Hello all! First, I want to say this has been my greatest resource for information as a new Cavalier puppy owner. I have been on this forum every night since I got her (almost 5 weeks). I would have introduced myself in the "introduce yourself" section, but I have far too much to get off my chest and it's not appropriate for that forum.
My husband and I are the proud, doting, happy, blessed owners of a beautiful ruby Cavalier named Lady. She is almost 5 months old.
As much as it is going to pain everyone to read (and now pains me after what I learned, which I feel like I could write a book at this point!), we bought her from our local Petland. We both had a lot of experience with cats, and own two sweet humane shelter kitties for years now, but very little experience with puppies/dogs. We knew we wanted a Cavalier after admiring a few we knew from afar and read about the breed in a few books, but never online. Looking back, I realize that I would have learned a lot about reputable breeders if I hadn't only read the surface-information found in books that tells you basic temperament and health information and dug a little deeper. I moved to my husband's hometown a few years ago and was not used to Pet Stores where I am from. I don't recall ever seeing one. That being said, the stigma that surrounds them has only resonated with me after my own personal experience. I am extremely new to the dog world!
I have been in the store several times for cat litter, cat toys, etc. and always took a glance at the lonely caged pups. Young and naive, I never thought about the stories behind them. It was the same story that's been heard a million times before, I totally fell in love with her the minute I saw her. My husband and I took her out to play and the emotions completely took over. He fell in love, I was in love, it was pitiful. Of all the times we have seen puppies, it never affected us like she did. As soon as I went to hand her back, my emotions completely took over and I started sobbing...and I'm the opposite of a cry baby! We left, but quickly turned around and went back.
To make a long story short, we were almost out of the door when I noticed (I swear it was at the exact same time) her right eye was slightly shut and seemed to be bothering her and she started coughing. I mentioned it to the girl and asked to see the owner. She said he was not there on weekends, but she would send so and so from the back who will assure her clean bill of health. They sent out a very nonchalant worker who explained to me that she *may* have had kennel cough, but she has finished an antibiotic and is fine now and that it will take weeks for the cough to subside. Her eye, according to him (which now I think, "Why would I believe them?"), was conjunctivitis from having the RI and gave me a neosporin-like ointment. Both of my shelter kitties came home with respiratory infections and conjunctivitis so, stupidly, I thought the recovery would be just as quick and painless.
That first day I kept a watch on her closely and noticed her eye had to be more than just conjunctivitis irritating her. She has tear stains down one side and absolutely not a drop on the other. I knew it had to be very dry. In addition, I knew she couldn't have finished an entire antibiotic and still sound the way she did. Fast breathing, congested, coughing, sneezing, etc. At this point, I was extremely paranoid and panicking. A little too late, I turned to google and started massively researching. The more I read, the more it felt like someone was stabbing me in the heart! I'm sure I don't have to explain all of the revelations I came to, but it wasn't pretty. We immediately took her to the vet the next day. Strangely, the vet I already used, trusted and had loved (for my kitties) was the go-to vet for this particular Petland. My vet told me that, not to jump to conclusions, but she clearly hadn't been treated well enough for her respiratory infection. He gave her a booster shot in the rear, an antibiotic and cough syrup. He also said to continue using the neosporin ointment, as they may be right about the Conjunctivitis. I pointed out to him that dry eye is commonly seen in the breed and he stated he's only seen it in elderly Cavs (yeah...right). I also asked him to check her heart and knees. It annoyed me that I had to ask him to check all 3 of those things. According to him, her heart and knees are fine.
Luckily, the medicine for her RI cleared her up just fine. At her one week check up I brought up her eye again and told him I have seen no improvement and that I am sure it's dry eye. He disagreed again, and gave me a drop to try this time. I went home and read up on the drop and saw that it was basically the same thing I was already using, just in a drop form. Maybe stronger. I was getting extremely angry at this point! This drop did nothing but dry her eye out more. She constantly had gunk, could barely open her eye and looked pitiful - especially in the morning. Thankfully, despite all of this, she was as happy as a pup can be and just the most loving, sweet, licky, huggy girl on earth! I may be biased, but I don't believe there's a sweeter pup around.
I called back again (trust me, this vet HATES me at this point and I could care less) and requested another follow up for her eye. This time I saw a different doctor at the office who was fairly young. I explained to him that I was sure it was dry eye and wanted to go ahead and take the eye test to confirm. He said he did not know what eye test I was referring to (What?????!!!), so I explained to him it was the Schirmer tear test and he perked up. Reluctant, he explained to me that he was sure Lady would be fine if I just continued the drops I was using or the Neosporin ointment ( can you believe these people???? ). I demanded the eye test at this point. It took three times of asking for it. Finally, he gave her the test and revealed 20mm on left eye and 4mm on right eye. His synopsis: "I guess you were right!" He gave us Optimmune to use twice daily.
After 2+ weeks of using Optimmune we saw no change again. Absolutely no change. I would lay awake at night reading as much as I could to try and find answers. I would rock her and kiss her and tell her I was so sorry I haven't been able to help her! At that point, I was feeling helpless. My husband and I were distraught, knowing nothing we were doing was helping her. I had not received any artificial tears from the vet and read a lot of suggestions online, but was terrified to put anything in her eye that I was self-medicating her with without a vet's nod.
I contemplated seeing another vet, but I knew that an Ophthalmologist was our answer and needed the referral from my vet. At the rate her eye was looking, I didn't have time to fool around with the same song and dance at another vet (I'll be honest, after all that I read and realizing there was only one board certified vet in this city, I didn't believe I would get any better answer elsewhere). The more I thought about it, the more I realized that she has gone nearly 5 months with a severely dry eye. It made me sick to my stomach.
I scheduled a 4th appointment with the vet. I saw another doctor this time (I swear I think they were tossing me around b/c they were sick of me, my attitude, my questioning, etc) but I am so thankful I did see her. I told her the story and she seemed very ashamed that I was on my 4th visit talking about her eye. She immediately took her back to do a Schirmer and stain test (why this wasn't done before is beyond me?). She came back and revealed that she already had developed a corneal ulcer and that her Schirmer test showed no change from the last time. She talked of upping her Optimmune dosage to three times a day, gave me artificial tears, etc. etc. and I just stared at her. She gave me no answers, but said it was something else to try. I told her I was not going to accept more medication and wasn't leaving without a plan of action. She knew what I meant and asked if I wanted to be referred to an Ophthalmologist about an hour and a half away and I said, "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
We took the first appointment available. This was only a few days ago that we came back from the Oph with the results. As it turns out, she has microphthalmia and lacrimal gland hyperplasia. The Oph we saw was fabulous. She knew within minutes what was wrong with her and loved and kissed on her and told me things to look out for with Cavs. She gave me loads of information and answered any questions I had. She gave me a full two page diagnosis and prognosis report, including a note specifying that the breeder should be notified that her parents should not be bred (as if they care). As hard as it is to believe, for her condition, Optimmune was simply too weak and mild. We're only 3 full days on this new regimine and her eye looks so much better. In addition, we have loaded up on Genteal and Refresh Optive to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if it started to come out of her nose. HA!
Praise anyone who read all the way this far, I wanted to share my story because, after all of my reading, I honestly didn't find out too much about the condition that Lady has. I have read that it is fairly common in Cavs, but cannot find information that is in depth as it relates to Cavs. What I have read about microphthalmia frightens me because it states her retina will detach and that most pups with the condition are blind in the eye or both eyes have the condition. Her vision in her eye is fine (Praise the lord!!!) as of right now and retina looks fine. She mostly suffers with the severe dryness, which is a result of the underdeveloped eye.
In addition, I wanted to share what an eye opener this has been for me. I am still on this roller coaster ride that is a new puppy owner (we were married without children! We 110% live for this baby each day now!) but mostly importantly have learned so many lessons about responsible dog ownership and finding the right breeder. I would never, ever, ever regret Lady. I regret that I was naive and helped keep a place such as that stay open by falling for it. But I cannot be too angry...I know in my heart that there was not another puppy for us. She was made for us and meant to be ours. I often think about what would become of her if someone else got to her. There are so many careless people in this world who may not have been willing to spend the time or money to find answers and give her relief from an eye that nearly had zero tear production. As a side note, we are currently in a back and forth with the store. I can't imagine how it will actually turn out. It was amazing how aloof the owner reacted. He called back and claimed the breeder was notified ...less than 30 minutes after I dropped off the Ophthalmologist's report to him. I realize that I can't expect an ethical response/reaction/action to take place.
I have a couple of other routine (I HOPE!) puppy issues that I can post elsewhere. I look forward to posting on here and not just lurking!
Phew! SO....does anyone have a sweet baby with this condition that I can relate with and talk to? I would be greatly appreciative of any advice!