With only weeks to live, surgery saved puppy’s broken heart

See a video about Mollie here.

WALTHAM, Mass. – Mollie is a sweet and peppy puppy whose heart was working so hard it nearly killed her.

So a team of dedicated volunteers and generous donors brought Mollie from Mississippi to Massachusetts, where experts at BluePearl Veterinary Partners performed the delicate operation that saved her.

Mollie at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Waltham, Mass.

“Her prognosis is excellent, she’s going to have a normal life,” said BluePearl’s Dr. Kursten Pierce, who is board-certified in veterinary cardiology. “Without any intervention she would have been in heart failure within the next couple of weeks.”

Mollie, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell terrier mix, was at an animal shelter in Mississippi when staff noticed “her heart was almost jumping out of her chest – something was wrong,” said Joanne Hutchinson of the Paws New England rescue group. The group believed in giving Mollie a chance, and so they brought her to BluePearl in Massachusetts.

Pierce said Mollie’s problem was that a blood vessel near her heart stayed open, instead of shutting at birth as it should.

When the puppy is in the womb, the mother breathes for two. Her oxygen-rich blood goes into the puppy’s heart, and then through a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. At birth this vessel is supposed to close as the puppy begins breathing on its own.

If the vessel doesn’t close as expected, it means blood that already has received oxygen in the lungs and is meant to be pumped out to the body will instead wash back into the lung circulation, increasing pressure within the lung vessels.  All this means the left side of the heart stretches and becomes larger from the increased volume of blood.

Mollie undergoing surgery at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Waltham, Mass.

“The left side of the heart gets very dilated and enlarged,” said Pierce. “Pressure builds up in the heart, fluid builds up in the lungs, and the patient can go into heart failure, have difficulty breathing and die.”

But there is one silver lining to this condition: It can be fixed, with the help of a skilled surgeon.

BluePearl’s Dr. William Snell, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, performed the operation. He used silk sutures to close the vessel. It’s a delicate procedure, because if anything goes wrong and bleeding begins in this critical part of the body, “you have very little time to do


anything about it.” But the operation went smoothly.

Snell said it was a pleasure to work with Mollie, because her personality makes her a special dog.  “She’s the kind of dog who always wants to be in your arms,” Snell said.

Hutchinson, of Paws New England, said she is grateful to everyone who banded together to raise money for Mollie’s care, to Delta Airlines for assisting with transportation and to the skilled veterinarians at BluePearl.

“It was just amazing to know that we all came together and saved her,” she said.

Anna Lally adopted Mollie through Paws New England, and said her new dog is incredibly loving and happy. “You would never think that she just had surgery. We’re so thrilled.”