Jager Howard

Jager’s story started in early March of 2019, I began to notice that Jager seemed to be tired and out of breath quickly and each time he laid down to rest, his breathing resembled that of a dog who just ran a mile. Ten months prior, Jager underwent surgery to be neutered and have dental work and had NO health issues at this time. I truly thought and believed that he had gained a pound or two since being neutered, in this case weight gain could have potentially cause his rapid breathing (similar to an overweight human running up a flight of stairs). However, in early March, Jager had a coughing episode that ended with a “goose honk” noise. I happened to have my phone in hand when he had this coughing spell, and I recorded it. I decided to take him in for his yearly visit a few months early. We went in to see Dr. Winter, and Jager seemed well and initially we thought sinus issues and allergies, because in North Carolina, pollen is AWFUL that time of year. Thank goodness for technology and the video of the coughing spell! After showing Dr. Winter the video, she said let’s take a radiograph to be sure nothing is wrong since there is coughing.

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Immediately, she had concerns but wasn’t sure what exactly was going on. The x-ray was sent to a radiologist who confirmed that Jager was in congestive heart failure at only the age of 6. Dr. Winter suggested that we see a cardiologist so we took Jager into North Carolina State University a few days after diagnosis. We drove 2.5 hours up to Raleigh to see Dr. Anna MacManamey who did an echocardiogram, new thoracic x-ray, bloodwork, etc. She confirmed that Jager had been in congestive heart failure a few days prior, but it seemed to be cleared up now. Jager’s Mitral Valve Disease was considered to be Stage C since he had already had an episode of congestive heart failure. Dr. Mac also diagnosed Jager with a class 4/6 heart murmur. Jager was prescribed furosemide and pimobendan by Dr. Winter, his primary vet prior to seeing his cardiologist. Dr. Mac made a slight change in the dosages that were previously prescribed and added enalapril. Dr. Mac mentioned surgery being available overseas and that it was very costly. Immediately, I ruled out the option due to finances. After a few days, friends could tell that this was really affecting me and encouraged me to research the MVR surgery and dig deeper to see if it could be an option.

I reached out to the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital who already had 50-70 dogs on a waiting list and had no certain date of when they would start the surgery program. I also emailed the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London and heard back from them only a few days later. I had everything sent over to them. The RVC quickly setup a phone conference with Dr. Dan Brockman to discuss the surgery. The conversation went well, and Dr. Brockman believed that Jager’s young age would aid in his recovery (and he was right!!!!). Only a day or two later, I heard back from the RVC with a surgery date of only 10 weeks away when I was expecting to receive a surgery date 6 months away. Prior to surgery, Jager did have few episodes where his medications had to be adjusted. There were many sleepless nights of waking up from hearing the slightest noise and counting respiratory rates and crying wondering if he would make it to his surgery date. Along the way, I met a friend who lives only 10 minutes away who had taken her dog to RVC for surgery just a few months prior, and I truly believe this was a sign from God that I was doing the right thing.

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She helped me with the paperwork process and even watched Jager for me on some days that I had to work.  I had friends who stopped by my home to let him relieve his bladder while being on furosemide and helped to give him mid-day medications. I truly believe PTSD is real when it comes to having a dog with MVD.  Any cough or odd noise causes worry that this disease could be taking over his heart again. Jagers pre-operative visit, surgery, and all of his post-operative phone calls went amazing. We could not have asked for a better outcome.  Looking back, I can’t believe how fast the time went. Nate has been amazing to Jager and me as I’ve sent so many Facebook messages at all hours crying tears worrying if we would make it to surgery. This is easily the craziest roller coaster I’ve ever ridden.  Many days I felt like I was drowning, but that doesn’t compare to all of the love and smiles we are continuing to share due to a successful MVR surgery.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for us, Mighty Hearts!

Jager is now 8 weeks post-operative MVR surgery, and he is doing absolutely amazing.  He has no coughing spells, resting respiratory rate is continuously in the low 20’s and he has so much energy now, my little boy is back! 

AndreAnna & Jager


Breed: Maltese/Yorkie Age: 6 Diagnosis: Stage C Surgery Date: June 11th, 2019 Hometown: North Carolina, USA Owner: Andreanna Howard Primary Vet: Dr. Sami Winter, Capeside Animal Hospital Cardiologist: Dr. Anna MacManamey , North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital Surgical Team: RVC, Drs. Dan Brockman & Poppy Bristow

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Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs | Mighty Hearts Project