FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – As American Heart Month comes to a close, a team of veterinary cardiologists at Colorado State University are celebrating their love for pets with heart disease. More than seven different cardiology team members at CSU’s Veterinarian Teaching Hospital own pets with heart disease, the same issue they spend their careers trying to treat and heal.

It is estimated that one in every 10 cats and dogs has some form of heart disease. Some start in adolescence, others are inherited in later years of life. Recently, the team of cardiologists at CSU realized many of them have come to adopt, or already owned, pets with heart disease.

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“We are the heart group here at CSU,” said Dr. Chris Orton, a cardiologist at CSU. “No, I didn’t think I would be adopting (a pet with a heart disease.)”

After 40 years of researching heart disease in pets, Orton said he came around to adopting “Jacques” from a shelter in Kansas. Jacques, Orton’s young dog, will need surgery at some point on his heart to extend life expectancy.

“(Jacques is) the first dog I have ever owned that had a heart defect, even though I have been treating heart disease for a long time,” Orton told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “The rescue asked me if I would consider adopting him. In a moment of weakness, I said, ‘Yes.’”

Even students, like cardiology resident Hillary Hammond, have found themselves loving a pet with heart disease. Her dog, “Chunk,” lived most of his 11 years thus far without a heart defect. However, he was recently diagnosed.

“He has lived a pretty long life,” Hammond said.

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Some of the team members at CSU also own cats with heart disease.

While owning a pet with heart disease can come with medical costs, extra necessary attention and the possibility of less time with the animal, those at CSU encouraged anyone capable of doing so to take home a pet with heart disease. Often times they are hard to adopt out.

“(Pets with heart disease) want to be loved just like any other pet,” Hammond said.
“I think it can be a very rewarding thing to adopt an animal that needs a home,” Orton said. “Even though some of these dogs may be destined to not have a long life, I think the group feels they deserve to have a good home.”

Orton, and a few others from CSU, were the first in the world to perform a new surgery that could extend life expectancy in cats and dogs with some heart diseases for months, or years. Stay with CBS4, and reporter Dillon Thomas, for more on that developing procedure in the weeks to come.

Dillon Thomas


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