Quick Facts: 

“After we lost Barth, I wanted to reach out to Penn Vet. I was hoping for a different outcome for someone else.”
– Bruce Wiltsie

Bruce Wiltsie and his partner Bill Davenport have had many good experiences at Penn Vet with their cotons Barth and Emme, including successful surgeries to treat partial paralysis in both dogs. However, it was their most difficult visit that inspired them to make two separate gifts, both intended to improve the outcomes for other animals and those who love them. The funds are both named after Barth, who died in 2014 of mitral valve disease (MVD), the most common heart disease in canines.

Barth’s MVD was diagnosed in 2013 when he came to Penn for a routine EKG. Bruce was told that nothing could be done. Intent on finding additional answers, he felt compelled to seek out a second opinion, a decision he now regrets. “What the Penn Vet resident told me was correct, because the medications we received elsewhere made the last year of Barth’s life pretty uncomfortable,” Bruce says. “I just wish I had listened.” This realization inspired the “Barth” Communications Excellence Series. These lectures will help train veterinary students in bedside manner and communication with pet owners to make it easier for owners to understand their pets’ conditions, make informed decisions about treatment, and, when necessary, accept bad news.

Additionally, Bruce and Bill made a significant gift establishing the “Barth” Memorial Fund for Mitral Valve Disease Research. It will support the research of Dr. Mark Oyama, who has found a link between serotonin and the dog breeds predisposed to MVD. Although Bruce does not know whether Barth had elevated serotonin levels, “It makes sense anecdotally,” he says. “Barth was very loving but also very anxious. Serotonin is part of what makes companion breeds so empathetic with their owners. They’re bred to it, and the downside is this disease.”

Bruce and Bill are hopeful that their gift can help Dr. Oyama find a way to prevent or reverse MVD. They want to spare other dogs and their owners from experiencing what they went through with Barth. Their generosity affirms their belief that Penn Vet is the best place to achieve this goal.