This is Teddy, a 17 year old Yorkipoo. In April 2017, he came to Oakview Vet to see Dr. Curtis, because his owners thought he seemed sore and bloated. He was still running and playing but didn’t seem to be breathing as well as normal.
Dr. Curtis did a complete exam, ran bloodwork and x-rays, and diagnosed Teddy with congestive heart failure. Because his heart was no longer able to handle the workload, his abdomen had filled with excess fluid. That is why he was bloated. After visiting a specialist at Fox Valley Referral Center, his owners started treatment.
An enlarged heart is one symptom of congestive heart failure. The round, white ball in the first picture is an example of an enlarged heart. The dark spaces around the heart are the lungs. Compared to the second x-ray, the heart is much larger and there is not as much lung space. The abdomen on the first image is bright white and full of fluid. On the other x-ray you can see gas in the stomach and intestines. There is too much fluid on the first example to see much else clearly.
Teddy started taking medications for his heart and we began to occasionally pull that excess fluid off of his abdomen to make him more comfortable. Over the past year, he has had his abdomen “tapped” seven times. He takes two diuretics (“water pills”) to help his heart with the fluid overload and Enalapril, a drug that helps with heart failure. As you can see below, during fluid drainage a soft catheter is placed in his abdomen while he is gently held. Gravity helps to the fluid to drain.
You can see his eyes are cloudy, that is called lenticular sclerosis and is a normal aging change in older dogs. He doesn’t see as well as he used to, but it doesn’t slow him down. He doesn’t have any teeth either, which is why his tongue hangs out. Wow, what a list of problems!
But, none of this changed Teddy’s sweet personality and good mood. In fact, the medications and treatments are enabling him to live longer!
Teddy’s initial diagnosis was scary and confusing for his owners. However, they did not hesitate to begin treatment. In a way, they consulted Teddy, too. He was still an active and happy dog, so the decision came easy.
We enjoy working with Teddy and applaud his owners for their excellent care of this special senior dog.
A word on heart disease in dogs:
One of the classic first signs of heart failure is coughing. This is because, like Teddy, the heart cannot handle the fluid load, so the space around the lungs or the abdomen can fill with fluid. So, when an older dog presents with a cough, this is one thing a vet will consider. Exercise intolerance is another sign.
Other things you can do for a dog with heart failure:
- Check resting respiratory rate frequently
- Reduce sodium in the diet
- Continue moderate exercise as long as it doesn’t produce heavy breathing or coughing
- Celebrate every day, like Teddy!
For more information about dogs and heart disease, go to Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
Written by Angel Blenker, CVT and Karen Russell
Angel has been a certified veterinary technician since 2004. Oakview has been lucky enough to have her since 2006. Her passions include nutrition, alternative therapies, and client education.
For the past 28 years, Karen has worked with animals in a variety of settings, most recently as a receptionist at Oakview. In her six years there, she has continued to be passionate about veterinary medicine, client education, and recently, digital marketing.