What a Good Dog! 3

Our German Shepherd Dog Oka had a vet adventure today, and his good behavior saved his owners several hundred dollars.

From Blog Pictures

Oka is almost eleven, although he still moves like a much younger dog, with that uncanny floating trot that only the GSD has. But for several years he has suffered from pannus (chronic superficial keratitis), an immune-mediated inflammatory condition of the cornea that is most often seen in GSDs. Untreated, it leads to blindness, but it is easily controlled by corticosteroid eye drops.

However, being steroids, these drops result in an immune-compromised tear film, which raises the risk of infection. About a month ago, Oka developed an indolent ulcer on the cornea of his left eye. Our vet tried stopping the steroids and putting him on a course of topical antibiotics plus Metacam (an NSAID), but it still didn’t heal. So today I took him to Ann Gratzek, the local animal ophthalmologist.

The usual treatment for an indolent ulcer is a superficial keratotomy: basically playing tic-tac-toe on the dog’s cornea with a needle to promote the migration of surrounding epithelial cells. This is done with a topical anesthetic. But after beginning the procedure, Dr. Gratzek decided that Oka’s ulcer was too deep and a superficial keratectomy was called for, which usually requires general anesthesia, or at least heavy sedation.

Here’s the amazing part: she just switched to the proper knife and kept going, and Oka sat there and let her slice away the surface of his cornea until all of the degenerative tissue was gone. I was straddling his back and gently holding his muzzle while the vet tech assisted in stabilizing his head, but apart from a bit of a grumble during the prep (before the actual surgery), Oka was pretty much relaxed, and didn’t try to move. He got lots of cookies, and lots of praise, and walked out with a brand-new contact lens in his eye to protect the cornea while it heals.

Right now he’s chilling out in the living room on Tramadol, a narcotic painkiller, which has so far spared him the Cone of Indignity, but I’m watching him carefully to make sure he doesn’t start rubbing his eye. With any luck, his recheck in a week will reveal a healed cornea, and the inevitable granulation will fade over time, leaving only a minor impairment of his vision (and I suspect, that like 30% of GSDs, he’s rather nearsighted, so that probably won’t make any difference).

I paid for this argument!

3 thoughts on “What a Good Dog!

  • Laura Resnick

    That IS an amazing dog!

    I have now spent almost 2 months recovering from an acute condition known as “recurrent corneal abrasion/erosion (my current prognosis for full recovery by Thanksgiving is very good), and so I express full sympathy and commisseration with Oka. As he no doubt knows, corneal pain is mind-boggling. My experience with it has redefined my notion of “pain.”

    And I must confess, when the doctor is poking terrible tools into my eye, I have not been nearly as well behaved as Oka. Bravo! A very good dog, indeed.

    • Dave Trowbridge Post author

      Oww! Just reading the Wikipedia entry on RCA/E made my eyes hurt. I’m glad to hear recovery is in sight (groan).

      I know from experience that dogs tend to be quite stoic, but I find it hard to believe that he was suffering as much pain as you did. He didn’t rub his eye or exhibit any other signs of discomfort.