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Rottweiler Health Foundation Mission Statementimage: Trotting Rottweiler

To raise money to fund critical research into the genetic, communicable and acquired diseases that plague our beloved breed, the Rottweiler.

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Winter 2008

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My Rottweiler 'Darla'
Dealing with Subaortic Stenosis (SAS)

Submitted by
Diane 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 murmurs.

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.

Photo:  Darla as a baby
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, I'll admit.

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.

Photo:  Darla at 7 weeks

Darla 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 lucky.

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.

Photo:  Darla and family on vacation
Diane, Xena, Darla (in the halter) and Bill starting out Bog Branch Brook
to Lake Francis Trail

Our Hiking Vacation Together

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 same.

VP rated Frontier Justagenius Darla
December 15, 2000 - February 6, 2002

My miracle baby, soulmate, genius, perfect puppy. The other 1/2 of my whole.
May you rest in healthy peace.

Image:  Darla in Heaven
Darla in her new home.
As happy, reckless and fearless as she was here on Earth!!

image:  Circle 2000 logo

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