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Is wheezing/ loud breathing/ snoring when at rest normal?; Or could it be a sign of heart problems?
Topic Started: 30 Jan 2013, 06:48 (2,241 Views)
Rayemond
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Hi all. George is a doberman, he is 11 in April but still active and seems very healthy except for bad arthritis in his hind legs, and numerous fatty lumps (lipomas).

When he is snoozing on the sofa, sometimes his breathing is very noisy, almost like wheezing. Kind of sounds congested. It sometimes happens when he's awake, more often when he's dozing. His mucous membranes of his eyes have also gone very pale for the last few months. The vets have checked them and just say "Oh, they're not that pale, I've seen paler", but they are very pale FOR HIM, the first time I saw them like that I panicked because they were so pale compared to usual :err: . Recently when I clean his teeth his gums are cold to the touch, but his tongue is nice and pink (his gums are pigmented so I'm not sure if they're pale or not). He saw the vet last week about a dead tooth and the vet didn't mention anything unusual about his gums.
He does this weird retch/ cough maybe a couple of times a day, but does it more often when he's been chewing rawhides and as he often tries to swallow large pieces I put it down to throat irritation. The vets haven't heard this retch, but I've mentioned it many times to them and they can't find anything wrong and said it's probably down to the rawhides, but if I want they can put a camera down his throat to look for tumours and things, but I said no.
He sees the vet regularly for checkups and they always say his heart and lungs sound fine.

His appetite is good and he charges around on walks, he does sometimes tire and stop walking when on the lead after a long walk so that I have to coax him to carry on, but I put this down to his arthritis. He doesn't seem to be in any respiratory distress when he does this. He doesn't pant much on walks, except in the summer as the heat seems to really bother him.

I'm just really paranoid about dilated cardiomyopathy, because is is very common in dobermans. I think he may have cruciate ligament disease, and the vet says he will have to have his dead tooth removed if it gets infected (he said it's fine at the moment), but I wonder if it's worth the risk of a general anaesthetic/ knee surgery at his age. :nervous:

Sooo... basically the vets say they can't see anything wrong with him, so maybe I'm just being a dogochondriac, but they do tend to miss things unless they are very obvious. Just wondering if there's any other signs I should be looking for :dunno: Dilated cardiomyopathy often can't be detected until the dog goes into heart failure, so his heart would sound fine to the vet even if it wasn't. Wondering if I should really push for an ECG/ full blood tests to see if they turn anything up, or just keep an eye on him. :dunno:
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noodlecurlymum
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:hug: my oldie bob had mitral valve deficiency which i know is different but he did make a lot of similar sounding noises to what you are describing, the sort of throat clearing type cough on waking up etc. bob was on various meds which did help to prolong his life and gave him a very good quality of life too. he did have an ecg about 2 months before he died just so we could see how his heart disease was progressing, maybe you should ask for this as it does show changes.you can get yourself overly worried about your dogs but i just think thats normal and we all do it as we love them. :love:
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Indie chick
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I'm sure Niki will be along soon to give you some advice, she is our expert on DCM especially where dobes are concerned.

I think I would be asking for proper investigation to eliminate DCM if he were my dog. I've lost two male rotties to this disease at 5 and 6 years of age. The first was picked up by my excellent vet when he went off his back legs and also had nasty sores in his mouth. A couple of vets had diagnosed him with arthritis but we knew that wasn't right although he wasn't showing any signs of DCM but on chest X-ray his heart was very obviously enlarged. The second one we had ECGs done on regularly as he was from the same breed line. They were showing as being fine but we suspected he had it too as he started to stop on walks and sit down for a rest and like your boy was extremely heat intolerant.

If the breathing/wheezing and resting on walks are different for your dog then your vet should listen to your concerns and investigate further I think.
Edited by Indie chick, 30 Jan 2013, 10:10.
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Nikirooshka
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The coughing after rawhide is something my dobe boy does but he only does it after that, to be doing it a couple of times a day is a concern - does he do it more after exercise or when he's just woken up?

The rest however - I would be pushing for further investigation. You are right in saying that just listening to his heart is not sufficient for diagnosis, I'd be wanting an ECG and echocardiogram done (the only way to fully diagnose DCM is with an echo, an ECG is only any good if it's a 24 hour holter monitor ECG at a minimum and the dog may have DCM without many abnormal beats/rhthyms so again, the echo is the best one - my old girl's last holter didn't look too bad but her last echo showed a totally dilated heart).

The pale gums and breathing issues worry me, especially as you say they are not normal for him - ignore the vets, you know your dog, push for the tests or ask for a referral. If there's one thing I've learned over the years it's that vets miss a LOT sometimes and that my instincts about my dogs have always been right - I don't muck about any more. If I think something needs checking it gets done and I do not back down until it is.
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Bevd
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I too would tell your vet (tell, not ask) that you want to be referred to a heart specialist, even if it is just to put your mind at rest.

Which area of the country are you in?
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Rayemond
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You guys are amazing, it's so isolating to be worried about your dog and have everyone tell you you're just being a dogochondriac and the dog is fine.

And look, I just found out my vet are doing half-price echocardiograms this month! Weird coincidence.
http://www.iomvet.co.uk/News.aspx

I think I'll get Ace scanned as well, just because he's a doberman too...
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Nikirooshka
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Ooh that is lucky! Definitely get Ace done too, the earlier anything is found the better and if nothing is found, the peace of mind is lovely :)
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Rayemond
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They're both booked in for echocardiographs on Wednesday. I've written down all George's symptoms that I'm worried about, and how long he's had them for.

I'm really worried about George now :( Just the last couple of days, I've heard the occasional soft cough :no: If it is Dilated Cardiomyopathy, from what I've read he won't have long left, as dobermans don't last long after diagnosis. He's still got a big appetite and is running round on his walks and wants to play with Ace, though, and he's not panting or getting short of breath whilst charging around, so hopefully it isn't... It's just when he's snoozing on the sofa in the evening that he sounds wheezy. But if it is, I might be saying goodbye to him in a few weeks or even sooner. Hopefully meds would relieve things for a while, but I wouldn't see my boy suffer.

I've stopped giving him his rimadyl until I get him checked out in case it makes him worse - could it make him worse? It's never seemed to help his arthritis much anyway so I've only given it occasionally when he seems sore, but for the past couple of weeks his knees seem really sore so I've been giving it every day in the hope that it would help. I hope this isn't what's made him worse. Mind you, the vets have wanted me to give it every day for years but I was worried about it causing side-effects so whilst he's running round enjoying himself I've tried to avoid it, just stopped throwing his ball because that made him really sore, and regulated his exercise. I thought that since his legs seem so sore now (I know the heart problem can cause leg weakness too, but his knees are cracking and popping a lot) it was time to say he's old, let's just make him as comfortable as possible with whatever pain relief he needs.

Now that I'm listening for it, Ace seems a bit wheezy at times too :no: Hopefully I'm just being paranoid.

Come on Wednesday!! If he gets any worse I'll take him in before then, and try to convince the vet that there's something wrong :rolleyes:
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Rayemond
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I was just reading everyone's replies again - how did your dogs do after diagnosis? xxx
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Rayemond
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One more thing, he's burping a lot and his stomach is gurgling more than usual.
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Rayemond
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Aha! After much googling and worrying, I've read that acid reflux can cause wheezing at rest, as the acid settles in the airways. That would make sense, since he only does it when he's been curled up for a while, his breathing seems normal when he's running around on walks, the occasional cough/ retch because his throat is irritated by the acid (the cough/ retch he's had for at least a year), chewing rawhides makes this worse because it hurts his already irritated throat...
The gurgling tummy and burping would make sense too if it was acid reflux or something similar.
He did used to get acid reflux when he was younger, but his main symptom was throwing up yellow acid in the mornings. He hasn't been doing that.

The other symptoms could be down to his arthritis. The heat intolerance/ stopping on walks he's had for years. :fingers:

Feel a lot more hopeful now, maybe it's something easily fixable. It's just that because of his age, every time there's something unusual I think THIS IS THE END!! I even threw a birthday party for him when he was 9 and invited his doggy friends, because he'd been a bit peaky and I was convinced he wouldn't make it to 10. Getting another dog gave him a new lease of life, though, and soon he was playing like a puppy and got interested in his toys and chews again (just because Inca loved them) :rolleyes: He went downhill when Inca died, too, but was soon full of life when Ace moved in. TOO full of life, he just wanted to beat Ace up all the time (cos Ace wasn't snipped :rolleyes:, they get on great now he's been snipped for a while) and rediscovered his old dog-aggression which I was priding myself in curing :rolleyes: It was like now he was with another boy he had backup, so he wanted to pick fights with dogs in the park! Funny, he was great with other dogs when I had Inca, and if she barked at another dog he'd tell her off :rolleyes: Luckily with a little work we're back to where we were :) Letting Ace,who is friendly with other dogs when he's not just copying George, greet the other dog first rather than letting them both charge over to the other dog together was the key. Once Ace is friends with the dog I can release George and he will make friends too :)

Anyway! The point is, I love my George, with all his eccentricities, we've been through a lot together and I want him around for as long as possible. He's literally been a lifesaver when I've been down :wub: .

Everything crossed for his echocardiogram on Wednesday!!

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Edited by Rayemond, 4 Feb 2013, 16:58.
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Nikirooshka
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George :love:

Rayemond
4 Feb 2013, 16:57

He did used to get acid reflux when he was younger, but his main symptom was throwing up yellow acid in the mornings. He hasn't been doing that.

The other symptoms could be down to his arthritis. The heat intolerance/ stopping on walks he's had for years. :fingers:


Worth having his thyroid checked (full panel though, not just T4 or TSH) if you haven't already then - slowing down on walks and heat intolerance can both be down to that (and dobes are very prone to it), and although I'm not 100% sure if it happens in dogs, reflux is certainly a very common symptom of hypothyroidism in people (it's something I have to deal with). But the walking thing I've had with Remy for years - first it was down to his thyroid, now it's his arthritis.

Fingers crossed for his echo :)

And to answer your other Q - Soli lived for another 15 months post-diagnosis, that was without any medication too as she was on the Protect study and got put on the placebo.
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Rayemond
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Wow, that's amazing about Soli!! Great to know. How was her quality of life for that time? And had she already started showing symptoms, or was the condition picked up on a routine echo? I read that once they start showing symptoms such as wheezing, they don't last long.

Good advice about the thyroid, he hasn't been tested. I was already thinking that a full blood panel would be the next step, then maybe a camera down the throat if nothing still turns up and the vets still can't diagnose anything from symptoms. I think some kinds of cancer can be picked up through blood-tests? :dunno: Now that I think of it, I do remember one vet saying that the breathing through his throat sounded harsh, so she gave him a course of antibiotics, which didn't help, then she suggested the camera to look for problems. I said no and put the retch thing down to too many rawhides, but now he's showing new symptoms I'd go for it if we can't find anything wrong with less-invasive tests.

He does have a lot of lipomas too, including a couple or larger ones around his chest area - one underneath him at the bottom of his ribcage and a new one at the front of his chest. I haven't bothered to get any of them aspirated, biopsied or removed because they don't seem to cause any problems and new ones pop up all the time, and old ones seem to disappear. I just keep an eye on them get the vet to palpate them every time I go. I can't find any that could be pressing on his throat or anything, though, but it might be worth taking a closer look at them if we can't find another cause for the wheezing.
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Nikirooshka
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She was scanned for free as part of the study, they were looking for dobes with occult DCM. She was actually scanned twice - back in 2008 she was equivocal (basically showing signs but too early to actually be diagnosed) and by July 2010 she was diagnosed officially. She only ever showed two symptoms - peculiar heartbeats (abnormal beats as expected with DCM but as time went on her beats started to go in pairs which apparently is very unusual for a dobe) and sadly, sudden death :( But I did expect that - her brother died the same way four years previously. She never reached heart failure, although the cardiologist said she would go into it any day from about 10 months before she died!

Her quality of life was always fantastic - the day before she died she spent 90 minutes running around constantly in the woods, and right up to literally seconds before she was badgering my other dogs and barking at them :rolleyes:

Once they go into heart failure, no, it's not long at all for our beloved dobes - 6 weeks is average :( They do get it much, much worse than any other breed. But the vetmedin can make a big difference in an occult dog - on the study the dogs on the medication proper were averaging an extra 9 months before going into heart failure or dying. And of course there are other things such as anti-arrythmia drugs that can help too.

Remy's had the bronchoscopy for his coughing, it didn't show anything except a couple of odd nodules which looked more like congenital deformities. Biopsies were done but they are harmless and tiny, otherwise he was fine despite x-rays suggesting mild bronchitis. He also has a lot of lipomas, loads of them - these two could be twins :rofl:
Edited by Nikirooshka, 4 Feb 2013, 22:27.
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Rayemond
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Hey, maybe they're related! :lol:

I was vaguely aware of DC before this, and I always thought that Sudden Death would actually be a good way to go :) How great that Soli was happy and feisty right up to the end :)
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Rayemond
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Wouldn't it be great if they WERE related - you don't have his KC pedigree certificate do you? I have George's :)
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noodlecurlymum
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:hug: :hug: Bob lived 9 months post diagnosis, diff type of heart disease but same meds, he was on fortekor, frusemide and vetmedin. He had a very good quality of life and apart from massive weed and needing to go out a few times in night due to the frusemide, and a bit of throat clearing when he'd been asleep you'd never have known he was so Ill. Vetmedin is a great drug, I pushed vet for it, vet gave bob 3-6 months and he lived 9 good months, was tootling about right up to day he went, unf he keeled over late one night in our garden. But then we never had the hard decision of pts. I wish you all the best with your 2.
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Nikirooshka
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Rayemond
5 Feb 2013, 09:39
Hey, maybe they're related! :lol:

I was vaguely aware of DC before this, and I always thought that Sudden Death would actually be a good way to go :) How great that Soli was happy and feisty right up to the end :)


It was absolutely the best way for her - she was quite the stresshead and would never have coped with going the longer way, with more vet visits and so on. Echos were scary enough - at the last one it took 6 of us to pin her on the table to get it finished!

Rayemond
5 Feb 2013, 09:40
Wouldn't it be great if they WERE related - you don't have his KC pedigree certificate do you? I have George's :)


No, I never got one for him - he's not registered, I did try a couple of times to get the parents' registered names but the breeders never got back to me (which doesn't surprise me as the 'accident' clearly wasn't!). But Remy's a fawn bred from a fawn and a blue, I'd be surprised if they actually were related!
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