LABOURED BREATHING IS AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU ARE WORRIED THAT YOUR PET HAS CONGESTIVE HEART, GO TO THE NEAREST EMERGENCY VET RIGHT AWAY.
GRIFFIN (10 YR OLD BORDER COLLIE) Sudden laboured breathing and unable to get up.
He had a big day running in the snow with his friends on snowmobiles and racing them. He's very athletic and a very fast runner- often he can run faster than the snowmobiles. HE'S HAD A HEART MURMUR FOR YEARS due mitral valve disease. Last year he was treated for congestive heart failure and started taking heart medications.
THIS CHANGE WAS VERY SUDDEN. We know that this type of heart disease gets worse as time goes by, but it tuns out he has experienced something called chordae tendinae rupture. The chordae tendinae are thin but strong strands that tethe the heat valves in place and prevent them from swinging backwards;; sometimes these will snap when the pressure is too great, causing a very sudden and dramatic onset of congestive heat failure.
HE IS SCARED. He is having a really hard time breathing. You can see the panic in his eyes. We must be very careful to not stress him. HIS HEART MURMUR IS AS LOUD AS IT GETS.You can hear the fluid building up in his lungs. It is called pulmonary edema. This is very serious. HIS DAD HOLDS THE OXYGEN NEAR HIS NOSE. His parents comfort Griff while we place the IV catheter. Panic makes everything worse because the heart works harder when you are very frightened.
WE GIVE HIM A MEDICATION TO REDUCE ANXIETY and a diuretic medication called furosemide (Lasix) to help reduce the fluid in the lungs. HE'S LESS STRESSED. WE CAN USE NASAL OXYGEN and apply monitors (EKG, blood pressure, etc.) Before he was too panicked to allow anything near his face. HE IS STARTING TO RELAX and take better breaths. The machine with the red lights monitors his oxygen saturation. WE SCAN THE CHEST WITH ULTRASOUND to make sure there are no pockets of fluid that we would need to drain. WE ALSO CHECK THE ABDOMEN FOR FLUID since this just is a brief, focused ultrasound, we can use alcohol (instead of shaving his fur). HIS BREATHING RATE IS STILL TOO FAST So we give him a 2nd dose of lasix. Some heart medications can be hard on the kidneys, so we must be careful. THE HOURS FLY BY. HE IS IMPROVING We've been turning down the oxygen. TIME FOR A QUICK BATHROOM BREAK We lower the gurney for him... HE'S A PERFECT PATIENT ...going back up.
WE CONTINUE TO MONITOR HIM until he is stable. He has a nice long nap. WE REFER HIM TO THE CARDIOLOGIST so that he can be in the best possible hands for ongoing management of his heart disease.
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-Hayes KC, Trautwein EA. Taurine deficiency syndrome in cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1989 May;19(3):403-13. doi: 10.1016/s0195-5616(89)50052-4. PMID: 2658282.
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4 BEST PIECES OF ADVICE FROM THE EMERGENCY VET THAT COULD SAVE YOUR PET'S LIFE
1) DON'T WAIT TOO LONG TO GET HELP! If you wait too long, it could be too late. This is especially true for concerns such as laboured breathing, pale gums and weakness. You know your pet best, so if you are worried or concerned, "when in doubt, check it out!"
2) PREVENT THE PREVENTABLE. Learn as much as possible about dangers that face your pet, such as household poisons, seemingly harmless objects (like toys, clothing, garbage and rocks), other animals, and vehicles. Pets are like toddlers and they need a responsible adult/babysitter to protect them from danger. Puppies and kittens need to start their vaccines at ~8 WEEKS (and they need boosters too!) to protect them from deadly diseases.
3) BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST CASE SCENARIO. Have a plan in place, know your nearest emergency clinic, have the ASPCA phone number on speed dial. Know basic first aid training and CPR. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, BE FINANCIALLY PREPARED. The cost of medical treatment in an emergency, and the owners' ability to pay for it, is probably the most important factor that determines whether a pet will receive the medical care it needs. The best way to protect yourself is to have good medical insurance for your pet. Do your research.
3) KNOW WHEN TO REQUEST A REFERRAL TO A SPECIALIST. It is your right to request a referral to a specialist for a second opinion. If you are dealing with a chronic problem that is difficult to manage, a serious or life-threatening problem, or a medical problem requiring advanced diagnostic testing or surgery - it is OK to ask for a referral to a specialist. You can find a directory of veterinary specialist by field ( on this website: www.vetspecialists.com )
**REMEMBER**: WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM, with the best interest of the patient as everyone's first priority. Be an advocate for your pet, but at the same time, let your vet do what he/she does best, and don't try to grab the steering wheel and obstruct your vet from doing his/her job. We are all in the same car, we are all headed to the same place, but only one of us has the driver's license (meaning, only the vet has the medical training and background to "drive the car").
The medical information on this site is provided as an educational resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Please consult your pet's health care provider before making any health care decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. Twin Trees Vet expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.