** warning - long **
I haven't posted in this forum for a while but I thought our story might give a little bit of cheer It is by no means typical but it shows that surprising things do happen ... and even doggie cardiologists are amazed sometimes.
We have a Cavalier, Lucy. She was born on 16-12-97. She's a big cavalier, at perfect weight she weighs 13kg. She's taller, longer and leaner than a typical cavalier (I will post a pic when I get a chance). This may be a factor in what I'm about to tell you
Anyway when she was about 5-6 she seemed to be panting a lot. We took her straight to the vet and they diagnosed a mild heart murmur. We were taken aback ... we knew nothing of these things. Thankfully we'd had her insured since she was a pup - PHEW. I'll say that again ... PHEW. This has meant she has wanted for NOTHING in terms of veterinary care, it's given us the the freedom to say - go for it, whatever she needs, expensive meds, tests, everything. I can't put into words how glad I am we insured from day 1. It has literally saved her life.
They monitored her fairly closely and within about a year started her on Vetmedin (I'd love to meet the person who invented this stuff, it's like a miracle!). Things progressed fairly slowly really, but as the condition progressed, her meds were slowly increased to include: 2 x vetmedin, 1 x fortekor, 2 x ferusimide. Last July we took her to the cardiologist because we wanted to see exactly what was going on. She had a heart scan, blood tests and x rays.
The news was really awful. Her heart was enlarged and the murmur was now very loud. The cardiologist basically said he expected her to stay the same for a couple of months maybe, then she would get worse to the point where medication was no longer an option ... we were devastated. We cherished every second (even more) because we fully expected her to be gone by Christmas 06.
However, in January, she was still going strong so we took her for a review. Things had progressed slightly, but not significantly. Her meds were now: morning - 1 cod liver oil, 1 vetmedin, 1 ferusimide, 1 spironolactone; evening - 1 x vetmedin, 1 ferusimide, 1 spironolactone, 1 fortekor. At that appointment we were told - see you in six months I had been a nervous wreck waiting to hear the results but it was just fantastic to hear that she was only slightly worse when we had expected her to be in the final stages.
Fast forward to yesterday. We took her again yesterday for the full set of tests. She had a scan, xrays, bloods, examination, the lot. When we saw the cardiologist in the morning he was very surprised to see her looking so well. Her appetite is as fierce as ever, her weight remains bang on 13kg, she's still active, good quality of life, all signs good. At that time he said how pleased he was to see her looking "fit and healthy" .
She was there all day and we went back to pick her up at 5pm. Again, bag of nerves. When he opened the door to call us in he looked really happy. His first comment - with a huge grin on his face - was, "your little dog continues to amaze me." He showed us her xray. He said, "yes, her heart is enlarged but only a little bit more than last year. I would have expected it to be much larger after a year of CHF". He then showed us a scan he'd taken of a cav that day, and he told us that is what he expected to see on Lucy's test. This xray showed a huge heart taking up about half of the dog's chest at least. Lucy's takes up I'd guesstimate about 25-35%? (those figures may be way off, but you get the idea of proportions). Her airway is clear of obstruction, and her lungs show no signs of fluid or anything else. Her bloods are clear and the heart scan was very similar to January. Basically in a year, she's stayed almost static. The only cloud in an extremely blue sky was that her heart rate had gone up and her heartbeat is irregular, so he's added another med into the mix. But he was delighted overall. He said it is very unusual but he was thrilled she'd "made a liar of me!". He said it seems like we may have "arrested" the deterioration (at least for now) and she has a good quality of life, so the drugs are working and what we're doing is working - so we've just got to carry on the way we have been. He said to Lucy as we left "now, I don't want to see you before January, OK?"
I wanted to share this because when last year we felt our world was ending when we saw how ill she was. We knew it'd get worse and we thought that there was no chance things would be slow. It seemed very bleak and each time I looked at her or thought about her, I could hear a clock ticking ... I know you'll understand what I mean. I don't want to give false hope and that's not what I'm trying to do - I know just how incredibly lucky we've been and how atypical this is, but sometimes, amazing things do happen and this time, it happened to us. Having our dog was always like a lottery win, she's changed our lives for the better by about a million percent, I had no idea I could love a dog this much, really I didn't! Just seeing her makes me smile and she continues to be a remarkable little dog - everyone who knows her loves her, even the people she barks at (there is something incredibly endearing about a dog who barks their head off while wagging the tail off at the other end!!!!). People usually look at her - vets included - and say, "are you sure you're old and sick? You don't look it to me!!!" LOL. And no matter what the future holds, our baby girl has had a wonderful year with great quality of life, and the fat lady can wait a bit longer - she's not getting to sing just yet. Just incase you're wondering, the vet's parting shot was "Hopefully I'll get a Christmas card from her this year!"
The standard of care we've had from our vets and cardiologist has been just incredible from the very first visit nearly ten years ago. They know her so well and have taken such good care of her, I can't say enough about them. Our heroes.
Anyway, if anyone has any questions I'd be happy to try and answer them.