The beat goes on

October 8, 2019

By Paige Polinsky

In July 2018, Annette Hakala began fostering a sweet, female pit bull mix who was full of surprises—four, to be exact. Within days, Hakala was ushering puppies into the world. Firstborn Barley quickly captured Hakala’s heart, but was lethargic, had little appetite, and struggled to keep up with his siblings. A trip to the vet revealed he had a severe heart murmur. 

Hakala then brought Barley to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) Veterinary Medical Center (VMC). Lauren Markovic, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology), assistant professor of cardiology and interventional cardiology in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, diagnosed Barley with complex congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure.

Barley’s heart problems prevented proper blood flow to his lungs, creating high pressure buildup in his right ventricle. Deoxygenated blood was moving through the hole in his heart, causing his fatigue. Medications could extend Barley’s life for months, but without a procedure, his prognosis was uncertain. 

Markovic led cardiology trainees, technicians, and support staff through an incision-free  procedure. They used catheters, guidewires, and a high pressure balloon catheter to open the narrowed valve in Barley’s heart, decreasing the pressure and rescuing Barley from heart failure.

Markovic applauds the VMC’s anesthesiology service for managing Barley’s condition throughout the procedure, along with the dedicated cardiology team who aided in its success. “Without this team, these procedures would not be possible,” she says. Since the procedure, Barley’s heart has reduced in size and he has not needed medication.

Hakala ultimately helped three of the puppies find their forever homes, but Barley had become part of the family, so she adopted him. The playful 1-year-old remains unmedicated and full of energy. He loves wrestling with his pit bull sister and cuddling under the covers. “If you saw him now, you’d never know he had any kind of cardiovascular issues,” says Hakala. “We’re super, super thankful for everything they’ve done there at the U for him.”

Photo caption: Barley as a puppy