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Saving Corey


This is the story of a tiny dog that almost died.  He survived because of expert medical interventions and the strength of his own spirit. Written by his teammate.

                 Corey the Pappilon treated by University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center's neurology service and integrative medicine service

(Knoxville, TN.  August 2014)-- At a few minutes after midnight on Friday July 27, 2012, my ten year old Papillon, Corey, was resting near my feet, keeping me company while I did some late night computer surfing.  Suddenly, I heard a loud "thud" and turned to find Corey in the throes of what looked to me like a grand mal seizure.  Quickly I got down beside him to steady him, to prevent him from injuring himself and to reassure him as he came out of it.

The minutes passed . . . five, ten, and fifteen . . . with no change in seizure activity.  The on- call vet at my local veterinary clinic advised me to call UT and to get there as quickly as I could.  That thirty minute trip would be just the first leg of a life changing journey that Corey and I would take together.

From the moment he was born, Corey stood out from the pack as a dog with extraordinary qualities.  The breeding that produced him seemed meant to be.  His dam had just retired from the show ring and his sire was visiting from California just in time for a successful breeding. 


                    corey the pappilon in his HABIT or Human Animal Bond in Tennessee scarf

Corey always has had an amazing ability to connect with people.  As a therapy dog for HABIT's Ruff Reading program, he visited kindergarten children weekly.  He greeted each child individually with a gentle nuzzle or a paw touch that meant "pet me, please." Sometimes he climbed into a child's lap.  He made each child feel important and they adored him.

                    Corey the pappilon receives therapy dog award from AKC

In recognition of his more than two hundred visits, he was awarded AKC's new Therapy Dog Excellent title in July 2014.


                     corey the pappilon doing agility

Corey and I competed in obedience, rally and agility and together we brought home advanced titles in all three performance events.  His physical fitness turned out to be an important factor in his recovery. He is still my partner, my teammate and my treasured friend.

So when I handed him over, fragile and trembling, to the emergency vet at UT, I immediately began to plan for his recovery at home.  Losing him was not on my radar.  I knew he would need care around the clock, and I started planning the necessary changes to make that happen.

His diagnosis was complex.  The seizure was not a seizure at all but severe vestibular symptoms due to an inner ear infection.  He had severe nystagmus, horizontal and vertical, and seemed to be partially blind.  He had proprioceptive deficits in all limbs and could not stand, walk or maintain balance, all suggesting a multifocal neurologic disease.

Corey's MRI and spinal tap showed evidence of acute brain hemorrhage along with inflammation secondary to the bleeding.  Although a tumor was suspected, there was no obvious cause.  During the first 24 hours in ICU, he had a potentially fatal cardiac episode due to another brain bleed.  Emergency treatment restored his heart function.

By Sunday, July 29, his neurologic symptoms had not improved and he had developed left-sided facial paralysis.  He was unable to blink his left eye and had mouth droop on that side.  He brightened somewhat when I visited him each day, and I was able to hand feed him; however, his coordination and balance were drastically diminished.

On Monday July 30, Corey was discharged although the cause of his condition remained unresolved.  His discharge instructions included passive range of motion exercises, medication, safe confinement instructions and the following statement:

"If Corey does not improve significantly after one week at home, then you may need to consider Corey's quality of life and consider humane euthanasia."

During his first week at home, Corey did make and sustain small and steady improvements.  Seven days after his stroke, he was able to briefly stand on his own and take a few tentative steps.  He still had facial paralysis so needed artificial tears frequently applied to his left eye.  His swallow reflex was impaired so he was unable to drink water from a bowl.  He needed fluid injections to keep him hydrated.

Two weeks after his discharge from ICU, Corey had his first appointment with Dr. Donna Raditic at UT's Integrative Medicine Service. His treatment included acupuncture, massage, cold laser and a customized combination of herbs, nutrition and drugs.  I have seen the benefits of these kinds of therapies with some of my other animals in the past, and so I anticipated that Corey would also benefit from an integrative approach.  It was time to leave no stone unturned and the results were dramatic.

Corey soon grew to love his visits with Dr. Donna.  He would lean into his massage and present parts of his body that needed attention.  He usually fell asleep during his treatment, even starting to snore one day, much to everyone's amusement!  His facial paralysis was treated with strategically placed acupuncture needles, and slowly he regained the ability to close his left eye and his left side mouth droop began to correct.

At home he began to exercise on level grass, trotting and running at will and even popping over a few agility jumps.  I encouraged him to go over low jumps to improve his proprioception and confidence.  He loved it!

His "spa days" with Dr. Donna continued to mark significant milestones in his recovery:

            His facial paralysis completely disappeared.

His balance and coordination returned to almost normal.  He was able to go up and down stairs without help.  His inner ear infection was being aggressively treated.

Every day he was alert, energetic and confident, eating, drinking and exercising normally. He was able to handle setbacks and continue to improve.

Integrative Medicine expands the limits of conventional medicine.  Dr. Raditic explored Corey's history and lifestyle in great detail and in our conversations, some important facts emerged.  In the month before his stroke, Corey had anesthesia for a routine dental.  At the same time, there were bitches in season at home, always a stressful time for him.  His inner ear infection had been present for a long time and manifested in symptoms I recognized only in hindsight.  Specifically, more than a year earlier, Corey had suddenly refused to do contact obstacles at agility trials.  These obstacles (A- frame, dog walk and teeter) require balance and coordination.  I looked for a behavioral/training cause, not suspecting an inner ear infection was affecting his balance. It's unlikely that any single one of these events would have, by itself, brought on a stroke, but together they were Corey's "perfect storm," and he crashed.  Finally it all made sense.  By digging deeper into Corey's history and making the connections, Dr. Raditic was able to put the puzzle together. Understanding the causes made possible a better plan for Corey's care.

An important part of his continuing recovery is managing stress. More things upset him now, like thunder and fireworks.  He continues to have his "spa days" with Dr. Donna and to take herbs that support his health.  At age twelve, Corey appears older than he is.  His ordeal has aged him, but his energy is strong and he remains the undisputed leader of our little canine pack.  You could say that his recovery is a miracle, but I prefer to say that it is another "perfect storm" consisting of expert and compassionate veterinary care, the resources to utilize a wide range of therapies and a patient whose spirit stayed strong even when his body was failing him.

                Dr. Donna Raditic, an integrative veterinarian at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center, treats Corey the Pappilon

No one can say how much more time Corey has on earth, but I am grateful for the incredible journey we have shared for the past two years.  I am convinced that only by integrating all the best that veterinary medicine has to offer could this outcome have been achieved.

Marilyn Mele




Posted: 08-20-14 Viewed: 84158 times

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Sandra Harbison
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennessee
2407 River Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996

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