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29 Oct 2010
I was wondering if anyone had any experience with severe pulmonary hypertension in dogs or any underlying lung disease such as fibrosis.
28 Oct 2010
Its been just over three weeks that it has taken me to write this down. My husband and I are devastated. We had our toy poodle "baby" Silver for a little over 11 years. He was 13 years and 4 months old.

He was only 2 years old when we got him a few years after getting married and he became our "baby" when most couples begin to start families. He filled that void for us. He acts like a baby and we definitely treated him as such - he deserved it. My husband and I tried unsuccessfully for over a year to get pregnant before beginning fertility treatments and finally getting pregnant in March. We always jokingly said that Silver was always going to stick around to make sure that we were having a baby and we were okay.

In late spring this year he developed a hacking cough. It sounded like a cat trying to cough a fur ball up - it would end in a dry wretch and he'd be fine. It seemed to happen mostly when he was picked up or put down. Nothing else changed for him - he was eating fine, running around the park every night as if he was still a puppy. Most people were convinced that he still was a puppy. We surmised that he had collapsing trachea as it is known to happen with his breed, and I had heard it in other dogs. At his physical in July, we brought this up with our vet and she offered us x-rays as well as bloodwork. She told us an x-ray to determine collapsed trachea was a 50/50 shot as it was something that the trachea had to be in a collapsed state at the time to pick up. We did both the bloodwork and xrays. She listened to his heart and detected no murmur, but she was concerned that his xrays showed a lot of lung activity. She was concerned about either pneumonia or congestive heart failure. Some of his blood levels were also pretty off (thyroid/liver) but she said those could also be thrown off if he was suffering from something else. She wanted us to see a cardio specialist for an echo-cardiogram to rule out heart disease, and in the meantime began a course of antibiotics in case it was pneumonia. That week we saw the specialist for the echocardiogram. He confirmed that there was indeed collapsing trachea, although not too severe. He said his heart was in good condition, there was no fluid in the lungs or pneumonia but he diagnosed him as having "some degree of pulmonary hypertension." His recommendation was to continue with antibiotics and from there possibly start a steroid such as Prednisone. The vet had us run two courses of antibiotics which, in the beginning, seemed to help a bit.

Looking back there had been signs of him slowing down - he didn't want to walk as much, his breathing was heavier, he wasn't acting his usual self in ways around the house. However, we had the hottest summer on record, so not wanting to walk around in the heat wasn't really suspicious.

After two rounds of antibiotics, we began Prednisone in early September. He was on that for about a week or two, but with little relief from it, the vet said we should wean him off of it, which we did. He was really losing energy though. On Saturday, 9/25, he went to the groomer and she told us that he didn't even want to sit up. He had no energy. We took him home and decided to rest him all weekend with us at home at all times and to take him to the vet first thing Monday a.m.

Monday at 3:30 a.m. we got up and my husband took him outside to let him pee. When he brought him back in the house and put him on the sofa, he completely collapsed. His front arms outstretched and he collapsed to the side. My husband grabbed him thinking he had died and we rushed into the car and headed to the 24-hour animal emergency hospital. As soon as we got in the car I had noticed he peed on my husband, and I thought for sure that was a sign he was gone. He began barking though and was coming to halfway there. When we got there you would have almost thought nothing had happened. They checked his coloring and oxygen and said it was good. They took more xrays and again said his lungs were very busy and they suspected pulmonary fibrosis (scarring). They confirmed no pneumonia or fluid. They said he was fine to go home until morning, but with us being nervous they agreed to keep him in a cage with oxygen until we could take him to his vet at 8 a.m. We kept him there and at 8 a.m. left with a recommendation that we should see our regular vet and a general internist. We brought him to our vet who talked to us and scheduled us an appointment with an internist at Angel Memorial Hospital in Boston (one of the best). They reviewed his xrays, echocardiogram, took his blood pressure, etc. Their recommendation was for another echocardiogram to determine the extent of the pulmonary hypertension. We headed back to our cardio specialist.

He performed another echocardiogram and determined that the pulmonary hypertension was now severe (86mmHg) and he had mitral valve regurgitation of high velocity - he also confirmed scarring of the lungs. Unfortunately, when PH becomes this severe, the only treatment is Sildenafil (Viagra) and it only treats the symptoms in the hope of subsiding them to make the dog more comfortable. It helps in about 60% of cases I am told. My research has shown me that even if it helps to subside the symptoms, the outlook is only a few months. We began the medication that evening.

His breathing seemed to get better, but his energy just was not there. On that Wednesday we believe he had another collapse (syncope). We were also told that with every episode oxygen to the brain is lost and can lead to brain damage. Friday night he had yet another episode. My husband and I stayed home with him all weekend. I think at this point we knew the end was near and he was one of the 40% that the medication was not even subsiding the symptoms. That Saturday happened to be "Blessing of the Animals" weekend and we took him to be blessed. Other than that, he would not get up off the sofa. He wouldn't eat and was taking only water if you put it to him. On Sunday morning he had another collapse. Each time we wondering if he was coming out of it okay. Sunday evening he took another and we then called the 24-hour emergency to arrange to have him put to sleep sad.gif We brought him there and just could not do it. We left. This was the hardest decision for us, even though we knew the quality of life was not there and we wondered how much he was suffering and was effects these episodes were having on him and his brain.

On Monday morning, 10/4, we woke up at about 7:30 waiting for the cardio specialist to open at 8 so we could call and also our vet. At that point, Silver had another episode sad.gif After this one he just sat at the edge of the sofa rocking back and forth. It was heartbreaking. At 8 a.m. I called the cardio specialist and he reviewed everything and told me that with the #s and severity of the PH, unfortunately the medication did not help and he was not surprised we found ourselves in this situation. He told me that there was nothing more he could offer and that it was really unfair to keep putting him through this. We knew this but just couldn't let go. I called our regular vet and she said the same, so we made an 11 a.m. appointment. When we got there, I went inside so that my husband and Silver would not have to wait in the lobby for the vet to be ready. When I got back out to the car, Silver was having another collapse. This time it seemed he wasn't coming out of it. We prayed that God would just take him and he would be at peace. We sat in the car for what was probably a few minutes and then brought him right in. He was still out of it.

My husband and I were with him in the end, which I feel was the best thing. I never wanted him to die alone, and I certainly didn't want him to endure any pain or suffering. The vet said he was just about gone on his own and he went right down peacefully. We stayed with him for maybe 10-15 minutes and said goodbye (as we had all weekend as well).

We are still both devastated. I think the fact that our baby is coming in less than a month is making this time even more confusing. I wonder if anyone else has experienced such a loss and then good news to come almost at the same time. Its hard. We got Silver's ashes back and he is home, which brings some peace. We have it in a curio cabinet in our living room along with a few pictures of him and his Pedigree in there as well. The church that did his blessing before he passed away also has a service every 3rd Sunday of the month where parishioners can bring their pets, and they had a service on the 17th where they mentioned Silver's name.

I later learned that the day Silver passed away 10/4 is World Animal Day - the Feast of Saint Francis. That must mean something in this awful mess.

Thanks for listening. Not many people understand. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with pulmonary hypertension or lung diseases?
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28 Oct 2010 - 17:32

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