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Routine veterinary exam leads to long journey for puppy with heart disease

Article

Cardiology specialists perform valvuloplasty to treat Snoob, an American Bully with pulmonic stenosis

Photo credit: Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service

Photo credit: Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service

A puppy’s routine health check turned into a life-or-death situation after a veterinarian in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) found that Snoob, an 8-month-old American Bully, had a strong heart murmur. Further investigation by a veterinary cardiologist resulted in a diagnosis of pulmonic stenosis, a potentially fatal birth defect in which blood from the heart is blocked from flowing into the lungs.1

Pulmonic stenosis is a defect of the semilunar valve whose leaflets are thickened or partially fused, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Companion Animal Hospital. The condition is commonly identified with brachycephalic dogs such as bulldogs and Boston terriers, as well as Samoyeds and Labrador retrievers.2

For treatment of his heart condition, Snoob was referred to the cardiology team at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in England. Within a week, the dog’s owner, Waddah Moseley, flew about 3500 miles from their Abu Dhabi home to obtain a lifesaving heart operation.1

“I’d taken Snoob in from a family who didn’t want him anymore and visited my local vets to update his vaccinations and have a health check. I’d only had him a week, and suddenly I heard that he had a big heart murmur and, subsequently, a serious heart problem, so it was all quite a shock,” Moseley said in a Willows news release.1 We’d bonded very well, though, so I was ready to do anything to make sure he came through all of this ok, even if it all seemed impossible.”

Willow’s cardiology specialists João Neves, DVM, MRCVS, DECVIM (Cardiology), and Fabio Sacrinella DVM, MRCVS, DECVIM (Cardiology), and clinical director Jon Wray, BVSc, DSAM, CVT, MRI, CBiol, FRSB, FRCVS, worked together to successfully treat Snoob.1

“When Snoob arrived here, we performed an echocardiogram, which confirmed the diagnosis of severe pulmonic stenosis, a serious narrowing of one of the valves that control blood flow from the right side of the heart into the lungs,” Neves said in the company release.1 “Snoob was born with it and, unfortunately, there is no cure. However, there are some options to help improve or control the disease.”

Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service

Photo credit: Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service

According to Neves, medical treatment beta-blockers are typically used to protect the heart muscle and reduce the occurrence of electrical instability—arrhythmias—and, possibly, sudden death. However, the Willows team chose to reduce the obstruction by performing a balloon valvuloplasty, which Neves called a “more definitive treatment.”1

The procedure required use of a neck vein to advance a catheter tipped with a deflated balloon. Once it reached the narrowed pulmonic valve, the balloon was inflated to stretch the valve open, increasing blood flow, according to Neves. The catheter was then removed.1

“Everything went to plan, and the procedure proved a success,” Neves added. “The improvement was almost immediate and a postoperative heart scan confirmed a successful outcome, allowing Snoob to be discharged the next day with his recovery at home also very fast, as we expected.”1

Snoob is young but canine heart disease can occur at any age. According to Carol Osborne, DVM, at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Ohio, about 10% of puppies have heart disease and about 75% of senior dogs will develop a cardiac condition. Poor appetite or weight loss, difficulty breathing marked by excessive panting or noisy breathing, changes in behavior, and 3 or more days of coughing are some of the signs indicating potential canine heart disease.3

Many dogs show no clinical signs of pulmonic stenosis, but nearly all with a clinically important case of the disease will have a heart murmur. Although dogs with mild cases of pulmonic stenosis never develop problems caused by the condition, those with advanced disease may have trouble with exercise and be subject to collapsing, arrhythmias, or heart failure, according to Cornell.2

According to Moseley, his pet is much stronger, active, and energetic following the heart surgery and has developed a personality. “I used to think Snoob was a quiet, calm dog. I have 2 other dogs, and he was always the last off the sofa when it was time to go out. Now he’s the first,” he said in the release.1

References

  1. Puppy flies 3500 miles to have broken heart mended. News release. Willows Veterinary Centre & Referral Service. February 11, 2022. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://willows.uk.net/puppy-flies-3500-miles-to-have-broken-heart-mended/
  2. Pulmonic stenosis in dogs. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Companion Animal Hospital. Accessed February 21, 2022. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/hospitals/companion-animal-hospital/cardiology/pulmonic-stenosis-dogs
  3. Osborne C. February is National Heart Health Month. Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.chagrinfallspetclinic.com/2022/02/05/february-is-national-heart-health-month%EF%BF%BC/
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