Heart disease in the rabbit: a lesson from Bea (May23/10)

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Heart disease in the rabbit: a lesson from Bea (May23/10)

Postby Ellie » Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:49 am

I wish I had a good video to show this to you, as I'm not sure I'll explain it well. I hope you will get something out of this as I believe this is very important for bun parents to recognize and have checked out. Anywho, here's a go at it:

A while back, we noticed Bea wasn't breathing normally. Usually, the nose just twitches up and down, but we also noticed the skin below it stretching out in conjunction with her twitches.

(picture this: you know that piece of your face between your nose and your upper lip? Imagine the right and left side of it stretching out to the cheek with each breath you take)

Bea also developed a "horking" motion: something like a cat trying to throw up a hairball.

An x-ray at the vet's showed a "squaring off" on part of her heart. Our vet suspected heart disease and put her on Furosemide. This calmed her breathing down enough that, on a follow-up, our vet could clearly hear a flapping valve.

Long story short, Bea has a leaky valve and she needs to be on meds for the rest of her life to keep her lungs from filling up with fluids (which caused the "horking").

Nothing can be done about the heart. It will continue to worsen until the valve completely gives way. When that does, she will die - quickly and painlessly. There is no knowing how long that will take, and there are no outward physical or behavioural signs to look for to know if her time is coming. She likely will not see it coming, either. All we can do is keep her on meds to prevent her lungs from drowning.

Right now, Bea is happy. She is hopping around, demanding grooms from Shadow, and being her usual self. Fortunately, she loves her meds! Med time is treat time!

That's pretty much all there is to it. I hope you didn't find the post too lengthy. I don't know what kind of details people may find most helpful, so I thought it best to explain the process we went through in identifying the symptoms and diagnosing the disease. Feel free to take from this what you wish.

Thanks for reading. I'll chat with you all soon.
Last edited by Ellie on Mon May 24, 2010 6:57 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Postby lovemybunnies » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:38 am

ummm is there something that caused it? because if there is, I want to take precautions, I'm so sorry! It must be rerrible to know that your baby could die any minute! :cry:
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Postby Bindi » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:03 pm

Oh poor baby :cry:

How old is Bea?
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Postby Ellie » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:45 am

lovemybuns wrote:ummm is there something that caused it?


Not that we know of. I'm sure there was a cause, but we don't know what. All the other buns are just fine and have shown nothing like what she has.

Bindi: Bea will soon be 5 years old.

Thank you for your thoughts. If I have an update, I will post it, though I doubt there will be many. We are trying a new drug with her tomorrow to help with her breathing (I'll post its name when I get it).

I'll just add one other thing: originally, we all thought this was a lung issue. It was only because the x-ray happened to include the heart that we noticed this, and even then the vet's reaction was like, "Oh hey, I wasn't expecting this." Goes to show that, when doing chest x-rays, always ask your vet to get both the lungs AND heart as breathing issues could be related to one, the other, or both.
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Postby lovemybunnies » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:49 am

Well I just realised that what I asked was cold and that I should have just been giving my sympathies and in no way do I imply that I think that this is your fault, It's just an unfortunate thing that happened to bea I just really don't want this to happen to my bunnies. I'm really sorry. Poor Bea! :(
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Postby Ellie » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:34 am

lovemybuns: no worries. In fact, it's important to ask about what did/could cause something like this - knowing that can help prevent future problems. It's just a shame I don't have an answer for you.
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Postby ruecole » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:45 am

Poor Bea! Poor you! At least, once you get the meds sorted, she'll be able to live a normal life with no pain or anything. Hope, in spite of it, she's around another 5 years!

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Postby rachel_x » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:48 pm

I'm so sorry that this has happened, but I'm glad you found out too so she can be treated. I'm pretty sure this happens with humans too, and often it is something they are born with, in human, we'd have cardiac surgery to replace the valve. I wouldn't be surprised if it's always been like that, but is getting worse as she gets older. I've never heard of heart disease in bunnies, so this thread is very informative...maybe it could be a sticky? I hope the new meds help out too.
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Postby Ellie » Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:48 am

Thank you all for your good wishes.

In the interests of education, I managed to get two short videos of what Bea's breathing looks like. I hope bun parents will know to look for this as a sign of a heart and/or lung issue. Look for the "stretching" between the mouth and nose that I wrote about in the original post (and please don't mind the poops! I do clean!).

http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f339/bubblyowl/Benina/?action=view&current=Beninabreathing1compressed.flv

http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f339/bubblyowl/Benina/?action=view&current=Beninabreathing3compressed.flv
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Postby jennyc1013 » Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:10 am

I see what you mean. She's flaring her nostrils to get more air in. You see the same thing in breathless kids.
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Postby Ellie » Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:32 am

Sorry for not having updated in a while. Holidays and all....

The new drug we got for her is Theophylline. It's a liquid that she ingests. Unfortunately, she didn't take well to it. We tried it on two different occasions and she seemed worse both times. So, we put her back on the Furosemide.

Her condition is definitely worsening, but we're not sure how bad she actually is. We're taking her in Monday for a follow-up.

UPDATE: Bea's breathing improved about 24 hrs after the last dose of Theophylline. However, at the follow-up, our vet took an x-ray and diagnosed pneumonia. She had one Baytril shot today, and will have two more this week (Wednesday and Friday). He said to keep her on the Furosemide for now, but to ADD the Theophylline if her condition worsens again (and, after consulting with him should we wish to do that).

What I did not understand previously is that Theophylline is a bronchodilator which is supposed to act in conjunction with the Furosemide (which is a diuretic). The Theophylline is ineffective without the diuretic. I thought we couldn't give both at the same time.
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Postby Ellie » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:30 pm

Just a quick update:

Her pneumonia treatment went very well. Her breathing improved exponentially.

Unfortunately, she's now back to the "hocking" sound she makes when there,s too much fluid getting into her lungs. We've now put her back on the Theophylline. She'll be getting both that and the Furosemide from now on.

You know, I turned around to look at her just now. She's sitting in a corner grooming herself. All I could think was how beautiful and precious she is.
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Postby Bindi » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:46 pm

Poor baby baby :(

Glad she's looking ok at the moment even if she's still ill... they are tough little things, aren't they?
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Postby Ellie » Sun Mar 14, 2010 12:41 am

Well, Bea's on a puffer now.

Her breathing got significantly worse recently. Our vet couldn't even hear her heartbeat - she was puffing away that much.

So, she's taking steroids, via puffer, twice daily till we see an improvement in her breathing (should be a few days to a week). We'll put her back on it if her breathing gets worse again. Her current drug regimen remains unchanged.

Other than that, she's still hopping around, enjoying her meds, and constantly demanding grooms from Shadow!
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Postby Bindi » Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:12 am

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww :(
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