Meg the lucky dog
Meg, a 10 year old heading dog, arrived at the Feilding clinic in a serious state, gasping for breath but still on her feet. She had been out in the paddocks that morning and run into a stick at chest height, which was hidden in the grass. Her owner had to make the decision whether or not to pull the stick out - he did, and found that it had penetrated 20 cm into her chest!
On examination, we found a 4cm long wound in her right armpit that was making a sucking noise every time she breathed. Her respiratory rate was increased and she was having to take huge breaths to get enough oxygen. Despite this effort, her gums were a nasty pale blue color, and she was going into shock.
The wound was quickly closed with skin staples to stop it sucking air into her chest and collapsing her lungs. While oxygen was supplied via a mask over her nose and mouth, both sides of her chest were clipped and prepped. Needles and tubing were inserted through the chest wall on either side, and used to suck out the air and blood that was surrounding the lungs and collapsing them. 500ml of air was removed from the left side of the chest, and 800ml from the right. When you compare this volume to the chest size of a 20kg dog, there wasn't much room left for normal lung tissue. Once the lungs were able to reinflate, her breathing rate and effort improved.
Meg was then started on IV fluids for shock and given pain relief. Xrays showed the track that the stick had taken into the chest, hitting the sternum then passing between two ribs. The lungs had reinflated but there was some serious bruising present.
She was in a serious condition for 12 hours, requiring continual IV fluids and supplemental oxygen. But the tough old girl rallied and next morning she was on her feet and looking for breakfast!
There was still the matter of the wound to clean and make sure there were no fragments of stick left under the skin, but this would wait until her lungs had healed and she was fit enough to handle an anaesthetic.
She came back to the clinic to get her stitches out recently and her owner reports she is doing great and is keen to get back to work - albeit on light duties!