Surgeons at Willows Veterinary Centre in Solihull have saved the life of a puppy thanks to a pioneering procedure which is carried out by just a handful of vets in the UK.
At only 15 months old, Floyd, a cheerful little Bichon Frise, was taken to vets by owner Ani Williams after she was alerted to the fact his sister had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and undergone open-chest surgery.
Luckily for Floyd, his owner’s swift actions allowed him time to be referred to Willows, one of the leading veterinary centres in the UK and one of less than a dozen in the country which carries out such procedures.
Recently, the cardiac team had performed a similar life-saving operation on Teddy, a tiny eight-week-old Staffordshire bull terrier. Weighing in at just 2.2kg – the same as a bag of sugar – Teddy is thought to be one of the smallest dogs in the world to have successfully undergone this procedure after he was treated following the early onset of heart failure.
With Floyd, the team took detailed scans of his heart and detected early signs of the condition, which is caused by the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a blood vessel that connects two major cardiac arteries, remaining open when it should have closed after birth. The condition would have led to fluid building up in his lungs, causing major difficulties to his breathing, along with his heart becoming enlarged and, if left undetected, Floyd could ultimately have died.
The intricate closure operation required a 1cm keyhole incision and involved passing catheters via an artery in the hind leg, then delicately plugging the PDA.
Chris Linney, specialist veterinary cardiologist at Willows who led the operation, said: “Floyd was presented to us with his heart still in good condition, so we were able to carry out the procedure with no problems.
“There are only about a dozen vets in the UK who carry out this sort of intervention treatment. The cardiology team at Willows is one of the most experienced groups in the world and we’re really pushing the boundaries to offer keyhole surgery to as many patients as possible.
“Historically, a lot of little dogs who suffered from heart problems when they were too small for keyhole surgery underwent traditional open-chest surgery, so this type of keyhole interventional procedure is increasingly important.”
For Floyd’s owner Ani, the results of his treatment have been dramatic. She said: “The treatment was incredibly successful, he’s now a normal puppy and running rings around everyone, trying to destroy anything in sight! Before his treatment you wouldn’t necessarily have realised anything was wrong with him, you may have thought he was well behaved but now you can tell just what a difference it has made.
“The team at Willows were wonderful. What they do is really the difference between life and death for these dogs. There was a lot of reassurance about the procedure and lots of statistics were explained. It went a long way to easing the stress of a difficult situation and they really put my mind at ease.
“It is a two-hour drive from where we live in Lancashire but that didn’t come into our thinking, it was about getting the best treatment for Floyd and, after doing a lot of research, we knew that would be at Willows.”
To find out more information about ground-breaking work done by Willows, please visit www.willows.uk.net.