by Alicia Fattore-Brozek in Arizona
One day in November of 2018, our seemingly healthy 2-year-old Weimaraner started to choke and hack. It sounded as if Sophie had something caught in her throat. The following day, I took her to our vet because I also noticed her breathing was off. She was taking quick, short breaths. My vet examined Sophie and said her lungs sounded fine, but since she was coughing, she started Sophie on an antibiotic, thinking it was kennel cough.
After a few days with no improvement, we took Sophie back in. Our vet then decided to test for Valley Fever, which is caused by a fungus in the desert soil in the southwestern United States, where we live. Results were negative.
By the next day, Sophie was declining fast. She had stopped eating and was stretching her head out to breathe. We ended up at the ER clinic that night. The ER vet noticed Sophie’s gums weren’t as pink as they should be. After taking an x-ray, the doctor determined Sophie was in heart failure. She had a very enlarged heart, or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
The doctor asked what we had been feeding Sophie and mentioned what they had been seeing recently with grain-free diets. Since the day we brought Sophie home at 9 months of age, she had been eating different formulas of Taste of the Wild grain-free food.
The ER vet started Sophie on heart medications and referred us to a veterinary cardiologist. Unfortunately, the cardiologist was booked for three weeks. Our Sophie was really suffering, and we were considering euthanasia.
As a last resort, my hubby called the cardiologist’s office and literally begged for Sophie to be seen. We got her in the following day – and an echocardiogram confirmed DCM.
The cardiologist said Sophie’s heart condition was not one she was born with and suspected it was diet-related DCM. We immediately changed Sophie’s diet. The cardiologist tweaked her medications and added taurine and CoQ10 supplements to her daily treatment regimen. We were to go back to the cardiologist in a few months for a re-check.
Within a few days, Sophie was 80% herself. After a few weeks, she was acting 100%.
Sophie passed away in March of 2019, before her follow-up appointment. She passed while she was napping, and although we can’t be sure, a fatal cardiac arrhythmia is strongly suspected. We knew this could happen, but Sophie was doing fantastic, so we were very optimistic. When DCM dogs die from a severe arrhythmia, the moment comes without warning. It leaves a hole so big in your heart that you feel you might never recover.
Our beloved Sophie was only 3 years old. I have cried so much over the past year that my eyes hurt. I keep wondering when the pain will end.