My Rottweiler 'Darla'
with Subaortic Stenosis (SAS)
Richardson, Frontier Rottweilers
I've owned Rottweilers for 17 years and bred them for over
10. Until fairly recently the only thing most breeders
worried about was hip ratings. I was fairly unique in that
if I had a puppy with a heart murmur I would sell it as a
companion even if it outgrew that murmur. Everyone knew
that Rottweilers often produce puppies with juvenile heart
murmurs that are outgrown normally by 6 months of age.
Everyone I knew had produced at least a few pups with
I spent the last ten years
plotting and planning each litter for maximum
intelligence, beauty, trainability and health. Each litter
usually put me one more step in the direction I was
aiming. I had/have an excellent reputation for stable,
loving, kid-safe, pretty dogs with good health and great
hip stats. Around
1995, heart clearances were becoming more common and
I started having my dogs done as well, unlike many of the
breeders I knew.
My dear baby Darla
Like most other breeders (whether or not they want to admit it)
I have produced a few dogs with mild SAS.
Out of 9 litters we've had two dogs cardiologist diagnosed and
another 4 with faint adult murmurs unseen by cardiologists but
whom I now suspect actually have mild SAS. No dogs we've
produced have ever died of congenital defects (including cardiac
and not including the very, very few lost at birth as
stillborns, lay-ons, etc.) prior to 8.5 years of age. The only
two dogs to die from possible congenital cardiac issues dropped
dead at 8.5 years, and no post mortems were performed. The
oldest litter I've produced is now 10+ years and the youngest is
3+ years. I do keep track of my pups and am in touch with their
owners more than many breeders do and am a statistics fanatic,
The J litter was a much
anticipated litter in that it was the culmination of 10 years of
selection and planning. Hearts and hips had been checked and all
was a go.
December 15, 2000 a litter of
eight was born -- four boys followed by four girls in
exactly that order! Beautiful, perfectly formed babies. A
bit small for our pups but still within the norm for the breed.
And from this point on things, just get sad. The pups all had
very pale gums right from birth and they never darkened. I now
know this is a sure sign of cardiac issues. Between birth and 4
weeks of age we lost 7 of these lovely, sweet pups. Each pup had
a bit different scenario but the one constant was that when they
reached 'XX' size, their hearts would cease to be able to
support them and they would die. A few were laid on by the mom,
but they would have died anyway as they all had hearts that
sounded the same , were not as strong as normal and those pale
gums. (I've learned to tell the difference between crisp healthy
heart sounds and 'echoy hearts with murmurs). One male died at
15 days after days of hand nursing and my favorite pup
"Strawberry" we had pts at 3+ weeks old when she
started gasping for air, the rest died at a more sudden rate.
By 4 weeks old all we had left was
"grumpy purple", who was to become Darla. She too had
those ominous pale gums but seemed to be doing better than the
rest. My vets told me to put her down as she was not going to
live past 6 months old and it was useless to get attached to
her. Instead I became her mom. She only saw her real mom (who
was so distraught over the loss of the others that she would not
settle and was a danger to Darla) to nurse until the milk dried
up a week later (due to mom's stress).I WAS her mom as far as
she knew. Another ominous symptom was that at least once a day
she would awake from her baby nap crying and would vomit. Her
heart would be beating rapidly at this time. By 5 weeks old
though her gums had started to turn pink and she no longer had
the cry/vomit spells and she seemed much more active.
at 7 weeks
At 8 weeks of age we took
her to the cardiologist and she did indeed have SAS. Her
lifespan was now given to be a year, maybe two, if we were
So I raised her, taught her
manners, tricks galore and she taught me what it was like
to be a mom to a needy
child. She ate a special diet, took special supplements
(many thanks to Mary and Lew).
At 6 months of age she went back to
the cardiologist and while her SAS had progressed, it had not
progressed at the rate the Cardiologist had anticipated. We
treated her like a pretty normal dog and let her do just about
anything and did not restrict her activity. We continued with
the diet and supplements and just hoped for the best.
My ENTIRE daily schedule revolved
around this dog. She slept with me, went to work with me, was
with me 99% of the time. I now know how my mom felt raising my
sickly brother; and how she felt when he died.
Diane, Xena, Darla
(in the halter) and Bill starting out Bog Branch Brook
to Lake Francis Trail
Our Hiking Vacation
Darla went on vacation
with me last fall. A hiking vacation -- 18 rugged miles
in four days, and she did not die!
She lived through her
Great Grandmother's 10th birthday, through her
Grandmom's 9th birthday, through her own first
birthday and Christmas. She lived through the New
Year. She missed Valentine's Day :(
On her last day of life,
February 6, 2002, Darla went to work with me, she
chased the cat, she played tug the leash, she wrestled
with her Labrador friend. Took a nap in the kitchen
after supper and awoke at 10:40 having a cardiac
event. Despite CPR, she died in my arms at 10:50 pm.
Life will never be the
Frontier Justagenius Darla
December 15, 2000 - February 6,
My miracle baby, soulmate, genius, perfect puppy. The
other 1/2 of my whole.
May you rest in healthy peace.
Darla in her new
As happy, reckless and fearless as she was here on Earth!!
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