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Waving wildly from Phineas! (Update)

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  • Waving wildly from Phineas! (Update)

    I've sat here for over an hour trying to decide what to type as an update. I wish I could tell you it's going to be a good one, but it's not. I'll give you some good news, then a quick update on his spine injury and then I'll just cut and paste most of my FB post to my family and friends about the rest. I just can't type it all out again. My heart is broken and I just don't have it in me anymore to hash it out once more.

    Good News:
    Phineas turned 6 in April. I missed his birthday post, I'm sorry. He had a wonderful birthday and ate lots of things he shouldn't have. LOL He was a very spoiled woofer who ate steak, had cake and a big bone to chomp on.

    Spine update:
    Surprisingly, he still is doing quite well. He is still managing it, but his rear end is quite weak. We've got him at the lowest doses possible for muscle relaxer, steroid and pain med. We are now at two years and 1 month post spine injury. Neuro is shocked we've got him doing so well, for so long. The key to our success is no mobility. He eats, drinks, pees and poops standing up and the rest of the day, he is lying down. He has his moments of happy feet when I get home from work, but it's very limited. He tires very easily, but we are ok with that. He'd love to get out and take more car rides, but he just physically can't do it anymore. Our idea of walking him even short distances was short lived. The summer in Southern Florida is too hot on him and ground has a temperature that will burn paws instantly almost. Perhaps when the weather breaks, we'll take some trips out the front yard, lay on a blanket and watch the world pass us by.

    Fur Update:
    Phineas is currently growing fur! LOL This last round of fur loss was the worst we've seen. He literally was bare on most of his body. About 2 weeks ago, I realized that he had faint baby hairs on his chest, stomach and flanks. When his fur falls out, it leaves behind a light dusting of coarse hair. He is even feeling a bit soft again. We've been down this road before and within the month, it'll probably all fall out again. We have no idea if it is the hypothyroid, the long term steroid use or something totally unrelated that has yet to be diagnosed. It doesn't matter. I'm fine with a bald / pink dane. We are never going to take him off the steroid, so we'll never figure it out and I just don't care anymore. For today, he is growing some baby fuzzy fur back. It'll all fall out again. For today, I'm going to enjoy him being softer then usual.

    I literally just sighed getting to this part.... Here it goes:

    Bad news cut and pasted:

    Today... my heart is broken... and more then anything, we've discovered that Phin's heart is broken too... literally.

    It is with more tears then you can imagine, that I write this to share with all you that have loved and followed Phin for the last 6 years, that he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) today. It is a diagnosis that isn't rare in our breed, but one that is like a swift punch to the stomach that just takes your breath away. The words from the cardiologist are just drowned out by the internal scream, as the death sentence crosses her lips. I am in shock... crushed... and currently unable to process all this.

    We got up yesterday morning and went for a routine cardiac echo-cardiogram (ultrasound), EKG and blood pressure check. We have always gone directly to a cardiologist for these routine exams and today was no different. He hasn't had one in quite some time and since his insurance is about to renew and a new deductible would apply, I figured this was as good of a time as any. His previous cardiac US showed a perfectly beautiful heart with only a few ventricular ectopic beats (a few irregular beats). It was nothing alarming but just something we should watch over the years. It truly was nothing. These weren't even detected this time around.

    All day long, I just kept saying to myself, What ....just.... happened? It was a routine visit. And my world just shattered.

    For those that don't know what has happened and what will happen, let me give you the nuts and bolts of this devastating news:

    Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart disease that effects the hearts ability to pump blood. The upper and lower chambers of the heart become enlarged and the heart no longer functions properly. When the lower chamber stops pumping blood into the lungs efficiently, the lungs fill with fluid and the dog goes into congestive heart failure. There is a two fold issue that goes on with DCM and that is they can develop an arrhythmia because increased heart rate, poor heart function, decreased oxygen supply, etc. A cardiac arrhythmia predisposes a dog to sudden death. They are there one minute and gone the next. DCM itself will continue to progress, as there is no medication to stop it. The heart will continue to fail until the lungs fill with fluid and the dogs literally drowning. While some little dogs can get it, giant breeds are prone to DCM and great danes are on the top of that list.

    The problem with DCM, it's a sneaky bastard. It has a long pre-clinical phase, meaning it can go months to years without a single symptom. You're just trucking along and BAM... your dog is almost dead. Most dogs are diagnosed because they are in acute distress and are in congested heart failure. Normal folks don't just run out and chunk down a ton of money to test their dogs perfectly good heart. Most people figure out there is a problem when your dog starts coughing, unable to catch their breath, vet hears a murmur, etc and they learn they are in congested heart failure secondary to DCM. Or unfortunately, their dog just suddenly dies.

    So let me give you the exact details of Phin's condition off the report:

    Mild to moderate DCM with secondary mitral regurgitation. Mild left atrial enlargement. Today's echocardiogram documents a decline in LV (left ventricle) function and LV dilation. the dilation is leading to a small volume of mitral regurgitation which is the cause of the heart murmur. While the dilation is considered significant (particularly compared to his initial normal baseline in 2013), the function is also declined for this breed (13%). In a senior great dane however, these findings support occult dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The left atrium remains only mildly enlarged, indicating a relatively low risk for clinical signs in the near future. No arrhythmia were appreciated, however this risk always remains in this breed.

    Basically, he has DCM, but he is more mild to moderate. We feel blessed he is not advanced. His testing puts him about middle of the road in this disease cycle. He isn't good but he isn't at the end either. We have time with him before he becomes symptomatic, but not as much time as you think. DCM can be swift and there is no stopping it.

    It's bad but we aren't in a crisis. Phineas will die from DCM. It is a fact. It is a fact I have yet to swallow, but it is a fact. Not 'some day' as I have always planned for him... he will succumb to this disease sooner, rather then later. This is my new truth. I have to figure out how to accept it.

    So.... Prognosis... Phin has some things at play that will help him and some things that will diminish him quickly. Prognosis as it was given to me today:

    Per the cardiologist: We have no idea how long he has had the DCM and so we have no idea how long he has been in a pre-clinical phase. At least we know when it was NOT DCM because Phin has had a previous heart ultrasound. While there is zero expiration date stamped on the bottom of his foot, cardio can only take a random guess based on his current condition. She says if we are lucky, we may get 6 months to a year if he does well on the meds. It's going to be a wait and see, and she'll know more at his next ultrasound. His size is to his detriment. He is an extra large giant breed and none of that makes this any better.

    Per my regular vet: He doesn't think we have 6 months to a year. His experience is, we have months. He said he highly doubts I could get Phin a year, but he isn't even comfortable saying 6 months either. He thinks we have less then a year for sure. It broke his heart to say that to me, but he feels it is the truth. I get that, but he also doesn't find DCM during routine testing. He sees the dogs that are symptomatic. On the other hand, he knows Phin's history and he knows every hair on his body and his thoughts are that Phin is sick... he has been sick for a long time. He has many health issues that are VERY taxing on him as we all know and he feels all that will play a larger role in this.

    While it's very very hard for me to find good news in any of this, there is a positive side to this. That is, I am a dane momma, who is hyper vigilant about her great danes care. We discovered the disease before the disease became acute. We are NOT treating from a crisis situation. We are NOT treating from a symptomatic phase. We are ahead of the flood .. for now. Not for long, but for today. That makes a tremendous difference. We aren't starting meds in heart failure and trying to treat him from deaths door, like a lot of danes that do poorly and have to be euthanized shortly after diagnosis. I have seen so many friends devastated by the short time between diagnosis and the passing of their dane. Trust me when I say, that we are ahead of this today. I honestly don't know a single dane friend that's dane was given 6 months to a year after diagnosis of DCM. It's always been, a few weeks, maybe a couple months or they never leave the vet's office at all. DCM is a cruel and vicious disease that shows up way too often in our beloved breed. The fact we've detected this early on, we can attempt to slow the progression and buy Phin more time.

    On the flip side... his overall health plays against him. He has been on immune suppressants for years. His spine injury takes a lot out of him. For the last two years, he has just been hanging in there but not much more. A dive in his health will probably take it's toll on him much more rapidly then the average dog. He is no longer a strong dog. When his heart condition progresses, it will be hard on him.

    The crux of it is... we for sure have months at least. Maybe we'll get lucky and get 6 months .. a year... This is not good news. This is bad... very bad... this is the beginning of the end. While I have always known he was eventually be gone, this feels like someone flipped over the hour glass and I'm about to watch the sand fall... until the end.

    So what are we going to do:

    Well, there isn't much you can do. There is one med that the cardiologist says needs to happen to attempt to slow the progression of the disease. It is Pimobendan. She says it's the gold star for asymptomatic DCM in dogs. The problem with this med is, it's expensive. Now amplify that for a dog the size of Phin and the expense gets way bigger. A months supply is $350 for a 190 pound woofer. It's not a human prescribed med in the US. My regular vet is going to check on a price at a compounding pharmacy to see if we can lower the cost. As the disease progresses, there are other meds that will have to be added on and the expense will rapidly grow in coming months. The worse the heart function gets, the worse symptoms will be, and the more meds he will require. We will just treat as we go.

    For now, we are going to take the Pimobendan and see what happens. We go back in 4 months for another cardiac ultrasound and EKG to see what progression has been like. Of course, any symptom, even small, they want Phin back in ASAP. While they hope we don't come back during the next 4 months, we just have to see how the med works and how fast the dilation progresses. A cough, panting, fainting or lethargy requires a prompt return for new testing. We are going to log his resting breath rate every day and we should see trouble brewing. When your heart is enlarged like his, the lungs can fill with fluid. As you start to retain fluid, you breath faster trying to oxygenate yourself. So if we watch his resting breath rate, we should be able to notice when he even starts to struggle a little. Of course, we'll provide prompt medical attention then. There isn't any real treatment for DCM, except to treat the symptoms. It will take him, we just want to prolong his life and make him comfortable. Also, he is to do no exercise at all. That's not going to be a problem for my couch potato.

    Before you respond to this post, here is my flash point: I'm just saying it now. I'm sorry in advance. One more person tells me that my dog is old, I'm going to freaking snap. One more freaking person tells me that the average life span is 6-8 years (such bullshit), I'm going to flip out. Phin is 6 years and 4 months old. Yes, we consider him a senior dane, but he is not *that* old... I swear to God, tell me that shit to some how make this all seem ok, I'm going to go ballistic. NONE Of this is ok. I understand that times like this it's hard to know what to say. Just please.. do not say these things to me. I'm really at my breaking point and I can't hear that shit again today.

    For all my dane owning friends, there are 2 very valuable things I want to pass on to you.

    First, get your dane a full cardiac workup. Not just once. Get a baseline done by the age of 2-3. Then get it done again every couple years. If your dane is older then 3, then you should go soon and get it done. Phin's life span will (should) be dramatically longer because we caught the problem before it became a life or death problem. Cardiac care for your dane should be ROUTINE. When you have an echo done, it's only a snap shot of what the heart looks like TODAY. It is not a future telling test. It's good for TODAY, so you have to repeat it again later on.

    The big three things that kill danes are bloat (GVD), osteosarcoma and DCM. We do gastropexy procedures for GVD. We are extremely watchful for limb lumps for osteo. You need to take care of the DCM. Do not wait until you are in a critical care situation. These dogs are too big to neglect the one part of their body that their size damages very easily.

    Cardio said she has never seen a dane the size of Phin before and that plays greatly into the diagnosis. Since she had baseline measurements from previous routine echos, she was able to determine the EXACT amount of heart change / disease that has occurred. She can tell me exactly where the dilation has occurred and to what extent. His baseline made diagnosing his current status very easy. There is a lot of value in that.

    Do NOT neglect the ROUTINE cardiac care for your dog. Yes, it's not cheap. I get it. Listen... KNOWLEDGE IS POWER... It's much easier to make decisions when you have the information you need. You own a giant breed and with that comes a heart pumping blood around a giant body. Cardiac care for a dane should be considered ROUTINE. I can't express that enough. Without Phin's regular office visit to just get the 'ok', we would never have known until he was in congestive heart failure.

    Secondly, and I've said this a 100 times... Get your dane health insurance. The cost of care for a giant dog is pricey. A giant dog comes with giant bills. Cardio today was very reluctant to tell me the cost of the meds monthly and suggested I think about what I want to do. "Medicate him.. that's what I want to do, he has insurance." It was a simple answer for me. You don't want to be making life or death decisions based on finances.

    Today has been an awful day. I am 50% numb and 50% sobbing my eyes out. I just need some time to work this out and come to terms with it. Phin is like a child to me. He is like a giant toddler that brings me so much joy, each and every day. I wouldn't recognize my life without him. He brings color to everything that is so often just gray. Maybe tomorrow I'll be ready to fight this with him.. but for today, he and I will just snuggle and cry. I have always said that I was going to get Phin to 10 years old. I've joked with my vet that if anything happens before 10 years, I was blaming him. My kissing monster isn't ever going to see 10. While I am not stupid and I know danes don't live a long time, I'm just not ready. Not that I would ever be ready. This blind sided me. He is only 6... he is still so young EVEN for a dane.

    I'm losing my goofy boy.. and my heart is just so broken.

    There ya have it... The Phineas update. I am working super hard to process all this. I'm reading studies, medicine advise, etc trying to figure out his fate. Let's be honest, I'm trying my best to control the situation and know 'exacts' and it doesn't work like that. I'm not very accepting of all this at this time. I know for certain that Phineas and I are going to fight this until the bitter end. I won't let him go easily and we are going to do everything possible to stop the progression of this horrible disease. I need to pick myself up by my boot straps and hit this hard for him, but for today, I need to wallow. I'm just so heart broken, I can't manage positive at this time. My boy is dying and that is all I can think of ...

    I'll update y'all as we go along, but for today he is ok. That's all I've got.

    XOXO Love and miss you all.

  • #2
    I haven't been here in literal months and I came today out of curiosity and yours i the first post I see. Oh, my heart aches for you and sweet sweet Phin. You are right, it is hard to know what to say. Just know that I feel for you deeply and I wish I could give you a hug. You epitomize the truth of "If love could keep him alive, he'd live forever".
    ~ Lisa & Rupert


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sparrow View Post
      You epitomize the truth of "If love could keep him alive, he'd live forever".
      oh, this is just so so SO true!!! troy, seriously, you are the best mom phinners could have ever landed with! i know you will do whatever you have to to keep him comfortable and happy. love you guys so much and wish i was closer just so i could sit and cry with you. i hate DCM as much as i hate cancer!



      • #4
        Phin is such an extremely lucky boy to have a momma like you. I wish the outcome could be different for you guys, but he's with the best person in the entire world to be by his side with him through this <3

        Peach, merle Great Dane
        Born July 7 2014
        Peach & Emily!


        • #5
          It has been a very long time since Ive been on DOL. This is the first post I have read on my visit back. I am so sorry you all are going through this on top of all the other stuff you have dealt with. I know your heartache! I had wanted a dane all my life and finally got my Eli when I was 42 years old. He was my world! Like your Phin, he was my toddler child! I loved him to the moon and back. I lost him just 2 months past his 4th birthday
          Its been 6 years now and I still miss him every day. If I could reach through this computer and hug you, I would.. You have taken such great care of your boy through it all! He is so very blessed to have you for his mommy! Just hug him & kiss him for as long as you can! You & Phin are in my prayers!
          In loving memory of my precious Eli
          12/26/06 - 2/16/11


          • #6
            I know we've had our differences over the years, but my heart aches for you and Phin. He is far too young to have to go through this. The silver lining I can see is that he has you as his owner, and you have gone above and beyond the average 'call of duty' when it comes to dog ownership for Phin. Not just once, but repeatedly.

            I wish you guys the best of luck in battling this disease.


            • #7
              Glad to hear your good news, sad to hear your bad news... I agree it is important to have regular testing done even on "companion" only dogs... I do on all mine..when it comes to heart, thyroid, eyes thinks can show up well after the age of 2...They can test perfect one year only to come up with an issue 6 months to a year later.. I lost my boy Banjo last April 2016 due to heart (he also had bone cancer but that's not what ended his life)... He was tested every year and was always fine...and then he wasn't He was 8 when first diagnosed I was fortunate that I had him until he was almost 10 despite the guess that it would be a year at most.. The average life span for a Dane is 10 years... many live into their teens (Banjo's grandmother was 2 weeks shy of 15 when she died and the other grandmother was 15 years 3 months when she passed) It is hard and not something we want to hear but I felt very fortunate that Banjo was well loved, well cared for and had a good life. He did a lot with the family, he showed in his early years, he hiked, he camped he enjoyed life .
              Dale AKC CGC Evaluator
              Associate Member GDCNE
              Member GSPCA
              Member NAVHDA
              Member Central Maine Kennel Club
              High Hopes Great Danes & German Shorthairs


              • #8
                Thinking of you and yours. Phin is lucky to have you as his momma - you continue to do the very best by him. Wishing you lots of courage and love as you enter this next stage with Phin.


                • #9
                  I wish I could do something to change this for you. I am really sorry you are going through this. Phin is one lucky guy to have you as his people-mommy. Thank you for keeping us posted, you guys will be in my prayers.


                  • #10
                    Oh how awful, my heart goes out to you and Phin. He must know how much he's loved. Thank you so much for sharing... I can't imagine how difficult it must be to give us all a peek into your heart while going through this with Phin.
                    Finn - DOB 9/21/2016


                    • #11
                      Thanks everyone for the kind words. It's certainly something we are still trying to digest and come to terms with. Our goal will always be to provide Phineas with the best life we can possibly give him. We will not sit back and just let this happen. We will be as aggressive as we need to be, to give him the longest life possible. My vet continues to caution my desire for optimism by reminding me that some dogs far worse then him have lived well over a year, but dogs with no symptoms (like Phin) die suddenly. I've discussed Phin's prognosis and status with a cardiologist and two vets, and they all feel that the Pimobendan is the only answer for him. It IS the aggressive treatment he needs.

                      So let me tell you about this very interesting study called the PROTECT study. It was a study done on preclinical DCM in Dobies. Preclinical means.. having DCM but not symptomatic. DCM tends to have a lengthy preclinical phase, anywhere from a few months to a few years. Dobermans are a breed that is riddled with DCM. While they aren't giants, they aren't purse size dogs either. It's a good comparison. Anyway, the study was done on 76 Dobies that were discovered to be in the preclincial (without symptom) phase of DCM, just like Phineas. Half of them got Pimobendan and the other half got a placebo. They based the endpoint of each dog based on either developing congested heart failure or cardiac death. It was discovered that the average dog lived 9 months longer on the Pimobendan, then the placebo. The average dog on Pimobendan reached endpoint (718 days post diagnosis, with a range of 441 to 1152 days) versus the placebo dogs (441 days post diagnosis, with a range of 146 to 641 days). One of the issues with the study is, not all dogs started at the same preclinical phase. Some could have had the most mild DCM and some could have had more moderate preclinical DCM. Either way, the Pimobendan easily proved to extend the life of the dog living with DCM by an average of 9 months, versus not having the med. Low thyroid function is a contributing factor to DCM. There was too few dogs in this study that was hypothyroid to come up with a subgroup analysis of the med. Phineas, as we all know, is hypothyroid. He is on a thyroid med and his thyroid is very stable and in the normal range now. It has been for almost 2 years. I'm not sure how that will play in his progression or if at all. Unfortunately, Phin's size, overall health and other contributing factors plays against him. It's all going to be a wait and see approach.

                      I wanted to put here 3 bits of info that have been passed on to me, just in case someone unfortunately finds themselves in the same position.

                      1... There is a yahoo group called DCMGreatDanes, I was told. A support group. I haven't joined this, but plan to in the near future.

                      2... The pharmaceutical company that makes Pimobendan has an app that you can download and use for free. The app is called "Your Dog's Heart". It allows you to test the resting breath rate and log each time you do it. The app will also send the info to your vet / cardiologist for you if you want. It puts it neatly in a graph form or list form and it highlights when the resting breath rate is out of the norm. While this isn't a fail proof method, you should be able to see your dog start to struggle and could be checked for potential congestive heart failure before they are in a crisis situation.

                      3.... There is a study being done by Dr. Kathryn Meurs on DCM in great danes, in hopes of finding the gene that is the problem. This would potentially help future danes health by being able to test for that gene. I was told recently that the study was on a temp hold for funding or something like that. However, NC State Vet Hospital is still collecting samples for when the study is back in full swing. I'll post the link below. While they would like the danes pedigree, even rescues with no pedigree can contribute to the study. They are looking for two specific danes. They are:
                      .......... A dane that has been diagnosed with DCM
                      .......... A dane 9 years old or older that has no DCM. No echo needs to have been done previously.
                      It's just a simple blood draw that gets shipped regular mail. They will catalog the DNA sample.
                      We will be drawing blood at our next appointment to contribute Phin's DNA to the study. It's the very least we can do.

                      I'm sorry so much of this sounds technical. You know me, I will never give up finding answers for my beloved woofer. I will fight this disease with everything I have, just to give him one more day of being a happy pupper that is so loved.

                      Thank you .. each and every one of you ... for sending prayers and well wishes for our Phinners. It means a lot to me that each of you have taken time to check in on him and wish him only the best.

                      The bad news of this post:

                      We live in south FL (Hobe Sound) and are currently bracing for hurricane Irma impact that is expected in the next couple days. We only live a few minutes from the beach and live in a wood frame house. We will be staying local, but in a more secure concrete and newer home. We are shacking up with Jennifer from Ocean Blue Danes! She already has 6 danes.. what is one more, plus our pit mix rescue that has a bad attitude. LOL We worry greatly about this move and temporary relocation on Phineas, but I'm just going to pray it goes smoothly and his health isn't disrupted by it all. Even more so, we are just praying that once the storm is gone, we still have a house to bring him home to. It's just so much bullshit in such a short amount of time. We will get through it... one way or another. If you are in Irma's path... stay safe!

                      XOXO ... Will update y'all soon.
                      Last edited by Angel7292; 09-07-2017, 11:56 PM.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Angel7292 View Post
                        We live in south FL (Hobe Sound) and are currently bracing for hurricane Irma impact that is expected in the next couple days. We only live a few minutes from the beach and live in a wood frame house. We will be staying local, but in a more secure concrete and newer home. We are shacking up with Jennifer from Ocean Blue Danes! She already has 6 danes.. what is one more, plus our pit mix rescue that has a bad attitude. LOL We worry greatly about this move and temporary relocation on Phineas, but I'm just going to pray it goes smoothly and his health isn't disrupted by it all. Even more so, we are just praying that once the storm is gone, we still have a house to bring him home to. It's just so much bullshit in such a short amount of time. We will get through it... one way or another. If you are in Irma's path... stay safe!

                        XOXO ... Will update y'all soon.
                        Stay safe - thinking of you all!


                        • #13
                          Oh my Lord Angel, when it rains it literally pours on you. You must be in the midst of this right now. I am praying for you and Phin and whoever you are with. I hope your house stays intact! I cannot even imagine what all you are feeling right now. Lots of love from NY.

                          (Also, the study sounds interesting. I'll keep it in mind if and when the time comes)
                          ~ Lisa & Rupert


                          • #14
                            I keep coming back to this thread trying to find the right words to say. It is just so damned hard when these boys age and when their bodies start to fail them and their minds are still SO sharp. I really do hope that things can look up for Phineas and for you. He really couldn't have asked for a better family to be part of than yours has been for him.


                            • #15
                              Sorry I haven't updated in a bit. The hurricane was awful, as expected. We actually ended up staying home. While we still got hurricane winds, Irma turned just enough west to get us out of the "catastrophic area" as predicted. I know it sounds silly, but we felt like risking staying here was better on Phin, then trying to move him. He snored almost as loud as the storm outside. LOL Unfortunately, we were without power and running water for like 5 days post the hurricane. It was extremely hard on Phin. The thick humid and hot air had him struggling. Two days after the storm, we ended back up at the cardiologist. We could not get his resting respiration rate (RRR) down to a normal level at all. We were covering him in wet towels, had a fan plugged into the generator and directly on him, etc. We decided it was best to take him in and find out it was heat related, rather then sit at home blaming the humid, hot air and it be something else. Cardio squeezed us in as soon as they could (they had no power and had evacuated out of the area), called us a couple times just to check on him while we waited to see him and as soon as they were back in town, called us to say, "bring him in!" For Congestive heart failure you need to x-ray. We decided very quickly, LOL, that wasn't going to happen. Cardio said she doubts we will ever x-ray his lungs, no matter how bad the disease gets. His size is very difficult to deal with and you can no longer put him under anesthesia / sedation with the DCM. Plus, the stress alone would be difficult on him. She doesn't ever want his heart rate increased for any reason. Like cardio said, we will just deal with it as it comes but the x-ray is never going to happen. That left us doing another echo. Cardio felt there wouldn't be enough change in those few weeks to find anything note worthy and you can't see fluid in the lungs that way anyway. She listened to his lungs and heard no wheezing or crackling and felt we were still doing good. She said his heart sounded really strong and normal. Her best guess was to send us home, hope for power to be restored and get him under AC. If he continued to have a problem, she would add some lasix just to make sure we weren't missing anything. Power was back on the next day and he slowly eased back into a normal RRR. He has been well within a very low RRR since then and has done good.

                              Since I wasn't just told my dog was going to die, I had a bit more time to chat with her and ask more questions. Questions are easier to formulate when you aren't hyper ventilating! LOL She still remains VERY positive about Phin's immediate future. Again, there is no telling what will happen and he could just die suddenly. However, she feels he is currently in good shape and says she can easily see us going 6 months to a year with him. I discussed my vets concerns and she bluntly said, "I disagree." She feels like that we are ahead of the disease for the time being because we found it early and before he became symptomatic. It's funny, because she figured out very quickly that I was going to micro manage his heart disease. I ask very specific questions about heart rates and such. She laughed and said she wasn't going to tell me. She wants me to stop fussing about rates and numbers and instead wants me to learn his heart rhythm. She said that I can get too much in my head thinking about heart rates and taking his, that I don't realize there is a problem because the rhythm is out of whack. I appreciate her trying to 'handle' me and make me feel a bit better about this, but by micro managing his heart disease, it helps me feel like I can control it. Yes, I know I can't and this is all happening and I have no control. For now, it helps me stay calm.

                              We discussed the chance of arrhythmia. While it is likely, she noted no arrhythmia at the time of his ultrasound. An ECG is just a few minutes of a 24 hour window. That doesn't rule them out. We plan to put him on a holter monitor at his next checkup in December. I want to know for sure if they are there or not. The problem she said was the medication to fix an arrhythmia is very caustic in nature and creates it's own set of problems. I just need to know though. I did ask her if CPR would be helpful if he just suddenly died, like fell over. She said no.. we'd have to have a defibrillator to help that. I live about 2 min drive from a fire station. I called and asked. They have a defibrillator there. Yeah, I'd actually do that. The anxiety of everything is going to push me over the edge... LOL

                              I did reiterate to her again (twice actually), that we weren't interested in doing anything to make him comfortable. The word we needed to emphasize with her is AGGRESSIVE. We want to do whatever we can for him, sparing nothing. She said that the current meds he is on (Pimobendan) *IS* the aggressive treatment. She gave me some clinical trials to look into. A few of them are a bit wild, like injected stem cells directly into the heart. She wanted me to look into that one and I did, but it is breed specific and it's not for danes. Whatever we need to do to give him even one more day, we will. Phineas deserves it and I'm going to fight like hell to give it to him. We aren't giving up on him any time soon.

                              So today is 1 month post DCM diagnosis. Yeaaaah us! My regular vet found a compounding pharmacy (Roadrunner in AZ) to get the Pimobendan. Instead of these 4 giant horse pills, he has Phin taking a liquid / suspension. He gets this tiny tiny .25 mils 2x a day. It took our cost from $350 per month to $103 a month just for the Pimobendan. Phin has insurance, but that 20% co-pay adds up. So we appreciate the dramatic decrease in cost by compounding the giant dog dosage.

                              While I have not fully come to terms with the diagnosis and I can't even say DCM without bursting in to tears, we are finding our way together. I often look at Phin and see nothing wrong with him at all. I think to myself, "We almost didn't know"... Even with a DCM diagnosis, knowing the disease is present is of extreme importance. We are treating him with meds in hopes of severely stunting the progression that this disease will eventually take. The amount of time we will have gained from knowing this should / could be dramatic. I can't reiterate enough to you that cardiac care for your great dane is ROUTINE. Not just the vet listening... you need a full cardiac workup. ECG, Electrocardiogram (ultrasound) and blood pressure check. The fact Phin had previous cardiac ultrasound made his diagnosis extremely easy. The cardiologist easily was able to identify with exact measurements that he had occult DCM. Don't mess around. DCM is not rare in our breed at all. Don't assume your danes heart is doing well. And you can't just do it once. A cardiac US is only good for that day. The heart changes. I just didn't see this coming. While we weren't stupid and obviously knew it was possible, which is why we did routine cardiac checkups to being with, I honestly was floored. Even a month later, I find myself thinking, "What the hell happened!"

                              My husband and I have had to have some hard conversations this past month. I still cry every day over it. I get very anxious over some things and have been able to work out some other stuff that at least puts some anxiety to rest. We've had to make some awful decisions, so when the time comes, we know what we are going to do. A topic for another day.

                              I wouldn't say any of this is good news.. or bad news.... it's just news. We are blessed to have him for another month and hope we have many many many more months to count in the future. For now, we are just taking it one day at a time and loving him with all of our hearts. Everyone always says how lucky he is to have us.... but truthfully, how amazingly lucky we are to have him.

                              Hugs from me... slobbery kisses from Phin.