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Human technique used to save dogs with dodgy tickers

Pioneering Veterinary cardiologists at Davies Veterinary Specialists (DVS) have teamed up with human doctors from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London to use a cutting edge technique to cure dogs with life-threatening heart conditions.

Dogs with fast, irregular heartbeats can suffer from weakness, fainting and at worst, sudden death. Until now expensive and complex drugs were the only treatment option, but the new procedure means sick pets can be treated in the same way as humans.

Veterinary cardiologist Pedro Oliveira and his team at DVS have been working with human doctors from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London to adapt a procedure called radiocatheter ablation, which is used regularly in humans to treat cardiac arrhythmia. There are only three or four centres in the world that perform these procedures routinely on veterinary patients and Pedro is the only veterinary cardiologist currently performing the technique in the UK.

The procedure could cure for previously incurable conditions, without the need for further medical treatment with drugs that have potential side effects. It involves inserting catheters into veins in the legs and neck and then guiding them into the heart. Electrical signals can be recorded to show where the abnormal heartbeats are generated (‘mapping’). Once this is achieved heat is used to destroy the tiny abnormal area of the heart muscle and make the arrhythmia disappear (‘zapping’).

Jake's story

Jake, a three-year-old Labrador Retriever, is one of seven dogs who have been cured so far by Pedro and the team. Jake suffered from life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia, causing his heart to beat too fast (over 250 beats per minute) for prolonged periods. Such an elevated heart rate cannot be sustained for long and may result in damage to the heart muscle. Jake had been diagnosed with this condition a number of months ago and the anti-arrhythmic drugs had stopped working. The radiocatheter ablation has cured his condition completely and he can now lead a normal healthy life.

Jake is now living a happy life

Jake is now living a happy life

Jake’s owner, Mrs Chapman from Staffordshire, says, "We would like to thank everyone at Davies Veterinary Specialists for looking after Jake during his three day stay in April 2016. Special thanks to Pedro Oliveira and his cardiac team for operating on Jake and correcting his heart condition. Jake is no longer taking any medication and has made a full recovery. We now have a much happier, more energetic Labrador, ready for walks and play at every opportunity. Jake seems to have a smile on his face everyday now and is enjoying life to the full."

"We have treated seven patients in the past year, all with success and without complications" says Dr Oliveira. "Unfortunately a significant proportion of candidates for these procedures are in desperate situations with failing hearts and after all drugs have failed before they reach us. Hopefully, with greater awareness of the availability of this procedure, we can treat more patients before it gets to be that bad."

Dr Clive Elwood, Managing Director of Davies Veterinary Specialists says, "This is a great example of how our team of specialists can deliver ground-breaking and innovative care, which makes a real difference for both patients and their loving owners."

To find out more go to their website or you can contact Pedro to discuss the suitability of cases at cardiology@vetspecialists.co.uk.