A brave dog has shown ‘bulldog spirit’ after a tragic genetic condition resulted in her losing both her eyes.
Tiggi, an American bulldog rescue, was diagnosed with an extremely severe and painful case of Kerato-Conjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or dry eye – a condition which caused her tear glands to die – in the summer of last year. Sadly Tiggi’s condition became so painful that the only option was to remove her eyes.
Since the operation, owner Lindsay Webb, her family and Head Vet Rachel Dean at Lymm Veterinary Surgery, part of Willows Veterinary Group, have turned their attention to helping the 10-year-old cope and now she is back to her happy, chatty self.
Lindsay says, “I really feel like we have turned a corner and our happy dog has returned. She is chatting to us again, seems more relaxed and I am 110 per cent sure we have done the right thing for her. I have no regrets at all about removing her eyes and making her life a comfortable, pain-free one again.
“She was in so much pain at one point that my daughter Alex and I decided that letting her go was probably going to be the best thing.
“But when the time came to do it, we had a real heart to heart with vet Rachel and her colleague Geraldine and we jointly decided that it was worth a try to remove the eyes and see how things went.
“Removing the eyes was removing the pain and even if the worst thing happened and she didn’t adjust and she still had to be put down, then at least she wouldn’t have been in pain when it happened.”
Head Vet Rachel Dean explains the lengths they had all gone to in an effort to save Tiggi’s sight. Rachel explains, “We can do a test to measure the levels of tears a dog is producing and when we did this, Tiggi’s result was extremely low and at times when we tested it, it was zero, so we diagnosed her with a condition known as dry eye.”
Tiggi was referred to an eye specialist for a complex drop regime consisting of six different types of drops 12 times a day to try to restimulate the tear glands. With no success, operations were carried out to reroute salivary glands from within her cheeks to her eyes.
For a time, results showed some improvement but eventually, one of the side effects became too great to manage. Rachel explains, “The problem with rerouting the saliva gland is that saliva contains calcium which can be damaging to the eye when it builds up on the cornea.
“We give special eye drops to help reduce the calcium crystals from forming on the cornea but unfortunately for Tiggi, she became oversensitive to these drops which meant they could no longer be administered and she then ended up with severe ulcers and infections in both eyes.”
Rachel says she’s thrilled to see Tiggi now making such excellent progress as a blind dog, “Every time we see Tiggi now, her spirits are brighter. We can all feel sad about her not being able to see anymore but I really don’t think Tiggi is as bothered as we think. She’s shown a real bulldog spirit.
“A large part of the sensory input for a dog is from their sense of smell so actually if they lose their hearing or sight, then they are still able to adjust relatively well and Tiggi is a fantastic example of this.”
As part of Tiggi’s rehabilitation, Lindsay has implemented a new training regime and made changes at home. She says, “She is rehabilitating remarkably well. We have had to retrain her using voice commands now because before we used to use a lot of hand signals. I am still teaching her left and right but she already understands, ‘careful’, ‘stop’, ‘wait’ ‘step up and step down’.
“We have bought her a dog halo, specially for blind dogs, which helps prevent them bumping in to things and it has been very useful for helping her map out the house. I also use different aromatherapy oils to help her sense where she is.
“She has lavender by her bed and jasmine by the back door, geranium in the living room and ylang ylang by the front door. We wear cat bells round our ankles so she knows where we are, can hear us moving around and doesn’t feel alone and I have a different bell for our walks together.”
Before coming into Lindsay’s life, it’s believed Tiggi was cooped up in a small flat and at some point had suffered physical abuse which had made her fearful and aggressive. Lindsay spent many years working with Tiggi to deal with her behaviour problems but says she has never shown aggression to Lindsay or her family.
Lindsay says, “She was a very easy dog to fall in love with and there was no question that we would ever have given up on her.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Rachel and her team at Lymm Veterinary Surgery who have gone above and beyond to help us care for Tiggi.”