At three months of age Lilly the Pomeranian puppy was half the size of her sibling. When her local veterinarian auscultated Lilly’s chest to listen to her heartbeat, a heart murmur was detected and after an ultrasound the dog was diagnosed as having a patent ductus arteriosus or PDA. The condition occurs when a vessel present in the neonatal heart, the ductus arteriosus, fails to close after birth, resulting in abnormal blood flow occurring between the two major vessels of the heart, the aorta and the pulmonary artery. This abnormal blood flow results in oxygen rich blood from the aorta mixing with oxygen‐poor blood from the pulmonary artery, causing increased blood pressure in the lung arteries and additional strain to the heart. In dogs the symptoms of a PDA can include failure to grow, coughing, reduced exercise tolerance and eventually congestive heart failure. PDA is one of the most commonly diagnosed congenital heart defects seen in dogs.
Apart from being underweight (weighing in at only 1.1kg), Lilly was not showing any signs of exercise intolerance or coughing. Lilly was referred to Perth Veterinary Specialists, and was seen by surgical specialist Dr Karen Staudte of Perth Animal Surgery. The PDA defect can be surgically corrected by tying off the patent ductus vessel to block the abnormal blood flow, and is most successful when performed when the animal is young, preferably when it’s less than two years old, and ideally as early as between 8 to 16 weeks of age.
The main risk for performing such a surgical correction on Lilly, was her very small size, which not only makes the surgery challenging in terms of accessing the heart, but the anaesthetic risk is extremely high due to the risk of hypothermia and life threatening blood loss. Dr Staudte enlisted the assistance of our highly trained and experienced veterinary anaesthetist Dr Louise Bass to manage the delicate anaesthetic procedure required for the surgical correction to be performed.
Dr Staudte carefully undertook the surgical correction, having to delicately ligate the patent ductus arteriosis whilst ensuring that there was no loss of blood. Dr Staudte said that operating on such a tiny dog was difficult, “My dissecting forceps were longer than the size of the dog! But having the support of our surgical nursing team along with Dr Bass monitoring the anaesthetic very closely resulted in a perfect outcome”. Lilly’s recovery was closely monitored in the hospital and she was started on antibiotics and anti‐inflammatory medications Lilly was also fitted with a soft Elizabethan collar to prevent her damaging the sutures at her surgery site. By the following morning Lilly had continued to make a quick and uneventful recovery in hospital, and was sent home for further rest.
Lilly will return to Perth Veterinary Specialists in three months time for a follow up ultrasound examination.
Lilly’s owner Jessamy, said that she was over the moon to have Lilly home safely, “It was quite nerve‐racking at the time of the operation, but now she’s doing really well and its actually quite hard to keep her still! I think Lilly is very happy to be back home with her sister Mila, and with Lilly confined in her cage, they sleep with their noses touching through the wire”.