Ace's dramatic survival

This month our "Patient of the Month" is awarded to Ace, a 2 year old Whippet who is starting to make a habit of getting into medical mischief. Ace came in for his annual vaccination early September. He had a general examination as all our patients receive, and nothing abnormal was found. Within four hours Ace was back at the clinic feeling flat and lethargic. In the past he had an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting so Ace's owners were worried about his sensitivity. He was examined again and found to have a high temperature of over 40°C. Ace was given medication to manage a potential reaction but to no effect.

The following day Ace was kept in the hospital on intravenous fluids, had a blood test and was given further medication, but unfortunately Ace's temperature was consistently high. He was looking very flat, not eating, and breathing more rapidly than normal. Ace was not improving as expected and further investigation was required. Ace's owners were keen to be thorough and took on further investigation early to provide him with the best care possible. The next step in investigating his persistent temperature and lethargy was to undertaken chest radiographs.
Abnormalities were seen on the radiographs. Fluid was found in the space around the lungs. An ultrasound of the area confirmed our suspicions and allowed us to collect samples safely. The fluid was pussy in nature and was sent to the laboratory for further assessment while Ace remained in hospital and was started on the necessary intravenous antibiotics for Pyothorax (an infection in the chest cavity often caused by bacteria or foreign objects). 

Unfortunately this was not the end to the changes going on within Ace's body. The following day Ace was reassessed with repeat radiographs only to find not only did he had free fluid around the lung, but also had free air in the chest space (known as Pneumothorax.) This changed the plan for Ace's management as he was now at an increasing risk of being able to maintain his own oxygen levels and could deteriorate rapidly. Ace was placed under anaesthetic and a chest drain was placed into the space around the lung to allow drainage of the air and fluid. He also had a feeding tube placed in his neck to allow syringe feeding and to give him the best opportunity to get the required nutrients to aid his recovery. Because of the constant leaking of air from his lungs he needed to be placed on constant suction of the chest drains.

Ace was kept in hospital for the next two nights so he could be fed through a feeding tube and on constant chest drainage. He showed increasing improvement over this time and was able to be discharged from the hospital. The following day the chest drain and feeding tube were removed and Ace was on antibiotics for a further 4 weeks. Over the next week Ace was already feeling back to his normal self and made it difficult for Ace's owners to keep him quiet.

To this day we do not have conformation as to the cause of the Pyothorax and Pneumothorax but we have high suspicions that Ace had inhaled a grass seed a few weeks prior to becoming unwell, which migrated through the lung tissue and out into the chest cavity. Thanks to the early investigation and treatment Ace received he was placed in the best position to make such a rapid recovery. If further investigation had been held off for any longer we could have been dealing with a much more critical patient, and may have lead to a more serious treatment plan being needed with a much longer recovery time frame. Ace was a great patient and we were very pleased to see him running around with his Whippet partner in crime, Stanley, again.

From Ace's owners, Jasmine and Terry:

"Ace the whippet with nine lives.

Ace the Whippet adopted me when he was 7 months old from a lovely breeder. He was already desexed, microchipped and vaccinated, but he was just too tall for the show ring so I refer to him as a super model with his lovely long legs! Ace is so full of energy, I would take him walking daily to open paddocks near my house to let him and his other whippet friend Stanley run off the lead. I know that the paddocks cannot be used in the warmer months due to snakes and grass seeds, but it was still winter (although we had some nice sunny days and the grass was longer than usual) the dogs just loved to go streaming through the grass at high speed! I was thinking that it may be our last walk through here until next year, as I saw all the seeds fly in a whirl wind around the dogs, I could only see the tips of their tails!

Both Ace and Stanley were due for their vaccinations, 1 week prior to my Queensland holiday, so I thought I would get them up to date prior to leaving. Both dogs passed their vet exam with flying colours and were given their vaccinations and their worm tablets. Four hours later my husband phoned and said that Ace was very quiet and not interested in his dinner. I thought back to earlier in the year when we found Ace collapsed on the back lawn, lifeless after being stung by a bee. Knowing that he may be sensitive, we rushed Ace back to the vet. On examination he had a very high temperature, was very quiet and lethargic. I wanted everything possible to be done to make my little whippet Ace better so we proceeded with blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds. It was then the vet found he had pus and air in his chest, and after a couple of days he was losing weight rapidly (as a skinny fit Whippet he did not have a lot of weight to lose!) He had chest drains and a feeding tube placed and had intensive treatment to clear his chest of the infection, and was tube fed frequently. We agreed to treat him aggressively and to my delight and happiness 5 weeks later I have a fully recovered and very active Whippet running around again my yard again.

I think Ace has already used up some lives so I do think about where I take him now. He is so confident and silly sometimes, but I would not have it any other way. We still do not know what caused the infection, we do think he may have inhaled a seed running at full speed, but he is a Whippet that is what they like to do. And just to note we never did get to go on our Queensland holiday, but I was blessed to be able to spend it with Ace for 2 weeks during his recovery."

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