dogs · Journal

This is a big day, 2 years since Brogan’s diagnosis!

Feels like I blinked and summer was over, I don’t know how it managed to slip by so quickly. It doesn’t feel like I accomplished much, but I did get to enjoy it. It just feels like it went by too quickly.

We got to spend a lot of time at the cabin, which is our happy place. So although summer went by too quickly I do have to say that we did get to embrace and appreciate every moment of it.

Today, September 27th, is an emotional day for me. Its my mom’s and one of my good friends birthdays, but its also on this day that we lost Sloan, and that Brogan got diagnosed with right sided heart failure. This year today is a day for celebration. I’m celebrating that I have such a loving family and circle of friends. I’m celebrating all the love that Sloan brought to us in the short amount of time we got him, and I’m really celebrating that Brogan is still with us and is doing fairly well. Not saying our life hasn’t changed, but he didn’t have a great prognosis and its 2 years post diagnosis and he’s still feeling good, being a goof, and today he even managed to catch 3 Frisbees in a row…he then missed the next 5. But he has never caught one yet, so thats pretty amazing. Unfortunately I’m away on the road this week, so I didn’t get to see it, but my husband made sure he shared it with me. It makes me so happy that he still feels good enough to do those things. He loves frisbee, he loves going for walks, he loves travelling with us and he loves being a pest to his older, smaller brother. So I am very grateful that he still is with us and enjoying all of that.

dogs · Journal

Brogan’s heart mystery continues

Brogan loves playing in mud and water

Last time I wrote about Brogan I wasn’t sure what he would want and what we should do with him…should we let him off leash, should we let him have dog friends, or should we play it safe and keep him on leash and healthy for as long as we can. Well today confirmed my decision to keep him on leash. We went for an on leash walk this morning. It had rained so it was muggy, but not crazy hot. He loves playing in mud puddles and really any water, so I let him splash around in the ditches while we were walking. He ended up in one spot that was deep and he sorta had to take 3 swimming strokes to get across. He came out of that hole and was so happy, but was starting to look a little tired so I figured we would come straight back to the cabin and into the air conditioning. We weren’t far from the cabin when he slowed right down, I looked to see what he was doing, I could tell that he was dizzy and he sat down when I was getting close to him. I put my arms around him and held him and talked to him and while I was doing that he slumped down onto his chest. I kept talking to him and we sat like that for a bit, he didn’t lose consciousness, but definitely was having some issue. When he was okay we got up and walked the rest of the way to the cabin.

He basically confirmed with that episode that I can’t let him run around off leash. His heart, or whatever is causing issues, is just not good enough for it. He is happy with our on leash walks, always wants to go, plays like a goof with Rosco (his dog brother) and basically seems very content and happy to be doing what we are doing. So we will enjoy every minute of every day we have together, we just won’t be running around in any off leash areas. I’m okay with that. And I guess he will have to be as well.

dogs · Journal

Brogan’s heart

We have been a long roller coaster ride with Brogan and his heart. As many of you might remember we were basically told that we had 4 or 5 months with him when he was initially diagnosed…and we have definitely surpassed that…and I’m hoping we continue to do so for many more years. That being said the big guy still has the odd collapse/faint, even though we have followed everything that we are supposed to with him. And I’m the kind of person that wants all the answers. Last time I wrote about him we were at the point of thinking it was 2 separate conditions, but we were waiting for the cardiologist to get back to us to see what she thought about that theory. I finally got to speak with her. She said it’s really hard to confirm that, because there are a few other heart related issues that could be causing his collapses. She said she would like to do 2 more tests on him and is supposed to get back to me with the cost associated with them. I’m at the point now that I have to decide if I need to keep testing to try to get an answer, or if I just continue enjoying him and doing what we are doing and just let him live his life. Really the only reason I would like to have a definite answer is so that he could have dog friends again and be allowed to be off leash again. But at this point I’m not 100% sure that is worth it. He is doing well, he doesn’t seem to miss his dog friends as much (he does have a dog brother that fulfills the dog “friend” part) and he doesn’t seem to mind on leash walks, although I’m sure he would love some off leash time. It would be so much easier if he could talk. For so may reasons, but mostly so he could tell us what symptoms he feels and is having before he collapses. And also what he would like us to do. What would he choose if it were up to him. That is the really hard part with animals, we have to guess at what they are feeling…in every way.

dogs · Journal

Brogan’s heart update – part 2

I’ll give a brief recap for those of you who haven’t read the original post, or first update. Brogan is in heart failure, has been for a while, but in the last couple of months he started having more collapses and other strange episodes that kinda pointed towards his heart deteriorating. We ended up repeating his echocardiogram and that showed that his heart wasn’t deteriorating, but didn’t explain what was causing him to have more symptoms. So the cardiologist recommended a few things. You can read the full post here and the follow up here

We finally got all of Brogan’s test results back. One of the tests that they wanted done was for Lyme disease. Lyme disease hasn’t been studied a lot in dogs yet, but the cardiologist figured it was worth ruling out. That is a very simple blood test, and we got those results fairly quick…negative…which is fantastic news, but left more questions as to what might be causing his issues.

The next thing they recommended was discontinuing 2 of his medications, so we discontinued one immediately. The other one has mixed information as to how to discontinue it, do you do it cold turkey, or do you wean them of. I decided to play it safe and slowly wean him off over a 2 week period. While we were in the process of weaning him off that drug we got him fitted with a holter monitor to monitor his hearts electrical activity for an extended period of time. This is the same tool that they use with people. Instead of giving a brief snippet of your hearts rhythm and electrical impulses it gives an extended reading so that the cardiologist can see what happens with your heart in your normal daily routine.

Brogan getting shaved and fitted for his holter monitor

We had his monitor set for 48 hours in the hopes that we could capture an “episode” during that time. He got it put on on a Friday and wore it until Sunday, while doing everything we would normally do on a weekend. I took it off Sunday afternoon and then dropped it back off at the Vet clinic on Monday. Of course he didn’t have any episodes, but I was hoping we would get something useful from it anyway.

While we were waiting for those results we had gotten him off the 2 medications that the cardiologist recommended and both my hubby and I noticed that Brogan seemed younger, more goofy and definitely more energetic. He never wants to come back from a walk now, and will bug Rosco to play with him again. It’s fantastic to see him seem so young again.

Yesterday we got word that his holter monitor didn’t show anything significant. That is great news, but does leave the question of his symptoms getting worse unanswered, however, that being said I kinda think it was his one medication. In all my reading about that medication it shows that some of the side effects of it in people are exactly what he was displaying, dizziness, fainting and headaches are listed in people, we definitely saw the first 2 in him. So perhaps we have our answer…and I’m sure hoping that we do. Because if it was as simple as discontinuing 2 drugs to get our goofy Brogan back I will take it.

I’m undecided if that means we will brave off leash excursions again, or just stick to on leash walks and increasing those for now. But whatever we do, I’m celebrating the fact that he feels great, and seems much younger than his soon to be 7 years. So here’s hoping that we have the answer and we get to enjoy him for many many more years to come.

dogs · Journal

Brogan and Rosco

I am amazed that these 2 have been part of our lives for almost 7 years already. It seems like just yesterday that we got them and were dealing with 2 crazy puppies. Now we are dealing with 2 very spoiled (but well behaved…or mostly well behaved) adult dogs. They travel with me for work almost every day, and for some strange reason love it. I love having travelling companions, they are great company for me when I’m travelling all alone. Hotels and strange towns are less lonely when you have 2 travelling partners. They are the best hotel guests, probably because they have been “working” with me on the road since they were 8 weeks old, and hotels have been a huge part of that.

Brogan and Rosco lounging in a hotel room (I bring blankets to cover all the bedding)

They also love exploring new places with me and we have found a lot of cool places in our off leash excursions in different communities.

A few of our off leash excursions

Sometimes we go to off leash dog parks and sometimes we just explore and see what we can discover. That has changed for us in the last few months because I’m not brave enough to risk Brogan’s heart in off leash excursions and have limited his excitement with other dogs to just hanging out with his brother. Instead we are doing on leash exploration. Not as much fun for any of us. But definitely worth the sacrifice if we can keep Brogan happy and healthy.

Rosco is the usual navigator, but sometimes Brogan takes on the important task instead of sleeping in the back seat.

They are both social butterflies and love meeting new people. That wasn’t always the case with Rosco. He needed a lot of work to gain confidence and understand that most people are friendly and not out to hurt him. He still isn’t as “brave” in new situations as what Brogan is, but the pair of them make a great team. Brogan thinks that everyone is his best friend and his confidence helps Rosco have enough courage to brave the new situation.

These 2 have brought us so much love and happiness that I truly hope that we have them for many many more years.

dogs · Journal

Brogan’s heart update

We got the echocardiogram done and got the cardiology report back. It is the best news we could have hoped for, his heart looks better. So much better that she is recommending decreasing and discontinuing some of his medication. She has also recommended 2 additional tests, because although his heart looks better that leaves a mystery as to why he is collapsing more frequently. If his heart is looking better, his symptoms should be going away, not increasing in frequency.

Now we wait for our normal Vet to get back from holidays so that we can plan our next steps. I have done a lot of reading in the meantime trying to understand everything better and decide what I think our next step should be.

But in the meantime we are going to celebrate the great news that his heart hasn’t deteriorated, and we will just have to figure out what is causing the other issues.

I’m ecstatic that the news we have so far is so good. And hopefully the next 2 tests will point us in the right direction on what we can and should do to keep the goofy guy around for many more years to come.

The goof spends more time upside down than right side up.
dogs · Journal

Brogan, the heart healer, if only we could heal his heart like he healed ours…

You might remember that Brogan came into our house after we lost Sloan. We were all very sad. We had lost 3 dogs in 3 years and weren’t sure we should get him. He ended up being exactly what we needed. He was a bundle of joy, and provided comic relief at every turn. The guy is a big clown. Well I think he may have taken our broken hearts on as his own because the big guy is in heart failure now.

Brogan started collapsing and losing consciousness in the summer of 2016, he would come back quickly, but it was still very scary. So off to the vet we went. They recommended an echocardiogram to get a better idea what was going on with him. At that visit they determined that he had a leaky tricuspid valve, but has probably always had it, and that wouldn’t explain his symptoms. So they chalked it up to vasovagal syncope. A condition that is very common in people, but not very common in dogs. Basically in stressful or high excitement moments his body tells his heart rate to slow down and his blood pressure to decrease instead of the opposite. Well we could live with that…not ideal, but much better than some of the other things that could be going on. So we carried on with our normal summer and my heart skipped a beat each time he turfed it, but I had narrowed it down to only really happening in the mornings, so we kept our exciting off leash walks for in the afternoon.

That fall I was working on the road and I stopped at the end of the day to let the dogs run around off leash and both dogs charged out of the truck excitedly, then Brogan collapsed, but this time it was different, he didn’t just collapse, he had a seizure and lost control of his bladder, he took a bit longer to recover and wasn’t quite himself for that walk. That was strange, but I was out of town for work, so I figured we would just keep him on a leash and see how the rest of the week went. Unfortunately it didn’t go well, it was like he had aged 100 years overnight, walked like an old man and could barely keep up on the shortest walks, no energy, and most concerning was his lack of appetite, but apparent growing belly. The Vet Tech in me knew this wasn’t good. So as soon as we got home we got him in to our regular Vet clinic. His usual Vet wasn’t working that evening, but the vet that was was very thorough and was in communication with our regular Vet. She confirmed that he did have fluid in his belly (which probably pointed to heart failure) and he had a crazy arrhythmia and tachycardia (his heart was racing at 3-4 times what it should be). She sent him home with some medications and warned me that any excitement may kill him. So we had to make sure we kept him very calm. She also booked him in for a repeat echocardiogram. So much for our weekend enjoying lake life. Our life for the next 3 weeks would be focused on keeping Brogan’s life as calm and boring as possible.

We went in for his echocardiogram on September 27th (the same day Sloan had died 5 years prior). So needless to say I was a wreck. However I was doing my best to keep it together for Brogan. We had to keep him calm at all costs. They promised to get us the results back as soon as possible, but from what the vet who did the echocardiogram said they were sure it was heart failure and started him on more medication to help him out. They also drained 4 litres of fluid off his abdomen. He still wasn’t eating well, so we kicked into dog cooking mode. Made him his own batch of stew, which he decided was worth eating. And made him raw meatballs to serve his pills in. And we waited.

Meatballs for me? Yes please!!

The following week we got the results. He was in right sided heart failure (what is called congestive heart failure in people). Its not the typical heart issue for a dog his size or breed, but that didn’t surprise me. None of my dogs have followed the normal “rules” with diseases. I asked what his prognosis was, and the vet told me what I already knew, it wasn’t good. But she then proceeded to tell me that I had beat the odds with my other 3 that had health issues and she was sure I would with him as well. The researcher in me wanted to know a time line…what were we up against. Everything I read said the mean survival rate was 19 weeks (so that means the average of dogs that have his diagnosis live for 19 weeks). Well that wouldn’t be near enough time…so we definitely had to beat that.

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Brogan and Rosco on their first off leash excursion after Brogan’s diagnosis (notice Brogan’s shaved belly)

I’m happy to say that overall he stayed stable and was doing fantastic until this summer (well past the 19 weeks) when he started collapsing again when we allowed him off leash. So we did another echocardiogram to see if his heart condition was deteriorating. Surprisingly it wasn’t. It actually looked better. The medication was helping. That still didn’t explain the collapses. A lot more research from both my Vet and myself and we both concluded that he has 2 issues, 1 causing his heart failure and the other one from whatever was initially causing his fainting. But there was no guarantee that that wouldn’t result in him dying after one of his collapses. His heart might not figure out it needed to pick up the pace and start beating again before it was too late. So the hard decision was made to restrict his off leash time. No more chasing squirrels, no more off leash dog parks, and hardest for me, no dog friends (other than his brother). I felt so guilty and selfish about that decision. Would that be what he would want if he could make the decision on his own, or would he rather go out in a blaze of glory chasing a squirrel or playing with a dog friend. I decided that no matter what he would rather, I needed him. He had healed my heart when I needed him most and now I was going to do my best to protect his from further damage.

That decision stopped the collapses and we enjoyed our summer fairly stress free. Then this fall/early winter he started collapsing again. Without being allowed off leash, without anything overly exciting happening. Now what. Is this the beginning of the end? I can’t bubble wrap the guy. He still needs to to be a dog. And enjoy himself himself and whatever time he has left with us. I would do anything to heal his heart the way he healed ours. But I am realistic enough to know that this probably means he is getting worse. He is booked in on Monday to have a repeat echocardiogram so that we can see what might be going on. And fingers and toes crossed be able to treat or manage it for many more years to come.

We all know that when we get dogs (or any pets really) that they are going to break our hearts. We just always hope that it won’t be for many many years. So we are hoping for many more years with him.