Dogs play an integral role within our lives. They are a source of comfort, security, guidance, and love to those with whom they interact. Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our canine companions is the core principle governing our academics’ and clinicians’ research at the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science.
Dr Niek Beijerink, a specialist in Veterinary Cardiology, is currently working to develop and implement interventions against heart failure that will transform healthcare outcomes for dogs, however much-needed funding is required to ensure that this groundbreaking research can continue.
Mitral valve disease (MVD) is the most common cardiorespiratory disease and the most frequent cause of heart failure and death in dogs. MVD is common in humans as well, where it is treated surgically. In the dog, however, despite treatments being available for symptoms, there is no cure. The disease is extremely common in certain breeds genetically predisposed to MVD, though disease progression is highly variable. Some dogs experience gradual heart enlargement and ultimately heart failure at a relative early stage from the time of initial murmur detection, while many remain relatively asymptomatic with no heart enlargement and development of heart failure.
The survival rate of a dog that develops MVD is usually 9-12 months; however Japanese surgeon, Masami Uechi, has unparalleled success with open heart surgery (mitral valve repair). In his hands, the disease can be repaired with a very high success rate, adding years to an animals life. Dr Beijerink was able to arrange six Japanese vets to fly to Sydney to perform the unique surgery, which has never before been done in Australia.
Dr Beijerink had two clients very dedicated to making this happen: Cindy and Ken Yoon (owners of Prince) and Lian Kille (owner of Jackson). Each were willing to cover travel, accommodation, surgery and hospital charges. The surgeries were scheduled for early November. Sadly, Jackson passed away only weeks before the scheduled surgery. With only one surgery scheduled, to cost to perform Prince’s Surgery increased, and unfortunately Cindy and Ken were unable to supply the additional funding necessary for the surgery to take place. Luckily for Prince, Lian (Jackson’s owner) very generously decided to donate a portion of the funds she had set aside for Jackson surgery to cover the additional funding that was needed. Prince (pictured) underwent the full day procedure on Friday 3rd November, and the surgery proved to be a success. After a week in recovery, Prince was discharged and was able to make his way home. This incredible achievement in Australian Veterinary Medicine marks the beginning of Dr Beijerink’s innovative program to implement interventions against heart failure and transform healthcare outcomes for dogs.
You can help our researchers to develop:
new genetic tests to detect dogs at risk of developing the disease, which will assist dog breeders in avoiding the disease. A genetics project in one particular dog breed (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) has already begun, and although the initial results are promising, much more work needs to be done to improve outcomes for patients.
biological markers that will predict the progression of heart disease in dogs affected by MVD.
develop lifesaving medical and surgical treatment strategies to slow down or stop the progression of this chronic disease.
This would be the first study in Australia to examine the scope and nature of the problem, and therefore it is a critical first step in developing and evaluating the effects of the disease. This would significantly assist in developing interventions that could decrease the risks associated with heart disease in both animals and humans.
There is little doubt that this project would provide significant benefits to dogs and their owners, ultimately enabling them to lead healthier lives.
Please support this research today.
Prince with Dr Niek Beijerink