My Black Labrador Retriever Jack was a rare find. He was the runt of the litter. He came to me perfectly healthy and filled the missing spot in my heart for my last lab. I’d bring him everywhere with me (the barn, the beach, camping). He loved life so much. What was a little peculiar to me was that he was a quite Lab. Everyone that has had a Lab before knows that they are crazy when they are puppies (the fun crazy). They have so much energy that by the end of the day you’re exhausted and they just want to keep going. Well, Jack wasn’t like that; for instance when we were camping he would lay in the middle of the pond with me on a float.
At about 8 months I brought Jack to get neutered. I was short for cash so I went through Friends of Animals and found a cheaper neutering facility rather than my normal vet. I got a call an hour later from the vet in their office saying they did a quick check up on him before putting him under for the procedure and noticed a heart murmur (a heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound heard during a heartbeat. Murmurs range from very faint to very loud. They sometimes sound like a whooshing or swishing noise). She said I should probably have my vet look into it before he had the surgery. I called my vet that day and asked to have an appointment.
A few days later I headed to my vet. Jack had his Echocardiogram and I found out that he had Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia with stenosis. Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) is a congenital, inheritable heart defect that seems to be increasingly prevalent in Labrador Retrievers. The tricuspid valve is one of four heart valves and allows blood to flow in one direction from the right atrium into the right ventricle. If a puppy inherits the gene responsible for the defect, its tricuspid valve will be malformed in utero. I was devastated when I found this out. What was even worse was that our vet never detected it and the vet who took the Echocardiogram told me he would not live past a year old and there was NOTHING I could do for him.
I was lucky to have one of the best veterinary hospitals in the country right around the corner from me. My mother and I headed to Tufts Veterinary Hospital with Jack to meet with Dr. John Rush who works in cardiology for dogs and cats. He decided we could try a balloon catheter (a balloon catheter is a type of “soft” catheter with an inflatable “balloon” at its tip which is used during a catheterization procedure to enlarge a narrow opening or passage within the body) to relieve Jack’s stenosis (an abnormal narrowing in a blood vessel or other tubular organ or structure). We were relieved he felt that Jack wouldn’t need a valve replacement yet but a smaller surgery that was at least less expense. He had high hopes that the surgery would work well. We made an appointment for the surgery and monitored Jack.
Jack starting going downhill rapidly, very shortly after we made the appointment for the surgery he went into Congested Heart Failure (CHF). He had two balloon catheters put in and did very well. He came home two days after the surgery with a huge improvement. Over the weeks and months he seemed to get better and better (he turned into a real lab puppy!).
After a very frantic and scary start to life Jack is doing great! He will be turning 5 in April and hasn’t had another surgery. He comes to work with me and runs in the field with other dogs all the time just like a normal healthy lab. He loves to play fetch and swim (he tends to go all the way under the water like a seal).
He gets yearly checkups and his TVD gets a little worse every time but he is not in CHF. Eventually Jack will either have to have another balloon catheter put in or he might need a valve replacement. We’re taking things day by day and when we come to that bump in the road we’ll deal with it.
I feel like Jack came to me for a reason, without my help he might not be here today. Jack’s success story has had an impact on not only my family and I but other patients at Tufts. We were the first to go through with this particular surgery and now others have gone through it because they are told how critical Jack was and how well he is doing now.