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.
- DVM - Cornell University (with Distinction) - 2003
- BS - Cornell University (with Honors and Distinction) - 1999
- American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine - Cardiology
- Pierce, K.V., Rush, J.E., Freeman, L.M., Cunningham, S.M., Yang, V.K. 2017. Association between Survival Time and Changes in NT-proBNP in Cats Treated for Congestive Heart Failure. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Yang, V.K., Cunningham, S.M., Rush, J.E., de Laforcade, A. 2016. The use of rivaroxaban for the treatment of thrombotic complications in four dogs. Journal of veterinary emergency and critical care (San Antonio, Tex. : 2001).
- Rush, J.E., Roderick, K.V., Freeman, L.M., Cunningham, S.M., Yang, V.K., Bulmer, B.J., Antoon, K.N. 2015. Assessment of the responsiveness of the Cats' Assessment Tool for Cardiac Health (CATCH) Questionnaire. Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Freeman, L.M., Rush, J.E., Cunningham, S.M., Yang, V.K., Bulmer, B.J. 2015. Pilot study of a myostatin antagonist in dogs with cardiac cachexia. Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Scansen, B.A., Simpson, E.M., López-Alvarez, J., Thomas, W.P., Bright, J.M., Eason, B.D., Rush, J.E., Dukes-Mcewan, J., Green, H.W., Cunningham, S.M., Visser, L.C., Kent, A.M., Schober, K.E. 2015. Pulmonary artery dissection in eight dogs with patent ductus arteriosus. Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Yang, V.K., Nussbaum, L., Rush, J.E., Cunningham, S.M., Macgregor, J., Antoon, K.N. 2015. Congenital cardiac malformation with three-chambered right atrium and a persistent left cranial vena cava in a dog. Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Fox, P.R., Oyama, M.A., Hezzell, M.J., Rush, J.E., Nguyenba, T.P., Defrancesco, T.C., Lehmkuhl, L.B., Kellihan, H.B., Bulmer, B., Gordon, S.G., Cunningham, S.M., Macgregor, J., Stepien, R.L., Lefbom, B., Adin, D., Lamb, K. 2015. Relationship of plasma N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide concentrations to heart failure classification and cause of respiratory distress in dogs using a 2nd generation ELISA assay. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Mueller, M.S., Cunningham, S.M., Sato, A.F. 2014. What is your diagnosis?. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Hall, D.J., Freeman, L.M., Rush, J.E., Cunningham, S.M. 2014. Comparison of serum fatty acid concentrations in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and healthy controls. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
- Freeman, L.M., Rush, J.E., Cunningham, S.M., Bulmer, B.J. 2014. A randomized study assessing the effect of diet in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Machen, M.C., Oyama, M.A., Gordon, S.G., Rush, J.E., Achen, S.E., Stepien, R.L., Fox, P.R., Saunders, A.B., Cunningham, S.M., Lee, P.M., Kellihan, H.B. 2014. Multi-centered investigation of a point-of-care NT-proBNP ELISA assay to detect moderate to severe occult (pre-clinical) feline heart disease in cats referred for cardiac evaluation. Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Cunningham, S.M., Lindsey, K.J., Rush, J.E. 2013. Acquired gerbode defect and third-degree atrioventricular block secondary to vehicular trauma in a dog. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
- Meurs, K.M., Stern, J.A., Sisson, D.D., Kittleson, M.D., Cunningham, S.M., Ames, M.K., Atkins, C.E., Defrancesco, T., Hodge, T.E., Keene, B.W., Reina Doreste, Y., Leuthy, M., Motsinger-Reif, A.A., Tou, S.P. 2013. Association of dilated cardiomyopathy with the striatin mutation genotype in boxer dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Ogata, N., Gillis, T.E., Liu, X., Cunningham, S.M., Lowen, S.B., Adams, B.L., Sutherland-Smith, J., Mintzopoulos, D., Janes, A.C., Dodman, N.H., Kaufman, M.J. 2013. Brain structural abnormalities in Doberman pinschers with canine compulsive disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
- Cunningham, S.M., Rush, J.E., Freeman, L.M. 2013. Short-Term Effects of Atorvastatin in Normal Dogs and Dogs with Congestive Heart Failure Due to Myxomatous Mitral Valve Disease. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Tse, Y.C., Rush, J.E., Cunningham, S.M., Bulmer, B.J., Freeman, L.M., Rozanski, E.A. 2013. Evaluation of a training course in focused echocardiography for noncardiology house officers. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
- Freeman, L.M., Rush, J.E., Meurs, K.M., Bulmer, B.J., Cunningham, S.M. 2013. Body size and metabolic differences in Maine Coon cats with and without hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
- Majoy, S.B., Sharp, C.R., Dickinson, A.E., Cunningham, S.M. 2013. Septic pericarditis in a cat with pyometra. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
- Freeman, L.M., Rush, J.E., Oyama, M.A., MacDonald, K.A., Cunningham, S.M., Bulmer, B., MacGregor, J.M., Laste, N.J., Malakoff, R.L., Hall, D.J., Trafny, D.J. 2012. Development and evaluation of a questionnaire for assessment of health-related quality of life in cats with cardiac disease. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Cunningham, S.M., Rush, J.E., Freeman, L.M. 2012. Systemic Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction in Dogs with Congestive Heart Failure. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
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