July 10, 2012
Rover-Time loves The Big Hearts Fund. Its mission is to raise funds and awareness for dogs and cats with heart disease, envisioning a world where diagnosed pets receive the care they need in order to live comfortable and peaceful lives.
The Big Hearts Fund, or BHF, began in June 2010 after the founder Christy Drackett’s yellow lab puppy Lucy was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Coming to grips with the costs of care for family pets, struck by the lack of community education and support for pets with heart disease, and pondering the grim alternatives for owners unable to fund this level of veterinary care, she created The Big Hearts Fund. Earlier this year, I joined their Board of Directors and have since been overwhelmed by the good minds behind the scenes of this fantastic organization.
In late June, I chatted with Kaitlin Bishop, who first shared with me her personal story of losing her dog Opie to an arrhythmic episode; which is an irregular heartbeat due to an irregular electrical impulse, causing the heart to just stop. (She contributed a beautifully written blog post on the sad day, which I recommend reading.) Two years after Opie’s passing, and after several months of contributing her time and talent to BHF, Kaitlin was brought on to serve as the organization’s Executive Director.
So how prevalent is canine heart disease? Cardiac conditions are the number one killer of puppies under one-year-old. The commonness of diagnosed canine heart disease increases dramatically with age. 60% of all dogs over 9 years old have developed some form of heart disease, and 90% of dogs over age 13 live with acquired heart disease. Certain breeds are at increased risk. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature and Toy Poodles, Chihuahuas, and many other small or toy breeds are at increased risk for valvular dysfunction. Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, and other larger breeds are at increased risk for cardiomyopathy. Even given the increased risk in some breeds, it is worth mentioning that heart disease can be found to varying degrees in all dog breeds.
And what the financial implications? Cardiac diagnostics range from $300 to $2,000 per test. Common surgical procedures – like a balloon valvuloplasty – can cost upwards of $3,000. To date there is only one veterinary cardiologist in the city of Chicago, with one each in Buffalo Grove, Downers Grove, and Aurora, respectively. Considering the prevalence of heart disease and the still developing area of veterinary cardiology, it’s especially important for owners to be educated so they can be advocates for their pets.
BHF addresses these financial and educational needs within the community in the following ways:
- Website (education)
- Newsletters + blog
- Online owners’ forum (owner education and support, resource sharing)
- Attending events within the community to spread awareness about canine and feline heart disease
- The launch of our Financial Assistance Program
As a relatively new 501c3 non-profit BHF wants to expand its reach by growing its mailing list, or finding new folks to support and attend their fantastic events, and would love to meet people willing to share their personal experiences of handling a pet with a heart condition. The Board is also looking for new talent, specifically professionals with marketing and design backgrounds or fundraising and event planning experience.