February 08, 2023 Emergency

The Amazing Case of the Bulletproof Dog

Arya at the beach

The Amazing Case of the Bulletproof Dog

This month we’re celebrating the Emma and Georgina Bloomberg AMC to the Rescue Fund’s 10th Anniversary. Created to provide free or subsidized specialty care to rescue animals whose health is an obstacle to their adoption, over the last decade the fund has helped over 600 pets, partnered with over 146 rescue groups, and provided over $1.6 million in donated care to help animals find their forever home. Arya, whose story is below, is just one example of how this fund has made a meaningful impact and changed lives, both human and animal.

An important part of the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center’s mission is creating new knowledge. Our veterinarians advance the care and treatment of companion animals by conducting innovative clinical research and publishing their results in veterinary journals.

In a previous blogpost, I highlighted AMC’s Emergency Room Fast Track service and how it has inspired Fast Track services in other veterinary hospitals throughout the country. Today’s blogpost highlights a unique publication written by AMC’s Cardiology Service describing the management of a dog named Arya with a bullet lodged in her heart.

Unfortunately, gunshot injuries are quite common in veterinary patients, and these injuries often occur in the chest of dogs and cats. Arya was rescued from Texas with a suspected heartworm infection and when veterinarians x-rayed her chest as part to their diagnostic evaluation of heartworms, they found a bullet lodged in her heart and another in the muscles of her back!

X-ray with bullet in heart
X-ray courtesy of ScienceDirect

Her veterinarians referred Arya to the AMC to the Rescue program, our charitable fund to help rescue animals, for our specialists’ opinion on how best to remove or manage Arya’s gunshot injuries. Our cardiologists used an echocardiogram to determine that the bullet was lodged in the heart muscle separating the right and left sides of the heart. Thus, the bullet did not alter blood flow, cause an abnormal EKG or cause any fluid buildup around the heart. To make sure the bullet was not moving inside Arya’s heart, the AMC team compared their echocardiogram to the cageside echocardiogram performed by the referring veterinarian. The bullet was stuck in its place.

Savvy pet owners might ask why cardiologists did not use AMC’s MRI or CT scanner to evaluate the bullet in Arya’s heart. Well, MRI is magnetic resonance imaging, and the magnetic field generated by the MRI could have dislodged the metal bullet in Arya’s heart and turned it into the equivalent of a blood clot to the lungs. Too risky. On the other hand, CT scanning uses x-rays to create images. The presence of any metal object in the CT scanner field causes a sunburst like effect, making interpretation of the CT scan much less useful in determining the exact position of a metallic object inside the body.

Arya gives a kiss
Arya outside
Arya with mom

Because Arya had no clinical signs, and the bullet appeared to be firmly and unobtrusively lodged in the heart muscle, Arya’s cardiologists decided it was safe to leave the bullet where it was. Ayra is now considered “bulletproof” and, based on her Instagram posts, is living her best life with a bullet in her heart.

Tags: dogs, pet emergency, pets, rescue dog, veterinary, veterinary emergency,

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