In late March, Lucky was brought in for a consultation with cardiologist Dr. Mandi Kleman, DVM, DACVIM, who used a variety of tests including bloodwork, thoracic radiographs (seen below) and an echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis of heartworms in the pulmonary artery. It is not uncommon for cardiologists to perform heartworm extraction, and the procedure is the only good option for dogs that have heartworms truly within the heart (i.e. caval syndrome). It is a much more common procedure in southern states where heartworms are more prevalent.
|2-view thoracic radiographs showing an enlarged heart due to heartworm infestation.|
Within a few weeks of Lucky's first visit to CUVS, a generous benefactor volunteered to pay for his heartworm extraction surgery. To prepare Lucky for his surgery, Dr. Kleman prescribed 4 weeks of doxycycline, plus a short, tapered dose of steroids to be given just prior to surgery, and in mid-April Eric brought Lucky in to CUVS for the extraction. Just before administering anesthesia, the CUVS surgical team gave Lucky a dose of benadryl and dexamethasone. All of these drug therapies worked to decrease inflammation in Lucky's lungs, decrease his coughing, and decrease his risk of clinical signs associated with pulmonary thromboembolism.
As heartworm extraction surgery is executed using fluoroscopy and tiny incisions, Dr. Kleman's first step in the surgical suite is to create a small incision in Lucky's neck to dissect down to the jugular vein. This incision becomes the entry point for the surgical tools that are fed down into the patient's heart- in this case, the pulmonary artery on the right side of the heart. Dr. Kleman uses a specialized guiding introducer to position a snare catheter in Lucky's pulmonary artery. The snare catheter catches the worms, which Dr. Kleman grabs with specialized forceps called Ishiharas. The entire surgery is coordinated through fluoroscopy, which is essentially real-time radiographic imaging of the procedure.
|Heartworms extracted from Lucky's pulmonary artery.|
|Lucky recovers in the ICU after his heartworm extraction procedure.|
|Lucky at discharge with staff and family after heartworm extraction.|
|Lucky during his post-operative stay at CUVS, before his orthopedic surgery.|
|Lucky when first rescued. Notice lameness in rear leg and wounds on front leg.|
|Lucky in recovery after his orthopedic surgery.|
Lucky is indeed an extremely lucky dog: not only was he rescued, but he was cured of his serious heartworm infestation and his orthopedic injuries with the advanced science available only at a world-class animal hospital. Lucky's journey required the care and love of an entire community of animal lovers: from Eric and the animal rescuers he works with, to Lucky's amazing benefactor, to the caring employees of Cornell University Veterinary Specialists. All generously gave their kindness, skill, care and love to this dog who needed it so badly. And after a life which started off with so much pain and abuse, Lucky has finally found happiness in his forever home with a CUVS employee.
Please visit the website for Eric Bellows' Pack Ethic organization. You can read more about Lucky and the rest of the rescued animals from Eric's point of view. Eric also put together this wonderful video about Lucky's journey to recovery: