Meet the Patient: Amari

Name: Amari

Sex: Female

Species: hedgehog

Age: 3 years

Weight: 342 g (.75 lb.)

Reason for Visit: Echocardiogram to evaluate heart murmur heard during routine physical exam

During a past routine visit to the Animal Wellness Campus, a defect was noticed in Amari’s heart. Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian, decided to bring in a local board-certified veterinary cardiologist to evaluate the anatomy and the function of Amari’s heart by performing an echocardiogram. This non-invasive ultrasound gives more information about heart contractility, which is the force at which the heart beats. The test also looks at the structure of the heart chambers, the function of the heart valves and the blood flow through the vessels as blood enters and exits the heart.

Both Vets determined that Amari has a defect (hole) in the wall that separates the two lower ventricle chambers of her heart. This hole allows blood to abnormally pass from the left to the right side of his heart as it contracts. After completion of the ultrasound, Amari was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect (VSD), which is a congenital heart defect, meaning the defect has most likely been present since birth.

In a normal heart, the right side of the heart sends blood to the lungs for oxygen and the left side sends oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. In Amari’s case, because some of the blood flow through the heart is passing from left to right instead of going out to the body, the heart has to work harder to get it to the intended destination.

A small ventricular defect may never cause any problems. At this time, Amari does not show any signs that this heart defect is negatively affecting her. Dr. Colleen has decided to start treating Amari with a medication called Pimobendan, which will help increase the contractility of the heart and help the blood move more efficiently through her heart and out to the rest of her body.

Amari continues to interact with her Zoo Keepers and spends her day with her friend, Sparky, at the Program Animal Building. With careful monitoring, potential problems can be identified early-on and additional or alternative treatment can be initiated to continue to give Amari the best quality of life under the Zoo’s care.