Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Levitating Dog: A True Story

I'm going to veer off-topic here for a moment to talk about my dog...

We're just shy of the first anniversary when my dog was diagnosed with the onset of congestive heart failure. (Note: this story has a happy ending.)

It had started with a persistent cough, and my wife took her in to the vet expecting to find burr stuck in the dog's mouth or throat. What she was not expecting was the vet to come back in the room wielding an X-ray and using a you-might-want-to-say-your-goodbyes voice.The dog was to go see a veterinary cardiologist that day.

One ultrasound later and we had a diagnosis. Inexplicably, our barely-seven year old dog had a drastically enlarged heart and lungs full of fluid. She wasn't choking, she was drowning. She started a course of medications that day: seven pills a day total: a diuretic to drain her lungs and two heart medications to try and halt the cardiac damage, if not repair it. With my wife and kids out of town, I was lingering at home in the mornings and rushing home at lunch to refill the dog's water dish and hope that she could wait to be let out, then rushing home in the evening to do the same. She didn't always make it, and I spent my weekends hovering around her and washing towels.

Within a week, some of the medicines were working: her cough stopped almost immediately, and follow-up ultrasounds -- which the vet graciously called "practice" scans -- showed improvement in her heart. Even more promising: her blood work came back showing a drastically low level of an amino acid used by cardiac muscle. And it turns out that the adult dog food that she had been on was lamb-based, which is particularly low in that ingredient. We switched foods and mixed in supplements bought from puzzled clerks at the vitamin store. ("No, I don't want on your mailing list. It's for my dog.")

Now we waited.

Dog Days of Argust

Flash forward six months. We're weaning off the medications. The dog is no longer sleeping sixteen hours a day. Her heart murmur is gone. Her diet of regular chicken-based dog food (high in taurine, the amino acid) and pills-in-peanut-butter has given her an extra blubber layer, but it's Christmas, and she's still with us.

Instamatic Dog

Now it's about 6:30 this morning. The dog and I are walking, avoiding the garbage trucks as they weave around our neighborhood. I'm trying to hold a 60-pound mutt back: she's pogo-sticking on her hind legs, trying so hard to levitate straight up and reach the squirrels that are taunting her from the telephone lines overhead. We walk in the mornings, when it's still cool outside and the streets are quiet. Last summer, she could barely make it one block, panting and dragging her tail at the end of the walk. Now we're going about two miles every morning, and she's still going strong by the time we come back to the driveway and pick up the paper.

Her heart is back to normal, her blood work is fine. We found adult dog food that's chicken-based, though on vet's orders she'll be on supplements for the rest of her life. Which will hopefully be a long and squirrel-filled one.


Anonymous said...

Aww, I'm so happy your dog is okay! Not to mention, she's ADORABLE!

Strikethru said...

Wow, with dogs and cats those kinds of stories usually have these sad spiraling outcomes (my own cat Momo, RIP). It cheered me up to read that your pooch turned the corner and is doing well again. To health!

deek said...

I remember coming home from work every day for a month, feeding my cat food through a tube in his neck with plastic syringes.

Good story and great outcome!

Duffy Moon said...

Maybe we should have tried taurine with our Nissan?
Actually, I take that stuff myself, for the old ticker. Ain't got no rhythm, but I it anyway.

Olivander said...

I'm glad you had a happy ending. We lost our first cat from the same thing within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms.

I'm still not over that one.

mpclemens said...

Had we waited much longer, I'm sure the ending would have been very different. The vet was very concerned.