CINCINNATI - Tachycardic dogs are no longer sentenced to a compromised life of medication and limitation. A breakthrough procedure, called ablation therapy, removes abnormal pathways and the need for drugs.
CINCINNATI — Tachycardic dogs are no longer sentenced to a compromised life of medication and limitation. A breakthrough procedure, called ablation therapy, removes abnormal pathways and the need for drugs.
Dr. Kathy Wright, a veterinary cardiologist at the Cincinnati Referral and Emergency Center, has performed ablation therapy in 30 dogs to permanently remove abnormal pathways that create erratic heart rates, vomiting, lethargy and nonspecific anorexia.
"I have performed the procedure 35 times — some of the dogs had multiple pathways that needed repaired," Wright says.
With help from the Morris Animal Foundation, Wright has fulfilled her quest to develop and refine electrophysiology (EP) and radiofrequency (RF) catheter ablation in dogs.
Wright says from the time she was an intern at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, she has wanted to do more than treat heart failure, she wanted to find a way to repair the problem.
"I was presented with a 4-month-old Labrador Retriever puppy in congestive heart failure (CHF) with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)," Wright says.
An EP study determined the puppy had an accessory pathway, but an ablation of the pathway was not performed because the appropriate equipment was not available.
The procedure time varies depending on the location and number of accessory pathways in the dog's heart, Wright says.
If another mechanism exists for the SVT, the procedure time can be increased. A one-hour follow-up study is also conducted after what appears to have been a successful ablation.
The success rate of the procedure is very high, according to Wright, and dogs can go home the next day.
"Owners are surprised at the energy their dog has after the procedure," Wright says. "They say they never knew how much their dog's heart condition was affecting their ability to run and play.
"For the typical accessory pathway procedure, time is approximately five hours," Wright says.
Three to four people are involved with each procedure in addition to Wright. The cost of the equipment necessary to conduct the ablation is typically $650,000. Supplies are additional expenses, Wright adds.
"A single ablation catheter is $650, while four additional mapping catheters used during the procedure cost approximately $200 each," she says.
Labrador Retrievers and brachycephalic breeds appear to be predisposed to tachycardia, Wright says, but there is no definitive reason why these breeds are susceptible.
The dogs generally present with the problem when they are about 2 years old, but some may show signs of the problem earlier.
Wright's subspecialty is electrophysiology, so many other cardiologists refer their cases to her to assess.
Owners have brought their dogs from around the country and even Canada to be treated by Wright. Some university veterinarians are performing the procedure, but not with a great success rate, Wright says. "It takes a lot of repetition of the procedure to perfect it."
Wright and those assisting her hope to enroll 15 to 20 dogs per year in an ongoing study of the procedure.