I said a week or so ago that I would write more about GME, the autoimmune disease that our dog Penny was hospitalized for a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I really don’t feel like doing this right now because there’s a ton going on and I’m stressed, but self-discipline… blah, blah… following through… yada, yada… whatever.
The Wikipedia page for granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) is pretty good and thorough so if you’re into a lot of the medical lingo, check it out. I’ll try to explain in with smaller, less Latin-y words.
GME is a nasty little thing that somehow or another causes a dog’s immune system to think that it’s own brain is the enemy. The immune system starts attacking the brain/brain stem/spinal cord, and eventually the dog develops lesions on these areas. The lesions can cause a variety of symptoms, most commonly loss of appetite, extreme lethargy, and paralysis.
GME doesn’t have a known cause. There doesn’t seem to be anything in common from case to case that would suggest why GME happens to some dogs and not to others. It is not infectious, either. It is, however, more common in small breed female dogs of young and middle age (i.e., Penny had just turned 4 when this happened to her), but no one knows why.
GME has an extremely rapid onset. In Penny’s case, she went from completely normal on a Friday, to vomiting on Saturday, to total loss of appetite and lethargy on Monday, to right-side paralysis on Thursday. So, less than a week from completely normal to completely unable to function.
GME also has a pretty dim prognosis most of the time. With normal treatment, dogs with GME typically live anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. There are cases with much longer survival rates, but they’re definitely outliers.
What all this adds up to is a really ugly, sad little disease that vets and pet owners alike hate with all their might.
We’re soldiering on, and Penny continues to improve with her little dose of steroids every day. We’re praying for a much time as we can get with a healthy, happy Penny.