Case of the week - Maya's story

Some of you may have seen pictures of Maya in the Ask a Banbury Vet Facebook Group. She, and her owner Hel have been on a stressful journey with a serious eye condition which ultimately resulted in the loss of her eye. I was so impressed with the way they both handled what was a frustrating and difficult time that I asked Hel how they managed to cope:

Maya’s cherry eye first appeared when she was about 3 or 4 years old. It was quite scary but the vets in Canada told us how to gently massage it back into place and that there was no infection. When it stopped being easily put back into place, they told us to keep an eye on it and as long as it wasn’t red raw and dried out there was nothing needed to be done. In all the time in Canada Maya didn’t have any problems.

But returning to the UK it started to bulge out more and then the infections started. We were given antibiotics and was never once told about any alternative treatment. It was through research online that I found that something could be done. Its horrible to have this little four legged fur baby completely dependant on me to make decisions. I’d been to 3 different vets in Banbury before finding Mansion Hill and after Maya’s mast cell tumour last year, I felt brave enough to ask about her eye.

We met with Ewan who was brilliant and he directed us to David who explained what could be done. This was after the 3rd infection and I knew we had to get it sorted. Maya was suffering badly from separation anxiety from the loss of my husband and that just seemed to make her infections worst. Her cherry eye was burning red and looked really painful. So at the beginning of the year I decided enough was enough. I have good pet insurance and after chatting with them decided to help Maya. Surgery is probably the hardest things to put your dog through but the wise head steps in and sets the worries to one side. That and having complete faith in the vet. Everything was explained the pros and cons but the thought that Maya would have a day without pain and feeling low far out weighed the cons. Having a very supportive friend and dog groomer Mel to help me brave the questions I needed to ask the vet was a massive help. Not only was I finding a voice for Maya I was finding a voice for myself and knowing it was ok to ask the daft questions, and standing up for Maya too.

A cherry eye is a prolapse of a gland in the eyelid. It protrudes over the cornea and can lead to corneal ulcers. We try to replace these glands but once they’ve prolapsed they are more likely to prolapse again- even after surgery. David performed the surgery for cherry eye replacement, but surgery is never guaranteed – an old vet once told me “surgery is the fastest way to get into trouble”- however sometimes it’s the only thing that can be done, and vets and owners need to realise the risks involved.

Maya had the surgery but due to an ulcer that developed in her eye she needed emergency surgery down at a specialist eye hospital to provide a corneal graft. The vet down there told me she would rather save the eye than remove it, and all this time in the back of my head I wanted to ask about the eye being removed but I felt very intimidated by this lady and I was complete devastated that she had cut Maya’s cherry eye stitches but in the same breath told me that if the cherry eye reappeared she’d happily redo the surgery to correct it

Unfortunately the damage done to the eye over the years caused an ulcer which was so deep the contents of the eye began to leak out. Hel was upset David’s work had been reversed during the corneal graft by the specialist eye hospital.

So many thoughts but the most reoccurring one was I don’t want anyone else to touch my dog unless it was Ewan, David or John. Unfortunately the cherry eye returned, once again I made the decision to try again with the surgery knowing full well that the chances of it failing again where higher due to the scaring tissue. David was brilliant and offered so much support. So after surgery number 3 to Mayas left eye it looked hopeful. She had a good period of time infection and cherry eye free. When the cherry eye popped again I was gutted, all I could think of was this was so unfair on Maya and I felt guilty and ashamed not to have asked the emergency vet to remove the eye.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool and Hel made the best decision she could at the time, but it’s so hard not to look back on decisions and blame ourselves.

I came into to see David who got the cherry eye back into place, but it only lasted a few hours before it popped back out. And in my head it bulged bigger than ever and was red raw. The next day I came in to see John. John tried to get it to go back in but failed – he started to explain there was another surgery that involved grafting to the bone and at that point, I got brave and asked “can you just remove the eye?”. I remember asking you if it was wrong to ask that question- I was petrified to ask that question, what if I was a bad owner for asking it? What if you told me off? But the look on John’s face told me I was right to ask and from that the decision was made. It’s horrible to think that your dog is going to be different to the everyday doggie you’ve loved for 10 years and omg what if I don’t love her any more because she’ll be different.

Removing an eye is an extreme decision to make, but Hel made absolutely the right decision. However, coping with a dog with only one eye can be tricky- we are used to the way our pets look, and the loss of an eye can really make a difference to their appearance.

Maya had her eye removed and John told me it would be a shock picking her up, but in a week it will look better and in a month you won’t notice. Yes what a shock, but not once did I regret my decision. John and David have helped Maya so much. Now a month on and yes again you’re right I don’t notice, except where the muscle still winks it very cute, and I couldn’t love her anymore if possible. She has learnt to listen more for directions and I always make sure she sees my hands to help with commands. She doesn’t seem as sad any more and much to her relief our GSD Quinn doesn’t have to be her guild dog to get around. She still has her mad five minutes in the garden chasing the other 2 dogs and she still steals my pillow at night. She is more snuggly and more under foot. In all this was the right decision for Maya and by going through this whole year so far the right decision for me. I know its ok to ask questions and I know its ok to voice difference of opinion, the world doesn’t fail apart because we don’t want to offend or upset by our choices, Ewan, David and John helped me confront my own fears by having honest open conversations that in the end helped Maya become the (pirate) dog she is today. No longer plagued by the cherry eye and the pain that came with it……

Hel stuck to her guns, despite the stress and anxiety of having a much loved dog with a serious problem that resisted all attempts to treat. I’ve been so impressed with her attitude during this whole difficult period, and I hope her story will help others in the same predicament.