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Congestive Heart Failure...anything Else I Can Do?


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No, not Teague, but my 13 year old mutt Karma. She had been having an on and off again cough/gag (like kennel cough) since Feb. but it seemed quite mild and she otherwise seemed perfectly normal. Long story short, she has been acting very tired this week so I took the day off today to take her for a follow-up check. It turns out that she has congestive heart failure. :cry1 I am gutted. This is my heart dog...my first "on my own" dog and the dog that never seemed to age a bit until this week. She has never, ever, been to the vet for anything other than routine check-ups. We just did a 2 hour hike a few weeks ago, now 10 minutes is too much.

 

She was on diuretics at the vet office all afternoon to try to relieve some of the pressure (she has fluid in her lungs/around her heart). Unfortunately, her breathing rate is still high after all of this. She doesn't have noisy breathing and isn't straining to breathe, but her sides are moving in and out at a faster rate than they should be. I have her on a couple of meds, but the vet doesn't think she will last more than a week, maybe two. :sad1

 

Right now she is eating, doesn't seem in discomfort, and is perky enough to sniff around and want to go for walks (which I have to restrict). I know I only have a short time left with her but just wondering if there is anything else I can do or try to keep her comfortable for as long as possible. Sigh...what a rollercoaster of a day.

 

 

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You vet could tap her chest-it's a straight forward procedure and would give her instant relief. I would take her to a cardiologist where they would do an echo and get her on proper meds besides diuretics (I assume lasix)

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Guest FordRacingRon

I few year back my sister in law had a shiba inu go into failure identically as to what you describe. They went to the e -vet and the e-vet said she should go to see a cardiologist right away in the AM and do what TBHOUNDS suggested and it could buy a long bit of time. She didn't take that route and tomorrow is saturday but just thought I would through that out. Otherwise, spoil spoil spoil.

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Thank you all for your responses. She is doing okay today, her breathing rate *seems* to have slowed down a bit (around 30 breathes a minute), yesterday was closer to 35. She is on another med along with the diuretics...don't know the name off hand, but I think it basically makes less work for the heart. I have to go in Monday so will ask about the chest tap. From what I understand most of the fluid was inside her lungs. Can they still do a tap for that?

 

This just sucks. :(

 

 

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Thank you for the info. I noticed that article said that a breathing rate below 40 was normal? My vet said around 28. When resting, she is around 30 right now. I am guessing she has left side as they took x-rays of her stomach and it was fine (no fluid). I really don't know though. I just don't want my girl to suffer. I don't know how I am going to go to work next week, the stress of this is exhausting. :(

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I second the recommendation to see a cardiologist, if there's one within a reasonable distance. Consulting with a specialist and getting an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) will provide you with information that would help you manage her heart disease as effectively as possible, as well as get a more accurate prognosis. Giving her only a week or two is pretty pessimistic. I know of a lot of dogs who did well for months to even a year or two after a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

 

It's pretty typical to start a dog with heart disease on a diuretic like Lasix (furosemide), as well as an ACE inhibitor like enalapril or benazepril. I'm assuming those are probably the 2 meds she's on? If the heart disease is not adequately managed with those, you can sometimes get more improvement by adding another medication called Vetmedin (pimobendan). Best wishes for your girl.

Edited by JJNg

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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I've had 2 dogs with CHF. We used the cocktail of drugs mentioned above and got 6 months for the one and for the other we got 8 months. Both died of something other than CHF. The vetmedin is expensive, but it really does make a difference. Good luck.

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Thank you so much for your replies. Yes, she is on Fortekor and Furosemide right now. This has been the most worrying and stressful week for me ever, just because I am expecting her to crash anytime as she was given such a short time (both vets we saw didn't seem to think positively about the prognosis..not sure why though). I don't know what beginning vs. end phase of CHF looks like so I really have no clue. She is just basically very tired/weak and sleeps a lot (is this normal for CHF dogs, even on meds?). Her breathing seems okay...a bit fast but not uncomfortable or noisy. She coughs or retches if she exerts herself or gets up sometimes, but there isn't a lot of it. My big thing now is getting her to eat. She just doesn't seem to want to. I have eventually been able to get her to eat in the evenings but it is worrying (could the meds cause this?). Overall though, she doesn't seem in discomfort, so I am just taking it day by stressful day. :(

 

I have read about the Vetmedin and will ask about it. If there is anything that can make her more comfortable I am willing to try it.

 

Thanks again for all of the advice and support.

Edited by RedHead
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Guest BlueCrab

Our non-grey Leyland was diagnosed two years' ago this past February. He had a cough that was initially misdiagnosed so we missed it until it was almost too late to save him. He's been on regular cardiologist care and has been doing great for two years. He's on 6 meds 2x a day (pimobendin, spironolactone, carnitine, taurine, and I can't recall the other two). Unfortunately now we're dealing with old age related issues that are taking him down, but the CHF is not the cause.

 

But I would encourage you as well to consult with a cardiologist. Our guy lived quite a full and happy life once we had the CHF under control.

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Guest supercoach

I went through 1.5 of CHF with my previous dog, I know how you are feeling. It was a small dog not a grey, but she took some of the same meds. One thing I wish the Dr's would have warned me about was the collapsing episodes. The first time my dog collapsed she peed on herself and had a hard time breathing, making high pitched barking sounds. This would occurs when she got excited and when I came home and wanted to go outside. The blood does not reach their brains fast enough and this causes fainting or collapsing. It will last for 2 min and then it takes 10-15 min before they are back to normal. It's tough to watch. The vet can give you meds for this but I elected not to cause she was already on too many meds. Also, the cardiologist (if you elected to get one) will pretty much confirm what your regular Vet has shown you and explained to you, just with a better pictures. However, the cardiologist did help me with adjusting meds and giving me some piece of mind, but if you don't have the $600 for the initial visit, then it's really not necessary. My dog seemed to be doing ok toward the end, but came home to find her passed away, which was a good thing, didn't have to do the "Marley and Me" moment. The Vet said it was probably a blood clot. Either way, most dogs pass within 18 months. Limit Teagues activity and hang in there, there will be good days, and some bad ones ahead.

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She is just basically very tired/weak and sleeps a lot (is this normal for CHF dogs, even on meds?). Her breathing seems okay...a bit fast but not uncomfortable or noisy. She coughs or retches if she exerts herself or gets up sometimes, but there isn't a lot of it. My big thing now is getting her to eat. She just doesn't seem to want to. I have eventually been able to get her to eat in the evenings but it is worrying (could the meds cause this?).

 

Considering she was just diagnosed, hospitalized, and started on meds a few days ago, the tiredness/weakness could be a combination of stress and the meds not having fully kicked in yet. Her poor appetite might be from the meds, but probably more likely from the congestive heart failure itself. If you're able to get her to eat fairly consistently, that's good. Your best clinical gauges of how she's doing with the heart disease and responding to the meds will probably be the frequency of coughing, her respiratory rate, as well as how easily she is able to breathe.

 

Have you asked the vets why they have given her such a short time and poor prognosis? Especially if they feel her heart disease is very advanced, there's nothing to lose by adding the Vetmedin.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

gtsig3.jpg

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She has been on the meds a week starting tomorrow. Pretty much the same, except I can see she is getting thinner and she is still quite weak and trembles a bit at times. :( She did come down on her own when we were going for our morning walk, so we walked a short distance. Sigh...one second I think she is on her last legs, and then she does something to surprise me.

 

One of the concerns from the vet was that after a half day on intravenous (or injected?) diuretics, her breathing rate didn't decrease (and it is still about the same a week later...anywhere between 28-35 breathes/min. generally, when she is lying down, sometimes over 40). I rarely hear coughing, maybe a few retches if she stands up or exerts herself. Her sides heave up and down more than normal, but she doesn't seem to be in discomfort and her gums look okay. She mentioned the possibility of a tumour, but it was too hard to see because of all of the fluid on the x-ray. Due to the stress on her that day (and financial constraints after a lot of testing) we didn't do x-rays after the treatment, and have been on the meds to see if things change. Tomorrow (or Sat.) I should find out more and will definitely try the vetmedin if it is available.

 

I just CAN'T get her to eat right now, she takes a few bites of something and seems hungry but then stops. I have tried everything. I just keep giving her small little bites when she will take it throughout the day. All of the signs seem to point out that the meds aren't helping much, that is my concern. There could be something else going on.

Edited by RedHead
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I know :( That is what I am afraid of. I have to go in tomorrow, and I don't know yet what will be the decision. She is just getting thinner, and doesn't seem to be improving on the meds. I just don't know if I should try the other med, or do I just let her go. I will see what the vet says after tomorrow's check-up. Sigh....

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No advice, just :grouphug

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Jen, CPDT-KA with Zuri, lab in a greyhound suit, Violet, formerly known as Faith, Skye, the permanent puppy, Cisco, resident cat, and my baby girl Neyla, forever in my heart

"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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Thanks. I am alone going through this, so having people here who understand and are supportive means a lot. I live in a small town, my vet office doesn't even have x-rays. I have to travel to do any real testing. I am willing to do it though if the vet thinks it is worth a shot. I just can't see her making a miraculous recovery from this. If she is up for a walk tomorrow a.m. I will drive her out to her favourite trail so she can sniff and walk, if only for a few minutes. Up until about 3 weeks ago, this little girl had been my daily hiking companion. She even ran alongside me for all of my half-marathon training. She is the youngest 13 year old dog I have ever had. Thinking this could be my last night with her is just heartbreaking. :cry1 At the same time though, I know I can't be selfish, and I need to listen to what she is telling me. Sigh....will wait to see what the vet thinks tomorrow. Right now she is peacefully sleeping under my bed.

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Just got back from the vet office. There was a new vet, who listened to her heart and lungs. She thinks that there is a good chance there is fluid around her lungs, as her heartbeat sounds muffled. She recommended a chest tap. Unfortunately, they don't do most of the medical treatments at this office. I have to load her up in the car and travel to their neighbour clinic. The vet working there now isn't comfortable doing them, so I am meeting the vet from this morning there at 1:30 when she is done her shift here. I was almost ready to let her go, but however this goes, I will feel better doing it and knowing I tried everything. Hopefully it will give her relief, even if for a short while.

 

Ughh....I will also be buying some wine.

 

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