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Dog Breathing Easy After Breakthrough Surgery Previously Used For Humans

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)- A collaboration between Colorado surgeons from two different disciplines leads to a breakthrough surgery and one lucky pup. That means it's a learning experience for the medical community and less invasive for the patient.

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"One of his heart valves had gotten an infection on it and the infection had essentially damaged the valve so that it was leaking a severe amount. That results, both in dogs and in humans, in congestive heart failure," said Dr. Justin Strote, an Interventional Cardiologist with UCHealth.

Sabbath, a 7-year-old Malamute from California, had a heart valve that was not functioning. He was so sick he could hardly breathe. Just like in a human, these were all signs his heart was failing.

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"The symptoms that a human would experience would actually be the same as Sabbath. Getting more and more short of breath. Getting swelling particularly swelling in the ankles or sometimes feeling like their abdomen is bloating out," said Strote.

Strote has solved this problem in humans without open-heart surgery, but helping in Sabbath's case?

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"The fact that we could collaborate with CSU and offer this to dogs as a first time event ever, is fantastic," Strote said.

Thursday was Sabbath's last checkup before heading home to California.

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"He's doing fantastic! Before he wasn't able to get around as much as a normal dog would. He would tire out more easily. He was having difficulty breathing," said Dr. Brian Scansen, head of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery at CSU.

Scansen is Sabbath's primary surgeon. He says before CSU reached out to UCHealth, open heart surgery was the likely alternative.

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"Because we're able to do this without stopping his heart without opening his chest, it makes everything easier on him and it makes for a faster recovery and a safer procedure for the dog," said Scansen.

The implications of such an important collaboration go far beyond a happy, healthy malamute.

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"It's transformative for veterinary medicine because we struggle a lot with being able to offer the newest and most advanced therapies as would be available to a human. Being able to offer these now to our four legged patients it is incredibly rewarding."

It's a winning collaboration for both disciplines.

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"Whenever we have the ability to collaborate between different disciplines, be it, different human disciplines or human and veterinary disciplines those are relationships that we forge and you never know where that's gonna go but that's what often leads to great developments," Strote.

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