Vets save pup with rare heart defect

Smalley family's pet saved by vets at Ambivet in Ripley. Vet Bevin Marzullo, Paul and Sharron Howarth, Laura Wilkinson, Hannah Bailey and Rebecca Morley with pet Bella.
Smalley family's pet saved by vets at Ambivet in Ripley. Vet Bevin Marzullo, Paul and Sharron Howarth, Laura Wilkinson, Hannah Bailey and Rebecca Morley with pet Bella.

A Smalley border collie puppy‘s tail is wagging again after vets saved her life – with intricate heart surgery they had never carried out before.

Paul and Sharron Howarth, of Heanor Road, Smalley, bought 16-week-old pup Bella from a breeder and took her to 
Ambivet in Ripley to be checked out.

But she was found to have a rare heart defect - where a valve in her heart kept pumping at an extreme rate.

Vets said Bella had to be transferred to a specialist practice in Warwickshire for an operation - but Sharron and Paul could not afford the £4,000 cost and their lively pup was given just eight months to live.

But adorable Bella kept playing on vet Bevan Marzullo’s mind and she arranged for Ambivet owner and senior vet John Bailey to carry out the risky surgery, which had never been tried there before.

And since the dog went under the knife a fortnight ago - Paul and Sharron say Bella is now the picture of health.

Paul said: “We are just overjoyed really, when we went into pick her up again we took all the nurses chocolates.

“It was really all down to Bevan’s desire and John’s skill. If not, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Associate vet Bevan, originally from Seattle, USA, said it is rare for a ‘first opinion’ clinic such as Ambivet to carry out such a procedure - as referral units like the one in Warwickshire are far better equipped for heart surgery.

But Bevan had fallen for Bella, called a ‘blue merle’ border collie due to her bright blue eyes, and the practice offered the Howarths a reduced rate to carry out the procedure, which had only a 50 per cent chance of survival.

“It was something I desperately wanted to refer,” Bevan said. “It is one of the few heart conditions which you can treat and the dog can go on to lead a normal life.

“I’m glad we did, Bella’s just lovely!”