Remember Sharkey from last week’s post on needy dogs whose congenital conditions mean big expenses for foster owners? Well, here’s an update on his condition and how YOU managed to give his sad story a happy ending.

"Vascular ring anomaly" is a term that describes several disorders that occur because of the abnormal development of blood vessels that arise from the aortic arch in the canine fetus. The most common abnormality is a persistent right aortic arch. This bit of tissue replaces what would normally become the permanent aorta, the main blood vessel leading from the heart.

Unfortunately, these congenital abnormalities are relatively common in dogs. The interesting thing about them is that they don’t cause problems to the cardiovascular system. The gastrointestinal system, however, is not so lucky. The abnormal blood vessel forms a ring, which entraps the esophagus and sometimes the trachea, causing regurgitation (upchucking of undigested food with no abdominal effort), failure to thrive, and, eventually, aspiration pneumonia.

Great Danes, German shepherds and Irish setters seem to be predisposed, but even mixed breed rescue mutts like Sharkey can get them. Which usually means they’re thin and apparently malnourished in spite of harboring ravenous appetites.

Unfortunately, surgical correction is mandatory. Moreover, this correction must be undertaken before permanent damage to the esophagus (nerve damage that leads to a flaccid, incompetent esophagus) can take place.

Problem is, this kind of surgery is not the domain of the general practitioner. Honestly, I’ve never even cracked a chest in fifteen years of practice. So it is that I revere those who can take these cases out of my hands and manage to fix what I’d never ever manage without a whole lot of guts and four years of residency training.

Clearly, Sharkey’s been in good hands. Though he’ll require post-op care involving feeding a liquid diet with gradual introduction of frequent small meals — and while in some dogs, occasional regurgitation may persist — this boy is mostly out of the woods.

Thanks to all of you who contributed and offered your best wishes in whatever guise, Sharkey is fixed. Those of us who know Sharkey love you for it. Thank you for your contribution to one dog’s beautiful success story.

Here are pics or Dr. Wosar attending to Sharkey. He's the one with the cool hat. ;-)

animal surgery

Dr. Patty Khuly