Archived News

Intensive Care Unit Sees Dog Five Times in Two Years

November 2, 2015

Lorelai's life was saved by mechanical ventilation in the UC Davis ICU.

Lorelai's life was saved by mechanical ventilation in the UC Davis ICU.

VMTH "Case of the Month" - November 2015


Lorelai, a 3-year-old French bulldog, is still young but has already endured a lifetime of medical treatments. At just six months old, she was brought to the emergency room at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital after vomiting and having difficulty breathing. The specialists in the Emergency and Critical Care Service diagnosed her with a noncardiogenic pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in the lungs) and aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection caused by stomach fluid being inhaled into the lungs. Lorelai was struggling so much to breathe that mechanical ventilation was started immediately. This required Lorelai to be kept anesthetized while a machine breathed for her. She received around-the-clock, one-to-one nursing care in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Part of Lorelai’s breathing difficulty was due to a birth defect that caused abnormalities of her throat and trachea. Known as brachycephalic syndrome, the condition is common in breeds such as the French bulldog. To help Lorelai breathe better, upper airway surgery was performed on her throat and nostrils to improve the condition, but, unfortunately, it cannot fix all the problems. 

Lorelai was hospitalized for eight days, and was on mechanical ventilation in the ICU for the first five days. While attempting to wean her off ventilation on the fourth day, she had continuous regurgitation despite medical therapy to prevent it. She had to be re-anesthetized and placed back on mechanical ventilation to stop her aspirating again. Radiographs taken by the Diagnostic Imaging Service showed an abnormality called gastroesophageal intussusception (where the stomach folds abnormally into the esophagus). The Soft Tissue Surgery Service then performed abdominal surgery to prevent the abnormal movement of her stomach and esophagus. The next day, Lorelai was successfully weaned from mechanical ventilation, and no vomiting or regurgitation was noted. One day later, she started eating, and her esophagus and stomach appeared to be functioning normally again.

Gastroesophageal intussusception can be common in brachycephalic breeds. As Lorelai had no previous history of gastrointestinal issues, it was likely that the abnormality developed before coming to the hospital as a result of abdominal efforts secondary to either respiratory distress or vomiting. The surgery successfully resolved that issue.

Six months later, Lorelai was hit by a car and immediately brought to UC Davis. While suffering a broken right scapula, her bigger issue was breathing difficulties due to bleeding into the lungs. For the second time, she had to be placed on mechanical ventilation to save her life. During this second ventilation period, she also developed pneumonia and had several ups and downs, but ultimately was able to be successfully weaned from the ventilator a week alter. She was weaned from mechanical ventilation this second time on her first birthday! Lorelai spent a total of 12 days in the ICU during this stay.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of Lorelai’s problems. Over the next year, she suffered three more bouts of aspiration pneumonia that required hospitalization. Thankfully, all were significantly less severe than her first two occurrences, only requiring hospital stays of 1-3 days. With her last bout more than a year ago, Lorelai’s owner now reports she is in much better health with a bright future ahead.

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See more pictures of Lorelai's trips to UC Davis here.

About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 51,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Media Contact:
Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer