Time for a change in pace! Besides, I have been steeped in online research, so I might as well share the results. Hope I don’t bore my regular readers (nor any of the valued newcomers), because after all, this is not a veterinary blog!
Last week, my dog Puff (the 14 year old pit bull) had what seemed to be two strokes. One day, he was out in the yard, and suddenly dropped on his side and went into convulsions, kicking and shaking, then lying still in the snow. I ran out and he was limp, glassy-eyed, but breathing. I honestly thought he was in the throes of dying, but I wouldn’t allow him to lie there in the snow, so I picked him up to carry him in. The lifting and walking seemed to awaken his equilibrium, and suddenly he stopped being limp, focused his eyes, and came to. I bundled him in a blanket, and after a couple of hours, it was as if nothing had happened. But then a couple of days later, he was just sitting on his favorite chair, and without warning had another seizure. Same deal; I thought he was going to die, then he came out of it.
Naturally, I took him to the vet on Monday. The vet said he had something in his lungs, and had me listen to the the rales in his chest. Blood tests revealed low platelets, and mild anemia.
The pattern is consistent with lung cancer, and a veterinary internist advised my vet that X-rays would probably reveal growths.
I felt sick. But I decided to put off “dealing with it” until I absolutely knew that there was something to deal with.
Well, the X-rays were inconclusive, revealing no obvious growths. The films have been forwarded to a consulting radiologist. Meanwhile, Puff was started on Amoxicillin, and now, on his second day, I have noticed improvement in his health. Less coughing, more relaxed sleep.
Today I was told that Puff’s titer for Lyme Disease is elevated. Yet his symptoms are not a match for Lyme Disease (which he has had before).
“There are a million things it could be,” my vet stated.
Intrigued by all of this, I decided to use the Internet, and discovered a disease which is a match-up for Puff’s three symptoms (and more): low platelets, neurological symptoms, and cough.
It’s called Ehrlichiosis. While symptoms vary, according to this site,

A decrease in the number of platelets (platelets help the blood clot) in the blood is the most common laboratory finding in all phases of the disease.

Erhlichiosis is not transmitted directly from dogs to humans, but from the ticks. Here is an X-ray of infected human lungs, showing the characteristic “patchy infltrates” caused by the disease.
I know you’re just dying to read more geeky stuff about Ehrlichiosis! So, here’s an excellent description of its pathogenesis:

Pathogenesis of Ehrlichiosis
The pathogenesis of infection with E. canis is the most extensively studied; therefore this discussion will focus on this particular species.
Infection occurs through salivary secretions of the tick at the attachment site during ingestion of a blood meal or through blood transfusions. If the adult Rhipicephalus sanguineus engorges on the dog during the acute stage, it can transmit the disease to other dogs for at least 155 days following detachment.1 Transmission by Rhipicephalus sanguineus is transstadial: the tick acquires the bacteria by feeding on an infected dog in either the larvae or nymph form and the tick transmits the disease to another dog as either the nymph or adult form. The life cycle of Ehrlichia is not yet completely understood but it is thought that it occurs in three intracellular forms. The initial bodies are small spherical structures (1-2 micrometers in diameter) which are believed to develop into larger multiple membrane-bound units known as morulae. The morulae are inclusions within the cytoplasm of the leukocyte as seen in Figure 1. This morula is thought to then dissociate into small granules called elementary bodies.
Figure 1 (click here to see). Ehrlichia canis seen in a membrane-bound inclusions (morulae) within the cytoplasm of a monocyte (buffy coat smear, Wright stain).
After an incubation period of 8-20 days, the acute phase of infection occurs which lasts 2-4 weeks. At this time, the organism multiplies within circulating mononuclear cells and the mononuclear phagocytes within the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. The infected cells are then transported in circulation to the rest of the body, with a predilection for the the lungs, kidneys and meninges. Cells infected with ehrlichia adhere to the vascular endothelium and induce a vasculitis and subendothelial tissue infection. This subsequently leads to platelet consumption, sequestration, and destruction that results in the thrombocytopenia seen during this acute phase. Variable leukocyte counts and anemia may also develop progressively during this stage.1 After 6-9 weeks, dogs will either eliminate the parasite (if immunocompetent) or develop a parasitemia in which clinical signs absent to mild to severe. This stage is also characterized by variable persistence of thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, and anemia. Dogs that cannot mount an effective immune response will become chronically infected.1

Geeks as well as non-geeks might be interested to know that the origin of Ehrlichiosis in the United States has been traced not to Paul Ehrlich — but to military dogs brought back from Vietnam:

Because of its origin in military dogs in Vietnam, it has also been called “tracker dog disease” and “tropical canine pancytopenia.

Puff has not been tested for this yet, so I don’t know for certain that he has it. But the antibiotics seem to be doing something — so I am praying that it is Lyme, Ehrlichiosis (the two can work in combination) or another “good” (meaning treatable) disease.
Puff felt good enough today to charge out in the snow in search of his “Kong” toy, which he had to dig from the vast pile of snowflakes in which it landed.
In light of some of the comments to my post on the Iraq/al Qaida connection, I guess I should provide actual evidence supporting my claim that Puff has improved.
So here’s proof for all doubting Thomases — two photos taken within the last half hour!
PuffRuns.jpg
PuffKong.jpg