by Martha Martin in Memphis, Tenn.
This is Bailey, our sweet Labrador Retriever. As I write this, it is February 21, 2019, and Bailey is 9 years old. Our veterinary cardiologist is in another city and I just returned home from an appointment. Bailey was diagnosed today with diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). I’m angry. And sad. But more angry than sad. In addition to Bailey, our black Lab Sophie was diagnosed only a few months ago at age 7 with the same heart disease.
Bailey and Sophie had always eaten the same food. Orijen and Acana. Since Sophie’s diagnosis, I’ve been so worried we’d get this news about Bailey. Like Sophie, she had no symptoms. I’ll add that my two girls share none of the same bloodlines. Food was the only common denominator. Our cardiologist said today she believes around 70% of the DCM cases she is seeing are diet-related – and they are on the rise. As I left the parking lot, my first call was to our regular vet back home, who was profoundly upset by the news. And angry, just like me.
Bailey’s heart measurements today were almost identical to Sophie’s – left ventricular wall thickness had decreased, and contractility had decreased but heart chambers were still normal in size. Thankfully, Bailey has no accompanying arrhythmia like Sophie, and there is reason to hope for a reversal of the disease, praise God. We’re starting her on Pimobendan and taurine supplementation today, and switching her from Royal Canin Labrador to Royal Canin Early Cardiac food.
Fast forward to August 29, 2019 – REVERSAL!
We are just leaving Bailey’s 6-month follow-up echo appointment with our cardiologist. I am beyond thrilled to report her heart is completely NORMAL! Contractility has returned to 30% – everything is as it should be, and the cardiologist is taking her off of Pimobendan and taurine. We’ll be returning for another echo in six months to see how she’s doing off the heart med and taurine.
I am over the moon with joy and relief, especially after learning at Sophie’s 6-month recheck in June that the condition of her heart was worsening. We were devastated. It seemed she was thriving, looking healthier than ever and still showing no symptoms. It was impossible to comprehend how this happy, beautiful dog could be getting worse. Sophie’s next echo is in late November 2019. We are holding out hope that our Sophie may yet improve.
There is so much we don’t yet know about this insidious disease and the course it chooses to take, relentlessly laying waste to so many lives. This is a war we are fighting, and battles will be won and lost along the way. My heart grieves with every story of pain and loss, but also rises with hope over battles fought and won. War always has casualties, but also heroes. It cannot be won without both. All of us who find ourselves unwillingly dragged into this war understand this.
I want to say how grateful I am for these Facebook groups, for all of the precious people who populate the pages with stories of joy, pain, loss, encouragement and hope. And especially for the extraordinary group of admins and moderators who give unceasingly of their time to help each of us who are in the midst of this inconceivable horror.
Both of our girls’ cases are part of the FDA investigation into nutritional DCM and were included in the FDA’s June 2019 update.
God bless each and every one of you who have prayed for my sweet pups!