by Maggie Gilmore in Kansas
Our pup Kaylee was diagnosed with nutritional DCM in January 2019 by a cardiologist at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She was a severe case and was to come back every three months for heart checks.
Her last visit to K-State in June was so promising that they changed her visits from every three months to every six months. We weren’t due back for an echo and holter monitor until January 2020.
It breaks my heart to share that Kaylee passed away in her sleep on November 25, 2019, almost certainly due to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. This so often happens to dogs with DCM. Kaylee was 10 years old.
Her first major cardiac episode was on January 1, 2019. Her heart was beating hard, she was refusing food and water, and she threw up multiple times. Since it was a holiday, we weren’t able to get her to our vet until the next day. By then, Kaylee seemed to have returned to normal.
Her next episode was three weeks later and more intense. This time we got her to our vet while it was happening. They realized how severe it was and advised us to rush Kaylee to K-State. When we got there, I carried Kaylee in from the car, crying the whole way. They quickly put Kaylee on a Lidocaine drip to slow her heart. They were surprised she survived the drive.
We had to leave Kaylee at K-State overnight so they could monitor her heart and see how she reacted to the medications. I can’t say enough good things about the staff at K-State. They are incredibly kind and professional, and surpassed every expectation in caring for our pup like she was their own.
The staff at K-State are also the ones who told us about DCM and the possible connection to grain-free food – and suddenly, pieces started falling into place.
For about five years, Kaylee’s diet was Kirkland Nature’s Domain grain-free food. A few years prior to her DCM diagnosis, she was diagnosed with a heart murmur and had been taking Sotalol to control it. Now, I cannot help but wonder how long Kaylee had been developing DCM. I also cannot imagine what would have happened during Kaylee’s severe cardiac episodes had she not already been taking something for her heart. After her DCM diagnosis, we immediately changed her diet to Purina Pro Plan. She showed improvement at her first follow-up appointment at K-State, but we just didn’t catch this in time to save our girl.
Kaylee was a mix of Australian Cattle Dog and Pitbull, not breeds in which DCM is commonly seen. She did not have a taurine deficiency and never had to receive a taurine supplement for the improvement she initially showed in her heart strength and condition. She took several medications every day, including Mexiletine (an oral form of Lidocaine) to keep her heart rate regulated, an increased dose of Sotalol to manage her arrhythmia, and Pimobendan to further stabilize her failing heart. She only had one more cardiac episode, at which point she wore a holter monitor for 24 hours to see what was going on with her heart.
Before she went into heart failure, Kaylee was an active girl who absolutely lived to chase tennis balls and herd our cats around the house. We are extremely grateful for the extra time we had with our sweet girl, but we still believe she should have lived well into her teens. I want to spread the word so that others might be spared losing a family member like we did to diet-associated DCM.