Life for a purebred Labrador puppy named “Hugo,” who was born with a congenital heart condition, has been anything but easy. The nearly three-month-old bundle of cuteness was surrendered last month to the MSPCA-Angell’s Boston adoption center by a local breeder because he could not eat without immediately regurgitating his food—a defect which meant young Hugo could no longer be sold.
Hugo was born with a heart problem that made it nearly impossible for him to eat and, if left untreated, could be fatal. Now the MSPCA is raising funds to offset his pending surgery, which will cost upwards of $6,000, but remains the only chance to fix his heart once and for all.
Hugo’s Rough Start
Hugo was less than two months old when he was diagnosed with a condition called Persistent Right Aortic Arch, or PRAA, which means part of his heart was wrapped around his esophagus, effectively squeezing his throat and making eating and drinking almost impossible.
“We basically can only feed him when he’s sitting upright like a child because, without the help of gravity, he can’t keep food and water down,” said Anna Rafferty-Fore, associate director of the MSPCA-Angell animal resource and adoption center. “We’ve also been quite limited in terms of what we can feed him as we have to water everything down and keep him away from dry kibble and even some treats.”
But the MSPCA imagines a day in the near future in which Hugo’s prospects may change markedly. A consultation with the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center surgery team has already transpired and next week the young pup is set to undergo surgery to untangle the embryonic branch of his aorta from his esophagus and place it back where it belongs.
Dr. Sue Casale, who specializes in both orthopedic and soft tissue surgery at Angell, is optimistic that Hugo’s future will be much brighter than his past. “The truth is he may always need to be somewhat upright when he eats, though the surgery should open up his esophagus to the degree that eating and drinking a wider variety of foods will be much easier for him.”
Dr. Casale said it is quite possible that the surgery will resolve the condition entirely, in which case Hugo will be able to eat while on all fours, or even laying on his stomach, as dogs often do. “We won’t know until we get in there and start the process, but we’re certainly going to do everything we can to help him,” she said.
A Call for Donations
Hugo’s medical care is likely to reach $6,000 and will be paid for by Spike’s Fund, a restricted fund that pays for the medical care for homeless animals in the MSPCA’s Boston adoption center before they can be placed for adoption. Readers who wish to donate toward Hugo’s care, and animals like him, may do so by clicking www.mspca.org/helphugo.
Hugo will recover at the home of Andrea Bessler, a veterinary technician in the MSPCA-Angell’s adoption center clinic who has been fostering the young pup since his arrival. “I’m continuously amazed by his energy—in every other way he’s a typical puppy: playful, so loving and great with other animals and kids. I can’t wait to follow his adventures once he leaves our care,” she said.
Rafferty-Fore is hopeful that Hugo—who has already captured every heart in the adoption center—bounces back so that he can enjoy what remains of his fleeting puppyhood. “He is absolutely adorable and loves to run and play and do all the things that make puppies so beguiling,” she said. “We’re so looking forward to the day we can place him into an adoptive home.”
Readers interested in adoption can email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about Hugo and the adoption process.