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Labored Breathing
12-31-2016, 03:53 AM,
Labored Breathing
My 14 year old pit bull Marley is having difficulty breathing and so far the vets best guesses don't seem to add up.  This is only the latest symptom that may or may not be connected to a previous incident. Here is a quick background on Marley leading up to his recent health problems,

- He has had perfect health his whole life.
- About 2 years ago he developed a small fatty tumor on his side.
- 1 month ago I finally decided to get it removed as it was now over an inch in diameter.  Blood work came back clean, the procedure went smoothly and the wound healed up perfectly.
- Marley appeared unaware and unconcerned that anything had happened to him and went on acting like himself.
- 2 weeks ago, the night before the stitches were to come out I woke up to him whimpering and trying and failing to stand up.  He appeared to have lost the use of his rear legs.
- The next morning the vet said he had a spinal condition and prescribed Rovera, Tramadol and Methocarbamol.
- Over the next few days he recovered his ability to walk though clearly had balance problems and kept his head tilted 12 degrees to the left when walking.
- After lots of reading we felt like it was far more likely he either had a stroke or old dog vestibular syndrome.
- He continued to improve for 2 weeks until he was 65% as coordinated and energetic as he was before the paralyzing incident.
- Then yesterday out of the blue he developed a wheeze and difficulty breathing.

When he is standing up, walking around or even just stimulated enough he seems to breath just fine.  However, as he get more and more relaxed his breathing appears to get more labored to the point where he looks and sounds like hes trying to breath through a narrow straw.  I took him to another vet today as I was unsure if I should trust the original vets opinion as they might not admit that this could have anything to do with his mass removal and their diagnoses of spinal problems also seemed bogus to me.  This vet took x-rays and did not find cancer or fluid in or around his lungs and his heart seems healthy as well.  So his conclusion was that he is simply in pain and needed to stay on the Rovera and Tramadol.  My problem with this explanation is that he doesn't seem to be in pain at all when fully conscious and only experiences difficulty breathing when he is relaxed or sleeping.  I am concerned because his breathing looks like hard work and I can't see his body getting any rest or doing any healing when under such a constant strain.  If it gets any worse he might even suffocate.  I have posted both his X-rays and a link to a video showing his labored breathing.  Any ideas or suggestions are greatly appreciated?

Marley - Labored Breathing (video)

12-31-2016, 08:01 PM,
RE: Labored Breathing
Dogs often do not manifest pain as we would expect them too. For instance, when one of my dogs had a torn ligament the only sign of pain she ever showed was licking her lips. In breeds like Rottweilers and pits, these dogs are pretty stoic and don't show pain as we would expect them too even though they feel it just as any dog. With another dog I had when he has a spinal issue, he would be acting pretty normal when moving about greeting us and eating, but at night time, that's when he started to pant and the pain became more evident. Once given pain meds though, he went back to resting comfortably.

A good way to assess things is to see whether the breathing pattern changes when your dog is on pain relief. It should sound better and your dog should be able to sleep. If the breathing though stays the same, it could be a sign of more going on and you might need to consult with a specialist to get more help to sort things out.
01-01-2017, 01:52 PM,
RE: Labored Breathing
All the symptoms fit Vestibular syndrome. As you have probably read Vestibular Syndrome can have several causes:

1. Idiopathic (unknown cause) form. The dog makes a full recovery in about 10 days.
2. A brain tumor - requiring an MRI (expensive) to diagnose.
3. A potential stroke. Where an MRI may or may not show the problem.
4. Cancer, or some underlying metabolic problem.
5. Inflammation of the inner ear nerve pathway, or possible inflection.

It sounds as though your dog suffered an initial Vestibular attack, which would've been unrelated to the surgery. With the first Vet misdiagnosing it, as a spine/pain problem. The second Vet ruling out heart/lung problems, as the reason for the breathing problem. Presumably one of the 2 Vets did a CBC/Chem panel for blood work. Which would help eliminate 4, and 5 above as potential causes.

The breathing could be a bad side effect of the Tramadol. It's also a drug that you can not withdrawal suddenly or all at once. You would need a Vet's guidance. It could be a combination of Tramadol along with the muscle relaxant Methocarbamol, causing a side effect in a Vestibular dog, which recently suffered a vascular event.

If it were mine, I would find the nearest Vet specialty hospital, with Vets specializing in internal medicine. Call in as an emergency patient. Tell them the dog's breathing is very labored, and you are concerned about heart failure in your geriatric dog. In another words make sure you present it as an emergency, so they don't ask for a referral from one of your Vets. Once you are able to walk in as an emergency case, give your concerns a Vestibular Syndrome attack may have been misdiagnosed as a spinal injury. And that you have concerns about the drugs prescribed for spinal pain, and how they may be affecting the breathing. Bring along the video you posted to show the emergency Vet. There is also the outside possibility the breathing problem could have arisen from a second Vestibular attack. I suspect my Vestibular dog had a 2nd attack, a couple of weeks after the initial one, which wiped out some of her rear leg recover, and at the same time took out 75% of her hearing - yet another nerve pathway affected. A Vet internal med specialist should be able to sort out the probably cause of the breathing problem, and its treatment. Let us know what they find.
01-03-2017, 06:48 PM,
RE: Labored Breathing
Thank you Jennifer and dragondawg for your responses. Marley’s condition unfortunately worsened over the weekend and had to be admitted to an Emergency Animal Hospital and administered oxygen. New X-Rays were taken and again they came back inconclusive. However when the vet was able to look down his throat she found many growths that were most likely the cause of his labored breathing. After a long discussion with the vet about what treatments if any were available, we made one of the hardest decision of our lives and decided to let Marley’s suffering end. He spent his last minutes surrounded by people who have loved and cared for him over the years.
01-04-2017, 12:22 PM,
RE: Labored Breathing
I am so sorry for your loss. It was unfortunate that all these test were done and came inconclusive only to find out that there were growths actually causing trouble breathing. Even though the hardest decision, you did what was best for your dog and that's the ultimate gift of love.

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