Turns out he had a condition called pectus excavatum, where the sternum is caved in and the ribs follow. This causes there to be less space for the lungs and heart. Symptoms of pectus excavatum include difficulty breathing, increased respiratory rate, cough, exercise intolerance, high heart rate, weight loss, and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections.
“Pectus excavatum is not super common. I’ve probably been involved with six or seven in my life, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” says Dr. Angela Banz.
Catching it and performing surgery early is important, as it takes advantage of their bones still being soft and cartilaginous. At the time, Little Boy weighed just over one pound and was about eight weeks old.
“Nobody else seemed confident or competent enough to pull off this surgery because he was so small,” says Keyes-Powell. “Accessing his tiny ribs would be incredibly risky and Dr. Banz knew that. I believe she said he was one of the youngest and smallest cats she'd ever performed surgery on. So it was a fingers-crossed situation the whole time, but she was confident and she made us feel confident in her.”
The surgery was a success.
“I was touched because, I'm here just doing my job... I do it for the patients and the clients, and then to have that level of recognition is pretty unheard of.”
“When we first put him in his splint, we made a Captain America shield and placed it on his bandage,” says Dr. Banz. “So, we dressed him up and we were calling him Steve Rogers on our end in the hospital, knowing that he would one day be Captain America once healed; I had kind of named him that.”
The owners then decided to give Little Boy a new name: Captain Banz, as a combination of his Captain America bandage and Dr. Banz. “It's a homage to her in every way, shape and form,” says Keyes-Powell.
“That was incredibly heartwarming,” says Dr. Banz. “I was touched because, I'm here just doing my job... I do it for the patients and the clients, and then to have that level of recognition is pretty unheard of.”
Today, Captain Banz is doing great. “He’s a nut job,” says Keyes-Powell. “But very loving,” adds Powell. “I often compare him to having a puppy. He loves to eat random objects or chew on them like a puppy would,” says Keyes-Powell. “He's very bizarre, but he's one of the sweetest cats I have ever had in my entire life.”
While cases vary, cats with successful surgeries are able to lead normal lives.
“One side [of his ribs] is still a little small… it's okay though, because he's still a happy, healthy young man,” says Keyes-Powell. “He's almost a year and we have faith that he's going to live a long, happy life.”
While there are certainly emotional, economic, and time investments required for this type of surgery, Dr. Banz reiterates its value. “It's not the easiest road, but it's relatively short and gives them a very good chance for a normal life, so that makes it worth it.”
If your furry friend may be in need of surgery, be confident that high-quality care is close to home. Click here to locate the closest veterinary Specialty Care hospital near you.