  Both are still very happy and willing to play.



Drs. Tanya Ross and Manta Loster came for an initial observation and meeting with the pups.  They are very interested in following the progress of this disease.  Manta will be doing the neurological tests on the kids in a couple of weeks.  How lucky I am to have one of my vets with a subspecialty in neurology.  The escalation of the symptoms is advancing at an alarming rate.  I can see deterioration in their coordination on a daily basis.  Latte’, being the smaller of the two, doesn’t have the reserves to draw on that Espresso does.



It continues to amaze me that the pups can be so happy and willing to continue to try to play when they fall over as much as they do.  As I carefully toss toys for them to retrieve, they go as hard as they can, often overrunning it and taking a tumble.  Then back up to get the toy and back to me.  Their eye reflexes are noticeably lacking so if I don’t have them looking directly where the toy is going, they can’t follow it.  Rest periods are coming more often.



The least stumbling block seems to throw them.  Neither trots anymore; it’s either full bore or a slow, stumbling walk.  The 2” step from patio to breezeway warrants a major leap as if they have no depth perception.  They can see and don’t fall over things or bump into them.  It’s like they aren’t sure where their feet are supposed to be.  The happy attitude is still there and they are more than willing to have a good play but their strength goes in short order.



 Tanya and Manta were here so they could do the neurological exams.  How thankful I am that they are willing to do them here where the pups are comfortable and not stressed.  The testing showed both are more affected on their left sides.  The menace reflex is all but non-existent and the eye reflexes are very compromised as I had noted from them trying to follow toys that were thrown.  Both vets commented that the deterioration of their mobility is significant from their first visit.  Latte’ and Espresso dealt with the exam with the same stoic acceptance that I have come to expect from the breed.  Great care was taken to reassure them throughout so they would stay relaxed and not be too frightened from all the poking and prodding.  Manta explained what I could expect in the weeks ahead and that the pups are not in any pain, they will just gradually lose mobility.



There don’t seem to be any new symptoms, just escalation.  Ten minutes of play then a long rest before they are ready to go again.   Wherever they are when the exhaustion is where they stay until they can get up and go again.  Logically it would seem that they would walk or trot but they don’t.  They seem to be able to run, albeit more vertically, but are more likely to stumble and fall when trying to walk.



Every day shows a little less coordination.  I’ve decided not to videotape anymore.  I’ll probably be sorry in the future but I just can’t document the loss of dignity that my babies are suffering.  I don’t know how much longer I have with them.  Often, I’ll look up and Espresso has come to “tell” me that Latte’ needs a helping hand.  They aren’t able to play much now but do try. 



Latte’ is having trouble balancing herself to void and lays down to eat.  Espresso is not much better but, being the stronger of the two, can keep his balance.  They try to play and get out in the yard and just give out.  I find myself having to give Latte’ a lift back to the house with her giving me little kisses along the way.  It’s just breaking my heart that she can’t run anymore.



A decision is made.  I can’t let the babies go any longer.  They can’t keep their balance and continually fall over.  Still happy and wagging their tails and giving me kisses but they can’t move away from their mess.  Manta had warned me that this would happen but I guess I still wasn’t prepared.



I hugged my babies and snuggled with them each one last time as they were put to sleep.  As I sobbed, Manta reminded me that now they can chase butterflies again and won’t stumble or fall.  I only pray that I never see this disease again.



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