First Swagger and I would like to thank this amazing community. xoxo

It is because of all of the feedback I received from readers of this blog and our Facebook page, that I have some encouraging news to report today. No, Swagger isn’t miraculously cured… but he is back to full activity and that gives us both reason to be happy.

I’ve had many people write me privately sharing their experience with their own Border Collies and DCM, which allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief knowing many of you have had dogs living with it for many years.

For those of you who haven’t read the story about Swagger’s recent diagnosis, you may want to go back to this blog post from January 22, 2018.

I’ve had many of you ask me to share what were those “little signs” I saw that lead me to believe Swagger’s heart needed an ultrasound. I didn’t share them previously because I wasn’t sure what was, and wasn’t related. I still don’t know… but I’m going to share anyway.

During my last blog post, I encouraged you all to be aware of things that are “different” with your dog… I am putting ** in front of the things I noticed in Swagger that I thought were **different.

Let me catch you up to date; I’ll do it point form so you can see how it rolled out.

  • Swagger has lead a very active agility life, flying to Europe once or twice a year to compete in various countries across that continent (that may or may not be important).
  • He is fed a commercially prepared diet of raw meat (rotating between duck, beef, turkey, salmon and beef tripe) and veggies.
  • He gets daily supplements: Fish oil (we rotate between Herring and Salmon), Coconut Oil, Vitamin and mineral mix, Dasuquin, Green Lipped Mussels powder, Probiotics, CBD Oil, 1-TDC and DOGgeviti.
  • July 2016 he injured his shoulder in France while competing at the European Open (this injury was not obvious to any of us).
  • ** Swagger starts scratching after swimming or having a bath…the scratching remains for days after. (we try various sprays and shampoo but this scratching continues to this day).
  • June 2017 Swagger is diagnosed with Medial Shoulder Instability and undergoes surgery so his activity is restricted for the next 4 months.
  • September 2017, during an ultrasound of his shoulder rehab veterinarian Dr. Deb Canapp said to me “wow, now that is a big heart… something many athletic dogs have.” It was an off-the-cuff comment that none of us really commented on, and then the conversation went in another direction… but a little voice in my head said: “take note of that Susan.”
  • **In October 2017 Swag’s activity had built up to include running (after 4 months with none). That is where I first noticed a leg tremor in his left rear leg. It didn’t happen all the time and it didn’t last long, but often after he exerted himself all-out running in the field. See the video below.

Now I know leg tremors can be seen in many dogs but the only other dog that I have owned that had this sort of issue after exercise was Twister, my awesome little Jack Russell Terrier that we lost in 2007, who we lost to the heart challenges of two poorly functioning heart valves…”Susan take note.”

  • We brought Swagger back to agility very slowly but the leg tremor was seen then when he would pant hard.
  • **October 2017 we have had to bump Swagger’s food intake up to 2 full pounds of raw dog food a day as he keeps losing weight.
  • In Nov 2017 during a routine dental exam, Swag’s veterinarian found a mild heart murmur she suggested we watch and re-check in 6 months.
  • **Swagger’s agility has come back fantastic from his shoulder surgery. His times on short agility sequences were as fast as ever, however, keep could not sustain those times as any training sessions progressed. I knew he was in great shape, so I was concerned as to why his recovery between sequences was not as it used to be.
  • **December 2017 after running his first full agility course (at home)  the leg tremor (normally only seen in Swagger’s left leg) was now seen in both rear legs… again it went away within seconds of it being there. That was when I was convinced something was just not right.
  • The next day I had an appointment with my Naturopath. Now, as a sidebar let me just say I think this woman is amazing, she has been a Naturopath for almost 50 years. She pretty much gave me back my life when traditional doctors could find nothing wrong with me (I had stomach biopsies, intestinal scoping and no one could find a source to my digestive challenges a year ago). Irene did muscle testing (applied kinesiology) on me, gave me some suggestions to change my diet and supplements and within 3 weeks I was back to normal. I decided to ask Irene to check out Swagger even though her practice doesn’t include dogs. I asked her one question for her to muscle test; “does Swagger have an issue with his heart.” The answer came back a very strong “yes he does.”
  • This was the point I told my veterinarian I wanted Swagger to see a cardiologist asap.
  • January 2018 Swagger, at age 6 years, 11 months is diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and a grade 4 heart murmur. I was advised to stop all agility, all running with the dogs and any exercises that involved sudden bursts of acceleration.
  • He is immediately put on Taurine (an amino acid), Vetmedin (to help with heart contractions, and Benazepril (an ACE inhibitor).
  • Blood tests were done, all came back normal (note no blood work was done for Taurine levels).
  • January 22, 2018, the week after I get Swagger’s diagnosis I post about it to this blog and a new level of education happens for me.
  • Here are some key suggestions from many of you, and my friend, the brilliant Dr. Karen Becker;
  • Of course Taurine was a strong suggestion by many.
  • CoQ10 (Co-Enzyme Q10) which is especially important for the function of organs with a high demand for oxygen…including the heart
  • L-Carnitine another great suggestion (Swag is not on this right now though).
  • Feeding beef heart once a week.
  • Feeding Sardines and or clams for the Taurine.
  • Apparently, even some raw dog food can lack a source of vitamin D and E and zinc.
  • January 25th. Armed with all of this new information I take Swagger back to Irene, my naturopath for her suggestions. Now if you are a “traditional thinking” person, you may want to stop reading here. Through muscle testing, Irene told me Swagger has a virus that has settled in his heart. That the virus likely was contracted 18-22 months ago. She muscle tested all of his current supplements taking him off only two and adding the following:
  • CoQ10+Vitamin E (surprisingly tested better to this than to Ubiquinol which most often is a better source for dogs).
  • Cardioplex (a supplement including beef heart)
  • Green Olive Leaf extract, St. John’s Wort and Cats Claw (anti viral)
  • Selenium (every other day).
  • In addition, he gets a full can of Sardines every day.
  • Swagger saw the naturopath two weeks later (we have another appt next week) and his testing was vastly improved.
  • One week after stopping all of his activity, my naturopath suggested it would be best to continue all regular exercise, including agility.
  • In the past 3 weeks, of being back to full activity (and on all of his meds and supplements) we have seen NO leg tremors…that is where I am most encouraged.

Hope gives your heart reason to sing.

I thank you all for your input. I thank you for your prayers and I thank you in advance for your continued support. Swagger has an appointment with another cardiologist in Chicago at the beginning of May.

Here is my hypothesis, (let me remind you I am NOT medically trained…so maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part but here goes).  Let’s assume Swagger got a virus in his heart like Irene suggested, what if this virus has affected his ability to properly metabolize all of the nutrients in his raw diet and oil supplements he gets daily.  The outward sign of this is the scratching that started about 18 months ago…the inward sign is the poorly functioning heart.

I think this follow up blogpost is important to remind everyone to look for things that are “different” with your dogs. To not take everything at face value, that when you get a heartbreaking diagnosis, take action, keep digging, keep hoping… just unturn all of the stones.

Today I am grateful for all practitioners, both the traditional and those practicing alternative medicine. Together they are making a grand contribution, together they are giving Swagger back his quality of life.