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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Yoda: With You, the Force Is

Friday, December 16 2016

Drs. in scrubs standing around a sheep in surgery

UPDATE: Yoda's prognosis is excellent and he is expected to life a full, happy life. Learn more at Yoda's Prognosis.


For the first time ever, veterinarians at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences performed surgery on Yoda, a 15-month-old sheep, to correct a congenital heart problem called a patent ductus arteriosus or PDA. Ranch Hand Rescue Counseling Center and Animal Sanctuary located in South Argyle, Texas, owns Yoda, one of several therapy animals at the center.

“A PDA is a blood vessel that allows blood to bypass the lungs. At birth it should close off and now 15 months later, it is still open,” explains Dr. Ryan Baumwart, a board certified veterinary cardiologist. “With Dr. Robert Streeter’s assistance, we first tried to correct the problem by going in through a blood vessel in Yoda’s leg with a catheter. However, the blood vessel we wanted to close off was too large.”

Baumwart handed the case over to his colleague, Dr. Danielle Dugat, a small animal surgeon.

“My role was to take Yoda to surgery and open his chest where we could see his heart, the normal blood vessels and the shunting vessel,” says Dugat. “I secured a suture around that vessel and tied it down, closing that vessel completely. Blood flow could no longer pass through that shunt pathway. As a result, the murmur disappears and Yoda can begin the recovery process.”

“Yoda is one of our more popular therapy animals,” adds Bob Williams, founder of Ranch Hand Rescue. “All the animals here see clients daily in our Counseling Program, but Yoda has a very strong connection with many of our clients, who are abused children. It’s exciting to me to do this first ever procedure. I’m very proud of the partnership we have with OSU and of the team here. Yoda’s unconditional love and snuggles he gives to all the clients make him a special partner to all who meet him.” 

“If left untreated, Yoda would have succumbed to his congenital heart disease sooner than he should,” adds Baumwart.

The surgery was a success and the case will be written up and published in veterinary medical journals in the near future so that others may benefit from the experience OSU veterinarians gained saving Yoda.