I have a 13 year old Staffie. Our vet has been aware of her having a heart murmur ever since we adopted her 3 years ago. A couple of weeks ago she started to develop a cough, initial it would just be when she started to play (after an initial couple of coughs she'd then be fine for the rest of the play session).
We told the vet this, and they said that given her heart murmur they'd like to do an x-ray. The x-ray revealed what looked like an enlarged heart, which the vet said was 'quite a cause for concern'. This seemed to fit in with the coughing, as I understand that an enlarged heart can cause fluid to collect in the lungs. They put her on vetmedin for her heart and vivitonin to help with her breathing. Initially her cough continued to get slightly worse, but after 4 or 5 days on the meds it has stabilised.
The vets also sent the x-rays to a specialist who spotted something in/on/next to her lungs and said this was now the main concern. They've suggested a CT scan and endoscopy to check her lungs.
Naturally the thought of losing my dog is very distressing, but I'm trying my hardest to do what is best for her. I think I should get the CT and endoscopy done (they would both be done in the same session), but I'd like other people's opinions.
It's possible that the lung problem is relatively easily treatable. Or it could be something serious such as cancer, in which case I'd then have the difficult decision of whether or not to put a fairly old dog through surgery, chemo etc. If the lung problem turned out to be untreatable, the vets would have at least identified the problem and would be able to medicate appropriately to minimize her suffering during her last days/weeks/months.
Two possible reasons not to get the CT and endoscopy done: it's putting her through more discomfort (although I would say this isn't a compelling reason - she'll be zonked out most of the time and won't know what day it is), and there's the risk of her not coming round from the anesthetic (given she's an older dog with a heart condition).
To add to all this, I understand that an enlarged heart really only has one outcome. With medication it can be controlled to some extent, but the life expectancy for a dog with an enlarged heart is at most a couple of extra years.
When I next speak to the vet I'm going to ask if he can give any indication of how much longer her heart will last ... although I suspect this is a very difficult question to answer. If the vet thought we were talking months then perhaps it's wrong to put her through the tests on her lungs?
Aside from these problems, she is generally in good health, and despite her age is still quite active. She trots along quite happily on her walks, looks bright, and still loves to play - people always say that she's like a puppy the way she plays, and don't believe us when we tell them she's 13.
Anyway, I'd love other people's opinions please.