dogs · Journal

Using a fitbit to monitor Brogan’s heart

I saw a post a while ago of a Veterinarian using an apple watch to quickly check a dogs heartrate and figured I’d give it a try with my fitbit versa and Brogan. It worked amazing, but I wasn’t willing to give him my fitbit versa…however I did have an old charge HR that was just sitting in a drawer. I charged it and put it on him…and it works

Now I’m going to leave it on him and hope it does a decent job of monitoring what his heart is doing. We did a holter monitor on him a while ago, but didn’t really find out a whole lot from it, probably because that was only for 48hours, and I don’t think he was very comfortable wearing it. This doesn’t seem to affect him at all. And its mine, so it doesn’t cost me anything for him to wear it or check it.

So what brought this on you might wonder…

He has had more dizzy moments in the past month and I am a little concerned that his condition is getting worse. I managed to catch him before he collapsed 2 weeks ago and his heart was racing so fast I couldn’t count it. For those of you that are new to Brogan’s ongoing heart mystery the racing heart (tachycardia) was what got our initial diagnosis. He was put on a beta blocker to help control that. However it was very obvious that it was happening again. I talked to my Veterinarian the next day and we decided we would try increasing the dose of his beta blocker to see if that would help him out or not. He is now 1 full week into his increased dosage and seems to be doing okay. So now we will go back to more activities and see how he handles them.

I sure hope the fitbit works well enough that we can get a good baseline heartrate for him, and also see what happens when he is excited or when we are going for a walk.

Actually I kinda hope we don’t see any episodes and the fitbit doesn’t need to do anything.

In the meantime we will leave the fitbit on him and see what happens one way or another…

dogs

Brogan’s heart mystery

Brogan has beaten the odds, no one had expectations of him making it for more than 4 months after he was diagnosed. We smashed those numbers and he continues to do well. If I’m doing math correctly it’s been 2 1/2 years since his diagnosis, which is amazing and we are so grateful that he is still with us and doing relatively well. He is now starting to show old dog symptoms, so we have added CBD oil to his morning ritual. It’s amazing how big of a difference that has made for him. He has the puppy “zoomies” more often than he has in a long while. It’s a fantastic thing to see him be such a goof again. I didn’t realize that he had slowed down until we see him act like a puppy again.

His heart still gives him a bit of grief (and a little stress for those that love him). He still has had random dizzy spells when he gets excited, but overall we seemed to have it under control. Then this past weekend he had a bad collapse, this one seemed a little different than the ones in the past. He got dizzy, but then when he collapsed and lost consciousness he lost control of his bladder and also went very rigid. It was more like a mini seizure of some sort than his normal faint. I don’t know what to think about that. He’s rarely lost control of his bladder (but it has happened) and I’ve only seen him go rigid once before and that was right before we diagnosed him. So now the neurological link possibility fits a little better. The cardiologist thought there might be a neurological issue that was a contributing factor to his collapses, but no one was really sure how to test that or if it was all a heart issue. Not that this has confirmed anything for anyone. It is just another piece in the complex puzzle that has become our life with Brogan. His most recent collapse makes me realize that we do really need to enjoy every minute we have with him.

dogs

Hemp oil and Brogan

Brogan is 7 1/2 now and he is starting to show some “old dog” signs. I know 7 1/2 doesn’t seem old, but for a dog that is almost 150lbs he is definitely in the senior category. He was sometimes reluctant to get in the truck and often wanted me to boost his bum into the bed. I also noticed that he licked at his joints more than he used to, definitely more than what could be counted as normal grooming. I had a bit of NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) left over from a while ago when he had hurt his shoulder doing who knows what. So I spoke to my veterinarian and since he had recently been examined and had bloodwork done she agreed that it was worth trying. Within a week he was back to his normal goofy self. He wanted to wrestle with Rosco again and jumped into the back seat of the truck and our bed like it was nothing. It was like we had turned back the clock a little bit. I was impressed. But I was also a little concerned that with his heart condition this might not be the best long term solution for him. So I began the process of researching CBD oil. I had heard rave reviews from people who had used it on themselves and had great success. Not as many pet testimonials, but I had heard some and figured it was worth a try. We knew how he felt with NSAID’s on board, so it wouldn’t be hard to tell if the CBD oil was working for him or not.

I’m very happy to say that he is doing amazingly well with just CBD oil and he isn’t even taking the full recommended dose. Now we can keep the NSAID’S in our back pocket for a later date, when the CBD oil just isn’t enough.

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of research on CBD oil yet, even less for pets, and there are a lot of products that aren’t what they say they are. So if you are thinking about trying CBD oil with your pet please make sure you do your research, find a veterinarian who is familiar with CBD and see if they have any recommendations. Also make sure that the CBD oil you choose doesn’t have any THC in it. Dogs are very sensitive to THC and we want to help them not end up in the emergency room with them.

dogs · Journal

1 year of blogging

Well I can’t believe its been just over 1 year since I jumped in with both feet and braved putting myself out there with a blog. Originally I thought I would use it for young living and education about essential oils, but it quickly evolved into a blog about my dogs and cooking with just a touch of essential oils on the side.

I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my posts. It means a lot to me to know that someone is looking at what I wrote.

Its amazing how cathartic it can be to write things down about the dogs and how it feels good to memorialize the ones that we have loved and lost.

I also love cooking, always have, and I think the greatest compliment you can give someone is to ask for their recipe. I have always like sharing great recipes that I find and this is an easy place to do that.

I have been inconsistent with my posts recently, but I want to get back to at least weekly posts again. Maybe more if I’m feeling creative.

While I’m writing I figured I should update all of you on Brogan. He is doing well, he still collapses, and no one seems to be able to figure it out. So we just try to do stuff that keeps him somewhat calm and contained because big bursts of energy or excitement seem to cause him to collapse. Both dogs are resigned to on leash only walks and now that its not so hot out we can go for much longer ones. They both behave much better on a leash now than what they did when we first started with on leash walks so they are more enjoyable for all of us. And Rosco is Rosco, affectionate, loving and goofy, and healthy, healthy is pretty rare in the animals I love. So I have to mention 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 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.

dogs

Brogan, our second dogue de bordeaux and 5th dog

Brogan came into our family when we were all so sad that I wasn’t sure how he would do. We had lost 3 dogs in 3 years and I kinda felt a little cursed. But Brogan would have no part of sadness. He goofed off constantly, and was the biggest clutz I’ve ever been around. It was like he had no idea where his body parts were. It was so comical to watch him do anything. And he was a drama Queen. If it hurt a little he screamed like he was dying. And if he got tired on a walk he just quit. Either he got carried home or he would just stay were he was. He didn’t seem to have basic survival instincts. He just expected that we would rescue him. It was the exact thing we needed. He brought joy back into our sad house. His drama was a distraction and comic relief. Hard to stay sad when you are laughing at a clutzy puppy. And Rosco absolutely loved him. I had went from 1 very serious “responsible” obedient dog and a nervous puppy, to 2 crazy puppies. They kept us busy. When one did something bad and you caught them at it and scolded them you knew to watch for the second one to try it. Double trouble through and through. But also double the amount of fun and laughing.

Rosco taught Brogan how much fun mud puddles are

Brogan didn’t let us get away with completely normal and healthy for long though. The poor guy ended up with a bad gastroenteritis and acted like he was going to die. I was still pretty traumatized by Sloan, so we rushed him into the Vet right away. They ran some tests and confirmed that he was indeed just suffering from a bad gastroenteritis and would be okay. But he was dehydrated so they did want him on fluids until he was feeling better. Luckily for all of us he was back to his normal pain in the butt puppy in a couple days.

Brogan got to come home with me because I am a registered veterinary technologist

Rosco was his side kick the entire time he wasn’t feeling well. Rarely leaving his side. It was cute to see, but a little stressful because I was so worried about my puppy being sick so soon after we got him. After that little bump in the road we were back to smooth sailing. Our first year we did puppy and beginner obedience classes (separately so they each got one on one time with training) and then we would do our homework together at home. They were both pretty eager to please. However Brogan proved that he had a bigger stubborn streak than any dog I had worked with before. He would do things for you once, maybe twice if you were lucky and then he would look at you like you must be slow because why else would you ask him to do something repeatedly when he had already shown you he could do it. There wasn’t a treat in the world that would motivate him to show you the same thing repeatedly. Which any of you who have done puppy classes will know is mostly repetition. The instructor suggested I bring better treats for him at the beginning, so I showed her the ham, turkey and cheese I was using. She laughed and told me that we could mix stuff up and not follow the 20 sits that the rest of the class was doing. He obviously understood the command, just wasn’t interested in doing it. This was hard for me because I had always had “eager to please dogs”. He was eager to please, just eager to please himself and not others 😋. That hasn’t changed with age for him. He is a master manipulator and I think may be the most intelligent dog I have ever had, just not the most obedient. He knows what you want, he just needs to think it’s in his best interest to do it.

Rosco, on the other hand, was crazy food motivated and really eager to please. The only thing we struggled with was loose leash walking. The leash and him just did not go together. He would walk perfectly beside me without a leash, but put a leash on and he felt the need to keep it as tight as possible at all times. We tried everything, be a tree (where you don’t move until the leash is lax), zig zagging (so he has to focus on where you are going) and clicking and treating every time we managed to take a few steps with a loose leash. Nothing worked for him. Brogan excelled at loose leash walking so it was harder to work with Rosco on it when we were walking together. They were fantastic off leash though, they stuck close to me and to each other and both had fantastic recalls. So eventually we gave up on walking on leash and just did dog parks and other places it was safe to go off leash.

Brogan and Rosco playing
Brogan and Rosco cuddling together

You would think that these two were littermates with how close they were. They were either playing together, finding mischief together or cuddling and sleeping together. We estimated Rosco’s birthday to be in April and Brogan was born in August so they are very close in age.

Finally we had “normal” dogs. That we could just enjoy. No pharmacy of medication or high chairs or worrying every time they looked at me strangely that something was seriously wrong with them and we needed to go back to the vet. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have given up one second I had with the other 3. They brought me more joy and love than one could imagine. It was devastating to lose them because they consumed so much of my time. But they were special and we loved them. It was just kinda relaxing to have 2 Dogs that could eat normal dog food and didn’t have a terrible prognosis.

I will continue their story in future posts. They are our only kids, furkids, but like kids for us. And anyone who knows me knows I love to talk about them and share stories about what they have done to brighten my day.

dogs

Sloan (part 2)

After we got Sloan’s megaesophagus sort of figured out we started working on training and normal dog stuff. We still had Gunner, so we did day to day training, learning to walk on leash and going to off leash dog parks and practising his recall. He was a quick learner. And although we couldn’t do clicker training with him because we couldn’t just hand out treats, unless it was close to meal time so he could sit in his chair, he was still a fast study. Very eager to please us no matter what.
He LOVED fetch and was a genius at catching the Frisbee. Gunner was good at it, but Sloan was an expert. I wasn’t always the best at “good” throws but Sloan rarely missed. He was amazingly athletic and agile for a 110lb dog.

Sloan jumping to catch a frisbee

Sloan also had the patience of a saint, it didn’t matter how big or small the dog was he would adjust how he played with them so that he never hurt them. When he was playing with the baby chihuahua (Nixon, in the photos below) there were a few times where my heart skipped a beat, Nixon was the size of Sloan’s leg and they were chasing each other around, I kept worrying that Sloan would step on him. However Sloan never missed a step, they played for hours and no “accidents” at all.

Sloan playing with puppies a fraction of his size

He displayed that same level of patience and gentleness to all sizes and ages of children as well. I did my nieces baby pictures when she was 9 days old, and got some fantastic ones of 4 month old Sloan laying calmly beside her. He was also part of my nephews newborn photoshoot, but he wasn’t a puppy anymore. It was amazing to watch him around kids. He was so calm and gentle.

Sloan with my niece and nephew

We lost Gunner when Sloan was just over 1, he didn’t seem to be fazed by it all, but was a huge comfort to us as we were grieving. It was like he knew what we needed.

He got to be a big brother when he was 3. We had a stray puppy show up at our cabin on Canada day weekend. He was skin and bones, and had a terrible hair coat, but he was a fiesty little thing and Sloan loved him. He thought we had gotten him the best present ever. It was so funny to watch them together. We kept the puppy for the weekend, planning on bringing him to a rescue when we got back to the city. But after having him with us for the weekend we realized that everything really does happen for a reason and he was the perfect fit for our family. So we kept him. We named him Rosco, and he and Sloan were inseparable. Rosco was a nervous guy, but seemed to build confidence every day. I’m sure partly due to how great Sloan was with him.

Sloan playing with his new little brother Rosco

Sloan was part of our family for 3 short years. Not near long enough. We brought him home on September long weekend and lost him the end of September 3 years later. He was the 3rd dog we lost in 3 years, and I’m not going to lie, it almost broke me. I was devastated. We had done everything we could and thought we had everything under control with his megaesophagus and then one morning he vomited (not regurgitated) but heaved and vomited. After he did that he didn’t want to sit in his chair. He fought to get out shortly after I put him there and didn’t want to eat, just wanted out. So we went to work that day and he regurgitated a few times and just wasn’t himself. So off to the vet we went. We did some x-rays but couldn’t see anything, so I brought him home and tried to put him in his chair again. This time he really fought and he turned a little blue. So we rushed back to the vet clinic. We thought maybe he had something we couldn’t see lodged in his esopagus, so we anaesthetized him and tried to pass a stomach tube. It wouldn’t go, so we weren’t sure what was going on. But while we were doing that he coded (died). The Vet and I (I’m a registered Veterinary technologist) did cpr and got him back. But now we were really stumped and out of ideas on what was going on and it was now a full on emergency where every decision could be life or death. We called the Vet college and rushed him there. The Vet driving and me riding in the back with him (breathing in his endotracheal tube because he still wasn’t breathing well). They met us in the parking lot and rushed him to the back to start treatment and tests while someone else came to ask us a bunch of questions. My Vet called my hubby and told him what was going on and that he should come and meet me at the college and then she went home. He coded 3 more times while we were there and no one seemed to know what was going on to cause it. So I asked if we could go see him, said goodbye, told him he didn’t have to fight anymore, told him he was such a great dog and that we loved him and asked them to euthanize him. I left in a daze, what had went wrong, what did I do to cause this. I didn’t sleep, both my husband and I were in shock and poor Rosco had reverted to his nervous self.

The next morning I called the Vet college to ask them to perform a post mortem. I needed to know what happened. They told me it would take 2 weeks to get results, I was fine with that, I just needed to know what happened. The Vet from the college called me back that evening. She was amazed, had never seen anything like it, had only read about it, apparently when he vomited that morning his stomach has degloved (the inside tore away from the outside) and it had intussusepted into his esopagus (basically his stomach inside ended up inside-out trapped in his esopagus) and it was already going necrotic (the tissue was dying). There was nothing that anyone could have done. It’s rare, in fact in the 9 years I worked in clinic I had never heard of it. And the numerous veteranians I have talked to about it since hadn’t ever seen it either, just read about it. He was one of a kind right until they end. The knowledge that I couldn’t have done anything to help him made it a little easier. I stopped questioning every decision and just grieved. I missed him so much. And still miss him. He was one of a kind in so many way. RIP Sloan.