This is not a recent incident, but as we’ve recently seen a handful of Instagram posts about dogs developing pneumonia, we want to share Emma’s experience with pneumonia in the hopes that if someone were to experience something similar, this information may come in handy.
We had no idea that dogs could even develop pneumonia, so this wasn’t something we’d even considered when we began to notice a difference in Emma’s energy.
Disclaimer - this post contains some sensitive content and images that some may find disturbing.
The day prior to our emergency vet visit, we went about our usual routine with Emma, but had noticed some unusual behaviors. Emma had begun to lightly cough from on occasion as if to clear her throat, which we assumed was just that. She didn’t seem to have any difficulty breathing, just that there was an irritation. She also avoided direct sunlight and stayed in the shade when we were out for a walk, and as it was an exceptionally hot day, we figured it was simply the weather.
In the evening, following her usual post-dinner playtime, she began to shiver in her sleep – this was the first major indication that this was something to keep an eye on. The following morning, we noticed that she seemed keen to sleep in. Assuming she may have been tired from the previous day, we let her continue sleeping in for a little while longer. We then went out for our usual walk, she ate her meal as she normally does, and then took a nap by the window, just as she always does. However, we noticed that she wasn’t startled by sounds that usually jolt her awake – this was the second indication. She can usually hear if someone walks past our condo door or our neighbor walks out onto the balcony for a smoke, but nothing seemed to wake her. By mid-afternoon her sleeps were no longer comfortable, and she just laid on her bed, lethargic. This was indicator number 3.
A few hours later, she had begun to wheeze, drool and pant, which quickly turned into excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, and she had completely stopped responding to us all within 45 mins. Perhaps we should have called our vet when we noticed the lethargy mid-day, but at the time, this was when we called our vet.
To make matters more complicated, this was another particularly hot day, and our vet was at capacity treating dogs with heat exhaustion in our area. The vet that we were referred to was also at capacity, and this is when we started to panic. We called all the vets within walking distance as well as mobile animal clinics, but every single one of them was at capacity or booked. We finally managed to find an emergency clinic about a 45-minute drive away that was able to see us, but as our luck would have it, not a single rental car was available in our area. We called around and an incredible friend who was in the neighbourhood raced over and drove us up to the clinic to get Emma checked (thank you – you know who you are!).
At the clinic, we were informed at first that her vitals were stable and that this most likely was heat exhaustion, as with all the other poor dogs that were at the vets that day. They would need to monitor her for a few hours before we would be able to take her home. However, not even an hour later, we receive a call informing us that her health has rapidly declined and that she was on oxygen support and IVs. We were informed that she would need to spend the night at the clinic, but that we could call in whenever we needed to check in on her health.
The doctors and technicians were incredibly patient and understanding and accepted our calls throughout the night. They kept us up to date on how she was doing and once Emma’s vitals were stable again, the doctor gave us a call to let us know that this seemed to be bacterial pneumonia, and that she would need to be monitored a few more days until her oxygen levels were back up to par. As we were unable to visit the clinic due to Covid, the team arranged FaceTime chats for us to check in with Emma regularly over the next 5 nights that she stayed at the hospital. They always took the time to answer all of our questions, so that we were ready to continue her recovery at home. Emma was slowly able to wean off the oxygen support, and once she was strong enough to breathe on her own, she came back home with us.
Although Emma was excited to be at home, her batteries charged and ready to play, we had to take things easy. Although very slightly, she still had difficulties breathing, so we were not to exercise her too much. She also needed antibiotics during her morning meals, and as she doesn’t drink enough water as is, had to be extra mindful to make sure she stayed hydrated.
These were fairly easy directions to follow, but the one major change since her return home was that she’d lost her appetite almost completely. She had suddenly become very picky with what she eats, often picking out pieces of food out of her bowl with her front teeth. Timing-wise, this may have coincided with her phantom pregnancy (more in a later post), so we’re not sure if her loss of appetite was due to the pneumonia, but it did take about one and a half months for her to begin eating normally again.
The biggest lesson for us was making sure that we act quickly. Fortunately, with the help of our friend and the veterinary team, Emma was treated in time, but we were cutting it close.
We realize now that we’re always better safe than sorry, so if we notice something concerning, we check in with our vets.
We’ve also established a back-up plan for when things go wrong. What do we do when no vets, emergency clinics or mobile clinics are able to see us? What do we do if we need to drive out to the nearest available clinic? We can now spring into action without panicking.
Finances may not be the first thing on your mind during an emergency, it is something that we had to re-evaluate. We did not have pet insurance for Emma at the time, and although we would have gone broke, without hesitation, for Emma to receive the necessary treatment, it was in fact a fairly hefty bill. We re-discussed what we believed was the best course of action for our financial situation, and purchased insurance for Emma.
Our hope is not to scare, but rather to provide a realistic and honest account of how we dealt with such a sudden and scary emergency.