It was a new mother’s worst nightmare. While driving home to Pennsylvania with her brand new puppy Lulu, Tricia Isam heard the 12-week-old English bulldog coughing. Little did she know that trip was only the beginning of a harrowing journey to fight for her puppy’s life— a journey that finally ended in triumph at Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals.
Isam took Lulu to an emergency veterinarian to investigate the coughing. X-rays looked normal, and she went home with antibiotics for a respiratory infection. Days later she was still coughing. Even with subsequent vet visits, problems mounted. Soon she couldn’t keep food down, stopped eating, and spent a night at another emergency hospital, where they found she had developed pneumonia.
“I’d just lost my previous bulldog a couple weeks before,” said Isam. “Mourning her loss while being unable to help Lulu was one of the worst things I’ve ever been through. The constant battle got to the point where my veterinarians were saying they couldn’t help her anymore.”
That’s when Lulu’s veterinarians referred her to Cornell. She drove two and a half hours with Lulu in the car on an oxygen tank. On September 30, Dr. April Blong admitted Lulu to the hospital, with Dr. Daniel Fletcher, the chief of service, overseeing Dr. Blong and Lulu’s care.
“Lulu was in severe respiratory distress,” said Fletcher. “Her lungs sounded harsh and she was having a lot of trouble breathing during the exam. Not enough oxygen was getting to her blood, her blood work showed she had a severe infection, and her x-rays showed a very severe pneumonia affecting multiple lung lobes.”
Lulu appeared to have aspiration pneumonia, a condition in which food, liquids, or vomit gets into the lungs, causing irritation and infection. Her first course of antibiotics had failed, so Fletcher prescribed a more powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic reserved for cases that respond poorly to conventional therapy.
“When I dropped her off she couldn’t eat or drink and was losing weight,” said Isam. “She was moaning, and I thought she was dying. At first she had to stay in an oxygen cage, and when I visited I could only see her through the glass. There was no life to her.”
Still reeling from the loss of her last dog, Isam waited as Lulu spent a week in the intensive care unit. With continuing oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and antibiotics, medications for her stomach, and constant supervision, Lulu improved. On the eighth day, Isam came to pick up a changed puppy.
“The difference was amazing,” said Isam. “It was like she’d been reborn. She was happy, playing, doing all the fun stuff puppies do. She turned around so quickly after she got there. I could tell everyone who worked there really cared. People who’d helped care for my last dog got involved out of kindness because they knew I had just gone through a loss. Cornell was wonderful to work with.”
Lulu is doing well and has doubled in size. Her last x-rays were completely clear.