Agility Dog Ace Cheats Death After Emergency Open Chest Surgery

March 27, 2023

An agility dog who collapsed at training has been given a new lease of life thanks to a pioneering procedure successfully performed by experts at Veterinary Specialists Scotland (VSS) in Livingston.

Ace, a seven-year-old border collie who has competed nationally at dog agility competitions, was taken seriously ill at an agility training session. She simply lay down before starting her usual warm up so was taken home.

Ace showed no further symptoms and went out for her usual walk the following morning. However, at lunchtime, her owner noticed a deterioration in her breathing so made an appointment with their own vet that afternoon.

Thanks to her owner’s quick thinking, the primary care vet performed investigations which revealed fluid around Ace’s heart. This fluid was successfully drained.

At this stage, owners Ian Douglas and Ismay Thomson, from Inverness, were warned their beloved pet’s condition was life-threatening.

Thankfully for Ace, they were given the option of transferring her to Linnaeus-owned VSS in Livingston where Anne French, a specialist in veterinary cardiology, and Joanna McCagherty, a specialist in small animal surgery, took over her care, with every second counting.

A scan of the heart indicated that the fluid around Ace’s heart was building up again. Additionally, a large mass, which could be either a blood clot or tumour, within the sac that surrounds the heart and major blood vessels was identified.

It was clear that without open chest surgery, Ace would not survive.

Ian said: “We had hoped the scans would show something easily operable. Unfortunately, the results were much more worrying and serious. However, having spoken to Anne and Joanna, we knew that Ace would be in good hands at VSS.

“Despite having spoken to the specialists, we were highly concerned and knew that Ace’s only chance of survival was surgery.

“After the operation, the team at VSS kept in touch with us and we could phone for updates when we wanted. Thankfully, all went well.”

Soft tissue surgeon Joanna explained: “The open chest surgery was very challenging due to the location of the mass. It was a high-risk procedure with potential for severe bleeding which could have been fatal.

“We were able to successfully remove the mass. The lab results showed it was a cancerous tumour which is very rarely found in this location.

“Following surgery, Ace was hospitalised for supportive care and monitoring before being allowed home to continue her recuperation.

“She has also undergone chemotherapy treatment, which has now finished, at the oncology department at Glasgow Vet School and continues to do very well.

“It’s fantastic to see Ace make a steady recovery after such a traumatic episode. She really is the ‘Ace’ in the pack.”

Veterinary Specialist Scotland (VSS) is a specialist-led multidisciplinary referral centre offering industry-leading services in cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine (feline and canine), neurology, orthopaedics, and soft tissue surgery, supported by specialists in diagnostic imaging and anaesthesia and analgesia.

For more information about VSS and the services it offers, visit or search for Veterinary Specialists Scotland on social media.