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Devoted chihuahua owner sells car to pay £17.5k for pet’s surgery

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A devoted dog owner forked out £17,500 to save her dog’s life after receiving the eye-watering vet bill. Jac Williams, 54, flogged her Nissan Qashqai for around £15k so little Louie could go under the knife. The pooch, now 10, was diagnosed with mitral valve disease in 2020 – which can be deadly without surgery.

Fearing she would lose her beloved pet, Jac, from Wareham, Dorset, sold her motor and dipped into her inheritance to pay for the pioneering procedure, MyLondon reports.

Louie is now doing well following the operation on August 8 and his owner says she has no regrets – despite the cost.

Jac, who is retired but used to work for the RSPCA, said: “I started to see a decline in Louie’s health. But he’s only 10 years old and chihuahuas can live to 16 or 17 years old. I asked what our options were and the vet mentioned there was a surgery but it was quite new and very expensive and very specialised.

“The operation itself, without all the scans, was £17,500. Although it was an awful lot of money, I thought I owed it to him. He’s such a sweet little dog, I love him to bits. He had the surgery and he’s done absolutely amazingly. He’s just a little superstar! I know it’s a lot of money, but at the end of the day, if you love your dog that much, at least there’s an option.”

Louie was diagnosed with mitral valve disease after vets discovered something was wrong with his heart during a pre-examination before getting his teeth cleaned two years ago.

He was sent to a cardiologist who diagnosed him and told his owner Jac about new life-saving open heart surgery where the mitral valve is repaired.

The surgery came with an eye-watering price tag – but Jac knew she had to do everything she could to save her beloved dog.

She said: “After the diagnosis, they put him on medication and he was quite stable for a year and a half. But then this January, they said there was quite a marked deterioration and we would start to see clinical signs. Up until then, there were absolutely no outward signs that he had a problem – he could run and jump and didn’t get out of breath, you just wouldn’t know. The surgery is only done in three places in the whole world – one in London, another in Cambridge, and one in Japan. We got referred to London who did an examination and they said things were going the wrong way but he is a candidate for the surgery if we want to proceed with it.

“I spoke to the surgeon who said we really had nothing to lose but a lot of money because Louie would die without the surgery, and probably by the end of the year.”

Desperate to save her dog, Jac decided to sell her two-year-old car for around £15,000 and then used money she had inherited to make up enough for the surgery. Louie underwent a mitral valve repair at Royal Veterinary College in London and spent three to four hours under the knife.

His heart was stopped for between an hour and an hour and a half where Louie went on a bypass and had a blood transfusion during the repair. The precious pooch then stayed in intensive care for two days and finally left the hospital after a week of recovery.

She said: “The week before he went in for his surgery, there was a massive deterioration. His breathing was bad, and when I handed him over, I really didn’t expect to be getting him back again. I knew the surgery was his only chance. I didn’t think he would come home.”

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Despite Jac’s fears, Louie’s surgery was a success and vets have been thrilled with his progress after seeing him again last week for his three-month checkup.

Thanks to Jac’s unwavering support, Louie is now a healthy little chihuahua once again. Jac said: “He’s done absolutely amazingly. He’s just a little superstar! The first three months after surgery are the critical time. He’s been strictly rested and he’s been on blood thinning medication but that’s stopped now. His surgeon was very pleased with his progress. Everything is looking good and we can gradually start getting back to normal with exercise with another checkup in February.

“This is a relatively new procedure. If it had been 10 years ago, he would have just been given drugs right up until the end and it’s a horrible death. To have this option is just amazing, and so many people don’t know about it. It’s a horrible disease, you don’t see it coming. It’s a degenerative heart thing and the dogs end up going into heart failure which is awful.

“We didn’t have insurance – I think insurance companies are a rip-off, to be honest with you. If they can wiggle out of paying out, they will. I used to work as a veterinary nurse years ago and when you want them to pay out, they never do, so we took the risk and said should vet bills arise then we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

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