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For Bellamy, a Pomeranian crossbred dog that came to UF’s shelter medicine program in November for neutering, the thrill is gone — and that’s a good thing.

Soon after Bellamy’s arrival from Puppy Hill Farm, a rescue group, shelter veterinarian Dr. Natalie Isaza discerned that the dog had a heart murmur with a palpable thrill, or vibration caused by fluid passing through an incompetent heart valve.

“Because of this, we didn’t do surgery, but instead had the cardiology service examine Bellamy,” Isaza said. “They found that he had heartworms wrapped around the leaflets of his tricuspid valve, causing his murmur and the resulting thrill.”

Thanks to a generous donation from a donor in Kansas City, Bellamy was able to be admitted to UF’s Veterinary Medical Center, where he underwent a procedure to manually remove the worms from his heart.

“He is now doing very well,” Isaza said.

Dr. Amara Estrada said that over the years, the cardiology service has consulted on several cases of suspected heart disease in shelter animals.

“In a lot of situations, we suspect congenital heart disease since the patients are young,” Estrada said. “Some of these animals have been fostered by families or rescue groups who are sometimes willing to fix or try to treat the heart problem, usually requiring cardiac catheterization and interventional therapy.

“This has been an excellent learning and teaching situation for our students and residents and just an overall ‘feel good’ experience because we know that without our intervening, these animals would have been euthanized,” she added.

Estrada said that Bellamy’s disease was very serious, and that in fact many dogs affected by heartworms in that way will die.

“After the echocardiogram showed us the mass of heartworms wrapped around his tricuspid valve, Bellamy was anesthetized the next day,” Estrada said. “We then pulled the worms out with special forceps that are specifically made for extracting heartworms.”

The entire procedure took about an hour and students and residents from anesthesia, surgery and cardiology all were there to participate.

“By the next day, Bellamy looked like a million bucks,” Estrada said. “So everyone felt really, really good about what we did.”

The procedure of heartworm extraction usually costs somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500, Estrada said. Bellamy’s procedure was funded through a donation from a philanthropist interested in helping animals like Bellamy; animals that would otherwise not have a chance of survival.

“I hope Bellamy’s story encourages other donations for this type of treatment,” Isaza said, adding that the dog was now back at Puppy Hill Farm and would be available for adoption after being neutered and receiving drug therapy to kill any remaining heartworms.

[We are happy to say that Bellamy has recovered to be an energetic and beautiful dog, and has been adopted to a good home!]

Story adapted with permission from the December 2007 issue of The Veterinary Page
Copyright 2007 University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine

Bellamy's follow up visit with Dr. Isaza
Heartworms removed from Ballamy's heart