Tuesday, December 31, 2013

PIPER IS IN THE HOSPITAL! by Dorrie the Chihuahua

My big sister Piper has spent the last two nights at VCA Mission emergency and specialty clinic, where it always costs a lot of money to go, so I'm not sure why Mom takes us there in the first place.  I am happy to say that I have not had to go there yet, and I hope I never have to!

Anyway, what happened was that Piper has been having problems with breathing, and these problems have been getting worse and worse.  At first Piper just panted a little after she came up the stairs, or sometimes when she came in from the back yard.  Mom talked to Dr. Vodraska about this, and they decided Piper was panting because she was in pain.  And the reason she was in pain was probably due to arthritis in her knees, where she had surgery many years ago for luxating patellas.  So Piper started getting more Tramadol, which is a medicine for pain.

But the Tramadol didn't seem to help much, because Piper was still panting a lot after she came up the stairs, and Mom started carrying her upstairs at bedtime.  I've been sleeping with Piper a lot lately because I could tell that something was wrong inside her, and I wanted to reassure her.  Also she is bigger and warmer to snuggle up to than Tristan is.

On Sunday, Mom was home with us all morning, and she kept noticing how hard Piper had to work at breathing.  Piper was even panting after she took a drink of water.  When she was lying still, she went on breathing hard, and Mom started counting how many breaths Piper took in a minute, which came out to 36.  Then Mom went and looked up what the normal number of breaths for a resting dog should be, and the answer was between 10 and 34.

Piper in the deep snow last winter

Piper already had an appointment to go to Dr. Patricia's office for a test of her adrenal gland on Monday.  This test has to be done about every 6 months to figure out if Piper's medicine for Cushing's disease is still the right amount.  So on Sunday, Mom was trying to decide if Piper's shortness of breath was an emergency that meant she should go to VCA Mi$$ion, or if it was okay to wait until Monday and have Dr. Vodraska look at her.

Finally, Mom decided that the situation was an emergency, and she took Piper to the clinic.  A very nice emergency vet named Dr. Scott examined Piper, and then she took x-rays of Piper's chest.  She told Mom that she saw "a mass" near Piper's heart, but she couldn't tell what it was, or whether it was cancer or not.  She said an echocardiogram was needed to get a clearer picture.

Piper stayed overnight on Sunday to be "oxygenated" in a cage with glass walls.  Mom and Tristan and I felt depressed because we were afraid Piper might have to go to the Rainbow Bridge.  Mom said that if that happened, somebody would need to write Piper's blog, and she asked me if I would do it.  I said I would, but it's a huge responsibility, and I don't know if I could ever do it as well as Piper does it.

Anyway, yesterday, a doctor named Dr. Wall did the ECG on Piper, and guess what!  She didn't see any mass at all!  She said that Piper's problem was something called pulmonary hypertension.  This happens when blood that is being pumped from the right side of the heart has trouble getting through the arteries in the lungs.  The arteries and capillaries might have tiny blood clots in them or they might have just become narrower for some reason.  This situation causes the blood pressure in the lungs to rise, which is not a good thing.  The heart has to work harder and harder, and eventually it can fail completely.

Lung tissue showing results of pulmonary hypertension
Image:  Bulent Celasun, MD
The main reason for dogs to get pulmonary hypertension is that they have disease of the heart valves.  And the second most common reason is because of heartworms.  There are also several diseases that can cause the condition to develop, including Cushing's disease, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease, and auto-immune disease.

As you probably remember, Piper has Cushing's, so that might be the reason she has now ended up with pulmonary hypertension.  You can read Piper's blog entry about her Cushing's disease here.

Dr. Wall wanted to keep Piper another night at the hospital because she is starting Piper on some medicine to help her breathe better.  She wants to get the doses all figured out so that Piper's oxygen levels don't fall every time she comes out of the cage with all the oxygen in it.  I really hope Piper can come home today because I miss her, and I miss snuggling with her.  Also, I'm sure Piper feels lonely and wants to be back home again, too!


  1. Dear Dorrie,
    Thanks for letting us know about Piper's hospitalization. We all hope she gets a lot better soon and can come home today.
    Your friends,
    Liza & Vici

    1. Dear Liza and Vici,
      Piper gets to come home this afternoon. Yay! But first, Mom has to go to Petco to buy a bunch of cat food and then to the Humane Society to take some stuff she's donating. After that, she will pick Piper up and bring her home. I can hardly wait!
      Happy new year from your friend, Dorrie

  2. I'm so glad to read that Piper is on her way home. I would have been very, very worried about her if we'd read the blog earlier. We will continue to think good healing thoughts for Piper.


    (Ps the pink zebra jammies look really good on her)

    1. Thanks for your concern about my sister, Piper. Mom has been posting a lot about her on Facebook, and a whole bunch of people commented there. You ought to get on Facebook, too!

      Anyway, Piper's home but she still gets really out of breath if she does anything besides lie around in bed. We hope that after she has more medicine in her, she will feel better. Mom has to get busy and start splitting pills!

      Your friend, Dorrie