Phoenix's Seizure Care

Phoenix's Seizure Care

From Cayden Mak

Phoenix's seizures came as a shock to me, and all our friends at our neighborhood park. Help me get the best care for the goodest boy -- the sweetest Australian cattle dog who has already overcome a rough start in life.

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Update #5

about 1 month ago

Hi everyone!

I have some exciting updates to share.

First, we met our initial fundraising goal! The total cost so far of Phoenix's care is currently around $8700, so the $5000 we've raised (less fees) is covering over half. I'm so grateful and Phoenix is too. I'm raising our goal a little to see if we can't meet a stretch goal of $8700 -- it would mean a lot if we could cover 100% of the cost of his various hospitalizations and diagnostic procedures!

Second, a few updates about seizures and diagnosis.

Last week on Wednesday Phoenix had a spinal tap to try and figure out if the inflammation in his brain had any treatable cause. We learned on Monday that there's nothing there -- which is good and bad. The downside is that the official diagnosis is ideopathic epilepsy, which means our boy will be on anticonvulsants, perhaps for life. This is totally manageable, and we'll be back to the neurologist in April 2022 to check up and see how he's doing on the drugs.

Last week Phoenix also had his second seizure episode. The good news is that the phenobarbital "turned down the volume" on his symptoms -- unlike his first seizure episode, the initial seizure looked like suddnely sitting upright and staring at the wall for about 45 seconds. It took me a while to realize what was happening, at which point I gave him his rescue medication. Since the symptoms were new (and I'm an anxious dog parent) I took him to the hospital anyway -- he stayed there for the day for observation, but according to hospital staff he stopped having seizures about 45 minutes after I gave him the rescue medication, which means I just need to wait a little longer after dosing him for it to take effect!

We are working on adjusting to our new rhythm of life, as well as starting to think about what long term management means for his care when I return to work. I'm feeling optimistic that his condition is manageable, and he's feeling happy he doesn't have to experience general anesthesia anytime soon.

That's all from the rainy (!) Bay Area -- as you can see Phoenix is staying cozy! Hope you are all doing well too.

More Info

On July 21, 2021, I brought Phoenix home from the Milo Foundation. I knew I was getting a special Australian cattle dog, and not just because he is deaf. He endured a lot in his first three years of life, including surviving as a stray in Merced County, California, and a serious chemical burn all over his back. I knew as soon as I met him he'd be my dog -- his handsome coat, intelligent eyes, gentle manner, and curious outlook won me over immediately.

What I didn't know was that Phoenix has a seizure disorder. While we're still seeking a definitive diagnosis, on September 15 Phoenix suddenly had a seizure at our neighborhood dog park. He had a total of eight or nine seizures during this first cluster, in spite of receiving top-notch care at our local emergency vet.

The emergency room visit and hospital stay cost $3250, and we have an upcoming appointment with a neurologist to try and identify the cause of Phoenix's seizures. I'm anticipating a significant cost to this specialized care, which will likely include advanced diagnostics like an MRI. Veterinary MRIs require general anaesthesia, which make them more expensive than human MRIs -- I was warned by the emergency vet it could cost $5000-$6000 just to figure out a treatment plan.

I'm prepared to do this because Phoenix has been an absolute dream. I adopted him after my last dog, who I inherited from my late mother, passed away in April. In so many ways, he's just like Merlin: smart, motivated, and playful. Since bringing him home, he's learned 18 hand signals, from obedience (sit, stay, wait) to tricks (shake, roll over, hug). He loves hitting the trails in the Oakland hills and playing with his friends at our neighborhood park. He's more than a best friend -- he's helped me process a lot of the grief of the past year and a half.

I'm currently between jobs as an organizer and nonprofit leader, and don't have the money to cover this large, unexpected cost for my new best friend's care. I can afford to cover half the highest estimated cost at the maximum, so that's our goal. Please help me care for the goodest boy, who deserves the best after a rough start in life.

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Cayden Mak posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #5

Hi everyone!

I have some exciting updates to share.

First, we met our initial fundraising goal! The total cost so far of Phoenix's care is currently around $8700, so the $5000 we've raised (less fees) is covering over half. I'm so grateful and Phoenix is too. I'm raising our goal a little to see if we can't meet a stretch goal of $8700 -- it would mean a lot if we could cover 100% of the cost of his various hospitalizations and diagnostic procedures!

Second, a few updates about seizures and diagnosis.

Last week on Wednesday Phoenix had a spinal tap to try and figure out if the inflammation in his brain had any treatable cause. We learned on Monday that there's nothing there -- which is good and bad. The downside is that the official diagnosis is ideopathic epilepsy, which means our boy will be on anticonvulsants, perhaps for life. This is totally manageable, and we'll be back to the neurologist in April 2022 to check up and see how he's doing on the drugs.

Last week Phoenix also had his second seizure episode. The good news is that the phenobarbital "turned down the volume" on his symptoms -- unlike his first seizure episode, the initial seizure looked like suddnely sitting upright and staring at the wall for about 45 seconds. It took me a while to realize what was happening, at which point I gave him his rescue medication. Since the symptoms were new (and I'm an anxious dog parent) I took him to the hospital anyway -- he stayed there for the day for observation, but according to hospital staff he stopped having seizures about 45 minutes after I gave him the rescue medication, which means I just need to wait a little longer after dosing him for it to take effect!

We are working on adjusting to our new rhythm of life, as well as starting to think about what long term management means for his care when I return to work. I'm feeling optimistic that his condition is manageable, and he's feeling happy he doesn't have to experience general anesthesia anytime soon.

That's all from the rainy (!) Bay Area -- as you can see Phoenix is staying cozy! Hope you are all doing well too.

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Cayden Mak posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #4

Hi friends,

Phoenix is back in the hospital today after another seizure episode I couldn't control at home. I'm feeling pretty deflated about the whole thing, especially since he seemed to be doing so well on the phenobarbital. They weren't grand mal seizures like in his first episode -- in fact, I wasn't sure what was happening at first. These seizures involve disorientation, a lot of staring at the wall, and exhaustion. He had several over the course of 30 minutes, and I decided that it was risky not to have him in a vet's care, since the rescue medicine didn't seem to do much for him.

In diagonstic news, his spinal tap went well on Wednesday, but we have to wait until Monday afternoon for results. This new development has made waiting feel much less tolerable, even though our neurologist has been very prompt about delivering test results this whole time.

I don't have much else to say about things since I'm feeling pretty down. I'm trying to remind myself that we're giving him the best care possible and that is worth it. But it's hard not to feel kind of down about this new turn.

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Cayden Mak posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #3

Phoenix got his MRI today, and while he was not sure about going into the building with the anesthesiologist he thoroughly charmed everyone once he went in. Because everything's delivered digitally, I was able to meet with Dr. Jurney, the neurologist, this afternoon -- just a few hours after we got home from the procedure.

The brain images she showed me showed no major abnormalities or masses -- his brain is basically normal. There are a few areas where she and the radiologist identified some inflammation, which shows up on the scan as light spots around the edges of the brain. As a result, she recommended we do a spinal tap to look into the causes of this inflammation. She told me that it inflammation of this sort could be caused by an autoimmune disease, or it could be some kind of infection (she mentioned tick-borne illnesses or fungal infections as typical, although they aren't very common here in California). It's still possible that the inflammation is nothing serious and he is, after all this, a very special boy with epilepsy.

Phoenix is sleepy from the anesthesia but was excited to get some food (finally!) this afternoon. The spinal tap is going to be an added expense, up to $1500 more, but getting to the bottom of this is worth it!

Thanks again for your support -- we couldn't do this without you.

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Cayden Mak posted a new update:
about 1 month ago

Update #2

Hey everyone!

We just got back from our appointment with Dr. Jurney. She had some interesting insights to share based on her observation of Phoenix, including some that are a little concerning. Big thanks to Dan who took us to the appointment in San Mateo.

Dr. Jurney pointed out that Phoenix's extremely low energy level (for a cattle dog) might actually be a symptom -- when he was in the exam room, he displayed a low level of activity that she found odd. His pupils were much more dialated than she expected in full daytime light, and they showed a low level of responsiveness to bright lights, which may also be a symptom. She said she was curious about structural brain issues, and recommended we schedule the MRI.

Of course, she also said he still could just be a uniquely laid-back cattle dog who happens to have congenital deafness and epilepsy. We'll hopefully find out more on Friday.

Photo: from our Oregon camping trip, Phoenix sleeping in the backseat of a car with his head on the center console.

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Cayden Mak posted a new update:
2 months ago

Update #1

Hey everyone, thank you so much for an incredible first day! We're already almost 40% to our goal (including some friends who have sent me money directly via Cashapp). If you have any ideas about where to share this fundraiser further, I"d love to hear them.

At this point you might be wondering what we'll do with money raised that exceeds the goal. First, if there are additional expenses beyond $5000, which there likely will be, we'll use it for those. Any money raised in excess of that will be donated to the Milo Foundation, where I adopted Phoenix, so they can pull more amazing dogs and cats out of high-kill shelters and help them find forever homes. Giving more animals their best chance at a charmed life is what Phoenix would want, too. As a bonus, here's our gotcha-day photo from the Milo Foundation Sanctuary in Willits in July!

(Attached photo: Cayden and Natalie pose in front of the Milo Foundation Sanctuary sign with a small black dachsund-chihuahua mix and Phoenix, smiling between them.)

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