A terrified dog owner has spoken of her shock after her beloved two-year-old whippet’s rare condition almost went undetected by vets in Cornwall.
Zeppelin the whippet has now been diagnosed with a rare condition called chylothorax.
It was first believed Zeppelin had relatively simple breathing problems, but following his diagnosis he has now had three chest drains, two CT scans, two ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, urine tests, semi-permanent chest drains fitted, lymph node injections to test for cancers, an ECG and chest surgery to ‘tie off’ the leaking lymph and remove some of the membrane around his heart.
Zeppelin is now recovering at home after time at specialist vets in Bristol, and his owner Abi Perchard has warned other pet owners to be wary of the symptoms.
Abi, from Roche, said: “Zeppelin is our entire lives and such an incredible dog. Our lives really do revolve around him.
“He developed breathing problems a few weeks ago so we took him to our usual vet and she prescribed him with an anti-inflammatory in case he had scratched his throat with something sharp, he also was only allowed soft food.
“After being on soft food and an anti-inflammatory for a few days I took him out for a slow jog. He got so out of breath and started to try and throw up. That’s when I realised that something more serious was wrong with Zeppelin.
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“We were referred to another more advanced vets for an endoscopy. Once I arrived at the vet they realised the endoscopy wasn’t the best option as they wouldn’t be able to give him oxygen at the same time as putting a camera down his throat. So I was asked whether we would like an X-ray or a CT scan – the CT scan would be more detailed. So we went with the CT scan.
“They ended up finding almost two litres of fluid around Zeppelin’s lungs and drained it out under a general anaesthetic and he came home with us that evening. We were given another appointment two days after for an ultrasound to check whether the fluid had returned, and sadly it had returned at an alarming rate, estimated at 1.2 litres in 36 hours which is a lot.”
Whilst doing the CT scan vets also discovered a thickening of tissue around the main blood vessel to his heart, the aorta. He also had enlarged lymph nodes.
Zeppelin’s condition is called chylothorax, which is where lymphatic fluid leaks into the pleural cavity (which is the space between the lungs and the chest wall) and reduces lung capacity significantly, reducing the amount of oxygen that can be passed through into the blood and can be a fatal condition if left untreated.
It is an extremely uncomfortable condition and can slowly starve the body of the oxygen it needs. It also has other side effects such as severe dehydration and malnutrition as a result.
He is now making good progress following the extensive medical interventions and arrived home on Tuesday.
Zeppelin is insured but the cover only accounts for the initial appointments and not the specialist work, which Abi believes will cost between £11,000 and £12,000.
Abi added: “He was so fit and healthy and always charging around. In an older dog you kind of expect issues but he’s just two and a half.
“There’s a possibility of long-term effects such as a reduced exercise capacity but we’ll just play it by ear.
“It’s scary that it was missed by the vets down here but we don’t blame them as it’s such a rare condition.”
Abi has started a fundraiser to cover some of the costs of the operation and also wants other dog owners whose pets suddenly develop breathing problems, to get them checked out as soon as possible.
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