PDSA fix puppy’s broken heart in time for Valentine’s Day

A five-month-old pup is able to feel the love this Valentine’s Day after surviving a complex and life-saving heart surgery.

Winnie-Wynter, a Cocker Spaniel, was brought in to Croydon PDSA Pet Hospital by her loving family, after they noticed she had a worryingly fast heart rate, that wouldn’t slow down.

When PDSA vets examined her, they found that as well as her heart beating faster than it should be, Winnie had a loud heart murmur (a whooshing noise caused by abnormal blood flow inside the heart). Unfortunately, due to her young age and the loudness of her heart murmur, the concern was that Winnie could be suffering from a congenital heart defect (a heart problem that a puppy is born with) called Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). This is when a connection between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart doesn’t close after birth as it should, which often leads to heart failure if not treated.

A photo of Winne at home, sleeping on a fluffy pink blanket

At Thamesmead PDSA Pet Hospital, Winnie underwent x-rays which showed her heart was already larger than it should be due to the extra workload put on it by the defect. An ultrasound examination of her heart confirmed the enlargement and the diagnosis of PDA. Her owners, Kersharn McPherson (27) and Natasha Ashton (32) were distraught, and incredibly concerned about how they would afford this unexpected and life-saving care Winnie desperately needed.

Sadly, most puppies with a PDA go on to develop heart failure before they are a year old. For Winnie to have a chance at survival, she needed to have the defect repaired urgently, an intricate and delicate operation.

Luckily, Thamesmead and New Cross PDSA Pet Hospitals, Senior Vets, David Mills and Millie Wilder, are both skilled surgeons and were able to perform a complex operation together on 1 February 2023 to repair the PDA, to fix her broken heart. Given her tiny size, surgery was risky, and had to be performed with extreme care and precision.

A photo of Winnie recovering at home

Due to the complexity, the surgery had a high risk of complications, but her family were keen to go ahead to try to ensure the best possible future for her. Kersharn said: “Our world crumbled when we found out that Winnie had a serious, life-threatening condition at such a young age. I can’t express the relief we felt when we found out the surgery was a success and she was recovering well. We were bracing ourselves for the worst news, so we are eternally grateful to PDSA for saving our girl’s life.”

After an overnight stay at the charity’s Pet Hospital, Winnie was able to head home to continue her recovery with her loving family. She will need to be closely monitored over the next few months to ensure the surgery was a success and that there are no lasting ill effects on her heart.

Kersharn added: “This Valentine’s and beyond, we will be spoiling Winnie with so much love. After beating all the odds, we can’t wait to enjoy many more years with her. The surgery she had would have cost thousands at a private vet, due to its complexity, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Like everyone, we’ve been feeling the impact of rising bills. I’m just so glad PDSA were here to help us in our time of need.”

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity. Through our 48 Pet Hospitals and Pet Care scheme, we save the lives of poorly pets who would otherwise be left untreated.

Every year, we helped over 388,000 pets. Without us, emergency cases like Winnie's would be left untreated and many pets could lose their lives or be separated from families who love them.

We wouldn’t be here for dogs like Winnie without your support. Please consider donating today.

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Where to next

Heart problems in dogs

Read our veterinary advice on heart disease in dogs, including symptoms, treatment, prevention and when to contact your vet. 

Find out more

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