My dog Oscar has Idiopathic Destructive Rhinitis. This means that something has eaten away at the structures inside the top of his nose, both soft and bony, and that he has a void where there should be a labyrinth. I did the “My dog’s got no nose,” joke but I didn’t think it was very funny this time.

Oscar has had a camera up his nose and a CT scan to try and find the cause of the problem and antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to sort it out. The specialist vet could not determine the cause of the problem, but the antibiotics made it better temporarily. Oscar’s nose stopped running and bleeding for a week until he met up with first my cousin and then my friend Ania, both of whom have lovely dog friends, both of whom he loves. His jumping up to give them a big kiss backfired and by last Saturday afternoon he was sneezing blood everywhere. At one point he was curled up asleep at my husband’s feet and obviously dreaming about chasing something. Not bunnies – he’s never met a bunny – but probably a squirrel. Or a cat. Anyway, my husband noticed that poor Oscar was sleeping in a small pool of blood. This went on, with Oscar sneezing big red clouds and us trying to mob up all the crimson drops on our nubuck sofas and cream woollen carpet. Then we decided to take him to the emergency vet’s.

The vet put poor Oscar under heavy sedation and explained that this would ease the bleeding by lowering his blood pressure. Because every time our poor, excitable, friendly Flatcoat finds something to set his heart racing, which is about every 5 minutes, his blood pressure rises and blood flows through the wounds in his nose, ruining any healing that has managed to take place.

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Poor Oscar is on tranquilisers here yesterday evening.

Well, Oscar was sedated like this for two nights and was finally released by the local vet yesterday. But because I could put him under only light sedation last night, by this morning he was bleeding everywhere again. So I took him on another hour-long trip to the specialist vet’s and she’s going to drill little holes into Oscar’s two frontal sinuses through his skull. Then she is going to scrape out and analyse the “material” that is filling up the sinuses. We hope it is aspergillus fungus because then at least we’ll have a cause, but the previous tests did not show this up at all. If it is aspergillosis, we can at least treat the poor boy. If we do not, the cause will be idiopathic, which means:

Idiopathic is an adjective used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause.

and it is likely that the poor dog will have to be on sedatives and walked only on a lead. So I have authorised an invasive procedure hoping that they can find the cause. Aspergillosis is very serious as it can damage dogs’ kidney and liver function and eventually be fatal.

Likewise, Darling Daughter has had idiopathic constant dizziness since March 7th. She has had the clichéd barrage of tests which have concluded nothing except that she has postural hypotension: when she stands up too quickly, her blood pressure drops. That’s it. Darling Daughter is emphatically not the malingering type and the symptoms she experiences are very real. Her world is spinning to a greater or lesser extent most of the time but there are times where it is so bad that she can’t stand up and has to go and lie down in the nurses’ station. We have had to withdraw her from a piano exam because the sight-reading notes are moving around before her eyes, and she had to take a magnifying glass into her school exams. Poor thing has learnt to cope with this but at times her face is ashen and she has to hold on to people or walls for fear of crumpling to the ground. Idiopathic.

And then there’s my mum. She has some form of dementia or impairment, but has learnt to control the symptoms whenever she is near a medical professional who is assessing her. But most of the time it is impossible to treat her like a human being capable of any reasoning ability whatsoever. Or perhaps she does this only when she’s with me. Idiopathic. 

Anyway, I don’t like IDIOPATHY. In the times before modern medicine, I guess everything was idiopathic. We none of us knew why things occurred, they just did. And many people, in some parts of the world MOST people, ascribed these events to the will of their various deities. But these days we can control much more of our lives. Which is what makes IDIOPATHIC all the more frustrating.