A local family is counting its blessings after a local vet performed a once in a lifetime heart surgery to save their beloved pet Scarlet.
"If we are very, very lucky, during our life we find that one pet that becomes our best friend. For Ken it was Flicka; and for Travis it was Old Yeller. For Turner, it was Hooch. The Lone Ranger's life would have fallen way short without the help of his best friend, Silver," Scarlet's Mum Annie Bailey said.
"If we are very unlucky, we will find that special pet, and then discover that she has a chronic heart condition that will result in her death within the next 12 months."
This was the horrid situation Annie, her husband Jim and their family faced with their pup Scarlet.
"Scarlet was the smallest pup of five, born to first time parents, Ruby and Jack," Annie said. "She was the pick of the litter. Everybody loved her. She greeted everybody with unbridled enthusiasm. Full of energy, she was forever exploring the world while her larger siblings napped."
According to Annie it was at Scarlet's first visit to the vet that they found there was something wrong.
"The first vet check indicated a problem. Her heart rate was elevated. Her healthcare record read 'possible murmur, Heart Rate 160 and easily palpable. Reassess in two weeks before rehoming'.
"A normal heart rate for a pup is around 70-100. At Scarlet's next visit, her heart rate was close to 200. The final immunisation visit showed a consistent elevated heart rate and murmur. We were referred to Canberra Referral Hospital in order to diagnose the exact problem as they have access to ECGs, Echo's, etc."
Since the family bred the litter, and had plans for more in the future, they made an appointment in August.
"Scarlet met with Dr Nicholson, who flies down from Brisbane every few months with an array of marvellous machines. It was clear immediately, that there was a major problem. Her heart had enlarged to the extent that it could not increase any larger in size," Annie said.
Scarlet was diagnosed with Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). An essential valve was refusing to constrict. Her heart would enlarge to try to fill it. Eventually Scarlet's heart would fail and she would die.
"As the doctor explained to us, her heart would essentially burst, filling her lungs."
Scarlet would drown in her own blood while still just a puppy.
The prognosis for Scarlet was not good. 80 percent of dogs diagnosed with PDA die in the first 12 months.
The good news for the Bailey's was that the condition was operable with a good success rate leaving them with two options - a non-invasive procedure that had to be performed in Sydney at a cost of around $8000; or open-heart surgery - that had to be performed in Canberra at a cost of around $4000. The procedures would also require a number of consultations involving trips to and from either capital city, and time off work.
"With a heavy heart, we decided that we had to give priority to our human family who already have a number of health issues and medical costs," Annie said.
However on Father's Day last year Scarlet managed to fall over the side of a truck and hung helplessly for around 200m. Young Vet Clinic's Dr Nicole assessed Scarlet, who had managed to only suffer from shock and minor leg damage, however her heart wasn't in good shape.
"Dr Nicole got together with surgeon, Dr David Woodward, at Young Veterinary Clinic. They analysed the information that had been forwarded to them and spoke cautiously about whether surgery may be an option."
As the surgery for PDA is very risky, specialised and expensive it almost never occurs at rural veterinary clinics, yet Young Veterinary Clinic were prepared to do the surgery Scarlet needed.
"We made our decision in late November. Dr Woodward was keen to perform the surgery as soon as possible. Scarlet was almost seven-months-old and a significant amount of damage was suspected to have been incurred to her heart."
The surgery was performed with precision and Scarlet survived the ordeal with a heart that beat normally.
"The difficulty of surgery is incredible, the lung needed to be collapsed and the ribs separated in order to access the heart," Annie said.
Scarlet returned home in December, by January she was allowed outside and by February she has fully recovered.
"The clinic continues to monitor her progress, but ultimately, they have saved her life."