UW School of Veterinary Medicine cardiologists are learning a new, lifesaving technique thanks to support from UW Veterinary Care client Jerry Falci.
Falci found out his labradoodle, Jet, had severe pulmonic stenosis after he got Jet as a puppy in 2018. Pulmonic stenosis is a common heart defect among dogs caused by a narrowing of the pulmonary valve, which impedes blood flow from the heart to the lungs.
Following the diagnosis, Falci brought Jet to UW Veterinary Care, where he had two procedures to improve blood flow and decrease stress on Jet’s heart. From these operations in 2019 and 2020, Jet saw some improvements.
“He is very active,” Falci says. “He’s a beautiful dog, family-oriented.”
However, in August 2022, Jet collapsed at home due to his heart defect.
“He was panting and all of a sudden, he’s lying on his side, and he lets out a howl. It was terrible,” Falci recalls.
After this collapse, Jet’s veterinarians suggested more advanced care, specifically a transpulmonic stent. In this procedure, a stent is placed across the pulmonary valve to improve blood flow. Transpulmonic stents have been performed in human patients for some time but are just starting to be completed in dogs, so limited veterinary medical institutions specialize in the procedure.
Because of this limited availability, Falci was told he may have to travel elsewhere for Jet to receive such a stent. Learning this, Falci was inspired to make a gift to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine’s Cardiology Greatest Needs Fund to allow the school to bring a veterinarian with expertise in transpulmonic stents to the SVM to perform the procedure and teach others at the school.
In December of 2022, Lauren Markovic, a veterinary cardiologist from the University of Georgia, traveled to UW and led the procedure alongside Sonja Tjostheim, clinical assistant professor of cardiology at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. UW Veterinary Care Cardiology residents Kelly Flynn and Graham Rossi were also part of the surgical team.
The procedure proved immensely beneficial for Jet, with the stent allowing for improved blood flow across his pulmonary valve. Although it will be a long road to recovery, Jet has been improving since the operation.
“He is getting better as we go along,” Falci says. “I consider the staff at the SVM his second parents almost. They’ve gotten to know him quite well. I am thankful for everything.”
With the help of Falci, Tjostheim will also attend a course on this procedure this winter and work with Colorado State University’s cardiology team to learn more about it. She will bring her new expertise back to the UW SVM and share and apply the knowledge to help more dogs like Jet in the Midwest and beyond.
“There are other pets who will need this procedure,” Falci says. “I really thought it was something they should learn.”