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Seven-year-old border collie Ace underwent specialist-led lifesaving open chest surgery at Veterinary Specialists Scotland, in Livingston.

Seven-year-old border collie Ace underwent specialist-led lifesaving open chest surgery at Veterinary Specialists Scotland, in Livingston.

Livingston Vet Saves Dog With High-Risk Open Chest Surgery

1 year ago

24th March, 2023 10h39

Linnaeus Group

A border collie is well on the road to recovery following lifesaving open chest surgery to remove a tumour in the pericardial sac, a location where it is very rare to find such a mass. 

The procedure at Linnaeus-owned Veterinary Specialists Scotland (VSS) in Livingston was successfully performed on seven-year-old agility dog Ace. 

Ace had simply lain down before starting her usual warm up and training session one evening but exhibited no other symptoms until the following lunchtime. 

The next day, she had been out for her usual morning walk. At lunchtime, her owner, Ian Douglas, from Inverness, became concerned about her breathing so took her to their local vets.   

Initial diagnostics at the primary care vet revealed a large amount of fluid around the heart which was drained. 

Ace, who has competed at a national level in agility competitions, was then referred to VSS for further investigations including echocardiography, which identified a large mass in the pericardial sac and, worryingly, that a large amount of fluid was starting to build up once again. 

The only option for Ace, who was in the care of Anne French, specialist in veterinary cardiology, and Joanna McCagherty, EBVS specialist in small animal surgery, was high-risk surgery to remove the mass. 

Joanna explained: “Open chest surgery was performed to carry out a pericardectomy and remove the mass that was attached to the right ventricular wall of the heart.

“The surgery was very challenging due to the location of the mass. It was a high-risk procedure with the potential for severe haemorrhage which could have been fatal. 

“Such was the stark situation that we had to warn the owners that we may not be able to remove the mass and that Ace may have to be put to sleep if the mass was in-operable.

“However, we’re very pleased that we were able to successfully remove the mass and that no evidence of a different primary mass or spread was found. Lab results were consistent with histiocytic sarcoma – a tumour that is very rarely seen in this location.” 

Following the complex operation, Ace was then hospitalised for supportive care and monitoring at VSS before being allowed home to continue her recuperation. 

Ace then underwent six months of chemotherapy treatment at the Oncology department at the University of Glasgow Small Animal Hospital. A follow-up heart scan with Anne at VSS showed no concerns with the heart, although ongoing monitoring will be essential. 

Owner Ian said: “We were extremely concerned, and we knew Ace’s only chance of survival was surgery. 

“After the operation, the team at Veterinary Specialists Scotland kept in touch with us and we could phone for updates when we wanted. Our hope is that she will be back competing in agility competitions this year.” 

VSS is a specialist-led multidisciplinary referral centre offering industry-leading services in cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine (feline and canine), neurology, orthopaedics, and soft tissue surgery, supported by specialists in diagnostic imaging and anaesthesia and analgesia. 

For more information about VSS and the services it offers, visit or search for Veterinary Specialists Scotland on social media. 

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