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Ventilator Brings Jack the Poodle Back from Death's Door

September 18, 2006

September 14, 2006

What started with an irritating middle-of-the night cough quickly developed into a fever and inflammation in the lungs. As his lungs quickly filled with fluid and infection spread throughout his body, Jack -- a 16-month-old brown standard poodle from Sonoma, Calif. -- was rushed to UC Davis' Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Jack's local veterinarian, Rhonda Stallings of the Arroyo Veterinary Hospital in Sonoma, referred Jack to a nearby emergency veterinary clinic, which, in turn, recommended that he be transported via veterinary ambulance to UC Davis, convinced that the mechanical ventilator at the campus veterinary hospital offered the dog his only chance for survival.

"Jack's system was beginning to shut down, and he was about as close to the death line as a dog can get," recalls Jamie Peyton, an emergency and critical care resident in the hospital's intensive care unit. "We put him on the ventilator to support his lungs while we also administered antibiotics and fluids to deal with the infection."

After five days on the ventilator and an additional week recuperating at the hospital, Jack went home to owners Jeannie Dixon and Ken Sellai, a happy, though much thinner and weaker, dog.

But Jack was one of the lucky few. Statistics from a recent study from the intensive care unit at UC Davis' Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital show that only 30 percent of dogs with this severe lung disease that are placed on ventilators are taken off alive, and only 15 percent of those survive to go home.

It is unclear exactly what triggered the illness, perhaps a piece of paper like many that Jack loves to snuff up. Lodged in an uncomfortable position, it triggered coughing and eventually vomiting, which caused him to aspirate fluids and food particles into his lungs. With that, the infection was off and running.

"Basically, he had used up all of his white blood cells and had no ability to fight the infection, so his body had started shutting down," said veterinarian Karl Jandrey of the hospital's intensive care unit. "The infection had progressed so far that we were amazed at how quickly Jack responded to treatment."

In the hospital's ICU ward, Jack received 24-hour monitoring and one-on-one care from the veterinary medical staff. Now that the crisis is behind them, veterinarians at the hospital are exploring the possibility that Jack has a condition known as "relative adrenal insufficiency," which means his immune system was unable to produce enough of the hormones necessary to handle the stress of a massive infection.

At home, Jack continues to get stronger and regain the weight he lost during the ordeal.

"Every day, he gets a little better," said Jeannie Dixon. "He is the most willing and agreeable dog."

At the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, faculty and technical staff treat more than 32,000 animals each year while teaching essential clinical skills to veterinary students and training veterinary specialists in more than 30 disciplines.

Media contact(s):
• Jamie Peyton, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, (530) 752-1393,
• Karl Jandrey, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, (530) 752-1393,
• Jeannie Dixon, Sonoma, (707) 996-9242,
• Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9843,