Our friends over at FiveSibes, have a new children’s book! It’s called, “What’s Wrong with Gibson?” and it’s about their real life doggie, Gibson, who has canine epilepsy. I had a few questions for the FiveSibes’ mommy, so I contacted her. Now I’m going to share her knowledge with all of you. We also received a copy of her new book — look for our review, after the interview.
Before I begin today’s post… I just wanted to let everyone know that I may not be visiting for the next few days. My mommy has to have something called a biopsy done, and I’m gonna have to help her a bit. She will need to take it easy for a couple of days. I’ll be by to visit as soon as I can. <3
Look below for the Good Stuff vs. the Not-So-Good Stuff…
Interview with the FiveSibesTM Mom, and author of the new book, “What’s Wrong with Gibson?” Dorothy Wills-Raftery…
1. Tell us a little bit about the FiveSibes blog and all the furries in the family. What’s life like with so many doggies?
Life with the FiveSibes is just wonderful! It’s fun, entertaining, and very busy! They each bring such unique personalities to the table, and it’s fun to watch them interact as a pack family. I spend hours just hanging outside talking to them and playing with them and sipping my coffee while they do their Husky play! The blog came about after Gibson was diagnosed with Canine Epilepsy, which was shortly after his third birthday.
When he first began his seizures, I went onto MySpace at the time and posted a note about what was happening. A wonderful gal named Laurie from Texas, a nurse with an Epi-dog named Max, wrote me and talked to me through the whole experience and shared her experiences and basically held my hand through it all from afar. She even gave me her phone number and talked to me all about what to expect and about the meds, and really took away a lot of the fear I had as I was pretty much alone at the time. That was my first introduction to social networking. We have become fast friends since then!
I went on to publish Gibson’s diaries on MySpace… and then two years ago this February, I decided to start blogging to connect to other pet lovers and furpals. Gibson’s experience brought me to the wonderful world of pet social networking, and the FiveSibes serve as my muse and inspiration for my writings. On a bad day, they cheer me up. On a good day, they cheer me up. My daughter and I share parenting responsibilities over them and love sharing our lives with them. Honestly, I can’t image life without them!
2. Can you tell us a little about canine epilepsy?
First off, it’s scary. In the early days, I learned about it as Gibson developed it. I’ve learned that Huskies are one of the breeds affected. It can be genetic, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be brought on by toxins in the environment, in food, in yard plants. Stress can bring it on. Unfortunately, although there are more and more studies on it, there’s not a lot known about the cause of it. Epilepsy in dogs is the same as in humans – it’s basically something interferes with the normal activity of the brain, like a misfiring of sensors, if you will.
There are also several stages to Canine Epilepsy (from Canine Epilepsy Resources)…
- The Prodome: may precede the seizure by hours or days. It is characterized by changes in mood or behavior.
- The Aura: signals the start of a seizure. Nervousness, whining, trembling, salivation, affection, wandering, restlessness, hiding and apprehension are all signals.
- The Ictus, the actual seizure: A period of intense physical activity usually lasting 45 seconds to 3 minutes. The dog may lose consciousness and fall to the ground. There may be teeth gnashing, frantic thrashing of limbs, excessive drooling, vocalizing, paddling of feet, uncontrollable urination and defecation.
- The Post Ictus/Ictal: after the seizure, the dog may pace endlessly, appear blind and deaf and eat or drink excessively.
3. When did you first discover that Gibson had epilepsy?
It was about a week after Gibson turned 3. I woke up to what I now know was the “Ictus” stage – hearing some loud thumping coming from their room. While they roam free in and out of the house all day, they do have their own bedroom complete with kennels, beds, an air conditioner, oscillating fan, and a huge toy bin. So I went down to see if one was having a puppy dream, and had the worse fright…Gibson was still in his kennel, eyes glazed, teeth bared and mouth foaming, a foul anal discharge (there is a distinct pugnant odor that is also present with some anal discharge after a seizure), legs stiff out and not breathing. I freaked. I was so scared because I thought I lost my beautiful boy. I called the vet ER (it was after hours for my regular vet) and was hysterical on the phone, crying, begging them to send over someone to help me as I was alone at the time. They had no one, but started asking me questions. I was trying to think if they got into something…did he eat something…did someone throw something in the yard… I just couldn’t figure it out as we keep them close and under almost constant supervision.
I needed my cell phone to call my husband but it was upstairs and I was still on one phone and talking to the vet ER on the other. I kept telling them (this is so hard) that my boy had died. it was awful. I kept petting his face and telling him I love him and Mommy was there. I needed to pack him in ice to bring down his body temperature from the seizure, but all I had was frozen Italian bread and frozen peas. (hence, the reference to the frozen peas in the book). I had to leave him to run upstairs to get the cell phone and as I came running back down… a true miracle happened. Gibson was up, dazed, confused, but up and standing outside of his kennel. I hugged him. I cried. I thanked God. Mind you, this all felt like it took place over hours, but it was in actuality, minutes. Looooong minutes. He was disoriented and had temporary blindness, all symptoms of a seizure. I could deal with that because my Gib was alive. I vowed at the time to study everything I could so I could learn how to help him.
A couple months later, we were having construction done on our back deck – we were adding a roof for the Sibes! But it was stressful for Gibson and he began to have clusters of seizures in a matter of minutes. He would have one, get up, fall back down and have another. He would look at me then drop into a seizure. I couldn’t stop them. We got him over the vet ER hospital (because of course, this happened over the weekend when our regular vet was closed!) and he started another seizure there and they needed to give him a shot of medication to break it. They were successful. They kept him until my vet opened on Monday and we transferred him there for testing and observation. It was decided then that due to the severity of the last cluster of Grand Mals, it was too dangerous not to medicate him. The vet and I concurred that meds were the course of treatment. I didn’t want to risk organ damage from any more seizures. I read up a lot and knew Potassium Bromide was having success, but it takes 30 days to get to a therapeutic level in the system. Phenobarbitol is immediate. So he was put on a combination of both. Pheno can affect the liver long range, so he always has to have his level checked and I also put him on Milk Thistle supplement, which helps cleanse the liver.
I now have a baby monitor in their room and I’ve adjusted his diet also. I feed no glutens to him or any of the other Huskies. I’ve added heathy fillers to combat his hunger from the meds (pure pumpkin puree and steamed green beans). I split his meals up to combat vomiting. it’s a lifestyle change but I am – well, I’m anal about it. I am very strict about his meds & vitamin schedule so I can give him the best & healthiest life possible. The best words of advice from his main vet was, “Let him live his life.” And I finally do. At first, I was the overprotective Mom. Still am, but I let him be happy… but under a very watchful eye!
It was important when I wrote this book to let others know that it’s okay to have epilepsy. A happy and basically healthy life can be led. I know there are children who have it, they have parents, sisters, brothers, friends, and pets who have it. If they can feel better or understand more about what it is, then I feel sharing Gibson’s story was worth it. If one child knows to get “a bag of frozen peas” and apply it as an ice pack, then they know they’ve helped! I feel awareness about Canine Epilepsy is so important. One reader wrote me and said they never realized it could be successfully treated now. They had a dog who suffered from it 20 years ago and the only course of treatment at the time was euthanasia. That’s not the case today.
4. How is your family life affected by Gibson’s condition?
We all know whatever we have to do or want to do, it has to revolve around Gibson’s medicine & vitamin schedule. I do not miss it. I am not late. It’s key to administer the Pheno 12 hours apart…and that is what I do. I have alarms on my iPhone set for every medication and vitamin time!
5. Do any of Gibson’s siblings recognize his condition, especially when he’s about to have an episode?
That’s a great question. Dogs can sense when another is going to have a seizure. The dog itself can sense that something is going to happen. They may seem “odd”…they may be more clingy, anxious, etc. Fortunately, for us, when he had his seizures, they were not roaming free. The first time they were all sleeping in their kennels and while they woke up, I kept them in as it’s not safe to let them around a seizing dog. Even if they are close, one never knows if they become frightened, they can attack the seizing animal or become frightened themselves. It’s best to keep them away and safe. The second time, they were outside and Gibson was inside as I was keeping him away from the construction noises as it could be a stressor for an Epi-dog.
6. What special medical treatment does Gibson receive?
Gibson is on a regiment of Pheno twice a day – 12 hours apart. He also receives Potassium Bromide once a day with his evening Pheno dosage. He has a low thyroid, so he received medicine for that twice a day. He is on the Milk Thistle natural supplement to help cleanse the liver. (At last report, the Milk Thistle worked in lowering his liver levels by 102 points – that’s good!) He gets his blood work and counts done every six months ( he can go once a year, but I want to keep closer tabs on it)…if he seems “off”I have them done sooner. I also keep a check on his weight as well as a side effect of the meds is lethargy and a voracious appetite!
7. When did you get the idea to write a children’s book about Gibson?
I’m an author and writer by trade. After I got through the initial fear stages of what was wrong with Gibson, I knew I needed to one day share his story. Emotionally, I could not talk about it for awhile. Then, I posted his progress on MySpace. Then I began sharing it a year later on my blog by publishing all of his initial diary entries there. Then this past year, I wrote more and relinked to the diary entries in November for National Epilepsy Month to bring awareness to the condition. I found some great resources online and they had wonderful info. I put out a call to Epi-dogs worldwide and created an awareness video of dogs from across the globe who had canine epilepsy. The book I knew I wanted to write, but had to work the “how” I wanted to present and to what audience.
I’ve worked in the educational arena for 19 years and knew elementary level is a great age to start informing children of this type of condition. They are ready at that age to know about health issues and ways to help. The book, I feel, that while it is for children, it is done in a way that any age could enjoy and learn from it. I would like to think parents of younger children will sit down and read it with their children and have a conversation about it afterwards. Bringing the FiveSibes to the pages of a book via happy, colorful illustrations was the way I wanted to go. While it is a scary subject, there are good lessons in it. Ones that I hope every one who reads it can walk away with. At the end, when Hu-Mom gives them ice cream, that is also true. I keep a tub of Breyer’s All Natural Ice Cream on hand at all times because after a seizure, it’s good to give a few spoonsfuls to raise their sugar levels back up. The hose with the water is key as they need water when they come out of a seizure. So there are all little messages and tips that are written and illustrated so that child can feel “helpful” should the occasion ever arise. And also to let them know that if they see a seizure, there are stages and not to be afraid like I was when I first saw the stage where he was rigid and feared the worst until I became educated. I wanted to children and parents alike to know it’s OK to have epilepsy. While it’s scary, there are also successfully treated dogs who are Epi-dogs.
8. It’s wonderful that you are sharing your knowledge about canine epilepsy. Do you have any tips to share that would make things easier for human mommies and daddies, so they could better take care of their own doggies who have epilepsy?
There are a few key points.
1. Always work with their vet.
2. Keep a strict medicine routine.
3. Maintain a stress-free environment.
4. Have a first aid kit on hand.
5. Have an exit plan ready – it’s not easy to move a dog who is ill. I have a car ramp handy to use as a stretcher if need be. A large sheet is also handy — to slip under the dog and use as a body sling.
6. Have natural ice cream and ice packs (or frozen veggies) on hand.
7. Have a cooler water bed (to keep body temp down).
8. Keep sleep area clear of any objects that could fall or hurt the dog if he/she goes into a seizure. A crate or kennel is actually the safest place so they can’t hurt themselves. This blog link lists a canine epilepsy first aid kit.
9. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
It is key to be aware that although a dog is being successfully treated for Canine Epilepsy, there are unfortunately no guarantees that they won’t seize again. I keep that in the back of my mind every day. So while they are doing well and “living their life,” it is key to always be prepared should it happen again. I can’t stress enough the importance of a K-9 Epilepsy First Aid Kit (which should contain a journal to write down exactly what occurs as well as emergency vet contact numbers and a list of current meds). Also, this is a cause so very near and ear to my heart. My hope is that all Epi-dogs live what I like to call Gib-Strong. And I’m here to help. I would like to let folks know if they ever have any questions, I’m always available via Email or blog or the FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews Facebook page to help. There are great resources in my blog entries, and the Canine Epilepsy Resources has so much vital information, articles, resources, and even an Epil-K list of fellow Epi-dog parents as a network. That’s why I chose them to donate a percentage of proceeds from my book to, so they can keep up their great work that helps Epi-parents from across the globe. There is also a Canine Epilepsy Awareness Facebook page where folks come together as a group to discuss their Epi-dogs and experiences, and Canine Epilepsy Resources also have a Facebook page in addition to their website. There are several other resources as well that are listed in my blog posts.
Visit the FiveSibesTM!
“What’s Wrong with Gibson?” Book Review…
The front and back cover of “What’s Wrong with Gibson?”
I was so happy to finally receive my copy of “What’s Wrong with Gibson?”
I got an autographed copy, too! Teehee!
My mommy read the book to Nala, me, Taylor and daddy.
After she was done, I had her read it to me again and again.
I just loved the story and enjoyed looking at the pictures.
That Harley is such a smart doggie!
I definitely recommend reading this book to your doggies
and your human children, especially if someone they know is
suffering from epilepsy. But it’s not a requirement…
The story and illustrations are so fun to read and look at.
The Good Stuff:
- The book is written by my friends’ hu-mommy (Dorothy Wills-Raftery).
- It’s a story about one husky doggie (my friend, Gibson), who has epilepsy, and his siblings, Harley, Wolf, Chloe and Bandit.
- It explains a little about epilepsy in doggies — great for little children to understand (and relate to).
- The illustrated huskies in the book are so cuuuute (illustrated by Michelle Littler).
- It’s a rhyming story, which makes the story fun to follow.
- The back of the book is the back of the front cover. Teehee!
- The book has a soft cover, and is light enough to carry along.
- This book is really important for parents of furry children as well as their hu-children!
- Most importantly… A percentage of proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Canine Epilepsy Resources Center, to aid them in their continued work of providing valuable information and resources to Epi-dog parents worldwide.
The Not-So-Good Stuff:
- There’s nothing to see here! Move along, friends!
Me, Nala, and my human family, think this book is wonderful! Not only is it helpful for parents of human children with epilepsy, it’s important for parents of doggies with epilepsy. Reading this book with young children who are struggling with epilepsy, will be able to relate to Gibson, since they both have the same disorder. We highly recommend it!
“What’s Wrong with Gibson?” can be ordered through Artic House Publishing.
Dogs in Cars…
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Happy Tuesday woofs & hugs, friends! <3
~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl)
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My mommy purchased this book with her own money, so I beg her to read it to me over and over again. My puppy opinions are my own.
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