9-month old Waffles needs a heart surgery

This is Waffles. He is the most adorable 9-month old Golden retriever puppy who loves chewing sticks, digging holes and minding his own puppy business when he is not sleeping.


Brief Summary:

Waffles has been diagnosed with Orthodromic AtrioVentricular Reciprocating Tachycardia (OAVRT) - he has an extremely high heart rate >300 beats/min which is causing his heart muscle to degenerate, which eventually may lead to heart failure. The abnormal heartbeats are caused by the presence of an extra tissue in his heart which results in extra unwanted signals. Waffles’ condition can be cured by surgery which costs 5000 EUR and involves travel to Milan for the procedure. Waffles needs helpful donors to support the costs of his surgery.


Detailed Diagnosis:

In December 2018, just before Christmas, Waffles wasn't his usual self. He suddenly became very lethargic and inactive and just lay on the floor all day. His appetite reduced and he showed no interest towards even his favourite chicken treats that were offered to him. We decided to wait it out for a day to eliminate indigestion as a potential cause, before contacting the vet.

We woke up at regular intervals during the night to monitor him and his condition seemed to be deteriorating as time passed. He started developing irregular coughs which almost seemed like he was trying to get something out of his throat. His heart rate had increased to a level  where we could not track the beats per minute. He started visibly shaking due to this. We immediately took him to the emergency early in the morning.

Preliminary blood tests eliminated pneumonia as the suspected cause. X-rays showed that the size of his heart was abnormally large and pushing against his rib cage. The ECG machine could not keep track of his heart rate which was now >300 beats/min. We rushed him to the nearest available cardiology clinic (most were closed due to Christmas break). Dr. Pascale Smets, at the Veterinary clinic at the University of Ghent diagnosed Waffles to have a heart rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia) and secondary congestive heart failure due to tachycardia - induced cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle due to the fast heart rate). The elevated heart rate was most likely suspected to be Orthodromic AtrioVentricular Reciprocating Tachycardia (OAVRT), mediated through abnormal conductive tissue in the heart (a so-called accessory pathway).
In other words, Waffles may have an extra tissue in his heart which result in an abnormal conduction of the electrical signals through this extra tissue, causing irregular and elevated heart beats. His heart was expanding before it contracted fully. This causes his valves to leak, resulting in fluid build up in the lungs.

This condition can be addressed in 2 ways - medication or surgery. While medication has a lower risk, owing to Waffles' young age (the doctor mentioned he is the youngest patient she has seen with this condition) there is a high chance that he would develop immunity to medications very quickly. Surgery is of course risky, and expensive - however this would give Waffles a chance for a full cure. However, surgery for this condition is only available in one facility in Mainland Europe - at the Veterinary clinic in Malpensa (close to Milan, Italy) with Dr. Roberto Santilli. We were therefore given medication to start off with, to monitor progress for a month to be really sure of the requirement for surgery. We were advised not to limit the extent of his exercises and to ensure his medicines were always given on time. 

Update 8th February, 2019:

Follow up appointment for Waffles showed that while the medicines helped improving his condition, the heart rate was not abnormal at irregular intervals. The size of his heart had reduced but not sufficiently enough to be considered normal. The leakage through his valves had reduced as well, and there was no more fluid in his lungs.
Dr. Pascale advised us that surgery is the only option to help Waffles since the effect of the medicines will wear out eventually. She started preparations for a Holter ECG to monitor his heart rate for 24 hours. This data would then be shared with their colleagues in Italy who would confirm if the results match the symptoms of OAVRT.

Update 27th February, 2019:

Dr. Santilli's clinic in Malpensa confirmed the results and gave us potential dates for surgery. Dr. Pascale advised us to take the earliest available date since the heart muscle is continually getting damaged due to this condition - and may eventually lead to a heart failure.

Waffles' surgery is now confirmed for the 26th of March. This time period is extremely short to arrange funds required for the surgery, and the hospitalization costs. While we have funded his regular doctor visits so far which have been quite expensive as it is, the surgery requires an additional 5000 EUR (first estimate given by the doctor). We therefore ask for your help in funding for Waffles's surgery so that he can come home completely cured and healthy.

This has been a difficult time for us, and we have come so far on our own. However, in order to cure Waffles we need your love and support. The smallest of contributions will also make a difference. Waffles will be extremely grateful to you and if you are in and around Eindhoven, he will happily repay you in kind - with loads of cuddles and kisses.

We will keep you updated on the progress, and we are currently in the process of sharing and spreading our story via Instagram (@waffleswagger) to all other dog owners who may face such a situation.

Looking forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance!


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Anish Menon
Eindhoven, NL

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