Taylor’s Story: Canada West Performs B.C.’s First Successful Canine Open-Heart Surgery

On November 3, 2015 Taylor, a 7-month old german shepherd/doberman cross, became the first dog in British Columbia to successfully undergo open-heart surgery.  The procedure was done here at Canada West Veterinary Specialists hospital, and involved a 12-person Canada West team led by surgeon Dr. Michael King and cardiologist Dr. Marco Margiocco.

About Taylor

Taylor is a rescue dog who was under the care of the non-profit Whistler Animals Galore Society (WAG). WAG referred Taylor to us when they noticed that he appeared to be in distress and had a very distended belly. Dr. Margiocco ultimately diagnosed Taylor with a rare heart defect that was causing blood to pool in his abdomen.  After less-invasive treatment options proved unsuccessful, it was determined that open-heart surgery was the only viable option to save Taylor’s life. However, Taylor had a good prognosis for a long full life without the need for ongoing … Continue reading

Pacemaker placement for treatment of advanced second degree heart block in a 13 yr old Lhasa Apso

Dharma is a 13 year old female spayed Lhasa Apso referred to the Cardiology Service at Canada West Veterinary Specialists in October 2011 with a history of exercise intolerance. Dharma was diagnosed with an arrhythmia during a wellness examination by her regular veterinarian. Dharma also had an episode of acute weakness (“flopping down”) while walking, approximately two weeks prior to our evaluation. She was not on any medications at that time. A standard ECG showed the presence of second degree AV block with an average ventricular rate of 80 BPM.

An atropine test was performed that showed only partial response to atropine, indicating that structural damage to the conduction system was present. An echocardiogram showed normal cardiac morphology, dimensions and function, ruling out the absence of other significant heart diseases.

In order to more thoroughly evaluate Dharma’s heart rhythm at home, we performed a 24 hour Holter monitor recording. This … Continue reading

Pimobendan study in dogs

The Cardiology Service at Canada West Veterinary Specialists is enrolling patients in a clinical study aiming at evaluating the:

Acute effects of pimobendan on proinflammatory citokines, endothelin, circulating natriuretic peptides, troponin and myocardial perfusion in dogs with decompensated Chronic Degenerative Valve Disease.

Study Design:

  • Multicenter, randomized, single blind, placebo-controlled, prospective study
  • The Canada West Vets Specialists site will enroll 10 dogs
  • The study design was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Kansas State University
  • Duration of the study: 1 week
  • Enrollment will continue at Canada West Vets Specialists until a minimum of 10 patients is reached

Inclusion criteria:

  • BW < or = 20 kg
  • CDVD with past evidence of cardiogenic pulmonary edema documented on chest radiographs and past history of clinical signs of L-CHF
    NOTE: The Investigators will review all the radiographs prior to approving patient inclusion
  • Dogs must be treated with enalapril and furosemide
Continue reading

Balloon Valvuloplasty in a 7m old FI boxer

Pulmonic Stenosis (PS) is one of the most common congenital heart defects in dogs. It typically results from variable degrees of leaflets fusion and therefore the most common form is a valvular stenosis. This is in contrast with what we typically observe at the aortic level, in which the most common form of obstruction is a sub-valvular stenosis, due to the presence of a sub-valvular fibro-muscular ring.

Pulmonic Stenosis is clinically characterized by the presence of a left basilar systolic murmur. Jugular venous distention or pulses can be present in severe cases and/or if significant tricuspid regurgitation occurs. Femoral artery pulses are typically unremarkable. Thoracic radiographs are characterized by a “reverse D” appearance of the cardiac silhouette, and a prominent Pulmonary Artery at approximately 1 O’clock, on DV or VD views. An ECG typically shows the presence of criteria for Right Ventricular enlargement, in the form of deep S waves … Continue reading

Central cyanosis due to respiratory disorders

Cyanosis associated with respiratory causes are often found at later stages of disease processes. The presence of cyanosis in respiratory distress requires rapid decision. The clinician must determine whether the patient is likely to respond to medical therapy (typically — oxygen supplementation, sedation, bronchodilators) or require intubation and possible ventilation.

Respiratory failure is typically classified into dysfunction of oxygenation (inability to oxygenate – most common problem in our veterinary patients) or ventilatory failure (inability to eliminate CO2). Additionally, it is further characterized as to whether it is acute or chronic.

This is a more precise classification scheme however, while oxygenation can be estimated in the awake patient not receiving oxygen supplementation by a pulse oximeter, it does require access to blood gas analysis for CO2 measurement.

Another possible classification is to define the respiratory failure according to the patients breathing pattern. The advantages of this classification is that it is … Continue reading

The Cyanotic Dog


The term cyanosis is derived from the color cyan, which comes from kyanous, the Greek word for blue. The scattering of color that produces the blue hue of veins and cyanosis is similar to the process that makes the sky appear blue: some colors are refracted and absorbed more than others.

Cyanosis is a physical exam finding in hypoxemic patients, that become visible because deoxygenated hemoglobin is more prone to the optical bluish discoloration. Cyanotic animals display an abnormal blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes when their absolute concentration of deoxygenated haemoglobin raises above 5 g/dL. Therefore, it is actually easier to appreciate cyanosis in animals with normal or high hemoglobin concentrations than those with anemia.

Classification and most common causes

Cyanosis can be classified as central or peripheral. Central cyanosis is characterized by arterial hypoxemia, due either to severe pulmonary disease or the shunting of blood … Continue reading