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Pet Doc, Dog Veterinarian
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My puppy has been diagnosed with a hole in her heart. She

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My puppy has been diagnosed with a hole in her heart. She is almost 6 months old. Will the hole close on its own or does she need surgery? If she does, is keyhole surgery available for dogs? She is starting to cough and pant when she has been playing for a while with her mate.

Hi thereCustomer


Thank you for your question regarding your 6 month old girl who has been diagnosed with a hole in her heart! You are now starting to see the symptoms of this problem now as fluid builds up in her lungs causing her to cough and pant. The outcome and treatment of your girl depends on the exact diagnosis. The hole can either be between two atria of the heart, two ventricles or even in severe cases - both. It is not normal for this to be there and it will not close itself down. The most likely defect is a VSD or Ventricular Septal Defect and your puppy really will need surgery in order to live a long life.


The following is an excerpt from a Veterinary only resource "VIN" on treatment of VSD's. As you will read and as I have said - it is very unlikely the hole will close on it's own.


1) There are isolated reports of spontaneous closure in dogs, however, this is a rare event, and should not be anticipated. 3,4

2) Small defects are usually discovered during routine auscultation, and cause the animal few or no problems. Larger defects can result in heart failure and should be treated for CHF (link to CHF treatment chapter). The magnitude of the left ventricular and left atrial overload can be used to subjectively estimate likelihood of clinical complications i.e., if the VSD is small, and there is little or no chamber enlargement, the VSD will not be clinically important.

3) Since the degree of shunting is a function of relative resistances, the shunt volume can be reduced by decreasing LV systolic pressure. This can be achieved pharmacologically by inducing peripheral vasodilation with arteriodilators, such as hydralazine or amlodipine.

4) An alternative strategy to reduce shunt fraction is to increase the RV systolic pressure (again, reducing the pressure gradient or driving force for shunting). This can be done surgically by pulmonary artery banding - effectively creating a supravalvular pulmonic stenosis. It requires expertise, as it is often difficult to estimate the degree of stenosis required to reduce - but not reverse - shunting.8-10

5) VSD can also be surgically corrected by patching the defect.8,11,12 Percutaneously delivered closure devices are not used in animals for VSD closure because of the complexity and location of the defects. Closure of a VSD usually requires cardiopulmonary bypass and ventriculotomy to expose the defect and apply a patch.


As you read keyhole surgery is not available for this condition in the dog and it is not a cheap or easy surgery to undertake either. I definitely suggest you get a referral to an internal medicine veterinary specialist or even more preferably a cardiothoracic veterinary specialist for more information on the exact type of defect your puppy has and the best way to repair it. She will also need other medication for the next little while to get the fluid off her chest.


Please communicate with your Vet that you would like a referral to a specialist to follow this up further. It is better to act on this problem sooner rather than later.


Thank you for your question and please now click ACCEPT.


Kind Regards,


Dr M D Edwards

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