Shih Tzu Stories: SOPHIA’S JOURNEY WITH ‘CHF’

July 30, 2019: On this, the fifth anniversary of the Shihtzumania.com website, and the Facebook timeline, “Shih Tzu Mania,” we are pleased to introduce the story of “SOPHIA,” sent to us by her ‘mom & dad,’ Richard Newton and Shannon Fanslow.

We originally started these pages to help promote rescues and adoptions of the Shih Tzu breed (and all Shih Tzu mixes, too) but, over these years we’ve found a need to share info with Shih Tzu families that might help in the care of these little angels.

Here’s SOPHIA’S story, in Richard’s own words:

“Sophia was my everything. In many ways, Sophia was like any other Shih Tzu. Playful, outgoing, loved to be the center of attention. Favorite hobbies include eating “hooman” food and going on “car rides” to the park.

At around age 12, Sophia started making a coughing sound whenever she would get to excited, or whenever she would run.  At first, we didn’t think much of it, but then suddenly on one of her walks, Sophia just collapsed. We rushed her to the vet thinking she had some sort of seizure, and that is when we learned Sophia had heart disease which was causing her to faint.

It turns out, Sophia had a specific type of heart disease called Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease (DMVD) which is the most common form of heart disease in elderly small breed dogs including shih tzus.

With DMVD, the left valve of the heart no longer functions properly causing leakage and fluid build up in the abdomen and lungs. This in turn causes coughing, difficulty breathing, and fainting/syncope. To combat her failing heart and fluid buildup, Sophia was prescribed a trio of medication including diuretics, blood pressure medication and Vetmedin. The vet said there was no cure, but with close monitoring and medication, Sophia could still have a good quality of life for another year or two.

For the next year, her quality of life was great, and her heart condition was under control. The medication dramatically improved her symptoms – her fainting episodes and coughing went away completely. She was basically like a normal dog again. We took her for car rides all the time and we bought her a stroller so she could still enjoy the park.  We also put her on a low-salt cardiac diet and cut down on the “hooman” food treats she so loved.     

Sadly, heart disease is progressive, and Sophia’s was no exception. After about a year of being stable on treatment, her health started to decline again. Her cough came back with a vengeance and her breathing started to become very labored. Sophia’s heart condition had progressed to Congestive Heart Failure. The vet tried adjusting her medication and sent us home with an oxygen tank, which helped for a few months.

About 1-1/2 years after the initial diagnosis, she reached the end stage of congestive heart failure; medication no longer worked, and her quality of life began to suffer.

Her breathing became very labored, she became disinterested in food, lethargic, and could only sleep on her side due to all the fluid and pressure in her lungs. The vet cautioned that waiting it out for a natural death would be painful for her, and difficult to watch.

Should we opt for euthanization, Sophie would go to sleep peacefully in our arms. It was the most difficult decision and the hardest day of my life, but looking back, I know it was the right choice.

Sophia left this world while she was in my arms knowing she was loved like a child, which at the time was the best gift I could possibly give her.

I know this is a sad ending, but I wanted to share Sophia’s story to help raise awareness to canine-related heart disease.

Early warning signs of canine heart disease include:

  • ·         Coughing, especially after physical activity
  • ·         Fainting
  • ·         Decreased energy level
  • ·         Inability to tolerate physical activity
  • ·         Swelling in the abdomen  

To help give Sophia’s passing more meaning, we started a Facebook group called “Support For Dogs with Congestive Heart Failure” which you can find at this link” https://www.facebook.com/groups/1975451479201870/