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Posted By: Sarah - Vet

Ozzy the Wolfhound

There can be few more magnificent sights in the canine world than a fully grown Irish Wolfhound.

Osiris (or Ozzy as he was affectionately known) was typical of the breed, gentle and mild mannered, but one of the biggest puppies we’d ever seen at the practice. As he grew, he reached a maximum weight of over 90kg, and his owners were justly proud of their handsome lad.  This breed is definitely not for the beginner as they require careful feeding and exercise to support their growth and avoid overdue strain on bones and joints whilst young. As you can see from the picture of Ozzy in his prime, he had no such problems and was a healthy boy for most of his life.

In October last year, at the age of seven and a half  he suddenly suffered a seizure and after being checked as an emergency on a Sunday, was brought in the next day by his worried owners to see vet Sarah for some tests.

I had not seen Ozzy for a while and I was quite concerned about him. He was lethargic, had lost weight and his spine was becoming prominent. He also appeared weak on his hind legs and started to sink down gradually if he stood for a while. These changes can be put down to ageing – 7&1/2 is getting old for a giant breed like this, but there were more worrying changes as well that became evident on examination. His heart rate was fast, irregular and hard to hear clearly, and his pulse was weak. The suspicion was that Ozzy may have a disease of the heart muscle called Dilated Cardiomyopathy which we see not uncommonly in this breed. This causes poor circulation as the diseased heart muscle cannot contract strongly enough to send a good pulse of blood around the body. Fluid can leak from the blood vessels where flow is stagnating and cause a swollen tummy or a cough if it is in the lungs.

In order to investigate his heart, we used a combination of a blood test to show if the heart muscle was damaged and stretched, and an ultrasound scan to look at his heart. Whereas an X-ray will show us the size and shape of the heart, ultrasound allows us to look inside at a cross section and see in real time how the heart is moving and contracting, and the size of the individual chambers in the heart.

Ozzy only needed a light sedative for the scan because of his placid nature, and it showed us that his heart was beating weakly and the chambers were enlarged - typical of the condition. This was borne out by the results of the blood test. Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition as the damage to the heart muscle is irreversible, but it can usually be managed, at least for a time with medication. Ozzy started taking a combination of four different drugs – a daunting nine tablets each day to strengthen his heart beat and relax his blood vessels allowing better circulation as well as diuretics to stop a build up of fluid in his body.

A week later, Ozzy came back for a re-examination and was much improved. He had a slower, steadier heart rate and a much stronger pulse. Better still, he had more energy and was enjoying life to the full again.  A month on, and his heart condition was still stable.

This sounds like a happy outcome, and, indeed Ozzy enjoyed a couple of months of better health. However, I’m very sad to say that following a period of nausea where it was hard to dose him with his medication, Ozzy suddenly developed a bloated stomach – an emergency owners of deep chested dogs dread as it can be rapidly fatal. Although in his case the bloat  resolved,  it proved too much of a strain for his heart and so the difficult decision was taken to put him to sleep.

This article has been written with the kind permission of his owners in memory of their lovely Osiris. 

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