Apologize for lack of posts between last post, 6 Sept until now.
As most of you know, Spock was PTS on 14 Sept, as things got worse quickly with his DCM. https://www.dobermantalk.com/rainbow...14-2020-a.html
I did PM Dobebug and Spock’s breeder during this period for Dobe specific experience on what the DVM and Cardiologist were advising. Trying to keep things brief and just review my experience with Spock’s last days, succumbing to DCM. Self-critiquing hindsight is part of that review, which might help other Dobe owners.
As mentioned in previous posts on this thread, I was not having annual 24-holter testing done on Spock. He had annual and a few intermediate exams done at his vet on regular basis. Also, we did not have canine health insurance, which would have helped financially with his care.
Since retirement in 2018, I have been with Spock and Eva for 24/7/365 and in the last two years, learned all their routines, habits and mannerisms well. Spock is the kind of Doberman that never slowed down since he was a 2-y/o puppy, it just was the way he was. Eva, on the other hand, as she got older, even though losing her hypo-thyroid weight gain, did become less active and motivated. Spock’s DCM - Lessons Learned and Experiences 1. Annual Vet Exams Not Enough for Dobermans-
Spock’s regular vet missed any signs of advancing DCM during June annual exam. Even when during follow-up in August after first coughing began, vet didn’t diagnose any heart issue. From his second (his breeder’s) vet and experienced Dobe owners have frequently posted on DT, annual 24-holters and follow-up Echocardiograms can truly diagnose DCM. Even a 2-minute EKG doesn’t always catch the disease.
2. Don’t Dismiss Early Signs-
Spock on 5 & 15 August experienced early morning incidents, falling/jumping off foot of our bed losing strength in legs and control of bladder. Later that month I found him lying prone on Astroturf, in outside potty area, which he has never done in past. Also, he became increasingly afraid to go potty out back at nighttime, maybe because of collapses? Believe all these signs were early cardiac incidents, based on later reoccurring, frequent collapses, after DCM diagnosis on 26 Aug. 3. Keep Log of Unusual Incidents-
Have been keeping diet, work, weight log since retirement for myself. After first Spock incident in August, added Spock notes to my log, including his weight every other day after DCM diagnosis. Copy given and discussed with DVM and proved invaluable for decision making. 4. Phase In New Medications & Don’t Start in Evenings!
- After cardiologist recommended many meds upon 26 Aug diagnosis, Spock was prescribed “shotgun” doses of Lasix and Vetmedin, which I stupidly started him on evening of same day. One half hour after given Vetmedin he experienced foaming a mouth and severe nausea and retching for 8 hours, until ceased at midnight. After first dose of Lasix was given, he soon began peeing all over the house in 12 ft. trails! Spock was very sensitive to medications and I should have started off at partial dose then phased up to amount to be effective. Discussions with DVM confirmed this and said most pet owners demand immediate results and hence the shotgun approach. As it turned out, only a quarter of recommended daily dose of Lasix was enough to stop all coughing and keep pee breaks to about once/2 hours. The Vetmedin was stopped after first dose, but his appetite had been killed for a week and half, not just due to the Lasix.
5. Monitor Weight Food & Water Intake Closely-
After DCM diagnosis, I kept a very good eye on his weight, eating and elimination habits. He lost 8% of his weight in August, after DCM diagnosis and his appetite suppression due to the meds. He never stopped drinking water like a horse, even more so, when on the Lasix. Also read that weight gain can occur from fluid retention due to hear failure.
6. Restrict Activity for High Energy DCM Dobes-
During 2 weeks after diagnosis, we slowly got Spock’s appetite back using various “lure” foods and got his weight loss stabilized. At this point, DVM and I were going to restart Spock on the Vetmedin (vasodilator) med, in a controlled, phased in approach at vet’s office. I scheduled appt. for first thing Monday morning. My mistake at this point was thinking Spock was holding in his DCM disease progression.
On evening of 10th he was at back door waiting to be let out for potty. He normally gets very excited as I’m unlocking door. As he stepped out door, he collapsed onto patio, but recovered quickly. Heartrate was like a machine gun. I kept him down for a minute, till HR slowed, then he recovered and I helped him up. From this point on, we decided to keep him on leash or tether at all times when outside house. No problem, like training a Dobe puppy for potty time. 7. Monitor Heartrate and Rhythm –
In hindsight, I would recommend Dobe owners purchase a stethoscope to easily monitor heartrate and rhythm. During Spock’s cardiac incidents I used my hand on bottom of his chest to check his heartrate and rhythm. After attacks became frequent, I could actually feel uneven, sporadic heartbeats, or tachycardia rapid rate in other cases, not regular ones as desired. Get familiar with you Dobes heartrate, resting & active.
8. Don’t Assume Things Will Get Better -
During his “recovery period” I was still taking Spock on his daily walks around block, even after collapsing incident on evening of 10th. On Saturday 12th I took him on a slow walk, in cool weather around block, with frequent rest stops. Halfway around, we met our across-street neighbor, with her female Lab mix, Ellie, coming from park. We all walked back together around block toward home. Spock even went up to Ellie and licked her in the face, which she didn’t seem to mind. About 50 ft. later, Spock slowed down his pace, then fainted and keeled over sideways, off the sidewalk onto the grass, thankfully. I kept him down and called wife to bring down van. He was able to get up and get into van okay. Maybe excitement of walking with a female dog, along with exertion made him have that syncope (fainting) incident? 9. Another Spocksdad Mistake - Offleash
- Next day, on Sunday, Spock was eating well, but having tremendous difficulty pooping on Sunday. He was straining so hard and frequently, I was afraid he’d have an attack from going potty! At this point, I made another big mistake, let him off leash, while I picked up the poop. While Spock pooped, he heard next door gate open, which resulted in an automatic Dobe protection response. He ran full tilt across backyard, barked at the gate and ran fence line, returned across patio and collapsed sideways on flagstone walk, almost hitting his head on stone. I came up to him immediately, with poop rake in hand, and my poor boy was wailing in extreme pain while still down. This is first time in his life, I’d ever heard him in such pain. I just knew he was experiencing a heart attack with heart muscle damage. HR was not rapid. Right then, I vowed not to ever let him experience that kind of pain again. 10. Final Night Digression-
I had Spock scheduled for first thing vet appointment on Monday for his Vetmedin resumption trial, so we just had to make it though the night. He was never the same after Sunday’s painful attack
. Even inside house he started having frequent VT collapses from just getting on/off his favorite couch, so we blocked off bed and couches with big pillows. I slept with Spock that night on dog beds in living room, which I knew in my mind, would be his final night. We sat out on back patio until midnight, then went out every two hours after for potty break. Of course, during one early morning potty break Spock spotted a Possum on fence and got ramped up! (Dobes never quit their jobs) He also detected something in aloe plant pots next to patio, which turned to be a frog sighted the next morning. Spock slept some, but about 4AM started to have difficulty breathing and started coughing and wheezing, first time since on the Lasix. I had to help him standup and we walked around backyard and front to help clear his lungs out. 11. Discuss All Options & Outcomes with Vet-
Spock’s Final Day- Early Monday morning, I got van ready to transport Spock to vet. Removed middle seat on one side of fan, then put down cardboard and blankets. Discussed with wife his condition and we prepared ourselves for his demise this day. I was reluctant put him through the nausea of resumption of Vetmedin, and yet another painful ordeal. Wife said her goodbyes and Eva escorted us around pool for last time and out the gate. I took him last time around the home he had protected his whole life. Made an early stop to coffee kiosk to get him a pup-a-chino, which he wouldn’t eat, then I knew it was time.
Upon arrival at vet’s office, DVM came out to thoroughly discuss options for Spock. He spent a long time with me alongside car due to curbside C-19 service. Spock silently waited in back of van. After calling my wife, told him we had decided that euthanasia would be best for our boy, due to his rapid decline in last two days. Vet agreed and after I walked Spock inside exam room he examined him. Spock was throwing continuous arrhythmias, with only one good heartbeat with every 3 VPC’s. We both wondered aloud how he could even be walking around at all? Other vet came in to say goodbyes and noticed the change for the worse in Spock, since his last exam.
12. Please Don’t Second Guess Others Or Yourselves
- Try not to use 20/20 hindsight on Dobe owner’s decisions with their babies. We are each totally responsible for their well being and try our best to be wonderful caretakers, depending on circumstances and experiences. I began second guessing myself when Spock had IV in his leg and was standing in front of me. His head was resting on my lap, giving his me a soulful Dobe look. I held it together, stayed positive and told him what a great Doberman he was!
I knew presence of wife or daughter would have been too much for me, them and Spock. Soon, he would be able to get a good “sleepy-sleep” (term used between us) with no pain ahead. I was so proud of Spock, being such a brave and good boy till his end, which came peacefully.
Spock was no wimp, as my wife often jested with me, when he refused to go outside in a sprinkling rain. In his final days, Spock had faced and weathered a storm!