by Laura Filmore in Chesterfield, Mo.
I wanted to share my story of Bella and Charlie in hopes it will bring attention to dog foods suspected of causing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). I have, well had, two Old English Sheepdogs.
Bella, my rescue, died of congestive heart failure (CHF) in April 2018. Charlie was diagnosed with DCM seven months later.
For me, this was not a coincidence. Two dogs in the same household, different ages, different litters. They were not related. Something was not right.
I began feeding my dogs Zignature brand kibble in 2015. I started with the salmon and trout formula and switched to the kangaroo formula in March of 2016.
In August of 2017, Bella started showing signs of gagging and heavy panting. I attributed this to her eating too fast. Since bloat is a concern in larger breeds, I purchased slow feeder bowls for both dogs.
In September 2017, I had to take Bella to the ER because of her labored breathing. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). She was put on Vetmedin and Enalapril heart medications.
Since the correlation between diet and DCM wasn’t public knowledge yet, both of my dogs continued to eat Zignature kangaroo food. Initially, Bella seemed to get better but her daily walks became shorter and the gagging, which sounded like she was trying to clear her airway, got worse.
I stopped taking her on long walks, just brief walks down the driveway. I knew our days with her were limited. I just wanted her to be comfortable with less stress and no more rushing to the hospital.
On April 5, 2018, Charlie and I went walking. Bella had not been her usual self and I could see her eyes were not right, so I made the walk short with Charlie (30 minutes).
When we got home, Bella had passed away on her bed. It broke my heart. We had sweet Bella just under three years from rescue. Somehow, I felt guilty that I didn’t give her the life she so deserved.
In October of 2018, only seven months after Bella’s death, Charlie was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. I was not sure I wanted to remove this small lump because he was almost 11 years old. I chose to try the holistic route instead.
At the end of Charlie’s exam with the holistic vet, the vet said, “Charlie has a heart problem, a serious one, and you need to see a cardiologist.”
My heart sank.
On November 2, we met with a cardiologist, and my Charlie was diagnosed with DCM. I couldn’t believe it. History was repeating itself. As with Bella, Charlie immediately started taking Vetmedin and Enalapril, along with taurine supplements.
Charlie had no visible or outward symptoms like Bella. In retrospect, this is why I feel it is so important to see a cardiologist if your dog has been eating a BEG diet.
In February 2019, when Charlie had a follow-up echo, the left chamber of his heart was already showing signs of improvement. He goes in for a recheck in June 2019.
Charlie was on Zignature pretty much since the brand came on the market. He has a sensitive stomach and I believed the claims about dogs being allergic to grains. When Zignature kangaroo (exotic meat) became available, I felt he would not have a reaction, since it introduced a new protein to his system.
After his diagnosis with DCM, I switched him to Fromm duck and potato. And then after reading about potential DCM problems with Fromm, I switched again. We went with Royal Canin Gastrointestinal and Charlie has been doing great on it.
This Facebook group has been a blessing to us: Taurine-Deficient (Nutritional) Dilated Cardiomyopathy. I warn others every chance I get about diet-related DCM.
The disease is serious enough all by itself, but it is also very expensive to diagnose and treat. For us, the Vetmedin is $160 a bottle, which doesn’t even cover a month as only 50 pills are in there. The Enalapril is another $40 a month, along with the taurine supplements.
I love this breed. They are like Velcro, especially now that Charlie is an only fur child. I’m so grateful he is still with me, fighting the good fight.
Sweet Bella deserved so much more than life dealt her. I am still heartbroken over her loss and am hoping Charlie’s heart will return to normal.
Thank you for reading our story and my prayers are with all owners and dogs going through the same struggle.
My Charlie is proof that there is hope!