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'She's Just A Joy': Penn Doctors Save 9-Year-Old Dog's Life With First-Of-Its-Kind Heart Surgery

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It was a medical first in Philadelphia as human technology was used to save a dog with heart disease. It's a high-tech hearth procedure that is routinely performed on human patients. Now, for the first time in the region, it's been successfully used for a dog.

Her family says Sophie has a heart of gold. Now, she also has a heart that's making history.

"She's just a joy," Sophie 's owner Karen Cortellino said. "It was love at first sight."

But their love story was suddenly threatened when the 9-year-old boxer fainted.

"We were told even with medicine there's a high risk of sudden death," Cortellino said.

Cortellino learned her beloved rescue had an arrhythmia, the same type of erratic heartbeat that's diagnosed in people.

"She had arrhythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy," said Dr. Anna Gelzer, a cardiologist at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Gelzer figured the human treatment could also work for dogs.

"Sophie was the first case where we've tried to ablate ventricular tachycardia," Gelzer said.

For that, they turned to colleagues at Penn Medicine, where human heart patients are treated.

"We were able to use the exact same equipment," Gelzer said.

"When she explained to us that Sophie was going to have this procedure at the human hospital at HUP, I couldn't believe it," Cortellino said.

During ablation, a high energy catheter tip burns tiny portions of damaged heart tissue to restore normal rhythms.

"The red dots are dots where we ablated," Gelzer said.

High-tech mapping helped guide the ablation, but it was the first-of-its-kind on a dog.

"We're fortunate that things went smoothly," Gelzer said.

Cortellino says Sophie was pretty quickly back to normal with the human intervention saving her dog's life.

"It's amazing. It is just completely amazing," Cortellino said.

Cortellino is hoping the risk she took with Sophie having the procedure will help other dogs in the future.

The treatment is experimental for now with a grant. The heart disease that Sophie has is common for boxers and is also prevalent in American bulldogs.

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