November 6, 2015 6:36 pm
Updated: November 6, 2015 10:35 pm

Rescue puppy receives B.C.’s first ever canine open heart surgery

WATCH: A rescue dog has undergone the first ever canine open heart surgery in British Columbia. Jennifer Palma reports.

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A rescue puppy has received B.C.’s first ever canine open heart surgery and is recovering well.

Taylor, a seven-month-old German Shepherd / Doberman cross, was rescued by the Whistler Animal Shelter, which is run by the non-profit Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) society.

When Taylor was rescued, staff at the shelter noticed he was clearly in medical distress and his abdomen was distended and filled with fluid.

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They turned to Canada West Veterinary Specialists (CWVS) for help. Dr. Marco Margiocco, B.C.’s only animal cardiologist, did cardiac ultrasounds and a CT angiogram to determine Taylor had a rare congenital heart defect. A membrane had been retained in the right atrium, impeding blood flow returning to the heart and causing pooling in the abdomen.

When Taylor didn’t respond to a standard, less invasive procedure, it was determined the only chance he had was with open heart surgery to remove the membrane.

Dr. Michael King performed the surgery, which only allows a two-minute window before the lack of blood flow to other areas of the dog’s body could be fatal.

Taylor’s surgery was done in one minute and 40 seconds.

PHOTOS: Provided by Canada West Veterinary Specialists

While King and other vets at CWVS do have a lot of familiarity doing other procedures around the heart, they had never done a canine open heart surgery before. King actually contacted a cardiac surgeon in Colorado, who gave him some pointers about what they could expect.

“So the difficult thing to doing open heart surgery is that you’ve got blood flowing all the time, so you have to temporarily stop that to allow access to work and do what you need to do,” said King.

The total cost of the procedure, including pre-care, medications and after-care, is $24,000.

“It went incredibly well, he did beautifully well with the anesthesia,” said King “The actual sort of couple of minutes went very quickly as you would imagine, but [he] really did great. His heart was beating the whole time.”

He said everything went as well as he could have hoped.

Within a few hours of the surgery, Taylor was up and eating and even wagging his tail. “The next day he was looking to go outside and resume normal activity,” said King. “He certainly bounced back a lot more quick than a person would after a similar procedure.”

Taylor will now be released back to the WAG team, and will soon be up for adoption.

“The prognosis is excellent,” said King. “To be honest, now that we’ve broken this down the blood flow has returned to normal, he shouldn’t have any problems in the future. [The] cardiologist assessed him again yesterday with an ultrasound of the heart and confirmed we achieved exactly what we had wanted to achieve, so we are not expecting Taylor to have any issues at all.”

“He should go on to have a completely normal life.”

PHOTOS: Provided by Canada West Veterinary Specialists

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