Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Suzanne Cunningham

Cardiology

A veterinary cardiologist, Dr. Suzanne Cunningham treats heart conditions in dogs, cats and other animals at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals. Her special interests are in interventional therapies for cardiac disease, new treatments for heart failure and cardiomyopathy and investigation of blood vessel function and dysfunction that may accompany heart disease. In addition to clinical work, she teaches veterinary labs and lectures in the cardiovascular pathophysiology, clinical skills and toxicology courses and moderates Problem Based Learning groups at the Cummings School. She is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in Cardiology.

As a child in New York, Dr. Cunningham had dogs, cats and a horse. Her first Boxer dog died of heart disease when she was nine. Although she debated going into law or politics, her love of animals won, and she pursued both a bachelor's and a veterinary degree at Cornell, never losing sight of her childhood loss. I know how difficult it is to lose an animal suddenly as a result of heart disease and have particular interest in investigating new therapies for treatment of heart disease in dogs, she says. After attending college and vet school at Cornell, she came to Tufts to complete a small animal internship and was impressed with the caseload, the students and the quality of medicine practiced here. After completing a residency in cardiology under the guidance of Dr. John Rush, she was offered a faculty position.

Dr. Cunningham recently adopted one of her more interesting cases of congenital heart disease—a Boxer puppy with multiple congenital defects, one she was able to help by performing a balloon valvuloplasty (repairing a stiff heart valve through a balloon catheter). She also recently treated a ferret with an atrioventricular block as well as a rabbit with heart failure. In addition to the challenging caseload, she says, I love working with the students, I love the professional interactions, and I am grateful for being able to offer our patients top-notch, state-of-the-art and compassionate care. I especially love the diverse mix of teaching, research and clinical service that comprise the faculty position.

Dr. Cunningham lives near the Cummings School Campus with her Boxer puppy, Tyler and a 13-year-old Boxer, Roxie. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, reading, watching movies and traveling.

Education

  • DVM - Cornell University (with Distinction) - 2003
  • BS - Cornell University (with Honors and Distinction) - 1999

Board Certification

  • American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine - Cardiology
  1. Cunningham SM, Rush JE, Freeman LM. Short-term effects of atorvastatin in normal dogs and dogs with congestive heart failure due to myxomatous mitral valve disease. J Vet Intern Med 2013; 27:985-989.
  2. Cunningham SM, Rush JE, Freeman LM. Endothelial dysfunction and systemic inflammation in dogs with congestive heart failure. J Vet Intern Med 2012; 26:547–557
  3. Tse YC, Rush JE, Cunningham SM, Bulmer BJ, Freeman LM, Rozanski EA.  Evaluation of a Training Course in Focused Echocardiography for Non-Cardiology House Officers. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2013; 23:268-273.
  4. Ogata N, Gillis TE, Liu X, Cunningham SM, Lowen SB, Adams B, Sutherland-Smith J, Mintzopoulos D, Janes AC, Dodman NH, Kaufman MJ. Brain Structural Abnormalities in Doberman Pinschers with Canine Compulsive Disorder. Prog Neuro-Psychoph 2013; 45:1-6.
  5. Majoy SB, Sharp CR, Dickinson AE, Cunningham SM. Septic pericarditis in a cat with pyometra. J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2013; 23(1):68-76.
  6. Freeman LM, Rush JE, Meurs KM, Bulmer BJ, Cunningham SM. Body size and metabolic differences in Maine Coon cats with and without hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. J Feline Med Surg 2013; 15:74-80.
  7. Freeman, LM, Rush JE, Oyama MA, MacDonald KA, Cunningham SM, Bulmer BJ, MacGregor JM, Laste NJ, Malakoff RL, Hall DJ, Trafny DJ. Development and evaluation of a questionnaire for assessing health-related quality of life in cats with cardiac disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2012; 240:1188-1193.
  8. Cunningham SM, Lindsay K, Rush JE. Acquired Gerbode defect and third-degree atrioventricular block secondary to vehicular trauma in a dog. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (In Press).
  9. MacGregor JM, Rush JE, Laste N, Malakoff R, Cunningham SM, Aronow N, Hall DJ, Williams J. Use of Pimobendan in 161 cats (2006-2009). J Vet Cardiol 2011; 13:251-60.
  10. Cunningham SM, Rush JE, Freeman LM, Brown DB, Smith CE. Echocardiographic ratio indices in overtly healthy Boxer dogs screened for heart disease. J Vet Intern Med 2008; 22:924-930.
  11. Cunningham SM, Ames MK, Rush JE, Rozanski EA. Successful treatment of pacemaker-induced stricture and thrombosis of the cranial vena cava in two dogs by use of anticoagulants and balloon venoplasty. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2009; 235:1467-1473.
  12. Cunningham SM, Rush JE. Interventional cardiovascular procedures. In: Waltham Veterinary Focus: Advances in Cardiology 2008;18.
  13. Paxson JA, Cunningham SM, Rush JE, Bedenice D. The association of lung function and plasma volume expansion in neonatal alpaca crias following plasma transfusion for failure of passive transfer. J Vet Emerg Crit Car 2008; 18:601-607.
  14. Cunningham SM, Rush JE. Transvenous pacemaker placement in a dog with atrioventricular block and persistent left cranial vena cava. J Vet Cardiol 2007; 9:129-134.
  15. Smith CE, Freeman LM, Rush JE, Cunningham SM, Biourge V. Omega-3 fatty acids in Boxer dogs with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. J Vet Intern Med 2007; 21:265-273.

General Research Interests

  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy in the Boxer
  • Inflammation in heart disease and heart failure
  • Endothelial dysfunction in heart failure
  • Endothelial progenitor cells in heart failure
  • Cardiac biomarkers
  • Novel medical and device therapies for congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac stem cell therapies

Research Interests by Area

Spontaneous Animal Disease Models
  • Hyertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy in Boxer dogs, dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, degenerative mitral valve disease in small dogs.

Research Interests by Organ System and Disease

Cardiovascular Diseases and Nutrition
  • Endothelial dysfunction and circulating progenitor cells in heart failure, cardiac biomarkers, novel medical and device therapies for congestive heart failure, cardiac stem cell therapies. Endothelial function testing, endothelial progenitor cells, inflammatory biomarkers, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (canine), dilated cardiomyopathy (canine)

Major Specialized Equipment

  • Echocardiography, cardiac catheterization laboratory, MRI, CT, thromboelastography