Daisy and Bertie

DDB in basket

I had three Mini Wire Dachshunds, Dilys, her daughter Daisy, and Daisy’s son, Bertie.

In 2009 I Daisy’s head was shuddering when something invaded the periphery of her vision. My vet thought it possible she had some parasitic problem.  Somehow though, in the back of my mind there lurked a more sinister reason for her symptoms and then one night I remembered about Lafora’s.  I decided to re-visit my vet that week, but before I was able to arrange an appointment, Daisy had her first fit when out walking with my husband and her son Bertie.

That evening, I went to my vet armed with all the details I could find on the internet about Lafora’s and of Dr Clare Rusbridge, a neurologist from Wimbledon who has been involved with the disease for many years.

Daisy was referred to Dr Rusbridge the following week, and it was only after seeing her that I began to put her illness in perspective.  I was not going to lose her and hopefully with medication when necessary, the disease could be controlled and I would have her with me for many years to come.

Dr Rusbridge was very thorough and talked through necessary changes to Daisy’s lifestyle and her diet.

Unfortunately, Daisy gave birth to a litter before her symptoms started. One of those pups, Bertie, stayed with us. he was tested in 2010 to see if he was affected/unaffected.  Unfortunately, the test showed that he too was affected. I notified the other puppy owners of the results and last year he suffered his first fit whilst walking through woods with my husband, followed immediately by a terrible panic attack.  He was so terrified that he ran away and it took several hours of frantic searching to find him again.

Daisy is now 12 (Feb 2015) and Bert is 8. Both continue to have the odd fit, but with Dr Rusbridge’s help, I have been able to keep them to a minimum, though Daisy’s jerks and twitches have become much more prevalent. Daisy can no longer run free in the fields chasing rabbits, in fact the walks have more or less stopped as the excitement seems to trigger a fit, and I want to avoid as many of those as I can.  We are fortunate that we have a large garden, so when the weather allows, they potter and play there. Daisy in particular is distressed if there is any variation in her daily routine, which restricts our life enormously.  In some ways, so my friends tell me, both dogs are lucky in that they have me and will be well looked after for always.

If you are unfortunate to have a mini-wire showing symptoms of Lafora’s, visit your vet, but do not feel upset or let down if he/she does not know about the disease. Unfortunately because it is rare, the majority of vets will not recognise it straight away.

There is also the possibility that there are some mini-wires out there who might have Lafora’s, and have been incorrectly diagnosed. Do re-visit your vet if you are in any doubt. Fortunately I had read about it and was able to talk the symptoms through with my vet before he agreed to refer Daisy to Dr Rusbridge.  Neither he, nor my local homeopathic vet had heard of Lafora’s before Daisy was diagnosed although both have spent many years in the profession.

I have had several life threatening illnesses myself and know that it is of the utmost importance to keep positive and that is how I feel about Daisy and Bertie. That can be easier said than done, especially when one of them has a fit, because when I see them distressed I too am distressed. However, I am hoping that new drugs could become available soon that may help treat Lafora’s, and I keep reminding myself that no matter how awful it is for me watching my adorable dogs cope with the symptoms, how much harder must it be for parents who have children suffering from this horrible disease.

All of us who have a Lafora dog must keep hoping that some new treatments might become available to help these adorable little dogs to live a happier life.

Patricia Debley

February 2015