Originally uploaded by MarciNYC
Tara is my 14 year old American Eskimo who I adopted in March. She's my 'velcro dog' - meaning she follows me everywhere. I mean everywhere. Even when I shower, she has to have me in sight. There are some things a gal would just like to do in private, you know?
In mid-April, she developed a cough. ISince she had no discharge from her eyes/nose, the V-E-T diagnosed it as (viral) kennel cough said to let it run it's course, about 2-3 weeks. While the cough lessened briefly, by the end of May it was back with a vengeance. So, off we went to the V-E-T again.
This time she was coughing more forcefully - honking like a goose and wheezing at times as well. She had some x-rays and they came out clear (no congestion in the chest, heart looked normal sized), so perhaps it was allergy related? Home with an antihistamine/steroid combo and see how she responds.
About 10 days into her treatment she was scheduled for her dental - in which she lost 8 of her teeth, mainly rear molars. (Do dogs have molars? I'm just guessing that's what they're called.) If her tongue didn't loll out of her mouth enough before, it certainly does now. Her and Suki are a couple of old biddies with lolling tongues. Unfortunately, after the dental, her cough worsened over the weekend. Not only was she coughing after running the yard, she'd immediately begin coughing the moment she stood up whether she was napping or just sat down next to me.
On Monday, we went back to the V-E-T for another exam and this time a new x-ray showed some fluid in her chest, however, her heart sounded just fine. She was given Lasix (yes, like the ponies) and I was given instructions to call to give and update on Friday.
Friday morning dawned and my precious Tara was still coughing and shaking. When I relayed this news to the V-E-T, he asked if I would take her to a cardiologist for a consultation. I called up Red Bank Veterinary Hospital and since their cardiologist had a cancellation, I was able to get her in that afternoon.
I'd heard nothing but great things about RBVH (excepting costs - but then it's a fabulous facility with top-notch doctors) from several friends who've taken their dogs there, but nothing prepared me for this animal hospital. Bright, cheery and clean. I kept thinking - is this really for animals?
I met with the cardiologist and Tara had one more set of x-rays. His verdict was that it wasn't congestive heart failure (thank you!) but rather chronic lung disease -- which he said was not all that uncommon in senior dogs. He said an EKG would confirm CHF one way or another, but when I balked at the price, he suggested that we start her on some drugs for the time being and see if they improved things.
He prescribed three pills, the names of which I can't remember (other than Prednisone) -a bronchial dilator, a cough suppressant, and a short-term steroid (Prednisone). If this works, then she'll be on them for the rest of her life; with the exception of the Prednisone. If there's no improvement in a month, then we will follow up with the EKG just to make sure her heart is okay.
It's a week later and she's been getting her pills twice a day and I see such a huge difference. Yes, she coughs occasionally, but not the honking/wheezing/body shaking cough that she had every time she stood up. When I took Henry in to see the V-E-T on Tuesday morning, Dr B asked about Tara and I was pleased to tell him that I saw an improvement after four days. He was as happy as I was to learn it wasn't her heart. I think she's one of those dogs who wins everyone over with her goofy, tongue hanging out by a mile, smile.
While I know Tara, Henry, and Suki won't be with me forever, I was relieved to know this is something that can be managed with medication. I'm glad to have my dog healthy again. I won't worry about her coughing as we're walking the reservoir and people thinking she's having a heart attack.