Goals of Treating PDA
Fortunately, patent ductus arteriosus (“PDA”) is one of the congenital canine conditions that is highly treatable – in fact, surgically correctible – in most affected dogs. The therapeutic goal is to occlude or tie off the shunt defect and thereby restore normal blood flow between the right and left heart chambers. This treatment it is extremely effective in young animals that have not yet deteriorated to the point of congestive heart failure. Dogs that have developed congestive heart failure due to a PDA will face increased surgical risks. However, pre-operative steps are available to help manage these risks, including the use of diuretics, vasodilators and enforced cage rest.
Several surgical procedures are available to correct a PDA. Depending on her background and expertise, a veterinarian may perform the surgery in a local general clinic. Otherwise, she can refer the dog’s owner to a board certified veterinary cardiologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating heart problems in companion animals. The current preferred surgical technique is called a ductus ligation, which basically involves entering the thoracic (chest) cavity and tying off (ligating) the abnormal vessel. This procedure is not especially long or complicated, but of course any surgery involving general anesthesia carries with it certain risks. If a dog has progressed to congestive heart failure before surgery, diuretics and vasodilators may be prescribed pre-operatively, together with enforced cage rest, to help manage the condition and increase the dog’s chances of successful surgery. Diuretics help to reduce the fluid retention that commonly accompanies congestive heart failure, and vasodilators can relieve the effects of high blood pressure. After surgery, followed by a few weeks of post-operative physical restriction, dogs usually return to their normal pre-surgical activity level. Depending upon the dog’s condition, its veterinarian may recommend Furosemide (Lasix), a sodium-restricted diet and exercise restriction indefinitely. Affected dogs should get a great deal of rest and should avoid stressful situations.
Outlook for Dogs with Patent Ductus Arteriosus
The outlook for most dogs after PDA repair surgery is very good to excellent. Once the shunt is closed off and blood flow returns to normal, the heart and heart vessels seem to bounce back to good function and health. Indeed, many dogs are able to enjoy physical activities that they could not before the surgery. While heart surgery understandably is intimidating for many pet owners, it really is the best option for dogs with a patent ductus arteriosus. Most animals have a normal lifespan following surgical treatment. Without treatment, the prognosis is grave. Untreated PDA almost always leads to congestive heart failure and, ultimately, to death.