General News | Patient Stories | Veterinary Clinical Medicine

Dog from Thailand Gets Heart Repair at University of Illinois

[Nana the Chihuahua from Thailand cavorts in Illini garb]


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[callout title=”Traveling a World Away for a Second Chance”]

For the full story of Nana’s heart repair procedure, including video of the placement of the occluder, see


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More Patients, Students Will Benefit from Ongoing Exchange

Nana is a very lucky three-year-old Chihuahua.

This dog from Thailand had a congenital heart defect called a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which typically leads to heart failure within the first year of life, so she is lucky to have lived to age three.

She’s also very lucky to have met Dr. Jordan Vitt, one of the veterinary cardiologists at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. Dr. Vitt had been invited to lecture and see patients in the cardiology unit at the veterinary referral hospital at Kasetsart University in Bangkok. While spending 10 days there in March, Dr. Vitt encountered Nana, who had been diagnosed with the PDA two years earlier.

[Illinois veterinary cardiology team]
The cardiology team at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital includes two boarded veterinary cardiologists, Dr. Jordan Vitt (at left) and Dr. Ryan Fries. Dr. Saki Kadotani (at right) is a cardiology resident, and Katie McConnell is a certified veterinary technician and the cardiology service’s clinical coordinator.
Because the Thai facility was not equipped to perform the procedure that could repair the problem, Dr. Vitt had the idea to bring Nana to Illinois. The University of Illinois is the only veterinary facility in the state that performs interventional cardiac procedures, such as correcting the patent ductus arteriosus heart defect, placing pacemakers, and removing heart worms.

Minimally Invasive Procedure for PDA

Nana arrived in Illinois on July 7, traveling more than 8,000 miles with two veterinarians from the cardiology unit at the Bangkok referral hospital, Dr. Natpreeya Premjaroen (at left in the photo above) and Dr. Kanokporn Kitvorapong (at right, posing with fourth-year veterinary student Teodora Hristova, who is holding Nana).

On Thursday, July 13, Dr. Vitt and Dr. Fries, also a veterinary cardiologist at the Illinois hospital, successfully repaired Nana’s defect. The procedure involved advancing a small catheter up Nana’s femoral artery and placing a small metal device, called an Amplatz Canine Ductal Occluder, which immediately stops the flow of blood and corrects the problem.

Days after the procedure, Nana (her name is short for “banana”) was continuing to do very well.

“We’re very happy with how the procedure went. The device is in place and she’s doing very well,” said Dr. Vitt, on July 14. “Because Nana had been living with this defect for so long, she has a very enlarged heart. The heart will continue to decrease in size over time, but will likely remain enlarged. Luckily, patients are not usually clinically affected by enlarged hearts and do very well despite them.”

For local PDA patients, the hospital stay typically includes only the night before and the night after the procedure. So that the Thai veterinarians can learn the most during their visit—their first to the United States—the group will remain in Illinois until July 20.

Ongoing Exchange Planned

The Illinois veterinary faculty and students will also learn from the visitors. Drs. Premjaroen and Kitvorapong plan to share information about veterinary education and practice in their country at a seminar at the college before their departure. Their hospital sees 600 patients a day.

Kasetsart University paid the travel costs for the two veterinarians, and a grateful client whose Sheltie was recently treated at the Illinois veterinary hospital for a PDA made a gift that helped cover part of the cost of Nana’s procedure.

Dr. Vitt foresees benefits to this opportunity beyond giving Nana a chance at a longer, healthier life. He hopes the partnership between Illinois and the Bangkok veterinary institution will continue in order to assist doctors there in acquiring the skills and instruments needed to perform cardiac procedures not currently possible in that country. He’d also like to see an ongoing exchange of students and faculty between the two universities.

Dr. Vitt already plans a return trip to Thailand in March 2018, when he will be eager to meet up once again with Nana and her doctors.

With luck, Nana will be seeing him regularly for many years to come.