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Thread: My poorly boy Harvey

  1. #1
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    Default My poorly boy Harvey

    Hi all
    I am new to this site and only found it as I began researching MVD. I have two cavaliers both 6 years old. We bought one of them unknowingly from a puppy farm,,we actually bought two, one died a couple of weeks later. Seeing how Copper was missing his brother Chester we bought another puppy Harvey from a Kennel Club recommended breeder. It is this one Harvey that we have had all the health problems with. At his puppy check we were told he had a heart murmer and only one testicle. This should have been operated on but we were told because of his heart it would be better left. To tell the truth we never gave his heart problems much thought until very recently. Whilst I was grooming him a couple of weeks ago I noticed he seemed to be struggling to breath and seemed to have lost a bit of weight later that day when my husband bought the two boys home from their walk he said he was worried about Harvey as he had seemed very lethargic and hung back on the walk instead of running off with his pal, and he had ended up carrying him home. On hearing this I realised we couldn't ignore this and got him down to the vets. We were told he was in heart failure his heart murmer had gone from a grade 3 to a grade 5 . His breaths were over 40 a minute and the outlook wasn't good. All you dog lovers will know how we felt at this point. We have bought Harvey home, we could have left him for treatment at the vets but as she said he would be more stressed there than at home with his pal Copper he has been put on Frusemide and Cardisure tablets, one for his heart the other for the fluid which had built up. So that is where we are at, we do not know how long we will have him with us when I see them together in their basket I dread the day Copper is there alone, I cannot imagine how he will cope without Harvey they are insuperable. as Harvey was allowed no exercise at all for 10 Days taking copper for walks on his own was awful, he didn't want to go alone and Harvey cried all the time they were gone. Luckily now that the medication is helping him Harvey can go for small walks and is carried when he has had enough. If there is anyone who has been through this and I am sure there must be any advice on Harvey's care and treatment would be lovely also has anyone any idea how long dogs like Harvey can go on, the vet was very evasive but she did seem to be talking weeks maybe months but he has perked up quite a bit I am hoping he will be with us for a while yet.

  2. #2
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    Strictly speaking a grade 5 murmur is not heart failure - that is a 6, although Harvey is clearly showing signs of going in that direction. My Aled jumped straight from a grade 4-5 murmur into heart failure in July, having shown virtually no symptoms beforehand. He is on Cardalis (similar to Cardisure), Frusemide, Vetmedin and Digoxin. Considering how ill he was, he is doing OK, going for short walks, eating well and generally enjoying life. His prognosis is 6-9 months, but with care they can go on longer.

    You need to take Harvey to see a cardiologist; what you might call GP vets are experienced with Cavaliers with heart problems but a specialist will be able to give you a more accurate picture of what is happening and suggest the best drug regime. The other thing that helps a lot is a pet stroller - a buggy for dogs. They aren't terribly expensive if you get them on ebay and they are so useful - I take ours on walks so that Aled can run round the park as much as he wants but when he tires can go in the buggy. It also means that Harvey can continue to go out and about with Copper, watch the world go by and get lots of fuss and attention because he looks so cute in his 'pram'.

    Did the vet tell you how to check Harvey's breathing, since this is a simple way of checking that his heart is OK? You need to do it when he is resting, not when he has just been for a walk or is worried or excited (most dog's breathing rates will go up in the stress of a visit to the vet!). All you need to do is keep an eye on the second hand of your watch while counting Harvey's breaths for 30 seconds. Double that number and you have his rate per minute. 15-20 breaths is around normal, 30 is danger level. I also check Aled's heart rate. His heart beats are too irregular for me to count them without a stethoscope, but if you get used to his normal rate when resting, you can then check whether it is noticeably faster in more stressful situations (it will always be faster during exercise or play of course). Put your fingers behind his left elbow and wiggle them around a bit until you can feel his heart beat. The normal heart rate for a Cavalier is 70-120 - when Aled went into heart failure the vet recorded that his heart rate was 220! I think you can get apps to help you with both breathing and heart rates. Assuming Harvey will be around for some months, you will also need to get his blood tested every 3-6 months, as regular use of frusemide can damage the kidneys and this needs to be checked regularly.

    A referral from your vet to a cardiologist is really the most important thing at this point. Unfortunately, even if Harvey is insured the insurers may well regard his murmur as a pre-existing condition and refuse to pay for any treatment or medication - this is the situation with Aled (though they did pay for his emergency treatment when he went into failure - I had to take him to the emergency vet at 1am and they don't come cheap! And he spent the next day at our regular vets having oxygen, X-rays and a basic ECG).

    I hope this helps - heart medication has improved a lot since I nursed my first Cavalier in heart failure in the early 1990s, and cardiologists have very sophisticated machines to monitor exactly what is happening to the heart and decide on the most appropriate treatment. Unfortunately 'KC Recommended Breeder' means very little as the KC doesn't make health testing a condition of bestowing the title; MVD in Cavaliers is hereditary and all breeding stock should be regularly tested for a murmur, so Harvey's breeder seems to have been both stupid in his/her breeding practices and economical with the truth to you

    Kate, Oliver and Aled

  3. #3
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    Hi
    Like you Im in the same boat. My Leo was diagnosed last December with heart failure. There didn't seem to be a gradual deterioration is just seemed to happen !
    He's on Frusemide, cardalis and vetmedin.
    At the time he was very poorly and the vet was brutally honest telling me he could have 6 months at the best. We're nearly a year on now and Leo has made a great improvement. He is now exercise tolerant of about 30 -45 minutes, he does sleep more but for the moment the meds have stabilised him. I know it could change at any minute but we just take one day at a time.....that's all you can do.
    A great piece of advice given to me by Kate was to remember he doesn't know he's ill and to enjoy what we have. That's what we've done....I don't know what tomorrow brings I just go with the flow....although it is hard sometimes.

    I exercise him as appropriate and keep a strict eye on his weight, which is hard as he's a "food lover"

    Too many of us have dogs with heart disease and you'll find loads of help, support and advice I know I have...

    Mel
    Mel
    Momma to Leonardo (Leo to his friends)

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    With the high respiratory rate (40 per minute) and his other symptoms, it sounds like Harvey was in heart failure. While the grade of murmur usually has to reach 6 before the dog reaches heart failure, the grade only reflects the loudness of the murmur and not whether the dog is in heart failure. Heart failure is determined by symptoms like breathlessness, high respiratory rate while at rest or sleeping, weight loss, sleeping more of each day, lethargy, and similar signs.

    The Cardisure is a brand name for pimobendan (another brand name is Vetmedin). Considering the condition Harvey was in, I think you will find that the Cardisure will make a big difference to him and give him many more months of lively life.
    Rod Russell

  6. #5
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    Just to add he should also be on fortekor as well, if on frusemide . The prognosis really depends on the dog -- some can go a very very long time -- a few years -- in a more advanced stage while others decline quickly. Most are somewhere in between. It is very much worth working with a cardiologist, as others have suggested. A cardio can tell you far more detail in 5 minutes of listening to a dog's heart than a vet can. If he's really in the weeks to a few months stage, he probably really should not be going on walks at all, as this could put a lot of strain on his heart and dogs will almost always tend to try and do more than they are able to remain part of the walking group (when we notice they are getting tired is usually after they were at the point they probably should have stopped). Some get dog strollers -- easily found online -- and these enable one dog to go in the stroller and the other to walk.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

  7. #6
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    Thank you all for your replies, so much good advice, I will certainly act on the advice given. particularly liked the quote from Mel. that the dog does not know he is ill, this is very comforting as at least Harvey is being spared the anguish we are feeling.

  8. #7
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    It is a great quote to remember.

    My other strong belief is that it is our job as owners to make sure we are doing all we can medically for our ill dogs, as part of the bargain. I think a lot of dogs are left with too-long gaps between having medications tweaked that could make them more comfortable. My suggested rule of thumb is, odd or changed behaviour or signs in a dog that could indicate pain or distress or 'something not quite right' mean the dogs needs to be checked just as anyone would with a child.

    None of us will ever argue that going through MVD with a cavalier is easy, and it is especially hard with a younger dog when they, and owners, should not even be burdened with such an old-age illness. It is unpredictable, and I think our dogs most benefit when we share the joy dogs feel in each new day. They do pick up on our worry and anxiety. I've had dogs that have surprised me with how long they went with MVD, and others that I lost too quickly so your vet is right in that it is hard to make predictions and therefore -- if you possibly can -- pointless to worry about what has not yet happened and keep them as comfortable and joyful as we can. Enjoy every day that you have. We'll all be happy to answer questions and offer support as so many of us have been down this road.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Lily Tansy Libby Mindy
    In memory: Lucy Leo
    Cavalier SM Information site:www.smcavaliers.com

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