Really concerning symptoms after exercise in dog w/ congenital heart murmur

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Really concerning symptoms after exercise in dog w/ congenital heart murmur

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Old 08-17-2017, 10:43 AM
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Really concerning symptoms after exercise in dog w/ congenital heart murmur

We have already been to see the vet, & have another appointment on Monday for chest x-rays & a blood pressure reading.

I have a 6-y/o muttly mutt -- about 53lbs (the runt of her litter) & aesthetically speaking looks mostly like a German Shorthaired Pointer/Pitbull mix, though I know she has a wide variety of different breeds in her genetic background. She has had a grade 2 (out of 6, vet says if graded out of 5 it would be more like "not quite a 2") heart murmur since birth, but it has never caused her any problems historically. She has always been a very high energy, playful dog -- nothing makes her happier than to run & jump, stretch her legs & have fun.
But recently, over just the past ~week or so, she has completely lost her stamina & has been displaying some very concerning symptoms after exercise.
After even only just 3-5 minutes of actively playing, she becomes very exhausted. And what is most distressing -- she becomes very weak & uncoordinated. She stumbles around crashing into things, if she can even walk at all; her legs give out on her & she falls down and is not able to stand back up. This only lasts for around ~15 minutes though, then she seems to be just fine & recovering from exercise normally.
I started hosing her off after exercise, to try & help cool her down more quickly; and I tried to make our play sessions a bit less "intense," but it seemed to have no effect on how quickly she wears out and ends up weak & uncoordinated.
This is just so very strange for this dog -- normally she can tear around for literally hours w/ virtually no sign of fatigue. She is practically a perpetual motion device.
She is not coughing excessively during/after exercise or anything like that...it's mainly just this dramatic weakness & lack of coordination. She's eating & drinking well, doing her potty business normally, etc. When the vet was looking at her yesterday, he seemed a bit perplexed & told me that just based off examining her in the office, that he'd think she was practically the ideal picture of a perfectly healthy middle-aged dog.
He (the vet) gave me some things to look for and to try if she has another "episode" in the interim before we get started on further diagnostics at our appointment on Monday. He said it could be any number of things -- a problem w/ her heart, a blood sugar issue, a condition affecting the muscles, or something else entirely.

I'm just very worried about my dog, she is literally my best friend in the world...& I don't like being basically unable to help her or do anything about the problem, while just sitting around waiting for answers, essentially.
Has anyone seen something like this before?

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Old 08-18-2017, 12:15 AM
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I'm curious as to what, if anything, you end up finding, because I've experienced similar (but less severe) symptoms with Bus for the last 4 or 5 years. His episodes are triggered by exercising even for brief periods (5 to 10 minutes) in mild to hot conditions, and he recovers within minutes (not even panting) of getting into a cool area. Unlike your girl, as of his last vet exam (within the last year), no evidence of heart issue, and he's had chest/abdominal rads for other things previously with no obvious heart abnormality present. The first time it happened, we had been playing ball in the back yard on a warm day (80 degrees or so), and were headed up to our house. He was panting hard, but not excessively hard. I veered off to close a door on our deck, and when I walked past him heading toward the house again, he fell over. I snatched him up and bolted into the bathroom, turning the tub on to start hosing him off, thinking heat stroke. Turned around to grab him and he was strolling around, sniffing the ground and hoovering cat food. The next incident happened a year or so later while playing ball on a 70-75 degree day, he returned the ball after a throw, and when I picked it up, he stiffened, jerked twice, then licked his lips and was normal again. He seemed aware and maybe even slightly startled when it occurred, but immediately after, grabbed the ball that I had dropped and wanted to play again. The most recent incident occurred in spring of last year on a cool (64 degree), cloudy day. We were visiting family in PA, and he'd been hanging out in the car all morning (windows down, side door open). I got him out to walk him and my young cousins wanted to play with him so I let them play ball with him. After 15 minutes or so, I noticed that he was starting to pant (at this point, I stop playing when he pants, as he goes from light panting to "weird stuff happening" fast), and told them to take a break. He brought the ball over, and I took it. He went to follow my hand and sort of stumbled over my foot, and continued to look a little unsteady. I put him in a down-stay (belly on the cool ground, I do this a lot now when we play to help cool him off), ran in and grabbed some water and poured it over him, and he was fine within a minute or so. We didn't play ball anymore that day, but he went for a walk, and was fine.

Things I have considered are that he may not be able to pant/cool appropriately with a toy in his mouth, so I do lots of "search" games with him now, rather than just retrieves. Also, it is very hard to tell how hard he is panting when we play, as he doesn't really pant with the ball in his mouth, and when I take the ball, he is either tensely awaiting me to throw it (mouth closed), or barking for me to throw it, so periodically I will stop him, put him in a down, drop the ball, and wait for him to relax enough to pant normally so I can see how exerted he really is. It has always happened when he's dry, never when he's been wet from swimming or in the water, so if I see him veer off to get into the water, I know he's getting hot and either needs to get in water or inside to the AC right then... it seems that he knows as well, so I always "listen" when he goes. He's always recovered very quickly from exercise, and still does, but only if brought in to cool air or wet down, so I make sure not to exercise him unless I have one of those options. He could play ball for hours on a 40 degree day.

Since there's nothing obviously wrong with him, and his issue is manageable if I avoid exercising him when it's hot (his primary exercise in summer is swimming now), I haven't pursued further testing. Both vets who I have had check him for issues related to it have sort of shrugged their shoulders after examining him and advised me to just avoid the things that make it happen. Next step would be an echocardiogram to rule out heart issues for certain, but that might not turn anything up, and since he seems "stable", I haven't done it so far. He swims in cold water sometimes in late fall/early spring (50-60 degrees, rarely colder), and I've wondered if that hasn't messed with his "internal thermometer" in some fashion. His breed is not one known for EIC, or any of the other exercise related collapse disorders. I've not noticed any seizure activity outside of these episodes, but it was suggested to me that it could be some sort of mild seizure, given the behavior I saw during the second episode. Or, it could be a heart issue that he's otherwise not symptomatic for. I tested his glucose immediately after one of the episodes, and it was normal. It's definitely something always in the back of my mind when we're out doing stuff, particularly during the warmer months.

Here's hoping that whatever is going on with your girl is something with an easy fix, so she can get back to enjoying herself. It's especially hard when they feel fine otherwise, as they want to do normal things, which makes us feel bad for not letting them do what they like.

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Old 08-18-2017, 11:04 AM
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Are your play sessions outside? Could it maybe be the heat effecting her? If you play in the house does it still happen? I know the heat down here has been brutal, if you're experiencing the same thing maybe that is it? Definitely concerning. I would maybe cut down on the hard playing. Maybe do smaller incriminates and see what her threshold is.
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Old 08-18-2017, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by jclark343 View Post
Are your play sessions outside? Could it maybe be the heat effecting her? If you play in the house does it still happen? I know the heat down here has been brutal, if you're experiencing the same thing maybe that is it? Definitely concerning. I would maybe cut down on the hard playing. Maybe do smaller incriminates and see what her threshold is.
I posted this same thread on a different forum, & someone over there made a similar inquiry about the heat -- so I'm just going to copy+paste what I posted in response to that person, since I think everything you asked about is addressed there. Please feel free to ask if anything is not clear, or etc.

-->>
It is hot. I live in SW Florida...it's always hot. We've been having highs in the low 90s lately, very humid.
In the summer months though I try to get most of Nika's exercise in during the cooler parts of the day, & stick to the shade as much as possible.
We just spent basically the whole month of July up at my family's summer house on the beach in New England -- it was hot there too (& we do not have A/C up there), but not nearly so humid. I first noticed Nika seemed to be lacking in stamina/unusually quick to fatigue right after we arrived back home in FL, & I figured she just needed a little time to adjust back to the nasty Florida summer weather (& maybe recover from the flight/long day of traveling that got us back home -- I know I needed some time to recover!), since she'd been 100% fine -- her usually tireless self -- throughout the entirety of our time up North. We stopped walking because she was wearing out so quickly & would end up "all plopped out & stretchy" after not even a couple miles, & I switched to keeping her exercise mainly to playtime in the yard (usually either fetch w/ the frisbee or chasing the lunge whip [EDIT for clarification: a lunge whip is a very long whip w/ a very long lash which is used for doing certain groundwork exercises w/ horses] as if it were a giant cat toy) so that she'd have an easier time keeping to the shade and so I could more readily cut things short if she seemed to be really wearing out.
However, we've been back in FL for 3-4 weeks now, & she's only becoming more & more quickly and dramatically fatigued, & has now (last Friday was the first time it happened) started to display this weakness & lack of coordination after exercise.
I don't doubt that the heat certainly plays a part in exhausting her more quickly, it's what I initially assumed to be the cause of her decreased stamina ...but really, it's virtually always hot & disgusting here -- it's not uncommon for us to have temperatures into the high 80s even in the dead of winter (December, January). In the past Nika has had no trouble taking long walks or playing extensively even in the summer heat; but lately she is collapsing & unable to stand after literally less than 5 minutes of playing, even w/ short breather breaks worked into those 5 minutes. Nothing like that had ever happened before a week ago.

She's been really going crazy having not had enough exercise recently...but I've now been scared to let her play, since every time she does she ends up scaring the crap out of me w/ these symptoms.
I asked the vet if I should avoid exercising her...and he didn't really give me a firm answer. Initially he did not seem to understand just how quickly these symptoms come on, & suggested that I just "take it slow & easy" and only play w/ her for "maybe 15 minutes at a time, several times a day." When I emphasized again that I thought 15 minutes of actively playing might actually kill her, and that we had not been able to even get 5 minutes in before she completely lost her coordination, he seemed kind of surprised & just went on some more about how she seemed so perfectly fit & healthy standing there in the office.
I will have to do what [poster on other forum] suggested & take a video if it happens again before our next appointment, so the vet can properly see what is going on...because he does not seem to fully understand the severity of what's happening w/ her.

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Old 08-18-2017, 12:33 PM
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I'm curious as to what, if anything, you end up finding, because I've experienced similar (but less severe) symptoms with Bus for the last 4 or 5 years. His episodes are triggered by exercising even for brief periods (5 to 10 minutes) in mild to hot conditions, and he recovers within minutes (not even panting) of getting into a cool area. Unlike your girl, as of his last vet exam (within the last year), no evidence of heart issue, and he's had chest/abdominal rads for other things previously with no obvious heart abnormality present. The first time it happened, we had been playing ball in the back yard on a warm day (80 degrees or so), and were headed up to our house. He was panting hard, but not excessively hard. I veered off to close a door on our deck, and when I walked past him heading toward the house again, he fell over. I snatched him up and bolted into the bathroom, turning the tub on to start hosing him off, thinking heat stroke. Turned around to grab him and he was strolling around, sniffing the ground and hoovering cat food. The next incident happened a year or so later while playing ball on a 70-75 degree day, he returned the ball after a throw, and when I picked it up, he stiffened, jerked twice, then licked his lips and was normal again. He seemed aware and maybe even slightly startled when it occurred, but immediately after, grabbed the ball that I had dropped and wanted to play again. The most recent incident occurred in spring of last year on a cool (64 degree), cloudy day. We were visiting family in PA, and he'd been hanging out in the car all morning (windows down, side door open). I got him out to walk him and my young cousins wanted to play with him so I let them play ball with him. After 15 minutes or so, I noticed that he was starting to pant (at this point, I stop playing when he pants, as he goes from light panting to "weird stuff happening" fast), and told them to take a break. He brought the ball over, and I took it. He went to follow my hand and sort of stumbled over my foot, and continued to look a little unsteady. I put him in a down-stay (belly on the cool ground, I do this a lot now when we play to help cool him off), ran in and grabbed some water and poured it over him, and he was fine within a minute or so. We didn't play ball anymore that day, but he went for a walk, and was fine.

Things I have considered are that he may not be able to pant/cool appropriately with a toy in his mouth, so I do lots of "search" games with him now, rather than just retrieves. Also, it is very hard to tell how hard he is panting when we play, as he doesn't really pant with the ball in his mouth, and when I take the ball, he is either tensely awaiting me to throw it (mouth closed), or barking for me to throw it, so periodically I will stop him, put him in a down, drop the ball, and wait for him to relax enough to pant normally so I can see how exerted he really is. It has always happened when he's dry, never when he's been wet from swimming or in the water, so if I see him veer off to get into the water, I know he's getting hot and either needs to get in water or inside to the AC right then... it seems that he knows as well, so I always "listen" when he goes. He's always recovered very quickly from exercise, and still does, but only if brought in to cool air or wet down, so I make sure not to exercise him unless I have one of those options. He could play ball for hours on a 40 degree day.

Since there's nothing obviously wrong with him, and his issue is manageable if I avoid exercising him when it's hot (his primary exercise in summer is swimming now), I haven't pursued further testing. Both vets who I have had check him for issues related to it have sort of shrugged their shoulders after examining him and advised me to just avoid the things that make it happen. Next step would be an echocardiogram to rule out heart issues for certain, but that might not turn anything up, and since he seems "stable", I haven't done it so far. He swims in cold water sometimes in late fall/early spring (50-60 degrees, rarely colder), and I've wondered if that hasn't messed with his "internal thermometer" in some fashion. His breed is not one known for EIC, or any of the other exercise related collapse disorders. I've not noticed any seizure activity outside of these episodes, but it was suggested to me that it could be some sort of mild seizure, given the behavior I saw during the second episode. Or, it could be a heart issue that he's otherwise not symptomatic for. I tested his glucose immediately after one of the episodes, and it was normal. It's definitely something always in the back of my mind when we're out doing stuff, particularly during the warmer months.

Here's hoping that whatever is going on with your girl is something with an easy fix, so she can get back to enjoying herself. It's especially hard when they feel fine otherwise, as they want to do normal things, which makes us feel bad for not letting them do what they like.
Thank you for sharing your experience!
Hm...that's interesting. You said these issues first arose about 4-5 years ago --
how old is Bus now?

Nika has always, quite understandably, been much quicker to rebound from heavy exercise, & can go for much (much!) longer if she has a body of cold water available to take a dip in to cool herself off when she starts getting hot. That's one of the things that is so wonderful about being up on the beach up North (mentioned in my last post above) -- the ocean is right there & Nika can happily spend all day alternating between tearing around the beach like a wild animal & swimming along the coastline, never completely running her 'batteries' out.
That's why, once she started showing these concerning symptoms, I started hosing her off whenever she seemed to be getting excessively hot, hoping that being wet down w/ cool water (cooler than the air anyway) then being put immediately inside to lay on the cold tile & soak up the A/C would help her recover more quickly & perhaps prevent the distressing weakness/lack of coordination...but it didn't seem to make much difference.
And normally, even in our nasty hot & humid weather down here, she is perfectly able & happy to take long walks and/or get in long stretches of active playtime, then is able to fully recover in fairly short order just laying in the cold A/C.

I really thank you for your well wishes, & I too hope that this is something readily fixable. Because like you said, it's really difficult that she feels fine otherwise, & even just 20-30min after being literally unable to stand or walk is wanting to go back outside & get some more playtime in. I feel bad for her, she's going so crazy due to the recent lack of sufficient exercise.
And like...I cannot help myself but to worry & stress out over it: What if this, whatever it is, is not something that will get better, but only worse? What if she is never again able to safely run & play & enjoy her life?? What on earth would we do?? That would be no life for such an active Noodle...& were that the case, honestly at a certain point euthanasia may be a kinder option for her, even if she would be able to squeeze out a few more years of merely "existing" just in order to appease my attachment to her.

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Old 08-18-2017, 12:36 PM
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Are your play sessions outside? Could it maybe be the heat effecting her? If you play in the house does it still happen? I know the heat down here has been brutal, if you're experiencing the same thing maybe that is it? Definitely concerning. I would maybe cut down on the hard playing. Maybe do smaller incriminates and see what her threshold is.
I'm sorry, I realized I did not address what you asked about RE playing indoors.
Although the house I live in is fairly large, we really do not have enough open space inside to get any kind of real playtime in that would ever wear her out to any degree. I could throw a toy around inside, or play tug, & I do sometimes, but that would not ever be enough to give her any kind of true workout.
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Old 08-18-2017, 12:36 PM
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What about a cooling vest or bandana? If it's heat/humidity related, that might help, but since her symptoms come on so quickly and severely and it's not clear what exactly is causing it, I'm not sure I'd risk it. :-/

Taking a video is a good idea. I hope the vet is able to figure out what's going on so you can find ways to mitigate it. Fingers crossed and wishing for the best for both of you because that sounds really scary, especially without knowing the cause.
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Old 08-18-2017, 01:12 PM
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Another Floridian! So we are experiencing the same heat.

I don;t know about your coast, but over here where the temperatures may say 92 it's a feels like temperature of over 100. Daily. It's miserable. While it's normal for the state to be warm year round, these months are exceptionally brutal. I know myself as well as a few animals I have been around, have struggled to regulate heat this year. I think heat exhaustion could really play a part in it. Also factor in her older age (6 is the beginning of what they consider a senior dog) and her heart murmur and the heat could just be really affecting her. I would thing a cooling vest is worth a try. Do you have access to a pool that she could swim in? That's good exercise, she could retrieve, and it would keep her cool. Also maybe limit play times to dawn or dusk where the heat is a little less brutal?

Also, if physical stimulation is limited I would ramp up the mental stimulation. Maybe work on some nose work, extra training sessions and other things that will mentally stimulate her. While physical exercise is important, lack of mental exercise is what will cause a dog to go nuts.
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Old 08-18-2017, 11:09 PM
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Bus will be 12 next month, so I guess he would've been around 7 or 8 when the issues started. He is a dachshund though, so probably not as "old" as a bigger dog would be at the same age.

I was griping about Bus' problem to my sister a few months ago (when it was starting to get warm, I started leaving him behind on our daytime bike rides), and she said that people can see a decrease in heat/exercise tolerance as they age sometimes, even with no other physiological problem that can be detected. I have found some information on causes of heat stroke in humans, including ones that really didn't occur during HOT weather, or very high levels of exertion. There are a few articles here: Heatstroke continued | The Science of Sport which I found interesting, but not really good at answering the question of why my dog is defective.

I at one point considered that Bus' body/muscle type might predispose him to overheating, as he has pretty bulky muscle (as opposed to flat, slab type muscle), but his heat intolerance has persisted through various levels of conditioning and weight.

Humidity is also a big factor here, as it tends to be exceptionally humid, so even on a 75 degree day, with moderate humidity, it can get into the "caution" area for working dogs. Most bird dog people that I know say to use caution if the dewpoint gets over 70, as that level of temperature/humidity makes it easy for the dog to overheat since they rely on evaporation to cool. Bus has a (ruffwear swamp cooler) cooling vest, but it really only helps if the humidity is low, otherwise he just gets warm under the soggy coat (though it does lower heat absorption from the sun since hes black and it's white). In his case, the safest method seems to be to have an area of cool water he can continually dip into to refresh his water coating.

I could maybe see her having a difficult time acclimating back to Florida humidity if she had been in a less humid climate for part of the usual "getting warmer" acclimation period of spring/early summer. I make sure not to exercise Bus on unseasonably warm/humid days, even if it's "spring", or "fall", as I figure deviations above whatever he's used to at that time are likely to cause an issue.

If you can't find a cause for her issues, and wind up trying to just limit/compensate for her lack of tolerance, you might try wetting her down (mainly belly, underside of neck, inner thighs) prior to playing, and periodically while playing, but keep in mind that high humidity will reduce the effectiveness of it. I have a sprayer like this: sprayer that I have used for Bus when we're not in the back yard where he can get in water, and it lets you put a good coating on quickly, and even cuts through a little bit of coat if needed.

Given the severity of her episodes, and her history of a heart murmur, I would keep exercise to a minimum until you are sure it's not heart related. I'm not sure about Pointers, but both APBTs and AmStaffs have a few different heart issues that occur with at least occasional frequency (and are endemic in some lines). Hopefully that is not the case for her, but then that still leaves you with a mystery cause, which can be equally difficult to deal with.
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Old 08-22-2017, 10:44 AM
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Quick Update:
Per the vet yesterday, both Nika's B/P & chest x-rays were "perfect." Basic full blood panel currently being run, results should be in today, looking for Addison's most specifically I think.
If basic bloodwork comes back w/ no issues of note, she will be tested for myasthenia gravis.

I was very hesitant to do much active exercise w/ her, but did play w/ her for a few moments (about 4 minutes), long enough to get a video to show the vet. He did indeed seem more "alarmed" (for lack of a better word) after watching the video, although her symptoms captured therein were much milder than during the previous "episodes" she has had -- I was quite reluctant to let her go "all out" while playing & cut it short quickly once she began showing signs of fatigue.

I will try to get that video uploaded tonight, so you all as well can better see what exactly I am referring to.

I'm very concerned still.
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