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Glowing praise for life-saving heart op from grateful St Bernard owner

A leading animal hospital in South West England has received glowing praise from a grateful dog owner after they saved the life of her precious St Bernard.

Kate Vardy, from Ernesettle, Plymouth, was devastated when she was told that six-year-old Yogi had a serious heart problem and would die if he did not undergo surgery.

Yogi was referred to the specialist team at Cave Veterinary Specialists suffering from a pericardial effusion, where fluid gathers around the heart.

Kate said:

Cave were fantastic. They kept my Yogi alive so I am eternally grateful. I can’t put a price on still having him here with me. I must admit I feared the worse but prayed for the best. I’m sure I was a nightmare owner as I was phoning them constantly, but the staff were brilliant. Without the surgery and aftercare he wouldn’t be here now but, thanks to Cave, Yogi can now enjoy his seventh birthday with a short break away and a special barbecue to celebrate.

A delicate operation to open the sac around the heart, called a pericardectomy, was led by Cave’s small animal surgery specialist Malcolm Jack, ably assisted by specialist veterinary anaesthetist Will McFadzean and veterinary nurses Sophie Puzey and Bryony Gilder.

Malcolm said:

The pericardium felt very tight and under pressure and when I cut into it, a large volume of very dark blood had to be suctioned away.

As surgery progressed there was a constant, slow welling of fresh blood but the source could not be identified so we inserted a chest drain and performed an autotransfusion, which collects the blood and transfers it back into the patient. We also placed a catheter into Yogi’s jugular and administered one unit of packed red blood cells and two units of plasma.

Yogi was in a critical condition at the end of surgery but he stabilised after the transfusions and the haemorrhage stopped.

We continued to monitor and treat him until he was able to go home and we’re very pleased to hear he’s made such a good recovery.

Kate also paid tribute to the national Pet Blood Bank UK charity, which provides a canine blood and plasma service to veterinary practices all over the country. She said:

I am unbelievably grateful to Pet Blood Bank because those blood transfusions helped save Yogi’s life. I’d encourage other dog owners to think about their dogs donating blood as I now know just how valuable and life-saving a service it is.

Nicole Osborne, from Pet Blood Bank UK, said:

We’re thrilled to hear that Yogi has survived this awful scare with his heart and that our service helped him pull through.

Pet Blood Bank exists to help save the lives of pets in need. We operate 24/7 to ensure pets always have access to lifesaving blood when they need it. It’s always a joy to hear that our work has made such a positive contribution to a pet’s life.

We’re always looking for more dogs to join our community of lifesaving donors. If your dog is between one and eight years old, weighs over 25kg and is fit and healthy, please consider registering them to help save dogs like Yogi.

Cave Veterinary Specialists offer a comprehensive range of services including anaesthesia, cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, orthopaedic surgery, pain management, rehabilitation and soft tissue surgery.

For more information on Cave Veterinary Specialists, visit

Image credit: Cave Veterinary Specialists