Mar 01 2011


A five year old Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rambo was under a year old when he started having problems with coughing, nothing seemed to get it under control and he lost weight dramatically. He had chest xrays which showed a one-sided pneumothorax and the x-rays were sent off to the specialist for further interpretation. Rambo was diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax, a collection of air in the space around the lungs. This build up of air puts pressure on the lung so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath. This condition can resolve itself if the symptoms are not too severe and there is no underlying disease. The specialist ordered strict rest for Rambo and to repeat the x-rays in one week. The follow-up x-rays looked like there was an improvement but Rambo still coughed intermittently. Rambo’s family took him down to Canada West Veterinary Specialist hospital in Vancouver to have further testing. A bronchoscopy was performed and samples were sent away to a laboratory to check for fungus or bacteria. A bronchoscopy is a technique of visualizing the inside of the airways for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Unfortunately, the testing was not as conclusive as everyone had hoped. Rambo was treated with antibiotics for a full year. He also went on a deworming program in case there were parasites in his lungs. Things improved for Rambo and he went back to a normal life.

Three years later, in April of 2010, Rambo was admitted to the hospital because he was again struggling to breathe. The xrays showed Rambo had another pneumothorax. Rather than improving spontaneously as he had before, Rambo’s condition rapidly worsened, and during his treatment Rambo stopped breathing and had to have CPR to save his life. It took 6 staff to perform chest compressions, get an airway access and place him on IV fluids while Dr. Nicol worked quickly to place a chest tube so we could remove the air from the space around his lungs. Unfortunately every time the air was removed from his chest it refilled, showing that the leak in Rambo’s lung had not sealed itself up and after intensive care here, he was transferred to Dr. Mark Smith at Lake Country Veterinary Specialist in Winfield. Dr Smith performed surgery on Rambo and removed the left caudal lung lobe. During the surgery, Dr Smith found a spear-grass awn stuck to Rambo’s diaphragm. It is likely that Rambo had inhaled the awn and it had worked its way through his airways, finally puncturing the lung and causing the pneumothorax. Because they do not show up on x-ray, speargrass awns can be almost impossible to locate. His family was so thrilled with the care at Lake Country that they had this to say,

“We, and Rambo, were so very lucky to have Dr. Mark Smith perform surgery on his lung. Dr. Smith was such a caring vet that, when Rambo needed round the clock care… he took Rambo to his home.”

Rambo went home only to return to Lake Country two days later, he was suffering from a fever, depression, and he was inappetant and coughing. Rambo had to have another anesthetic and Dr. Smith had to place another chest tube. Dr. Smith was concerned about Rambo’s left cranial lung lobe and he took Rambo home for another weekend to monitor him closely. Dr. Smith was worried that Rambo was suffering from a blood clot from the major surgery. Rambo’s family waited anxiously for Rambo to improve.

“The whole ordeal was very stressful and we feared we might lose Rambo at one point.”


After intensive monitoring, Rambo was able to go home with his family. He needed to return for a follow up CT scan to see how his lungs were improving after surgery. CT scanning combines special x-ray equipment with sophisticated computers to produce multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body. It provides more clarity and details that are not visible on an x-ray. The CT scan revealed that Rambo had what the radiologist thought was a blood-clot at the surgical site. Rambo would need to be kept very quiet and his family would need to monitor him very closely for any signs of distress.

Rambo continued to improve greatly and his family was incredibly diligent with his home care after his surgery. His incredible recovery has to be credited to his family who spent months caring for Rambo. His family reports that he is “once again the eager fun loving dog he was before his surgery.”He is back to hiking in the hills of Kenna Cartwright Park with his family. We are amazed every time we see Rambo that he is back to his usual self as he bounces in to the hospital looking for cookies and pats.

LifeLearn Admin | Pet Of The Month