Surgery Success Stories
There was no indication that Dewey had any breathing problems up until the time he was about 7 years old. Being fully aware that bulldogs cannot take the heat (we have 3 bulldogs), we always waited until late evening in the summer to walk them. Some days, the humidity was so bad that we would forego walks completely. It was on one of these walks that Dewey stopped and refused to go any further. His breathing appeared labored and his gums began to look bluish. He was choking, coughing and bringing up mucous. Eventually, he was able to calm down and made it the rest of the way home. These episodes began to increase in frequency and then a new symptom developed. He would be sound asleep on the sofa when he would awaken gasping for air and almost sounding as if he was being strangled.
After discussing his condition with our vet, he referred us to PVSEC where Dr. Pardo trimmed his elongated soft palate and removed very large sacules. At this time, Dr. Pardo informed us that Dewey did in fact have laryngeal collapse. It was not yet severe but it was worse than he had anticipated. Dewey did well after that surgery, but only for about two months.
On a walk one cooler summer evening, he fell to the ground with no warning and gasped for breath. We tried to clear his throat of mucous while he continued to turn blue. We were able to rush him to our vet where the doctors gave him an injection of steroids to open his airways. Luckily, after about 20 minutes of "touch and go " he calmed down and could move air again. We took him home and began a long fall and winter of worrying if and when his symptoms would return and worsen.
By spring, as the weather got warmer, it became a huge effort for him just to go outside to the bathroom. It took 30 minutes for him to cool down once he got back inside to the air conditioning. He wore an ice vest most of the day to keep his body from overheating. He was going downhill fast and the gasping spells were increasing in frequency and intensity.
At this time, our vet told us that he would not live through the summer unless he had trach surgery. We were very apprehensive... afraid that he wouldn't live without the surgery but also afraid that the surgery could kill him. Our vet once again referred us to PVSEC. At this time, Dr. Anderson was relatively new to the staff. He consulted with me by phone and gave us the confidence we needed to allow him to do the procedure.
Dewey had his trach done on April 21, 2008 just ten days after his 8th birthday. He also had to have 2 long incisions to remove excess skin that might have folded back in and blocked the new breathing opening...a neck lift, if you will! He came home the day after his surgery. Caring for him the first 72 hours and especially the first two weeks was demanding but a small price to pay to have our beloved dog at home with us.
At first, he fought us when we tried to clean the site but as he got used to it, we think he understood that what we were doing was actually helping him. Today, his care is relatively simple. We clean the site several times a day and I liken it to caring for a child who has a runny nose. It is a minor task that takes only seconds but produces good results! As soon as the mucous is cleared away from the opening, his breathing eases. He wears a bandanna but it is mostly a fashion statement as it always shifts and never really does much to cover the hole. Of course, Dewey's swimming and bathing days are over but this is good news to him as he has always hated water and avoided it at all costs!
We are a bit concerned as we go into his first winter "post op " and wonder how he will do when breathing in the cold winter air. To date, he has made a wonderful recovery. He can do everything he did before plus a lot more. He lies on our deck in the hot sun while the other two are rushing to get back inside. He has his personality back and we are so grateful to the staff at PVSEC for giving him this chance.
The car ride felt like an eternity. We clung to every minute, thinking it may be our last with Joey. How could anyone hit a dog with a car and drive off. One hour after departing from our home in Kittanning, PA, we arrived at the doorstep of the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center. We were drained emotional and physically, searching for answers and clinging to our faith to pull Joey through.
We were greeted by a warm and caring staff. The weight of the unknown was lifted from our shoulders as we handed Joey over to the skilled medical team. During Joey's eight day stay, numerous tests and surgeries were performed. His injuries included: broken left leg, severely damaged ureters and bladder trauma. Through each phase of Joey's recovery we were updated with his condition. Dr. Payne was honest. While no pet owner wants to hear the words, "I'm not sure if he will make it," we were at ease knowing Joey was under Dr. Payne's care. Meredith, an assistant of Dr Payne's, was extremely supportive and encouraging. Each time the phone rang and we heard Meredith's voice, we were again assured Joey was in good hands. Through numerous phone calls, tears and smiles, Meredith always had a nurturing way of putting us at ease.
It has been almost three months since Joey's accident. At his last appointment, he was given the "go ahead" to return to his normal Jack Russell routine without any limitations. Each day we look at Joey, we know that without the dedication, support and superior knowledge of the PVSEC he wouldn't be here today.