Search icon


05th Apr 2022

Man spends thousands flying sick dog 8,000 miles to UK and back for life-saving surgery

April Curtin

The poor pooch had a progressive condition that affects a lot of middle-aged to older dogs

An American doctor spent thousands of pounds flying his sick Cockapoo 8,000 miles to the UK and back for life-saving heart surgery.

Dr Jeffrey Bernfield, 62, was told his dog Hula had a seriously enlarged heart, meaning she was at risk of suffering a fatal cardiac arrest.

Hula (Credit: SWNS)Hula was suffering from a severe case of myxomatous mitral valve disease (Credit: SWNS)

Hula, who is 12-years-old, was diagnosed with myxomatous mitral valve disease – a progressively degenerative condition that affects a lot of middle-aged and older dogs.

Vets in her home city of Chicago told Dr Bernfield that the best treatment was available in the UK. So, to show his true love for his pup, the radiology specialist arranged for Hula to be flown a whopping 4,000 miles to have pioneering surgery at an expert vet surgery in Cambridge.

Luckily, Dr Bernfield was allowed to sit and hold Hula’s paw for the seven-hour flight to the UK last month. She was then rushed to Dick White Referrals (DWR) where she was operated on to repair her heart valve.

Hula getting some shut eye on the planeHula getting some shut-eye on her big flight (Credit: SWNS)

Poppy Bristow, DWR’s head of cardiac surgery , who treated Hula, said the pooch was a “very serious case”.

“She had Stage C myxomatous (degenerative) mitral valve disease so needed urgent and expert attention,”  the surgeon said.

Hula was a very poorly pooch indeed (Credit: SWNS)Hula was a very poorly pooch indeed (Credit: SWNS)

Bristow explained that: “The first challenge was to stop her heart while we repaired her failing mitral valve. To do this safely, we put her under cardiopulmonary bypass, where a machine temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery.

“Only a handful of centres in the world are able to perform this type of surgery.”

Four different specialists worked to make the surgery successful. Thankfully it was, and Hula is now back home safe and sound in Chicago – living her best doggie life.

Bristow said the pooch has experienced hardly any residual leakage since, and her heart is almost back to a normal size – despite having been huge before surgery. What’s more, is that Hula’s activity level is like it was five years ago, relieved owner Dr Bernfield said. “She is a different dog – and in a great way,” he added.

Sadly, not all dogs make it through periods of illness. And controversially, owners are still willing to pay a hefty amount to keep their dogs (or a version of them) alive.

According to the BBC, pet cloning has been growing in popularity in recent years. One company said it had cloned “hundreds” of pets for clients since it opened in 2015.

The things we do for puppy love…

Related stories: