Localized Siezures, high ALT, anemia, deafness…Any ideas? Advise?

  • Max, my 13 yr old male purebred Basenji dogchild has been having the following symptoms that the vet has yet to diagnose the cause:

    -HIGH LIVER ALT (300). A liver biopsy showed mottled look but no tumors, no cancerous looking tissue. Denamarin reduced ALT but not by much. He's on low protein diet and needs to be retested. He has a history of slightly elevated ALT, but never this high.
    -SIEZURES. Localized. They started about a year ago with a slight head tilt and are now full body. They're not grandmal but more like twitching or tremors. It starts in his face -eyes and ears twitching-or trembling - like sparklers going off in his brain, then it quickly moves to his torso then down to his back end. Like it's rolling through his body. They are brief (5 seconds or so), hard to catch, painless. He seem almost in a trance when they start but if he "snaps out of it" or I grab him they will stop. If he's standing, he will often take a step forward. I can't say how many times a day it occurs because they're hard to see, but at the minimum 2-3 daily.
    -ANEMIA. A recent blood test showed anemia. The vet put him on a vitamin tincture and retested him. Levels were back up to normal so we took him off the vitamins to see if the numbers will drop again. We'll be retesting in a week
    -DEAFNESS. For the last few years he's losing his hearing. I figured this is old age.
    -LIPOMAS. He has quite a few fatty tissue tumors. Many have been removed, but he has lots of them.
    -OVERALL HEALTH - He's not appearing to be in any pain. He is active, runs around, loves to eat. He looks great for his age and has slowed down as one would expect an older guy to do. He sleeps a lot but doesn't appear to be fatigued at all.

    He's been tested for lyme disease and lead poisoning. The vet doesn't think it's Cushings, or from the chemicals in Heartguard.

    Any ideas on what this is? Any similar experiences?

  • You need to get his throid levels checked! Hypothyroidism can cause seizures.
    See this link. http://www.apubasenjis.com/bhealth.html

  • Who did you get your Basenji from?… I would have his thyroid checked asap.... you might find that if low and put on medication it might help many of the problems...I know it did for my OJ... and he lived till 17yrs, 4 months. For sure deafness is old age related... I think that all of mine were just about deaf by age 14... and so far that would be 5 of them... The liver could just be due to old age too... how were the kidney values?
    In general, he sounds like he is doing well... you might want to ask your Vet about SAMe for the liver and/or using Milk Thistle...

  • Thanks for your replies! I will definitely get a thyroid test done. We have an appointment with a neurologist this week so I'll bring it up with her. Definitely test that before an MRI.

    One other questions I'd like to ask the Forum - what is the average lifespan of Basenji's? I'm trying to determine how much time Max has left under ordinary circumstances. That will help me determine if it is in fact something serious, if I should try treatment. I don't want Max to suffer unnessesarily just to buy him a few months of life.

    Pat - Max is from Zuri's Basenji's - Ken & Marilyn Leighton in Pleasanton. You probably know them, I noticed on your web site that one of yours is a Zuri too. I haven't spoken to them in ages. I hope they're doing well. Do you think it would be worth the effort to track down some of Max's littermates to see if they also have/had trouble with this?

  • Average lifespan is 14 to 16 yrs… but many are living longer than that. My Maggii, who came from Leightons was 16 1/2 when we lost her and my Mickii from Leighton's was 1 month short of her 16th birthday when we lost her.

    Ken is not doing well, he has late stage Parkenkins and is confined to a bed. Marilyn is holding her own. And yes, I know them well, we only live about 2 blocks from each other

    Who is Max's sire and dam? I would most likely know any of his relatives... but really, I don't think that it will really help with any of Max's problems at this stage. It is the time and age that they all start to decline, some faster then others.

  • My last 3 died at different ages. 17-1/2, 15-1/2 and 14-1/2.

  • Zuki is almost 16 years old. She has had high liver values for years (500 at last check). She has been treated for Cushing's for over a year. She had surgery for thyroid cancer 2 years ago at Michigan State University. The surgeon wanted us to do radiation and chemo and we opted not to. The surgeon said that the cancer was "on the move" and her long term prognosis was poor - that was 2 years and 4 months ago! I'm glad I didn't pay the money for further treatment. You just never know how long they have and you can only do the best you can.

  • And don't forget the parathyroid - a quite separate gland. Hypoparathyroidism can cause seizures through lack of calcium. Vitamin D is also an amazing supplement, eg for increasing the take of of calcium when calcium supplements are necessary, but also to aid any immune system or auto-immune problems.

  • Good news and bad news from Max's latest appointment. He had a neurological evaluation and we did many blood tests on him - no more anemia, ALT is now 200 (improvement), his bile acid tests were normal, Vit D/Calcium normal, everything else is normal. We're waiting on the the thyroid results (based on Dr. Dodd's panel) which will come in next week. The DVM is pretty sure that he is not suffering from thyroid issues. Which is good news and bad news. Basically this means the siezures are probably a brain issue - right side tumor most likely (from some subtle results of the evaluation and his focalized siezures).

    Next step would be MRI and treatment of what is found, IF they find anything at all. At his age, I'm not sure we would treat no matter what the issue because I dont want him suffering through any serious surgeries, or chemo or radiation. I also would be severly financially stressed by spending $2k on the MRI and $6-10k on sugery. Since the siezures have been slowly getting worse - after 1.5 yrs they're still subtle and seem to cause no discomfort, maybe he could live a few more years pain free.

    Does anyone know of any clinics that offer more affordable MRI's?

  • Houston

    I am so sorry to hear that you still don't know what is wrong with Max.
    I sure hope you get some answers soon..

    We will be keeping all of you in our thoughts and prayers..

  • Sorry to hear about Maxs problems. I cant offer much exept tp tell you about my experience with Benji. At approx 13 years he experienced a grand mal seizure, the vet did various tests and found that he had high liver enzymes, they came to the conclusion that something was destroying his liver but didn't know what. We were very upset and confused an MRI was mentioned along with other tests. The vet pointed out to us that it would be traumatic for Benji and whatever they found, if anything we would still end up just treating the syptoms. We decided to carry on treating the symptoms and he had a further 18 months with us. We had our ups and downs with the treatment but i would say it bought him quality time.

  • @k.rass:

    Does anyone know of any clinics that offer more affordable MRI's?

    You could contact UC Davis and see what their price is. Sometimes they are cheaper sometimes they are not.

  • In relation to liver problems, I can't help recalling how we used aloe vera gel, taken internally, to help my Westphalian gelding at the grand age of 19 when he was diagnosed with liver disease (unspecified).

    We consulted David Urch, the well-known vet who has written a book which I highly recommend on the uses of Aloe Vera for animals (many species), and he gave us a recommended dosage (in this case by the half-bucket load!). In under a year he had fully recovered (actually it was probably under 6 months but we took no chances and continued treatment for a year). He went from the ribby appearance of a third-world cow to a wonderfully fit-looking horse again. I still ride him at the even grander age of 25.

    I have no idea if it would help Max but, as I have with our Bing's problems, I'd recommend you consider trying it for a while.

  • I am fostering a 15 year old, will be 16 in December that has tremors. She had a thorough checkup by a specialist including an ultrasound. I was concerned that she had a tumor but nothing was found. Since these tremors were not seizures, I assume they are a symptom of old age or as part of dementia. The tremors remind me of Parkinsons in humans. They are much more noticeable when she is standing still. Her blood tests were normal for a dog her age.

    I had another elderly rescue, 12-14 years old that had tremors in the rear legs. I only noticed them when she stood still.

    Jennifer Hill

  • I have a question for Jennifer (dcmclcm4) regarding the tremors of your foster. Are they full body tremors or a particular limb? Does it occur many times throughout the day or is it constant? I would describe Max's as Parkinsons like also, starting in his face as twitches and then moving along his body. One vet said he's never heard of a dog with Parkinsons but maybe these tremors could be caused by something like that.

    I also find it very interesting that high liver enzymes seem to be so common with siezure like symptoms. I wonder if it's related despite what the DVMs say. Is liver problems another issue with the breed?

    Once again - Thanks so much for all your answers- It really helps me to have more information.

  • We had similar-sounding twitches as a result of calcium deficiency in our Bing. Giving him a calcium + Vit D worked in 30 minutes!

  • My Catfish had high liver enzymes at one point, but we changed food and meds etc and they went away. She also had partial seziures and some GI issues… it turned out she had Addisons disease probably caused by a pituitary tumor. Addisons is hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague and point to a number of things and it's also hard to test. If you don't test at the right time- during a "crisis" that's severe enough- you get a negative. We did more blood work on that dog in the short 3 1/2 years we had her then most dogs would have in their lives! I don't know that your boy has it though, this sounds gradual(?) and it usually strikes young to mid aged bitches.

    I'm surprised you're vet hasn't wanted you to try anit-seizure meds- PB would be out because of the liver, but potassium bromide is liver safe. There are a lot of other less-used meds too. If they truly are seizures, the more he has, the more he'll get, and they could progress to grand-mals without treatment. I guess he could have a brain or spinal tumor, that's causing compression, but I would think he'd have other neuro symptoms by now.... How's his gait etc? any new limps, trouble getting up/off of things(not necessarily pain- even just seeming unsure). Have you done a tick panel? Lyme and other tick-born things can cause a myriad of symptoms.

    Anyway- you might want to check out the GARD diet to help bring his liver #s down. Milk thistle/SAM-e are other things you should check out, it can do wonders. Catfish was on taurine daily, 500 mg, I think 250 mg is the dosage for a b sized dog but you can't give too much.


    I hope you figure it out and have many good years left!

  • Dogs can, and do, get parkinson's. In fact, since we now have advances in medicines and dogs are living until older, vets are noticing it more and more in elderly dogs. I had one 17 1/2 year old with dementia. So dogs do get neurological diseases just like humans. The University of Missouri are doing studies on Parkinson's in canines.

    Here is a link to an article re this.


    I'm sure if you google it, you will find a lot of info on Parkinson's and neurological disorders in dogs.

  • To update Max's condition - he's been a very needy B and following me everywhere, then couldn't lay down with out wincing. Everytime he did get down, he couldn't roll over without yiping. Which meant every night he'd yelp at least 5 times. I took him to the vet and after x-rays found that he had a slipped disk. Now he's on a light steroid and pain killers to reduce inflamation and no walks for 3 wks! Very difficult for a B! And when we start walks again we'll use a harness. The good news is his liver ALT went from 300 to 150 after a low protein diet with Denamarin supplements. I just started him on a fish oil supplement and he has been getting canned sweet pototo or pumkin with everymeal. I think it has also kept his seizures from getting worse. The neurologist tested him for Vit D dificiency but he was ok on that but I may just supplement him on that anyway as I don't think more would hurt him.

    I think my next move may be acupuncture to help the seizures and liver. Has anyone else had this type of treatment? Do B's mind the needles?

    Once again, thanks to everyone for your helpful insights!

  • Thanks for the update, poor Max, i hope his slipped disc gets better soon. Good news about his liver value

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