A new program focusing on open heart surgery for dogs at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine will launch later this year.
The course is part of a collaboration between the college and veterinary cardiologist Masami Uechi, DVM, PhD, of the JASMINE Veterinary Cardiovascular Medical Center in Yokohama, Japan.
According to UF, it will become the first fully functional program of its kind in the U.S. and the only one to offer training in mitral valve repair.
“The plan is for Dr. Uechi to come with his team and equipment for a week in the spring to perform the procedure initially on one dog, then to return two months later to do four more cases. From then on, he and his team plan to operate on six dogs every two months,” said Simon Swift, DVM, clinical associate professor and chief of the cardiology service at UF’s Small Animal Hospital.
“This will lead to a teaching and research collaboration between UF, JASMINE, and Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan.”
Once Uechi and his team have successfully provided training to UF cardiologists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, perfusionists, and critical care specialists, the college will operate and maintain the program independently.
Mitral valve repair surgery treats a condition known as degenerative mitral valve disease, or endocardiosis. The disease causes a thickening of the heart valves, weakening them and allowing a backflow of blood into the left atrium from the left ventricle, causing the heart to dilate and increase left atrial pressure.
“Medication can slow the progression and we can treat these dogs medically once they develop heart failure, but the average survival is only about nine months,” Swift said.
“It’s a surgical disease, and it needs a surgical cure.”