Congestive Heart Failure - How to Cope

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Congestive Heart Failure - How to Cope

This is a discussion on Congestive Heart Failure - How to Cope within the Dog Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hello everyone. My name is Jamie. I have a 10 year old dachshund poodle mix, Harley, that I've had since he was 8 weeks old. ...

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Old 10-03-2016, 12:04 PM
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Congestive Heart Failure - How to Cope

Hello everyone.

My name is Jamie. I have a 10 year old dachshund poodle mix, Harley, that I've had since he was 8 weeks old. He's literally my shadow and follows me everywhere. He has been with me through so much, and his love is unconditional. We are close and share a deep bond, as many people do with their pets.

He was diagnosed in March of this year with congestive heart failure (CHF) and my husband and I took him to a cardiologist, who did an ultrasound and gave him a slew of medications to help prolong his life and make him more comfortable. He had a second ultrasound in July, and everything looked about the same, if not a tad better. There is no cure, of course, but he was progressing well and the cardiologist didn't feel the need to adjust his medication.

Over the last week, Harley's breathing became a bit shallow and he seemed to have to work a little harder to catch his breath. We increased his diuretic, per the doctor's orders, but it didn't seem to help. We took him to the ER on Friday night (three days ago), and they wanted to keep him for 48 hours. Since I didn't have $4,000 to spend on a weekend in the hospital, they suggested we euthanize Harley. My reaction was mostly disgust and a little bit of rage, as Harley was still eating and drinking, and sleeping just fine. We took him home Friday night thinking he was going to die and talked about taking him to our vet the next morning so that he wouldn't suffer.

Well, it's Monday, and Harley is doing a little better with some medication adjustments. His cardiologist called me today and upped his medicine and made sure to note that if he goes downhill severely and stops eating, and generally stops acting like himself, then we are going to be faced with tough choices. The cardiologist also agreed that it isn't Harley's time to go just yet and he's glad we went with out gut and took him home that night.

My question to the forum is this - how does one deal with this soul-crushing grief? Harley is my first dog, and the thought of losing him fills me with such guilt, like I have let him down because he is sick. I know that CHF is not my fault, and we are doing everything we can to make sure he's ok for as long as humanely possible. Logically, I know this isn't my fault. He is so pure and good, and just wants to be with his family. I feel like I should be able to save him somehow, and I'm letting him down. I don't want him to suffer, so I know what will happen eventually. I'm just so heartbroken because I know he will have to pass one day and he's just living his life trusting me to take care of him. Is this sense of deep, horrible grief normal, even though he's has even passed away yet?

Thanks for any advice or comments. I'm just so lost and don't know what to do. I have no family to confide in, other than my husband who is also upset, so I'm trying to wade these waters mostly alone, without bringing my stress home to my dog.

Jamie
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:09 PM
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I'm so very sorry about your situation. Every time I deal with a loss, whether its a family member (human) or a pet that I've fostered and had to say goodbye to, I try to remember that every day that I was lucky enough to have the love of the being in my life is worth all the heartbreak. Our lives are brief but if we're lucky, we get to share time with others. I know you'll make Harley's last days amazing and he's truly lucky to have spent his life with you. God bless hon.
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:42 PM
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I'm so sorry.

I had a beloved dog die of CHF. She was an amazing dog. She had been a rescue and we only had her for five years or so (she was a "senior" when we got her")

We did the medications for about a year? And then they stopped working. They do stop working after a while unfortunately

I can only tell you my experience and I don't mean this in any way that you should stop fighting for your dog.

At the end, she was struggling to breathe due to the fluid buildup. And I, selfishly, subjected her to an x-ray and a procedure where they drained the fluid. This gave me about three more days with her.

Looking back, I see now that wasn't the best choice for her, and at that point, I should have let her go.

Anyway, I only tell this story to share my own experience with CHF and a beloved dog. I'm so sorry this has hit him at the age of 10. My dog was older and I think that made it a little bit easier, although it was soul-crushing grief.

Honestly, to this day, if I think about that dog, I can start bawling. But I do carry that regret with me about that last procedure

I will also share that euthanizing her brought me peace. I stayed with her the whole time. It was beautiful, really. I know that sounds weird. But I imagined her free of her pain. And my hope is she is waiting for me when I go.

I wish you peace in the decisions and I wish you many many more good days with your dog. You sound like such a caring and loving owner, your dog is so lucky to have you

Last edited by KateBren; 10-03-2016 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 10-03-2016, 01:53 PM
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Thank you for the advice. The thought of letting go is just unbearable. I feel like my insides are being ripped out every time I think about life without my best friend. I won't let him suffer, and I will be grateful for the days and years we had together. You words are kind and what I need. Finding strength through others' experiences and knowing I'm not alone is quite helpful.

Jamie
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Old 10-03-2016, 02:09 PM
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Jamie,
You have a case of caring for your dog, which is a good thing, but it makes having to say goodbye so painful. You will know when its time, and so will Harley, who will in his own way communicate that to you. Dogs are masters of using gestures, body language etc. to communicate with us. My only advice is to enjoy and treasure every day you have left with him, those memories will be forever. I know how we feel about Samantha, who will be eight in a couple of months, and is at this point healthy. Just the thought and knowing that we will lose her at some point is unbearable to both my wife & me, though we hope that day is many years away.
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Old 10-04-2016, 02:49 AM
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Hi Jamie,
first, I am so so sorry you have to go through this. My maltese mix died at age 17 only 11 months ago of a heart attack. It was very sudden and I had no time to prepare myself. I was devastated. Then my kitty who was 9 pined herself into a skeleton in 7 days. She had diabetes, so no eating meant she cant get her insulin injections. Took her to the vet who knew both my animals very well and she told me she is pining for the Maltese and wont survive. she was starving herself to death. So I had to make the decision 7 days after I lost the Maltese so sudden to let my kitty go. It was one of the hardest thing I ever had to do, and I still cant talk about them without crying. All I can recommend is surround yourself with people that get it and will allow you to grief. Don't try and block the hurt out. I find that the more you fight it the more it hurts.
don't shut your hubbie out. you two are going to need each other to get through the loss when it happens.
Also, I know that this is something very hard to think about right now, as I was adamant that im not going to get another pet even though I was constantly aware of NOT hearing their little noises in the house. It somehow felt like I was betraying my two fur children. And I was afraid that my hurt is too raw to welcome a new puppy with the joy it deserves. But my best friend dragged me to a shelter and there was this Pekingese sitting all alone in a huge day pen and my heart melt. It was the best thing I could do for myself to not cry the whole time. This might not work for everyone. but my new Puppy occupied my mind away from the hurt. If it weren't for him I would not have been OK.
I hope that this somehow helps.
big big warm wishes xxx
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Old 10-04-2016, 03:37 AM
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I'd be furious at the hospital, too, for their suggestion to euthanize. People live for many years with CHF.
There are a lot of senior dogs with various ailments that are living wonderful lives, they are simply not as active as they were when they were puppies, but their hearts are full of love and they are wonderful companions.
I agree with those who say that you will know when it is time. You know your dog better than anyone else.

All living things are mortal, to have a relationship with a person or animal means that one day, one may have to say good bye. That should not stop you from the joy of having those relationships.
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Old 10-04-2016, 07:32 AM
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Thank you all so much. Your words of support and encouragement make me feel like I'm part of a community that understands what I'm going through. I know that I'm not alone in my pain, and that everyone who has ever loved a pet has experienced this. I don't know why, but I never expected the pain to be this terrible and raw. My dog is still doing ok, as of today, but his cardiologist said that there's no way to predict when he will decide it's time to move on. The not knowing is also causing me so much stress, and I naturally worry about everything. I cry all day at work, then go home and spend every minute with Harley and try to act like everything is fine. I guess ultimately everything is fine, because death is a part of life, but my goodness it's hard to prepare yourself to let go of someone you love so much.

My husband is also hurting, but he was so worried about my pain that he wrote me a letter "from Harley" that detailed all of the things that Harley wants me to do when he's gone, like love and show the same devotion to another puppy someday, and enjoy my time with Harley while he's still here, instead of crying. He told me how lucky he is to have me as a mom and thanked me for giving him an amazing life.

Again, thank you all so, so much. I hope that Harley has more time, and I will try to take heed to the advice you all offered, no matter how hard it is to just stay in the moment and not think of the future.
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Old 10-04-2016, 10:51 AM
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Yes just stay in today. If he is having a good day, great, enjoy it
Remember he is living in the moment! And he doesn't want you to be sad
That's so nice of your husband to write a letter like that
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Old 10-04-2016, 01:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrobinson View Post
Thank you all so much. Your words of support and encouragement make me feel like I'm part of a community that understands what I'm going through. I know that I'm not alone in my pain, and that everyone who has ever loved a pet has experienced this. I don't know why, but I never expected the pain to be this terrible and raw. My dog is still doing ok, as of today, but his cardiologist said that there's no way to predict when he will decide it's time to move on. The not knowing is also causing me so much stress, and I naturally worry about everything. I cry all day at work, then go home and spend every minute with Harley and try to act like everything is fine. I guess ultimately everything is fine, because death is a part of life, but my goodness it's hard to prepare yourself to let go of someone you love so much.

My husband is also hurting, but he was so worried about my pain that he wrote me a letter "from Harley" that detailed all of the things that Harley wants me to do when he's gone, like love and show the same devotion to another puppy someday, and enjoy my time with Harley while he's still here, instead of crying. He told me how lucky he is to have me as a mom and thanked me for giving him an amazing life.

Again, thank you all so, so much. I hope that Harley has more time, and I will try to take heed to the advice you all offered, no matter how hard it is to just stay in the moment and not think of the future.
I just teared up reading what your husband did for you! How amazing is that? OMG, you're dealing with the most stressful thing that one can go through, but I can feel the love that you're surrounded by and I know that you appreciate that and you know that Harley must feel like the most beloved pet ever.

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