A rescued beagle from Iowa survived to mark her first birthday after cardiac surgeons at Colorado State’s veterinary hospital repaired a congenital heart defect that more often afflicts human babies.
Lilly Rose was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a set of four structural heart abnormalities that is uncommon in dogs and is often fatal before the age of 1.
In humans, the condition is called “blue baby syndrome” because the heart problems prevent oxygenated blood from properly circulating through the body, giving the skin a bluish tinge. The disease, occurring in about five of every 10,000 babies, is typically caught and successfully treated. Case in point: Shaun White, the snowboarding superstar and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was born with tetralogy of Fallot and underwent two open-heart surgeries as an infant.
It is not likely that Lilly will catch big air any time soon, but she does have one thing in common with White and other survivors.
“The dog came here blue and is going home pink,” Dr. Christopher Orton, a CSU pioneer in canine heart surgery, said when Lilly left the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital after the second of two operations in July.
Happy birthday, complete with cake
Earlier this year, Lilly Rose’s caretakers and veterinary team celebrated the beagle’s first birthday with a gourmet pumpkin-yogurt cake from a local pet bakery.
“I knew CSU was the leader in cardiology throughout the nation, so it was my first call and my last,” said Jan Erceg, a retired paramedic and volunteer for Critter Crusaders.
The pet rescue organization in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took in Lilly Rose when her owner surrendered the sickly puppy. The group finds medical attention for homeless animals and sought a surgical solution that could give Lilly a normal life.
Lilly ultimately underwent two procedures. During the first, in September 2014, CSU veterinarians performed a balloon valvuloplasty. In this minimally invasive procedure, a thin catheter is inserted into the heart, and a balloon at the tip is inflated to stretch open a constricted heart valve. This improves the flow of blood to the lungs for oxygenation.