16 Months into the DCM Diagnosis

It has been 16 months since Limoncello was diagnosed with DCM, and 11 months since she has been on a kibble that includes an appropriate source of protein, goods grains, and is free of legumes. As scheduled at her last check-up with Dr. Bossbaly, Limoncello had a cardiology exam and echocardiogram on July 23, 2019.

As Limoncello was getting her echocardiogram, I waited in Dr. Bossbaly’s exam room praying she would return with news that Cello’s DCM had not worsened. When Dr. Bossbaly entered the room with a big smile, exclaiming, “YAY!” I was completely caught off guard, and confused! My nervous response was, “What do you mean?… Her DCM stayed the same and didn’t worsen…RIGHT?” What came out of Dr. Bossbaly’s mouth next made my own heart skip a beat… “Limoncello’s heart has completely corrected itself from DCM,” she said. “NO WAY!?” Was all I could manage to get out before I burst into tears of joy.

Dr. Bossbaly explained that Limoncello’s heart was back to normal both in size AND function. Cello did still have a murmur, but it downgraded from a 3 out of 6 to a 2 out of 6. Dr. Bossbaly lifted all exercise restrictions, and approved of Limoncello coming out of her dock diving retirement to compete again! After speaking with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, she agreed as well. HALLELUJAH!

We understand that we have been blessed with the fact that Limoncello’s heart has healed to the point of normal size and function. Unfortunately, not many dogs have been this lucky. Limoncello is a prime example of a dog diagnosed with DCM directly related to Taurine deficiency. We are beyond grateful that Limoncello made a complete turnaround with the implementation of a dietary change and proper supportive supplements.

Many people have asked us what food we suggest they switch their dogs to in order to get their pups off of a grain-free diet. Our suggestion is the same for everyone. All dogs are unique – and all dogs have different nutritional needs, just like humans. Take into consideration your dog’s health issues, daily activities, do some research on dog food companies, and consult the doctors you trust the most before making a decision on food. Keep in mind that not all dogs do well on all foods. It may take a bit of experimenting before you settle on appropriate food and supplement choices for your pup.

10 Months Into the DCM Diagnosis

As scheduled from Limoncello’s last echocardiogram, Limoncello had her next echocardiogram and cardiology exam with Dr. Bossbaly on January 15, 2019.

During this appointment, Limoncello’s heart disease slightly improved on the current supplements. However, her heart function still remained abnormal. At this point we were told to:

  1. continue the current supplements with no changes
  2. keep tracking Cello’s sleeping respiratory rate

An echocardiogram was scheduled in 6 months.

Secondary IDEXX Laboratory Taurine Test

On October 18, 2018 Limoncello had a check-up with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Helen Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital to have a Taurine test done. This time the test was performed through IDEXX Laboratory.

It has been two months since we had deleted all legumes from our pack’s diet, and switched them all to kibble that included good grains. It has also been two months that Cello had been on an increased supplemented amount of Taurine.

Limoncello’s Taurine plasma level had now risen from 50 to 216. This was high considering the normal plasma range is 60-120. However, when we consulted Cello’s cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly, she suggested that we still keep Limoncello on all the same supplements and doses, including the 1,500mg of Taurine twice daily.

How We Discovered That Limoncello Had a Heart Issue

In the middle of the 2017 Dock Diving Season, Limoncello suddenly stopped jumping.   Brian was up on the dock with her at a competition in June 2017, and released her to jump.  Limoncello literally sauntered to the end of the dock and flat-jumped in. She continued to show disinterest at every event after that. We actually stopped jumping her for a little bit and took her to the vet for some testing. Nothing concerning was discovered at that point. She began to jump towards the end of the season again, and at the 2017 World Championship .… But still not showing the same interest and “extreme” tendencies she had before. At that point we resorted to the fact that perhaps she was just tired of a sport she once loved…just like so many German Shorthaired Pointers who are surrendered to rescue or are “dumped” by hunters because they just woke up and decided to stop hunting. Although we did not have an echocardiogram done at the time, there was medically no need to at that point… Cello did not display other symptoms, her bloodwork came back normal, and nothing irregular was heard by stethoscope.

Fast forward to February 2018.  One day in early February, Hooch started licking Cello’s chest as if it was coated in honey! He was exhibiting behaviors of an intact male (Hooch is intact, Limoncello is not) – but instead of being interested in her hind-end , he wouldn’t leave her CHEST alone … turning over on his back to lick her chest, nosing at her chest while whimpering, and did everything in his power to get to Cello if we tried to separate them.  Thinking her hair follicle issue had returned, and we were missing something like a rash or infection on her chest that was peaking Hooch’s interest … we took her back to our primary veterinarian, Dr. Helen Campbell .

This time, while I was sitting in the waiting room at Old York Veterinary Hospital, another dog entered the office waiting room with his owner.  Although Limoncello is extremely human-friendly, she despises most other dogs outside of her pack, and will act on her aggression.  Cello was freaking out at the other dog as the vet tech called us back into the room.  With Cello’s adrenaline still pumping, our veterinarian walked into the room.  She immediately listened to Cello’s heart with her stethoscope…and thought she heard a murmur.  However, as Cello began to calm down, the “noise” went away.  Jokingly I said to Dr. Campbell,  “Walk a dog by her again … that’s what she was freaking out about earlier.”  Surprisingly, she said,  “Yes – let’s do that!” One of the vet techs had their dog at work with them, so they leashed their pup and walked her by the exam room with the door left open.  Dr. Campbell had her stethoscope on Cello’s chest the entire time.   As Cello began to break out into what we call “Cujo mode” as she saw the dog pass by the doorway… bam! …the “noise” was back! 

Although we will never know the answer, we have two thoughts on the discovery of Cello’s heart murmur:

  1. This heart issue could have began to develop during the 2017 dock diving season (our answer to why her performance dropped).  It is likely it could have gone unnoticed because when Cello is at the vet she is usually super calm IF there is no other dog in the waiting room with us.  We usually time our visits so that Cello does not encounter other dogs in the office, so it’s quite possible she was not “excited” enough to display symptoms during other visits.  The murmur was undetectable while she was calm, so Dr. Campbell would not have heard the murmur with her stethoscope at other appointments.
  2. Cello’s 2017 performance was totally unrelated, and the heart murmur began in the beginning of March when  “Dr. Hooch” discovered it! 

Regardless of when the murmur began, it had to be explored to determine if there were any other related cardiac issues.   Dr. Campbell referred us to Dr. Bossbaly, a cardiologist at Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC).