“So his heart murmur…fluids around the heart…” Franky was diagnosed with a severe heart murmur, and fluids were building up around his little heart. All I could think of was that his heart condition was worse than that of our 17 year old dog’s. He was only 10. I had so many questions: How can this be? How did we not know? How do I tell my husband? What limitations does this put on his life? Where do we go from here?
Life as we knew it felt like it turned upside down in a matter of one vet visit.
Franky has always had bad teeth. The poor guy had a dental yearly for as long as I can remember. We hadn’t done much in the way of prevention for keeping his teeth/mouth healthy outside of providing natural chew items. Unfortunately the mouth health, as I now fully realize, is directly related to heart health.
Why did we not know about this major heart condition prior to now? The likelihood is high his lack of visiting the vet in the last 2 years (yes, you read that right…2 YEARS!) prevented us from early detection. No, we aren’t neglectful, unloving, or foolish dog parents. Our dear boy gets so stressed at the vet we avoided having to take him. He was “fine” except for those yucky teeth. Who enjoys putting their beloved through that much stress? Not us.
As I processed the diagnosis, I promised myself I would never neglect to get our dogs into the vet at least yearly and then more frequently as they got into their senior years. This means full exam, bloodwork, etc.
In addition, I would continue to work with Franky (as well as our other dogs) to reduce the stress at vet visits. For example, Franky requires blood pressure checks that are done while he lay on his side. This really stresses him out. His eyes get huge, pupils dilate and he pants hard. He will even struggle to get up. It’s just a horrible experience!
What am I doing to help him?
- Training him at home in a fun rewarding way to roll onto his side. Then to lay there for short periods of time. As I see he’s getting more comfortable in that position I gently place my hands where a tech might need to hold him.
- Bring a comfy crate mat with me to his vet visit. This way he won’t slide on the table when being examined, won’t have to lay on an uncomfortable or cold surface and it smells like home.
- Practice lifting him onto the dryer at home with his crate mat for pretend blood pressure checks and working known behaviors in that setup.
- Only bring him into the vet office in between checkups for fun training games aka Happy Visits.
- Leaving him in the car until it’s time to be seen to limit the waiting around for scary things during actual checkups.
- Continuing to work on other vet visit skills such as checking ears, eyes, teeth and pretend vaccination (teaching a poke in the rump equals treats).
I cringe to think how many others do as we did by avoiding the vet because our dog got so stressed. I also want to help the others who overlook the stress and go despite or just don’t realize vet visits need not be filled with fear. We CAN help our dogs as well as prevent getting into this vicious cycle of fear at the vet office! Who’s with me?
This blog was created soon after Franky was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. We lost him a year ago, but I still wanted to post his story to educate others how prevention of fear during vet visits. We miss this amazing boy dearly. He taught us so much.