First Person: Breathing Easy After Trusting My Gut

It was a Saturday, and Sophie, my Galga was breathing a little oddly -- a bit fast and shallow. She would occasionally hack a little too. I gave her Benadryl, thinking maybe her time outside had triggered some allergy. She was not any better the next day, so I took her to the emergency vet.

He said her trachea was inflamed, and likely it was an allergic reaction or a virus. He gave her some meds, and the hacking stopped. However, a few days later, she was still not breathing any better. (I even took a video and asked for input from experienced dog owners.) After some debate, I took her to her normal vet.

sophiexrayThe vet agreed something was not right. X-rays of her chest revealed a huge, white mass. There were two likely possibilities – lung lobe torsion or a tumor. We rushed to a specialist clinic in Pittsburgh. (We live in West Virginia.) And it was confirmed that it was torsion. Her right-middle lung lobe had twisted, and it had become engorged with blood. The only thing to do is surgery to remove the lobe. She stayed on oxygen Wednesday night and had surgery on Thursday. She then stayed in the hospital for a few days, with a chest tube.

She’s healed really well. I could tell she was in pain initially because she whined every so often, but her spirits were good, so I think the pain was tolerable. Plus she got her appetite back.

The photo of Sophie on Day 12 after surgery with staples removed is at the top. When I weighed her at the vet yesterday, she is down to 39 lbs. Normally, she is 42 lbs. So she gets to indulge for a bit until we can get a couple of pounds back on her. Other than that, her recovery has been beautiful and I am so proud of my brave, strong girl. She’s completely bounced back from this ordeal.

The lesson here -- if your pet is breathing abnormally, no matter how minor it may seem, GO TO THE VET. I never would have dreamed that Sophie's minor symptoms were caused by something so dangerous. And oh yeah -- thank you, pet insurance!

The author is SHUG Adopter and Supporter Beth Shaw.

sophierecoveryUpdate: Sophie had a little setback a few weeks later, hacking occasionally and wheezing during the night. After more X-rays and a chest tap to remove 180 ccs of fluid, it was confirmed she had an infection in two of her lung lobes. More antibiotics were in order, but Sophie is taking it in stride. Beth – not so much. “I never want to see a huge syringe filled with pus again,” she said.

Now, a bit about Lung Lobe Torsion:

Unlike humans, dogs and cats have separate lung lobes, which make them more prone to torsion (twisting). The most common location for torsion is where an artery, vein, and air tube enter at the base of the lobe. When the lobe is twisted, the artery is able to continue getting blood into it, but the vein, which is weaker, can’t get blood out. The lobe ends up letting fluid into the chest cavity, eventually accumulating and causing the other normal lobes to collapse.

Symptoms of lung torsion include pain, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing (sometimes with blood), difficulty breathing especially while lying flat, faster breathing and heart rate, pale or bluish mucous membranes, and even shock. Surgery is usually recommended to remove the effected lung lobe. This is typically done through an incision on the side of the chest. A chest tube is usually necessary for a few days afterward.

Dogs with broad chests, including Sighthounds, can be at greater risk than other breeds, but there is usually no known cause.


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