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Old 07-17-2012, 02:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Sudden Blindness and Depression After Enucleation

Hi, everyone! This is my first time posting in the DT forum, although I recently discovered there is actually a thread on here somewhere about me and my 9 year-old Dobe, Lexie (aka “Lou”). We have been through SO MUCH in the past month and a half, and it’s still ongoing. You can read all of the details at A New Life for Lexie, but in a nutshell she developed anterior uveitis at the beginning of June and then secondary glaucoma, which lead to her having a bilateral enucleation (surgical removal of the eyes) by the end of that month.

Lexie almost died during her enucleation surgery because her blood wouldn’t clot. Her local vet, who was performing the operation, suspected Lexie had Von Willebrand’s disease, but it seemed unlikely according to her blood tests and the fact that she underwent a previous major surgery just last summer without having ANY complications. Regardless, the only way they could stop the bleeding was to pack Lexie’s eye sockets with gauze and sew her back up. Then, I had to rush her to MedVet in Columbus, Ohio (a three-hour drive) in order for them to perform the surgery to remove the gauze there.

Once the gauze was removed and her incisions were stitched back up, MetVet sent Lexie home the day after her surgery, even though they were aware that she had an infection in her eye sockets due to the gauze. Apparently, if an infection in a wound is extensive enough, which we later discovered Lexie’s was, it can cause an incision to pull open. Therefore, just 11 hours after we brought Lexie home from MedVet, we discovered the stitches in her right eye had come completely out.

So, Lexie got rushed BACK to MedVet, where she had to stay for another 7 days and undergo a third surgery to repair the incisions after the doctors were able to treat her TWO bacterial infections (staph and serratia). During that procedure last Wednesday, they also performed two mastectomies on Lou to remove two swollen mammary glands (a totally separate issue from her eye condition), for which we are still awaiting the biopsy results.

The reason I am posting here today is because I’m curious if any other owners out there have had to deal with their beloved Dobes suddenly going blind? If so, did your Doberman also experience depression after they lost all vision? I believe Lexie may be slipping into a depression, and it’s breaking my heart. When there is something physically wrong with your dog, there are certain, specific things that you can do to help them get better, but I’m at a loss about what I can do to help bring Lexie out of her current funk.

Before her eye troubles, Lexie was the dominant dog in our three-dog household (her other two sisters are mutts). She loved to cuddle her various stuffed animals, then entice her sister, Sam, into a good game of tug in order to destroy said stuffed animals after she grew tired of them. Lexie was VERY demanding when it came to her cuddle time, and she kept me and her sisters on a very strict feeding and bathroom break schedule. In fact, it was her whiney, demanding, yet lovable and fun-loving personality that earned her the title of “Little Turd.”

Since Lexie first started losing her vision around the middle of June, however, we haven’t seen much of our little turd. I was really hoping that after her enucleation surgery she would feel so much better physically that her spunky little personality would eventually return, but so far that hasn’t happened. To be fair, Lexie has been through THE WRINGER over the last several weeks, and she’s only been home from her last surgery for about three days now. I certainly wasn’t expecting her to be her old self right away because I do realize that she needs a few weeks to recover from her surgery; however, it was one thing when she just didn’t feel like playing, but now her appetite and energy levels seem to be decreasing, which isn’t like her AT ALL.

I read somewhere that it may be harder for a dog who was once the dominant leader in a multi-dog household to cope with sudden blindness because eventually one of the other dogs will try to take over as the new leader. I can already see some of that behavior starting in our dog, Sam, as she’s become a little more demanding lately about receiving her treats first and receiving cuddles whenever SHE wants to be cuddled, which were behaviors that Lexie used to exhibit before her surgery. I feel like this may be contributing to Lexie’s increasing signs of depression since she came home last Friday night. As I said before, though, what can I do to help any of this???

I apologize for introducing myself to the forum with such a novel-length first post, but you may as well get used to that with me. (I don’t like to leave out details or back-story.) If anyone out there has any experience with helping your own Dobe cope with sudden blindness and/or depression, I sure would love to hear from you. In particular, I’m curious about how long it took for your dog to recover and become their “old self” again, or did they ever? Was there anything you did that you feel might have helped your Dobe adjust to their new life without sight or help his/her depression? Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post.
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Old 07-17-2012, 02:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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wow, your Lexie has sure been through a lot.

I have never dealt with anything like what you two are dealing with.

All I can offer is Hugz and Hope.
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Old 07-17-2012, 02:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm sorry I don't have anything to offer that will help your situation. My heart goes out to you and your girl.
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Old 07-17-2012, 02:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't have any experience with dogs going blind, but I really feel for you. My Shanoa had a uveitis episode last summer. It was very scary. Thankfully she recovered completely with no other episodes or complications.
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Old 07-17-2012, 05:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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So very sorry your Lexi is going through this. I have nothing to add but I am hoping someone with experience will chime in.
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Old 07-17-2012, 05:59 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Wow, I'm so sorry she had to go through all that. My friend's crested went blind in a matter of weeks. She put bells on all her other dogs and it really helped him to adapt quite well. I'll see if I can remember any fo the other tricks she did to help him.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Oh dear this breaks my heart. I am so happy that she has you as an owner, you have moved heaven and earth for her and continue to do so. I hope you find answers to help her cope.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Have you had her checked for tick disease? What caused the anterior uveitis? If an underlying condition caused the anterior uveitis then she may not feel well. Worth a check???

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Old 07-17-2012, 06:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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What a heartbreaking story!

But there is great hope! Here are some links to articles. I googled How to help a blind dog adjust.

Helping Your Dog Cope with Blindness

When Dogs Can't See

Living with a Blind Dog - For Dummies


One thing I gleaned is that the depression is fairly normal. Six weeks seems to be a bit of a bench mark in the adjustment. Some people are so sad for their dog they consider putting the dog down, but experts will say, don't do it, give your dog six weeks first. Don't give up on your dog! : ) They can and will adjust, and you can greatly facilitate that process.

Remember, while our main sense is sight, the dog's main sense is smell, followed by hearing. Sight is their third most important sense.

I know I would have to fight my own depression if one of my dogs went blind. But you shouldn't! Be upbeat, be happy! That is best for them. They will adjust, and there is LOTS you can do to help them. (See articles)

P.S. My dog Greta is the alpha in my group, and she will always be the alpha no matter what. That's because I, the super alpha, will always make it clear to the others that she is boss, goes out the door first, etc. I don't know if that's right, but that's my decision, and when she can't maintain her alpha status on her own, I will be there by her side enforcing it.

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Old 07-17-2012, 07:39 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Okay, it's been three days home, you said.

It's FAR, far too early to be assigning human labels like "depression" on your Lexie.

Dogs are so much more resilient than humans, and cope with change and loss in different ways, but generally live so much in the moment that they recover more easily.

I would be more concerned at this point that you have a physical complaint such as unmanaged (or undermanaged) pain, a resurgence of infection, or side-effects from medication, etc.

Have you called MedVet back to discuss this with staff there? I find they are awesome to work with, both during care, and on follow-up.

As to the future, just treat Lexie as normally as you possibly can--do make safety adjustments for her, but other than that, don't baby her, don't coddle her, allow her to return to a full capacity for her new situation.

I have a friend who has a foster Doberman who lost his sight to head trauma (detached retinas) and was in critical condition with a multitude of physical issues.

Once he gained his weight back, his infections were resolved, and he had healed his wounds, he became a right little cock-o'-the-walk

She has wood chips for about eighteen inches at the base of her fencelines and around her trees, to help him with navigating the yard, and if she moves furniture, she "shows" him the new pattern, and that's about that, as far as special accomodations.

He goes on walks (on lead, of course) with the other dogs, barks at the cows along the way, and is entirely convinced he could take on that ol' bull.
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Old 07-17-2012, 08:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Stay strong your Lexie needs you now more than ever. You can do this and so can Lexie. I am sending postive thoughts your way for you and Lexie.
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Old 07-17-2012, 10:06 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Glad to see you here!
Looks like you've gotten a little advice already. I love the bell on the other dogs idea.


Keep us up to date on your girl.
-Melissa and Cato.
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Old 07-18-2012, 12:13 AM   #13 (permalink)
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A person on Weiner Writings her Dachshund went blind suddenly she was more depressed than the dog. The dog learned how to navigate around the house,she took her to a class where they used their nose to find different stuff the dog did great.I do remember reading about putting perfume on places you want the dog to be cautious.There are lots of stuff on google that can help with a blind dog.Rays & Hugs Good Luck with your Fur Kid.
Also remember of a Mastiff dog that was blind they had three another seemed to know it and became its guide dog and kept tabs on the blind dog. Seems they had steps inside the house they put down different textured area rugs so the blind dog knew where she was and to feel for the steps.

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Old 07-18-2012, 12:28 AM   #14 (permalink)
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You have moved heaven and earth, you are a loving concerned pet owner and Lou is so lucky to have you. Don't give up she will know you are there for her and she will respond, she is a Doberman and they are amazing.
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Old 07-18-2012, 07:58 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Case & Me: I was given the option to have a blood test done for Lexie that would have told us if the anterior uveitis was caused by a tick bite; however, Dr. Cordell at MedVet told me that she was already going to put Lexie on the same medications she'd give her if it WAS caused by a tick bite regardless, so there really wasn't any sense in spending the extra $100+ to have that test done. Ultimately, though, Dr. Cordell determined that Lou's anterior uveitis was most likely the result of an autoimmune disorder.
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Old 07-18-2012, 08:05 AM   #16 (permalink)
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What a heartbreaking story!

But there is great hope! Here are some links to articles. I googled How to help a blind dog adjust.

Helping Your Dog Cope with Blindness

When Dogs Can't See

Living with a Blind Dog - For Dummies


One thing I gleaned is that the depression is fairly normal. Six weeks seems to be a bit of a bench mark in the adjustment. Some people are so sad for their dog they consider putting the dog down, but experts will say, don't do it, give your dog six weeks first. Don't give up on your dog! : ) They can and will adjust, and you can greatly facilitate that process.

Remember, while our main sense is sight, the dog's main sense is smell, followed by hearing. Sight is their third most important sense.

I know I would have to fight my own depression if one of my dogs went blind. But you shouldn't! Be upbeat, be happy! That is best for them. They will adjust, and there is LOTS you can do to help them. (See articles)

P.S. My dog Greta is the alpha in my group, and she will always be the alpha no matter what. That's because I, the super alpha, will always make it clear to the others that she is boss, goes out the door first, etc. I don't know if that's right, but that's my decision, and when she can't maintain her alpha status on her own, I will be there by her side enforcing it.
hannah6: Thank you! I have actually already been to all those sites you listed, as I have been Googling the topics of canine blindness and depression for several weeks, but I really do appreciate you taking the time to do a little research for me. I am also following all the advice that I've found on those sites, such as staying upbeat around Lexie, and I've also been trying to treat her and the other dogs just as I did before she went blind. I'm not sure if Lexie will keep her position as alpha dog when it's all said and done, but I've decided I'm just going to leave that up to her and Sam to work out.
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Old 07-18-2012, 08:18 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Okay, it's been three days home, you said.

It's FAR, far too early to be assigning human labels like "depression" on your Lexie.

Dogs are so much more resilient than humans, and cope with change and loss in different ways, but generally live so much in the moment that they recover more easily.

I would be more concerned at this point that you have a physical complaint such as unmanaged (or undermanaged) pain, a resurgence of infection, or side-effects from medication, etc.

Have you called MedVet back to discuss this with staff there? I find they are awesome to work with, both during care, and on follow-up.

As to the future, just treat Lexie as normally as you possibly can--do make safety adjustments for her, but other than that, don't baby her, don't coddle her, allow her to return to a full capacity for her new situation.

I have a friend who has a foster Doberman who lost his sight to head trauma (detached retinas) and was in critical condition with a multitude of physical issues.

Once he gained his weight back, his infections were resolved, and he had healed his wounds, he became a right little cock-o'-the-walk

She has wood chips for about eighteen inches at the base of her fencelines and around her trees, to help him with navigating the yard, and if she moves furniture, she "shows" him the new pattern, and that's about that, as far as special accomodations.

He goes on walks (on lead, of course) with the other dogs, barks at the cows along the way, and is entirely convinced he could take on that ol' bull.
RedFawnRising: I totally agree that three days is far too soon to determine with certainty whether or not Lexie is actually experiencing some depression. I should have worded that part of my original post differently. I should have said that I've noticed some changes in Lexie's behavior lately that COULD be signs of depression. However, I do realize that a decreased appetite and lethargy could also just be a natural part of the recovery process, or they could even possibly be signs of a physical complication (God, please no!), just like you said. However, as far as that goes, I will say that she does not appear to be in any physical pain, she's on the proper antibiotics for her specific bacterial infections, which were much improved before her last surgery, and her incision sites look like they are healing very nicely.

As I was saying, though, you're completely right. I am probably jumping the gun a bit by assuming that my Lou is "slipping into a depression" this early in the game, but I'm just trying to be prepared for anything and everything at this point. Thanks for keeping the Nervous Nelly part of me in check, though. I need that sometimes.
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Old 07-18-2012, 08:20 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Glad to see you here!
Looks like you've gotten a little advice already. I love the bell on the other dogs idea.


Keep us up to date on your girl.
-Melissa and Cato.
Hey! Good to see you on here, too! I haven't put actual bells on the girls, but I did buy them new dog collars with metal ID tags, which jingle whenever they move around, so that Lexie will always know where her sisters are.
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Old 07-18-2012, 10:16 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I'm going to second the pain/meds thought if it's an appetite/behavioral change post surgery. I have no idea what shes on and how often, but considering the magnitude of that kinda surgery I'm guessing it's something strong. In my expiernce, some drugs, particuarly the really strong stuff like the morphine patch and other high strength painkillers can REALLY alter behavior. We actually had to get the patch off our girl and switch to oral meds cuz it really screwed with her. Consider discussing with your vet a new pain management strategy.
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Old 07-18-2012, 01:14 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I'm going to second the pain/meds thought if it's an appetite/behavioral change post surgery. I have no idea what shes on and how often, but considering the magnitude of that kinda surgery I'm guessing it's something strong. In my expiernce, some drugs, particuarly the really strong stuff like the morphine patch and other high strength painkillers can REALLY alter behavior. We actually had to get the patch off our girl and switch to oral meds cuz it really screwed with her. Consider discussing with your vet a new pain management strategy.
monicaei: Lexie was prescribed Tramadol and we were told to give her two tablets (I can't remember the milligrams) every 8-12 as needed for pain. As of last night, we've started weening her off this medicine because she no longer seems to need it as much. Before, we could tell when her pain medicine was wearing off because she would start to tremble (a sign of pain for Lexie). We haven't noticed her doing that for a couple of days, though, and she just seemed so alert last night that we decided not to give her any Tramadol before bed. She still seemed fine this morning and showing no signs of pain, so our plan is to just give her two pills before I leave for work, then play it by ear for the rest of the evening after we get home. Like I said, she definitely did seem more alert and "with it" yesterday evening, so I'm hoping your theory is correct and weening her completely off the Tramadol will help improve her overall mood.
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Old 07-18-2012, 02:20 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Yeah, tramadol is a pretty powerful painkiller. It would be WAY more likely to be the cause of going off her food than anything emotional. It can make them nauseous.

That being said, unless your vet says its ok to wean her off I wouldn't stop giving it. Dogs are very stoic, and if you are seeing signs of pain that means it's pretty bad. I would rather over medicate post op, than under medicate. I'd rather her be wonky and tired than alert and in pain. Seriously, just call the surgeon and say you are not happy with the side effects and want to try a different drug. People do it all the time, your vet won't mind. Heck, they will be impressed with you as a dog owner for noticing and caring.

I remember Mac did much better on tussigon. It made her really sleepy and relaxed, but her overall comfort level was much better than morphine (made her CRAZY) or tramadol (just "out of it" and still uncomfortable).

Your girl JUST had a major surgery. Now is the time for rest and healing! The right drugs make that possible!

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Old 07-18-2012, 06:22 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:30 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Received Horrible News Today

Lexie has Stage III carcinoma. I just found out this morning. Details can be read here: A New Life for Lexie
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:43 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I'm so sorry to hear that...my thoughts are with you and your girl as you're going this this difficult time.
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:47 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Lexie has Stage III carcinoma. I just found out this morning. Details can be read here: A New Life for Lexie
Very sorry to hear this.
Poor Lexie.
Thoughts and prayers are with your family.
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