Rare open-heart surgery performed on shelter puppy from Whistler

A team of veterinarians successfully performed the first canine open-heart surgery in British Columbia this week.

Puppy with rare heart defect is already wagging his tail and wandering about, says vet

Taylor is a seven-month-old dog who recently had open-heart surgery. (CBC)

A team of veterinarians successfully performed the first canine open-heart surgery in British Columbia this week.

The veterinarians operated on Taylor, a seven-month-old German shepherd/Doberman cross. Taylor is a rescue dog from Whistler with an extremely rare heart defect.

Veterinarians rarely perform the surgery on dogs because it's complicated and risky — it has to be done very quickly, and very precisely. 

"The tricky thing about open-heart surgery in dogs or in people is that you have to temporarily block the blood that's flowing into the heart," said Dr. Michael King, one of the vets who performed the surgery.

"We only have a couple of minutes to get done what we need to do."

In Taylor's case, veterinarians were left with no other option — they had tried other methods to fix his heart defect, but they didn't work. So they decided to take a chance with the open-heart surgery.

An operation of this caliber is also expensive — it can cost between $10,000 to $15,000. But all of the doctors donated their time for the surgery. The veterinary hospital and the Whistler animal shelter also donated money and equipment.

The investment appears to have paid off. King said Taylor is recovering "extremely well." The night of the surgery, he was eating and wagging his tail, and the next day he was up and wandering around outside. 

"It's pretty impressive when you see how well dogs recover," said King. "There's no way a human would be doing nearly as well after an open-heart surgery. We're not nearly as tough as they are."

Taylor was released from the vet's on Friday. The Whistler animal shelter is still looking for a home for the seven-month-old puppy. 

With files from Kamil Karamali