Pet of the Month: Teagan

Meet Teagan, our Pismo Beach Veterinary Clinic Pet of the Month.  Read Teagan’s amazing story below, written by her mom!

I was asked to tell you briefly about Teagan, my 15 month old gray and white Newfoundland.   Teagan is such a character.    She has the most vivacious personality and just loves to get into mischief.     I adore everything about her and I am so lucky to own this dog.   Teagie loves belly rubs and K9 Nosework, stealing socks and being as close to you as possible.     Teagan is also a special needs dog.  But don’t worry, her story is a happy one…..

Teagan seemed to be a happy, healthy Newfie puppy just like her 4 brothers and sisters, until a routine veterinary checkup at 5 weeks old found a level 2/6 heart murmur.    Mike and I received a call from the breeder that night telling us this puppy we were in love with had a heart murmur.    The breeder tried to exchange Teagan for a puppy from a different litter.    Mike and I spent a long night discussing Teagan and asked if we could still have her anyway.    We had named her Teagan at 24 hours old after seeing some baby photos and watching her grow in videos.   Once we named her, we felt she was ours.

When I went to Washington to pick Teagan up, the breeder had me visit with her and her vet and discuss Teagan’s heart before we flew home.   The breeder wanted full disclosure before I left.   After talking to Dr. Peter, the hope was that this was just an innocent murmur that Teagan would grow out of.   Long story short, by the time Teagan was 12 weeks old, it was a level 4.5/6 murmur and wasn’t going away on its own.     At 4 months, Teagan had a mild cough.   We decided to do an echocardiogram.    That was when we first found out Teagan had severe Subaortic Stenosis (SAS).

Subaortic Stenosis is a congenital heart defect and is very common in large breed dogs.   A lesion of extra tissue grows, causing a blockage in the aortic valve and reduces the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.   Teagan’s heart had to pump twice as hard to push a reduced amount of blood into her aorta.   Because of the blockage, the heart grows in thickness, like any overexerted muscle.   This thickening of the heart walls damages the heart and will eventually shorten the life of the dog.    The SAS dog has exercise intolerance, which means no walks or prolonged play and needs to live a very quiet life.    The dog will have fainting spells, and complete collapse can occur with no warning.   Worse still, the life expectancy of a severe SAS dog is 3 years.  Five if you are very lucky.  This was totally unacceptable for my Teagie.

I went home and started researching SAS.    Within a few days I had researched everything I could about the disease.    The only treatments available were Beta blocker therapy and some new procedure called Balloon Valvuloplasty.    Beta blockers slow the heart rate down so that it doesn’t have to work as hard but can’t fix the problem.    Balloon Valvuloplasty was a new procedure that was developed at the University of Florida in 2008/2009 and showed real promise.     But first you have to find a cardiologist who would do it.    After a disappointing second opinion at UC Davis, I almost gave up on Balloon Valvuloplasty.   Then I found a Doctor in Ohio who had already done the procedure on a Newfie named Penny who, like Teagan, had severe SAS.   Dr. Brian put me in touch with Penny’s owner.     After a few emails back and forth with Penny’s mom, I decided to do the surgery and have Dr. Brian do the procedure at Ohio State University.   But I never really felt comfortable with the travel to Ohio.

It was by accident that I discovered Dr. Mandi Kleman, one of the two pioneering Doctors of this procedure, had graduated from the University of Florida and moved to Monterey, California.    I got in touch with Pacific Veterinary Specialists and met Dr. Kleman.   We made and appointment and found out Teagan was an excellent candidate for the balloon valvuloplasty.    However, the surgery would be about $8500.00.    Yikes $8500.00!     I wanted to do the surgery but we couldn’t afford the procedure.  So I started to raise the funds and after 5 months I had $5200.00 in donations.    I have awesome friends and made tons of new ones thanks to Newfoundland groups, GoFundMe and Facebook.

Teagan had surgery on Thursday, the 26th of September.    Dr. Kleman and I met at the Animal Specialty and Emergency Center in West Los Angeles.   This hospital has a state of the art ICU and excellent cardiology department.    For the procedure you need two cardiologists and the dog will have special monitoring for 24 to 48 hours to watch for abnormal heart rhythms, so you need to have the special ICU.

Balloon Valvuloplasty is an exciting procedure.    An opening was made into the Teagan’s carotid artery.    Then a special needle called a cutting balloon was fed through the carotid into the aorta and inflated.    What makes the cutting balloon so special is that prior to inflation 3 or 4 sharp blades are folded inside the balloon.   These special blades are 4 times sharper then a scalpel.   As the balloon is inflated, the blades expand like wings and score the lesion, making several deep cuts.    The needle is repositioned and inflated over and over and the lesion is scored several times to weaken the lesion.    The cutting balloon is removed and a second balloon is inserted.   This is called a high pressure balloon.   It is made from Kevlar, the same material that bullet proof vests are made from.    The high pressure balloon has a strong pump that allows it to open with a force strong enough to bust open the scored lesion.    In Teagan’s case they used the high pressure balloon three times.     These custom balloons are not cheap.    The cutting balloon cost $1800.00 and the high pressure balloon cost $1300.    All totaled the surgical hardware alone was $3600.00 and can only be used for the one dog it was specially ordered for.

The good news was Teagan had great success with the surgery.    Her lesion was reduced by 52% and is now a moderate SAS.    The results were pretty immediate.   Teagan was supposed to rest 10 days while the wound in her carotid healed.    The hardest part was to keep Teagan from running and playing for all 10 days.   She just suddenly had explosive energy and she needed to use it.

Teagan was the 31st dog to have Balloon Valvuloplasty and the 5th newfie.

Six weeks after the surgery and Teagan is a spaz.   She runs when she used to walk, she plays with a new vigor and she is in constant motion.    We call it her second puppyhood, since she missed part of her first with the bum heart.     This surgery changed the quality of Teagan’s daily life and made such improvements.       After a month, Teagie had a recheck Echo and her heart is still doing outstanding.   Her moderate SAS will hopefully be managed by the Beta blockers and she can look forward to a long happy life.   Fingers crossed.

If you would like to meet Teagan, you can always find us Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7:30 to 9:30 playing on Avila Beach.    She will be the gray and white flash that bounces up to greet you.


Veterinarian/Owner of Pismo Beach Veterinary Clinic

Posted in News, Pet of the Week
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