Meet Monty. Monty is our first Irish Wolfhound - and with a bit of luck, we will continue to bring the breed to our home. As you can see, he is in his favorite viewing point on the couch.
While he naturally takes up a large amount of personal space, he also fits into the family as a very affectionate member and encompasses the "wolfhound ways" true to the mark!
Since having a wolfhound in the family, I have been asked many times the ever so familiar questions: "Is that a horse?" "Who's walking who?" "How much does it cost you to feed that thing?" and "Why a wolfhound?"
The first three questions get to be very annoying but I have learned how to humorously introduce newcomers to meeting Monty. The last question is the one that I always enjoy answering.
When deciding on getting a new puppy, we knew we wanted a "big" dog and started reading about several breeds before narrowing our choice to the wolfhound.
They have special needs that must be considered and adhered to, but every article, book, and person I came across while learning about Irish Wolfhounds (IWs) all had the same point of view: sweetness equal to size! Now after enjoying Monty's presence in our lives we can thoroughly agree with that - he has a gentle sweetness that touches your emotions! However, this is a giant breed and you really need to know what you're getting yourself into prior to getting an IW.
They grow incredibly fast. Monty was 3 months old & 51 pounds (weight at birth is around 1 pound) when we met him. By 6 months he was over 80 lbs and at a year 135 lbs. At 2 1/2 years, he was 176 lbs. During all that growth time, IWs need a lot of food throughout the day (4 or 5 times a day). Although the adults are very laid back, the puppies of the breed do have quite a lot of energy (aka play mode). This is a good time to have another dog in the family (see under Basil, Kiesl and/or Duke's pages). Their need for exercise is great especially during the growing years and daily walks are essential for their needs as well as your households' needs. We have been very fortunate that he responses well to the regular exercise and the impact to the house & gardens are, well the same as having two large dogs in the body of one and not too bad.
As with any breed of dogs, IWs have their share of "common" problems that can develop during their lives and quite often these problems end up taking their lives prematurely. Giant breeds are known to contract heart related problems/diseases, (among others) which if discovered early enough can be controlled through medication, but not cured. This is an extremely important factor that anyone wishing to have a IW or giant breed MUST understand prior to taking on the breed. It is heart breaking to learn that your "baby" has a terminal illness and takes a strong person/family to continue the care and support needed for the duration of your dog's life. It is not just a financial burden (which all to often happens with any family member) but is a tremendous emotional stress.
Such is the case with Monty
In May of 2001, we discovered that he has an arrhythmia condition (not necessarily fatal) and was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (fatal) and we were given an "guesstimate" of about 4 months before we would lose him. This discovery was made during routine pre anesthetic exam by our Veterinarian when Monty developed an infection by what was believed to be a weed-seed in his foot. Due to the arrhythmia, he could not go under anesthetics and the doctor did a superb job in treating the infection under the conditions she was facing. A specialist came in and conducted an ultrasound, followed by an EKG, which showed all the signs of Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart & valves, only a 30% blood flow). The only bit of news which gave any sort of help at this time was the knowledge that Monty did not know he had a heart problem ... he can't feel it. Just knowing that made it easier to live with the situation and do what ever was necessary to help him.
In June 2001, the follow up ultrasound & EKG showed improvements - reduced size in heart & valve, and blood flow at 48% ... now the doctors & specialists are confused ... dogs with this disease do not improve. This was very good news to all of us involved, but also made his prognosis difficult to determine. Continued monitoring of heart throughout the summer/autumn, strict medications and reduced exercise was the plan: this of course really lifted our spirits as it changed his life expectancy to a longer period.
In October 2001, another follow up was conducted (again showing great improvement YIPPEE - reduced valve size and now up to 51% blood flow). The doctors now have decided that while he indeed has the arrhythmia (no getting around that one), they are all but 100% sure he does not have the heart disease and it appears that we can expect him to live a normal life span (6-10 years - giants do have shorter life spans due to the nature of their size, another factor that must be understood prior to getting a giant breed). He required the medicines for a total of 14 months.
Some of you may be thinking what our thoughts of "misdiagnosis" must be. We do not consider it a misdiagnosis. First and foremost, we support our veterinarian & the specialist 100% from the start of all this. Yes, it was very upsetting to believe that we would lose our dog to circumstances beyond our control (even with medicines to help) - the doctors had all the signs of the disease right in front of them in May. Once diagnosed, of course we did some research to better understand the disease and it all matched up with what our doctors were seeing - at that time, they were not wrong with what his ultrasound & EKGs were showing them. The only explanation that makes sense is the infection he developed was severe enough to cause changes to his heart even though the origin of the infection was in his foot. Also, keep in mind that he was showing signs of two problems: the arrhythmia with irregular beats & the disease (very probable the arrhythmia was there prior to the infection). The medication regime he was put on (diltiazem 3 times per day, digoxin twice per day) has controlled the arrhythmia and keeps his heart rate to an average of 120 beats per minute. While this is considered high (normal is around 90) for an IW, it is very encouraging. Back in May 2001, when he was having a rough time with the infection, his heart rate was at 220!!! You can see how well the combined medicines & care have really helped him.
In conclusion to the above: our feelings are of relief & extreme happiness. We are not angered by the emotional roller-coaster we're put through (animals have the wonderful effect to make you both happy & sad - it's called love). The doctors & technicians have all done a great job interpreting the information as it was presenting itself all along the way. They are as pleased as we are that it has turned out the way it has. Monty has touched them with his sweetness too, and they were distraught with the idea that he was not well in such a manner.
The Final Hurdle
In early May 2002, Monty had his latest ultrasound and the conclusions were extremely positive! He was cleared of any signs of heart disease and the irregularity of his heart has corrected itself!!! We will continue to monitor his heart rate at home & at the vets while we take him off his meds. It has been a huge relief over the past few weeks knowing that he's all better and can start being a regular dog again!!! By September 2003, he was deemed completely "recovered".
Since moving to Vista, Monty has had another very positive effect of country life. He has dropped 20 pounds due to the extra space for running & playing and "greeting" the visitors of Zumwalt park (next to the north side of our property). This is a very good thing as he is now (autumn 2003) 4 1/2 years old. Senior status for giant breeds is at 5 years of age, and not having excess weight to support on his rather long legs, is very healthy for him. He is thriving here, as are our other Boys!!!
There is so much more to say about the Irish Wolfhound and I will continue to add more information, thoughts, pictures as time marches on. Anyone wishing to ask questions, add information, share stories/pictures is more than welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you want more information right away on Irish Wolfhounds, click the picture of the bone: