Heart Disease Claims the Life of Tillman the Skateboarding Dog

December 8, 2015

This article originally appeared on Dr. Mahaney’s Pet-Lebrity News column on Pet360.com as Heart Disease Claims the Life of Tillman the Skateboarding Dog

unnamedThe canine world lost an esteemed member this past week as Tillman the skateboarding dog passed away. You may have seen his lovable mug in association with Natural Balance pet foods, as he could often be found making celebrity appearances on the company’s behalf where he would display his skateboarding prowess.

I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Tillman and witness his athleticism at last year’s BlogPaws in Henderson, NV (outside of Las Vegas). Considering the English Bulldog as a breed isn’t generally one of the most athletic breeds due to their conformation, Tillman put on quite the display on his skateboard.

The news of Tillman passing was announced by his caretaker, Ron Davis, on his Tillman Skates Facebook page. Davis wrote, “I’m sorry to announce the world lost a true legend … My best bud Tillman passed away last night of natural causes. We spent 10 years making so many incredible memories skating, surfing and hanging out together. No words can truly describe how much he’ll be missed. Thanks for all the good times, Tilly.”

According to CBS Los Angeles, Davis reported that Tillman had a heart condition, an irregular heartbeat called an arrhythmia, which developed this past summer. This, according to the Ventura County Star, lead to heart muscle disease. Tillman passed away en route to a veterinary hospital.

Tillman was quite the accomplished pooch, and in 2009, he achieved the Guinness World Record for fastest 100 meters on a skateboard by a dogRon Davis’ YouTube page features many videos of Tillman, including scenes of him skateboarding, skimboarding, surfing, playing video games and even meeting the statue of Pat Tillman at Arizona State University (ASU).

Tillman was named after Pat Tillman, who played football for ASU and the Arizona Cardinals. Pat also put his NFL career on hold to serve multiple Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and, according to his website, his unit was ambushed on the evening of April 22, 2004 as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via friendly-fire. Pat was tragically and accidentally killed by his own service members and has been lauded as a military hero.

It’s not yet known how severe Tillman’s arrhythmia was, if he had any other underlying cardiac or other diseases or if he was on medication. Medically managing an arrhythmia is a challenging prospect, as some patients’ conditions cannot be controlled with medications and a surgically implanted pacemaker is needed.

Having your dog or cat’s heart asculted (listened to with a stethoscope) is a routine part of a veterinarian’s physical examination and should be performed at least every 12 months for healthy animals and every six months or more frequently for sick or geriatric pets. An arrhythmia, heart murmur (heart valve or wall defect), or other abnormalities can be heard on ascultation. Diagnostics to assess heart disease can then be pursued, including:

– Electrocardiogram (ECG): Evaluation of the heart’s electrical activity.

– Echocardiogram: An ultrasound evaluation of the heart to achieve a real-time series of moving images measuring heart valve function, blood flow, heart rate and more.

– Blood pressure: heart disease can cause an increase or decrease in blood pressure pending the nature of the ailment.

– Thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays): Static images of the contents of the chest cavity, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels leading to and from the heart and lungs, and more.

– Blood testing: Creatinine kinase (CK, a muscle enzyme), IDEXX Laboratories Pro BNP (a substance “released by cardiac myocytes in response to stretch and stress”), electrolytes, calcium, blood proteins (albumin, etc.), kidney and liver functions and other values can inform of heart or other disease that can affect bodily functions.

If I have concerns for my patients’ cardiac function, I always arrange for a referral to a veterinary cardiologist (Dr. Jason Arndt at ACCESS LA is my primary recommendation).  Veterinarians that have dedicated their careers to the heart and are experts in the management of cardiac disease are the best bet to give your pet the chance to have a great quality of life despite heart and blood vessels problems.  Your regular veterinarian can refer you or a specialist in your area can be found via the American College of Veterinary Cardiology.

I’ll always fondly remember meeting Tillman and seeing him exhibiting his skateboarding skills.  My condolences go out to Ron Davis, his family and all those that Tillman’s presence touched over the years.

Do you have a pet having heart disease? If so, how was it diagnosed and is it currently being managed? Feel free to leave your comments.

Thank you for reading this article.  Your constructive comments are welcome (although I may not respond).
Please follow my adventures in veterinary medicine and life via:
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Copyright of this article (2015) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr PatrickMahaney and received in written format.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

TheOldBroad December 10, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Been there. Done that.

I know how heartbreaking it is to have a pet pass on the way to the emergency clinic.

My little Emily likely had the same problem although nothing was really found at necropsy.

As you know, we manage Owen’s HOCM and currently he also has lymphoma. He just finished his first round of modified CHOP (can’t take steroids due to his heart) and will have an echocardiogram 2 weeks from now since he has now had 4 treatments of Doxorubicin.

We’re doing our best!

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