UP vets save lives of two dogs using ground breaking technique

Mothusi Mokalane

Veterinary surgeons affiliated with UP performed heart surgery on two dogs using a ground breaking technique. This is a first in the 100 year history of the Faculty of Veterinary Science in Onderstepoort.

Veterinary surgeons, Dr Adriaan Kitshoff and Dr Ross Elliot, who specialise in small animal surgery in the department of Companion Animal Clinical studies, operated on a 7-month-old French Bull dog named Daisy and a 6-month-old Cocker Spaniel, called Tallen. The approach used by the vets entails dilating the opening of a heart valve with a balloon. “This procedure is limited to hospitals overseas with surgeons with special interest in cardiology. It is only hospitals that have the equipment that can perform the surgery”, said the surgeons.

Both dogs were afflicted with pulmonic valvular stenosis, an abnormally shaped or fused heart valve that is found between the heart and the artery leading to the lungs. The surgery’s objective was to increase the size of the opening by dilating the valve. For this, a long balloon-tipped catheter was placed in one of the neck’s veins and through Fluoroscopy (real-time X-rays), the balloon was guided through two of the heart chambers and through the small opening in the valve. The vets explained that the anatomy of a dog’s heart is similar to that of a human, hence most of the clinical trials of heart transplants were performed on dogs, which ultimately led to the first successful heart transplant in 1967 by Dr Chris Barnard.

UP vets performed heart surgery on two dogs using a ground breaking technique

The surgery’s implications mean that the surgeons are now able to offer a service not previously offered by the Academic hospital. This surgical advancement allows for the establishment of a centre of excellence in minimal invasive surgery and cardiology at the hospital and in offering surgeries like valve replacements and heart transplants.

Daisy and Tallen are doing well post surgery, but need a follow up heart scan every three months because the stretched opening of the valve can begin to narrow as before. The surgery was a collective effort which included anaesthetists Dr Abdur Kadwa and Dr Justin Grace, theatre nurse Sister Adele Rossouw and theatre assistant Mike Shabangu.

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