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Kora, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and Farewell

Kora, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, and Farewell

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Kora had decided to go into her crate on her own for the evening, which was earlier than usual. It was about 8:00pm, and previously we would tell her "Bed Time," usually between 9:30-10:00pm. That was the last time we would see her alive.

Kora was a German Shepherd mix, and according to the DNA testing she was also part Chow Chow. When we first got her at the end of 2012, she was very fearful of just about everything, including me and bicycles. On the flip side, she was extremely athletic and was always looking for a good squirrel chase. We worked with her on the fearfulness, but also gave her opportunities to use some of that athletic ability. We would have her wear a weighted vest to slow her down a bit, and she was eventually called our "Dog of Steel." She became a well-trained companion to us and to the other dogs in our family.

Three years ago, Kora started "passing out" periodically, and she was initially diagnosed with epilepsy. The drug regimen made her extremely lethargic, and we knew something was not right. Then it was discovered that she had an enlarged heart (dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM) and a heart murmur. This came as a complete shock to us. So much for our Dog of Steel. The prognosis for dogs with DCM is not good once it is detected. She was given about 6-12 months to live, which made it all the more heart-wrenching for us. A quick Google search for "prognosis for dogs with DCM" reveals this as one of the results (from University of Pennsylvania, PennVet Ryan Hospital)

"Long term prognosis for DCM varies considerably. Unfortunately, most dogs with signs of congestive heart failure at the time of diagnosis die as a result of the disease within 6 months. In the most severe cases, some dogs may survive only weeks to a few months. Occasionally, dogs may do well clinically for 1-2 years."

Wait a minute. Kora was first hospitalized in August 2016 and survived to April of 2019, nearly 2 years and 8 months. She beat the odds rather soundly and really was our Dog of Steel! We tried to take care of her the best we could, but she obviously had a tenacious love for life (and maybe it was partly due to the squirrels in our front yard). Here are some of the things we did on this roller coaster ride to perhaps extend her life (sometimes it was like she was at death's doorstep, and other times it was like she was a puppy again):

1) Very consistently gave her the prescribed medications (Vetmedin, benazepryl, furosemide, spironolactone).

2) Added a supplement with L-Taurine, which is supposed to strengthen the heart. Grain free dog foods have been suspected of causing low taurine levels, but there is no conclusive proof of that. The supplement was Vetri Science Cardio Strength capsules.

3) Started feeding a lower protein level kibble, after it was discovered her kidneys were also failing.

4) Added canned dog food, vegetables, and coconut oil to the kibble. We would typically rotate through a mix of orange and green vegetables, such as pumpkin-brussel sprouts and sweet potato-green beans.

5) Had her abdomen drained of excess fluid nearly twice per month in the last year.

6) Gave her lots of love and touch. She craved the touch in her infirmity much more so than when she was healthy. She would rest her nose on an arm or leg and gaze at us with those big, brown eyes, or use her snout to gently poke us for attention.

We tried to give her the best life possible under the most difficult of conditions. She got to go on RV road trips with us. When we switched from peanut butter (which she would no longer take) to administer the medications to liver sausage (braunschweiger), her ears always perked up like two furry little soldiers standing at attention at pill time. She would even wait at the refrigerator as a reminder for us around 9:00pm. When she felt good, she would run through the hallway to the room where she was fed. She remained pretty vocal throughout her ordeal, offering us a series of "roo roo's" when we got home or when she needed something.

Do all dogs go to heaven? I don't know, and the Bible is silent on what happens to our pets. I do know that the same God that created us and loves us is the same God that created Kora. It would be an easy task for God to have her waiting whenever I arrive at the pearly gates. I am looking forward to the possibility of seeing our Dog of Steel once again.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse of her life well-lived.

You can also watch a healthy Kora in these videos on our Video Page: Backyard Boundaries, Kora Learns to Swim, and Mixin' It Up

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