Yesterday I had to take my dog to the vet. He’s a 14-year-old Shih-Tzu. He now weighs 11 pounds and 8 ounces. Down about 3 pounds from his previous visit. I brought him in because he’s developed a skin problem. No matter how many times we bathed him with medicated shampoo and sprayed him with cortisone hot spot spray he kept scratching and chewing. He may have eaten himself if we didn’t get him some help, so off to the vet we went.
Funny thing happened at the vet. My dog, Oreo, did have some skin issues. The doctor prescribed some prednisone to help him out. His skin problem should clear right up over the next week or so. So everything is good now, right?
Not so fast. Vets are like doctors, never satisfied with taking care of just the obvious. The good kind doctor checked Oreo’s temp and then listened to his heart. Turns out old Oreo has a massive heart murmur. Not just a little murmur, but a great big one. He explained a normal run of the mill murmur sounds like thump-whoosh-thump. Oreo’s murmur just goes whoosh. No thumps. He says that means he’s got cardiomyopathy and it’s advanced enough that Oreo’s heart has enlarged to the point that his valves are stretched and the blood regurgitates instead of flowing when the heart tries to pump it out to his body.
The doc said the cardiomyopathy has led to congestive heart failure. It was funny when he started to explain what it all meant and I responded with the complete fluency that comes from being born with holes in my heart and having my first open heart surgery at the age of 4 in 1966. Turns out my best friend has a lot in common with me. He’s being started on a diuretic, an ACE inhibitor, both meds I take, plus a dog cardiac med that I can’t find the human comparison to. That’s on top of the prednisone for his skin.
The more the vet explained about my poor dog the more depressed I felt about my own health. He talked about the strain on the heart. How with cardiomyopathy the heart continues to enlarge to compensate for its inability to pump blood through the body and how the heart getting bigger causes it to grow weak. Things I’ve heard from my own doctors more than enough times, but for some reason hearing how sick it was making my dog brought it much closer to home for me.
So now my dog and I will be battling heart disease together. I don’t know who’s has progressed further. I know I am much younger relatively speaking. And I have my nice ICD(Internal Cardiac defibrillator) for extra protection, something Oreo will never have. I also have a fancy C-pap machine to help me sleep better. Something I know Oreo could use because of how he snores.
We both constantly piss from all the diuretics and are always thirsty from that constant pissing and heart failure. Oreo’s doctor says these new canine cardiac meds have worked wonders since they were first introduced. Since the Doc started using them for his canine patients he says he no longer refers dogs to canine cardiologists and many of the dogs that used to have just months to live, because of congestive heart failure, now live happily and comfortably for years.
My own health is about the same. Several years ago a local cardiologist brought me through a lecture of how turning off my ICD may make my passing less dramatic. I didn’t take him up on his kind offer. My machine saved me 19 times in a 4 hour period one afternoon prior to this doctor’s “Heart to Heart talk”, but since then I haven’t been shocked once and it’s been close to 10 years. So I really prefer to leave my machine on.