New cardiovascular procedure first of its kind in area

Specialized medical treatments now extend to man's best friend.

Dogs, cats and other pets can all benefit from a new surgical procedure—first of its kind in Central Texas—performed by Austin Heart Vet, a specialized veterinary office led by Dr. Katie Meier since 2008.

In January her practice acquired a C-arm fluoroscope to perform cardiac catheterization procedures, which include pacemaker implants, ductus closures and other minimally invasive surgeries and therapies.

"Most people don't know veterinary specialists exist unless their pet needs one," she said. "Then they're really glad we're here."

Meier is joined by Mike Cocchiaro in serving patients of Austin Heart Vet. Both are among only 250 U.S. doctors board-certified in animal cardiological care, she said. Severe coughing, fainting, collapsing, labored breathing and reluctance to exercise are all signs an animal may need to see a heart specialist, she said.

"Owners are usually so grateful because we take a dog that would have died from its [heart] disease, and we're able to restore that same quality of life as before," she said.

Meier and Cocchiaro see patients at general veterinary clinics throughout Central Texas. All cardiac catheterization procedures take place at a clinic in Round Rock, she said.

"The practice has essentially doubled the last couple years, so this was the next step to take," Meier said.