Jun 4, 2011

The Good News and The Bad News

By Cathy Scott

I took my dogs to the vet recently, for updates on vaccinations and overall check-ups. I also wanted my dog, Joey, an older shih tzu, to have an eye exam and check out why he'd been coughing.

The good news is, while Joey has the beginning of cataracts, the vet said he still has good vision.

The bad news was startling. Joey has a grade 3 to 4 heart murmur (the highest grade is 6), and the veterinarian said it sounds like mitral valve disease. He's being scheduled for a sonogram, X-rays and blood workup to see how large his heart is and exactly how advanced it is.

A year ago, Joey didn't have a murmur. It's a genetic, unfortunate side-effect to over-breeding that can show up in older purebred dogs. Joey, who's around 10 years old (best guess) was found two years ago by a young couple as a stray on a street in Las Vegas -- no microchip no collar and ID. Signs were posted in the neighborhood and an ad placed in the local paper, describing this lost dog. The couple who found him drinking water from a sidewalk gutter walked him around the neighborhood, hoping he'd take them to his house or someone would see them outside with him.

I took in Joey to foster him, because a clinic where he was boarding had called animal control to have him picked up. He was badly matted and had hot spots on his rump. Because his eyes were infected at that point and his infected hot spots, the couple was worried he would be put down at the shelter. They called me, and I took him in.

He had an examination shortly after that, and I was told he was healthy, considering what he'd been through. I started giving him a raw-food diet and supplements to build up his immune system.

His heart disease comes as a surprise. When I adopted Gypsy, my long-haired Chihuahua after she was rescued by Best Friends Animal Society's puppy mill initatives program, which rescues discarded puppy mill dogs, the veterinarian checked her heart twice for me. She doesn't have heart disease -- at least not yet. Her knees are funky, from living in a too-small cage as a breeder for 2-1/2 years. I was hesitant to adopt another dog with mitral valve prolapse, so it was good news that her heart sounded fine. Mia, who was rescued in New Orleans from storm water after Hurricane Katrina, had a grade 5 murmur when I adopted her. I put her on supplements and learned how to treat it naturally, as it progressed, consulting with holistic veterinarians about what I could do for her to keep her comfortable and slow down the progression of the disease at the same time. When she was diagnosed, her prognosis was that she would be gone in six months. She lived 3-1/2 years, for which I credit the supplements and natural treatment.

Now, Joey is on most of the same supplements Mia was on. He's no longer coughing, because I have him on CoQ10 (the ubiquinol form, because it absorbs better), which helps his heart pump. I also have him on a small dose of cayenne pepper capsules (taken with ginger root so it doesn't upset his stomach). I've added Taurine, L-Carnitine and Hawthorn into the mix, plus Omega 3 and a probiotic. Also, he takes the enzyme Astaxanthin, which helps his eyesight.

No one tells you what the end is like with mitral valve disease. I didn't want to watch a dog go through it again. But I think it must have been meant to be that Joey is with me. I know so much more now about what supplements have the best results. And he's responding well. His energy was down, but now he's back to his same feisty self.

If only breeders would be more responsible so that diseases like this don't happen to these innocent dogs. Unsuspecting "buyers" go to pet stores that are supplied by puppy mill brokers and end up with a multiple of problems, because of overbreeding. It's the dogs who suffer in the end.


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