Tiger was diagnosed in March 2018 with a grade IV heart murmur, MVD stage C and severe Pulmonary Hypertension. She was nine years and a half years old. Her only symptom at the time was a persistent cough. She was a very happy and active dog. Our primary Veterinarian, Dr. Wallach informed us in December of 2017 that Tiger probably had a year to live with medication. In the interest of full disclosure he informed us that there was a surgical option and referred us to a cardiologist and to the Mighty Hearts site. We are so thankful that he was aware of the surgery.
Tiger was basically symptom free- what we believe was her first episode of CHF was a quick incidence of being disoriented in June of 2017. We took Tiger to Dr. Joshua Morgenstern a Cardiologist at VMCLI in Long Island, NY. Dr. Morgenstern put Tiger on a mix of Lasix, Vetmedin, Enalapril and Sidenafil. In May of 2018 we were given a surgical date at the RVC for Jan of 2019. While it was a long way off we had mixed feelings – we were happy to have Tiger with us for a long while before the surgery as the surgery had its risks which we had to weigh vs the risk of Tiger going into CHF. Labor Day weekend 2018 Tiger had trouble breathing and she had a terrible hacking cough. Luckily VMCLI is also a 24 hour emergency clinic and they were able to confer with Tiger’s cardiologist and had copies of all her scans for comparison. The ER vet diagnosed her with CHF and she needed to be hospitalized for 3 days. That episode scared us and we were able to move Tiger’s surgery date up to Dec 2018. Tiger’s medications were continuously monitored and we prepared for our trip to London praying that Tiger would remain stable to make the trip. Tiger remained a happy, active dog with no real outward signs of her condition for a long time. As our vet indicated she “didn’t read the book” and she had no idea how sick she was.
Preparing for the surgery was very stressful- all the paperwork with the USDA forms, testing, and ESA documentation and approvals. The Mighty Hearts site was a wonderful resource as were so many other parents who gave so willingly of their time to help us navigate the logistics and help with any concerns we had. The love and support we received was amazing. On the Wednesday prior to her surgery we took the overnight flight to London and Tiger did great. We had made a pre-op appointment for the next morning as Tiger had high Pulmonary Hypertension so we wanted her checked out to insure the flight did not affect her.Tiger was not herself the first night and we thought maybe it was the flight and new surroundings. Unfortunately when Tiger went to her pre-op appointment the RVC heard crackling in her lungs and decided to keep her overnight for observation. Tiger rapidly deteriorated into full CHF. She was up and down and they had trouble controlling her breathing. Nothing was working. We were on an emotional roller coaster. The RVC gave Tiger better odds of surviving the surgery then making it to surgery. The cardiac team was amazing- they kept Tiger alive to make it surgery as that was her only chance to survive. She was in the ICU oxygen chamber and as the picture shows she had an oxygen tube stitched to her nose to help her breathe.
Tiger’s odds were much lower going into surgery than they were the week before due to her critical condition. Dr. Dan Brockman and Dr. Poppy Bristow conferred with their staff at the RVC to put together a surgical plan (including using a ventilator pre-surgery and a bit longer afterwards) to try and give her a fighting chance. We were on pins and needles the day of the surgery having cried our eyes out the weekend before. Tiger was so sick we could not see her pre-surgery as the Doctors were afraid any excitement might upset the delicate balance. The surgery was successful and Tiger made it through all the hurdles the first few days. She did develop 2 small blood clots and had to remain at the RVC additional time. Tiger was at the RVC for a total of 16 days.
The entire RVC team was wonderful- everyone was warm, caring and compassionate. Tiger loved the entire team and we are forever grateful to them all for saving Tiger. Without their skills and expertise Tiger would not be with us today. We thank her Surgeons (Dan and Poppy), Nurses (Sarah and Allison), Cardiologists (Virginia and Inma), Perfusionists (Nigel and Tom), Anesthetists (Carolina and Thaleia), and the dog blood donors (Oscar, Basil and Jesse) as well as the entire staff at the RVC who gave her such excellent care and attention.
Tiger is now 4 months post-surgery and doing well. While her heart is still enlarged and she has moderate regurgitation the repair locks the valve in place to prevent further deterioration. Tiger will most likely remain on the Vetmedin but does not need any other medications and most importantly is off all diuretics. We are grateful for everyday with her- she is our little miracle and we love her with all our heart.