Caught in The Nick of Time
Living in the wilds of the rural Midwest, we get a few interesting animal cases. When a member of my staff hunts me down, phone and note pad in hand and begins with this statement, “so, wow, okay, here’s the deal…,” I know I’m going to ask, “Are you serious?” And be told yes, there is a dog coming in with a really mean beaver attached to his tail; or I’m leaving immediately to sew up a pony that got attacked by a pig; or do you have a tranquilizer gun to take out a giant boar.
However, most cases I see are the “coulda-shoulda-woulda” been routine — change the food, fix the problem — had they not gone untreated for so long. Again, constant shedding is not normal; and no, scooting does not mean worms.
But I digress.
The cause and effect of poor nutrition on an animal is magnified when the dog or cat is already compromised with another chronic condition. I want to share with you this week the effect of poor food and too much food on a dog with heart problems.
I’ve been treating Nick, a 12 year-old Chihuahua, for two years for a cough associated with an enlarged heart. Heart disease is primarily hereditary; and Nick’s parents treated him early – which is to be commended. Waiting would have greatly diminished his quality of life. However, he has gone from being a six pound Chihuahua two years ago to an eight pound dog now, and the weight has had disastrous effects.
Recently, the cough worsened to the extent of alarming Nick’s elderly parents. He is on heart medication and I added a cough suppressant two weeks ago to help Nick, and his parents, sleep through the night.
These are good people with the best of intentions – but they suffer with some memory issues, and like most pet owners are programmed to buy commercial dog food. They are also very stubborn and resistant to change. Finally, last week, the cough was severe enough, they agreed to hospitalize him here to see if we could isolate the problem and find a solution.
I thought it was another case of lose the weight, fix the dog. Until I noticed he was coughing more often when calm and quiet than when running and playing.
Hmmmmm. That’s why I’m sharing Nick’s journey with all of you. Let’s see where this road leads.
Day 2 – In the Nick of Time
My husband, Troy, doesn’t even ask anymore, “Honey, whose dog is this?” In part because he’s become accustomed to the parade of animals in our home and mostly in fear that my daughter and I will add another to the pack of 10 that dominate our domestic bliss.
So when Nick ended up on top of his head in our bed last night, Troy smiled, patted his little head and went to sleep. And he slept through seven hours of Nick’s coughing spells. I did not.
Today, we went to work on discovering the missing puzzle pieces to Nick’s underlying problem.
Infection was a primary concern. I started with checking his teeth and, no great shocker, his were in bad shape. Bad teeth transfer bacteria throughout the body and although Nick had had a dental less than two years ago, he needed another. We ended up pulling six rotten teeth. While he was under, I took radiographs of his neck and chest.
The radiographs confirm my earlier diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Interestingly, his trachea appears to be enlarged. Symptom of the problem or the problem?
I thought maybe he needed a tissue massage around his neck or a chiropractic adjustment. He barely tolerates any kind of pressure on his neck and when his head dips below his shoulder line, he begins to cough.
Nick was going to stay for at least a week for observation.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com