Make-or-break heart surgery on a kitten called Kitkat worked a treat thanks to the expertise of vets at one of the UK’s top animal hospitals.

The 11-month-old domestic cat was born with a rare, life-threatening heart defect and was in imminent danger when she arrived at Linnaeus-owned Paragon Veterinary Referrals in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

However, the combined skills of Paragon’s cardiologist Debra Hyman and soft tissue surgeon David Barker not only saved her life but helped her make a full recovery.

Debra said: “An echocardiographic examination revealed that Kitkat had a congenital cardiac problem called a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

“A PDA normally closes very soon after an animal is born but this did not happen in Kitkat’s case.

“Instead, blood continued to flow in the vessel causing severe dilation of her heart and congestive heart failure. The condition was very advanced and reversal of the flow through the PDA was starting so the window of opportunity to close her PDA was closing.

“This is an uncommon disease in cats compared to dogs and with their small size, surgery is more challenging.”

Debra and David decided there was no time to waste if Kitkat was to survive so opted to perform immediate open-chest surgery.

David explained: “The decision to perform open chest surgery was made given the rapid progression of the disease and the clear deterioration in Kitkat.

“It is a rarely performed surgical technique and these days it is more common to close the abnormal vessel using an interventional cardiology procedure by placing a wire into the artery.

“However, Kitkat was rapidly decompensating, meaning reversal of the flow of blood through the PDA was imminent, which can cause irreversible heart failure. This would almost certainly have been fatal.

“A left fourth intercostal thoracotomy was made. The vagus nerve was identified and the mediastinum opened dorsally to this, where the PDA was identified.

“The PDA vessel was identified, dissected and ligated and the outcome was very successful.

“The turbulent flow of blood stopped immediately following ligation and Kitkat made a good recovery. She now has a good shot at leading a long and happy life.”

Paragon’s multi-disciplinary care includes anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and soft tissue surgery.

For more information on Paragon Veterinary Referrals, which is part of Linnaeus, visit

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