Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tika's Good Old Bad Old Heart

SUMMARY: Not the best news.

Tika had been coughing a bit more this last week. And then Friday night she coughed off and on all night. Seemed like an exact repeat of what happened before she had her near collapse back in November, but at least this time I was at home rather than at an agility trial, so I canceled my movie plans for the morning and called the vet's office (luckily my regular vet usually works saturday mornings).

Got a late-morning appointment. Gave Tika her usual sedative an hour before (because she stresses out SO much about being at the vet's office).

Tossed both dogs into MUTT MVR and drove the 20-30 minutes over there. I keep thinking that I should just find another vet who's closer--there are a ton of them w/in 5 minutes--but I've been going there since 1979 and they know my dogs' history and all. Anyway.

Took Tika into the lobby. Was told we'd have to wait because the doctor was dealing with an emergency. They have fairly comfortable vinyl-covered seats, perfect for pets whom you want to have on the seat with you. Tika, even with the sedative, wasn't wanting to hold still. Popped up on her hind legs to look over the counter to see what the receptionist was doing. Hopped onto and off of the bench a couple of times to look out the window. Hopped up again, gave me an odd blank look, and collapsed in my arms.

I yelled, "there's something wrong with my dog!" as she started to twitch and arch her neck, and then she went limp as the receptionist dashed into the back calling for assistance. I thought she was gone for a moment, but no, she was breathing fine, evenly and calmly, and her eyes were open.

Way too calmly. Even on sedatives, she's wired. But she just lay there and I held her. A vet tech came out and said that he could carry her into the examination room, and she just let him, so very much NOT like Tika. That's when I noticed that the seat and my jeans were completely soaked, and that's the moment when it sank in that she'd just had a seizure.

In the exam room, the vet rushed in while she lay quietly on the table, but upright now rather than on her side, as I held her and stroked her. He checked her eyes and her gums--a little pale, just like back in November, then checked her pulse and her heart rate. While I tried not to sob out loud.

At that point, Tika started panting more like Tika does most of her life, and wanted to stand up, which she did shakily while I held her up.

Another minute or two and she said she was fine, although now on the floor, she tried to shake herself off and just fell right over (because I let go of her when she shook, doh).

I mentioned to the vet that I'd heard that he was dealing with another emergency. Yes, he said, a dog had been having seizures. (Guess it was that kind of day.) Dog had been stabilized and he had just been giving instructions and info to the owner when they called him to check Tika. Anyway.

So, here's the deal.

Her heartrate is now about 220-240 a minute! But pulse 80-90ish. She has always had an athlete's slow heartbeat, and even back less than a month ago at our previous visit, it still sounded good except for the murmer that indicates ongoing degenerative heart disease.

The discrepancy meant that her heart had started fibrillation--rapid beating without having a chance for the blood to fill back in between beats, so blood was actually pumping (pulse) only once about every 2 or 3 beats.

This is SO no good. Means that her chances for a sudden fatal heart attack or stroke have skyrocketed.

They kept her for a couple of hours to do an EKG and a current x-ray to check for fluid in the lungs or the chest cavity (the question about the coughing). Also a blood test again to check for kidney function, etc. I took Boost over to the nearby part and actually into the dog park there while we waited. (Maybe a quick post about that later.)

EKG shows that only the upper half of her heart is actually working, lower half is struggling. That's bad.

X-ray showed no signs of fluid. That's good. Means her cough was probably just the bronchitis that she also suffers from. But x-ray did show narrowing of trachea in throat and near the heart, so it could just be harder for her to get enough air all the time. Interestingly, he suggested 1/2 tsp of Robitussin DM as needed for the cough. That seems to help, although she REALLY doesn't like the taste of it, so I have to be creative in getting it into her.

Added one more med to her regimen--digoxin. Vet tried to get in touch with the doggie cardiologist while I was there, but wasn't in on the weekend. He's going to call them on Monday to try to get a phone consult about medication and actions to take, and possibly I'll take her in there if it seems necessary to do so.

Then I practically had a heart attack when the receptionist told me, "That comes to $750." At least I didn't start having a seizure on the spot, but my brain wanted to.

I don't really want to get into heroic measures and extreme medical options. She's 12 and a half, which still doesn't feel that old to me at times, because she's still so fast and perky most of the time. But really that is an old dog, and I've been so lucky so far with her.

We'll see how things go and when and where. I'm back to playing a waiting game--is she going to go today? Tomorrow? Not for months? When she doesn't move when I come into the room, is she gone? Dang old dogs.

Dang, good old Tika. Didn't eat enthusistically this morning, which is unlike Tika historically. Spent a lot of the day up in the bedroom, which is her go-to place when she's not feeling well...or when she's feeling neglected.

My girl. My Merle Girl. So hard to think about not having her. Trying to think about *having* her and enjoying her. But she's definitely never going to do agility again. If she wants to do frisbee, fine. If htat's how she goes, that's fine. But I don't want it to be while doing that dog sport that she has done so very well in for so many years. It was a gift.



27 comments:

  1. You might try some of the other flavors of Tussin DM (try looking for "clear" or "diabetic" versions) For example Walmart sells a mint version that Tika might like better. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Safetussin-DM-Cough-Suppressant-Mint-4-oz/15054312

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Kristin!

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  2. Ohhhh... My heart sank when I came to the part about her collapsing in your arms and then I read the rest of the post with my brow all furrowed from worry, and now there is a lump in my throat...

    Very sorry about all of this. Of course every case is different, but I have been there with that kind of constant worry and stress with my previous animals as they were nearing their time... (and for some of those animals that period of time lasted several years) It is not fun, and I found it a huge weight on my heart, but at the same time it was a gift to still have them with me... At least she is still perky most of the time. I hope that with a new drug or two on board she will be back to her perky self for quite some time yet.

    Thinking of you!

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    1. Thanks for that. It is good to be a member of a community where others know exactly what I'm talking about.

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  3. Oh no, so sorry to hear about all of this. Hugs to you and Tika.

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  4. If you keep having problems with seizures you might want to ask your vet about gabapentin. I've got Cody on it for some small focal seizures he was having and it's worked great and so far no side effects and no more seizures. It's not anything like the epilepsy type drugs.

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    1. Thanks, Elayne. As far as I know, it's just that one brief one--although now that that has happened, I can vaguely remember a couple or three other times where I thought something was wrong, thought she was staggering, but then decided that she had just stepped wrong... Now I'm wondering all over again.

      The cause of her seizure was most likely lack of oxygen to the brain caused by the inefficient heart. I didn't ask about antiseizure meds, but not sure whether they'd help in that situation. Something to look into, definitely.

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  5. Oh goodness, how scary. Getting old sucks.(for dogs and people). Wow, 750.00 thats just seems unbelievable. I hope the medications help and she gets more time.

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    1. Thanks, Diana. More for my own notes, the costs broke down like this:
      * Exam/consult: 97
      * Pills (digoxin) 45 tablest) 32.50
      * 90 minutes hospitalization 28
      * furosimde injection 47.50 (?) have to double-check this
      * tech/nursing assistance (during x-ray, ekg) 55.0
      * two xrays: 184
      * xray interpretation: 30
      * ekg and its wire(?): 127
      * laboratory (complete blood panel): 164
      * drawing blood: 14
      * toxic waste/env. fee: 6

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    2. The actual total was 785, not 750.

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  6. Ellen, my thoughts are with you. Similar experiences with my old her Sophie. Miss her still. Hugs. Hope the meds give you more time with Tika. I know how you love her. V

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    1. Thank you, Vici. So many of us have been through similar things before. So hard no matter how often it happens.

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  7. Ellen, I'm so sorry to hear about Tika. She always has had so much energy and thinking about her slowing down just seems wrong :-(. I'm hoping that the meds will help and give her more time.

    You might want to ask SMART if the jumpers judge would be willing to let you have a retirement lap (bars on the ground), so she can get her well deserved recognition upon retirement. Gail did that with Flint, and I know she was happy with it.

    Debbie

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    1. That's a good idea, Debbie. Thanks.

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  8. Sitting here at work crying. Good thing it's after 5. She's SUCH a great girl. Such a fun girl. Just doesn't seem she has finished all she wanted to do. My previous sheltie had a heart murmer and seizures. It's so hard. I knew as soon as you were describing her collapse what it was. Hug Tika for me, OK? That just sucks. I hope you have lots more time. She's special. She sure is a gift!

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    1. Thanks, Dawn. My first 2 dogs never had seizures. The next 2--Jake and Remington--started having massive and repetitive seizures over and over their last couple of days, so I am naturally completely sensitized to having seizures mean something terrible. She seems so normal yesterday and today. Wants to go out in the yard and play, and does so, but has been for a shorter period gradually over time, and that's fine as far as I'm concerned that she's self-regulating.

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    2. Good to hear she's acting more normal these last couple of days. I've been wondering how she's doing.

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    3. Thanks again for your concern. Helps to know I've got so many friends.

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  9. I'm so sorry to read this about Tika. I'm hoping that the Digoxin will help her feel better and that you'll be able to relax a little on the vigil. Maybe because it's CA but those charges are a fair bit higher than we pay here in NC. I think it's awful that on top of the stress and worry about our dog, we have to worry about how much the bill will be.
    Hope you can feel the big ol' hug I'm sending you and Tika.

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    1. Thanks for the hug. As i've noted, I keep thinking about the advantages of having a vet that's 5 minutes away instead of 20 (or 30 during traffic). Maybe I can use this list to compare prices and then get some references... actually I got this vet many years ago when I moved from the far west of the valley to the far east and asked my previous vet for a recommendation. I wonder whether I could do that now? Or maybe wait until Tika's gone.

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  10. Woke up thinking about Tika this a.m. Glad she's feeling more like herself. Hope you and your back are feeling more like yourself too.

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    1. Funny what we get from other people's blogs. Two nights ago I was at my sister's house--they just bought a new tent--and I asked whether they had slept in it yet to test it out. They said they'd set it up, but nowhere to sleep in it. I said that I know someone who camps in her back yard. :-)

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    2. :) Hugs.... tell them it's absolutely wonderful to sleep out no matter where you pitch your tent. And take the dog with them...that's even better.

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  11. Oh, Ellen, just read this. I'm all teary eyed - Tika is one special dog and my heart goes out to you. Sending you and Tika hugs. Getting old sucks.

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  12. How is Tika doing? Any updates? I'm hoping she is feeling better.

    Debbie

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    1. Thanks, Debbie, just posted an update. She continues to think she's good, which is fine by me.

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