Sam is an 11 year old Border Collie. Usually fit and active, she was brought to Cogges urgently a few weeks ago, after collapsing on a walk.
Vet Sarah examined her, and found that her gums were pale, her heart rate was elevated but her pulses were weak, her heart sounded muffled and her breathing was laboured. She was admitted for urgent investigations. An xray of her chest showed that her heart had an abnormal, rounded shape. Sarah next performed an ultrasound scan of Sam’s heart. This revealed a pericardial effusion – where the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart becomes filled with fluid, compressing the heart muscle. Sam needed to be urgently referred for further investigation and treatment, but she was too unstable to make the journey to the specialist in Birmingham. Sarah decided to sedate Sam, and under ultrasound guidance and sterile conditions, passed a needle into Sam’s chest to drain the fluid from around her heart and allow her heart to beat more normally. This decision is very likely to have saved Sam’s life.
She then safely made the journey to the specialist unit, where further investigations revealed no clear reason for the fluid developing – inflammation of the tissues around the heart or a tumour would be the most likely causes. She was monitored there for a few days then sent home, much brighter. A heart scan at Cogges a few days later showed no recurrence of the fluid build up.
Sam’s owners will monitor her closely for any recurrence of her worrying symptoms, and she may require an incision to be made in the pericardium.