Saving Sugar: San Antonio Pets & Vets

We are ecstatic to announce our very own San Antonio pet, Sugar, is back greeting customers at Acorn Hill Animal Hospital today!

Sugar stopped breathing and nearly died twice in the wee hours of Monday morning.


Our sweet girl suffered from an incredibly rare condition known as a spontaneous pneumothorax. Sugar fought hard and pulled through – and has a wicked haircut to show for it!

Effectively, one of her lung lobes popped and continuously leaked so much air out of her lungs that neither of her lungs could expand with air and she could not provide life-sustaining oxygen to her body. When Sugar inhaled, her inspired breath went into her lungs, but leaked straight out of her lungs into the space around the lungs and inside the rib cage. Due to the dynamics of this situation, she also could not exhale properly. 

It is so uncommon, that I have not spoken with another general practice veterinarian who has ever diagnosed this exact condition on a pet.

Jumping in to action

On Sunday night, Sugar was pacing, restless, and unable to get comfortable. Mykayla and Melissa met me at the clinic around midnight Sunday. While we were evaluating her chest x-rays, Sugar’s body went limp and she stopped breathing.

San Antonio pets Collapsed lung

Within 60 seconds, Melissa had a tube placed in Sugar’s airway and was giving her breaths of oxygen. In that time Mykayla shaved and prepped Sugar’s chest so I could insert a needle between her ribs and remove what became an untold number of liters of air from her chest. I could not remove air fast enough to allow her lungs to expand fully. We had begun to stabilize her, but the battle was not over.

In most instances of a pneumothorax, what we did would have been successful. But Sugar had such a large tear in her lung lobe that the leaking would not cease. We decided to transport her less than 10 minutes away to the Emergency Pet Center on Broadway. While I drove (a bit aggressively), Mykayla used an ambu bag to provide breaths. But that still was not sufficient. Sugar’s body was so weak that in the time it took for me to carry her from my vehicle to the treatment table she stopped breathing again. 

After we were able to stabilize Sugar one more time, the emergency veterinarian Dr. Holmes placed a larger diameter tube into Sugar’s chest cavity and connected the tube to a specialized suction unit that would continuously vacuum air from Sugar’s chest cavity. It was still another hour or more before Sugar regained consciousness. This vacuum unit was required for another 36 hours to allow her lungs to begin to heal.

San Antonio pets Collapsed lung with tube exctracting air

Cutting-edge procedure

After those 36 hours, her lung lobe appeared to be leaking considerably less. Dr. Gati at the Emergency Pet Center performed a rare procedure on my sweet girl and drew almost 7 ounces of blood from Sugar’s neck and administered this into her chest tube. This is called creating an autologous blood-patch. It means we used Sugar’s own blood to help clot and seal the leak in the lungs. And it appeared to work. 

On Wednesday afternoon, we decided Sugar was stable enough to be transported back to my home. Of course we brought half of the equipment from Acorn Hill to have at the ready – just in case!

Sugar had to lay in a very odd way to aid getting air into her lungs. This really caused a flare-up with her poor arthritis. But some rehab exercises and the Low Level Laser at Acorn Hill Animal Hospital have helped to get her back and moving.

Many Thanks!

A huge heartfelt THANK YOU!  To all of our friends who have been checking in with me and who were super flexible and understanding and rescheduled their appointments with me while I spent time with my sweet Sugar dog this week. As well, a GIANT thank you to my team and the veterinarian team at the Emergency Pet Center. There are a gazillion more details to include, but I am pleased you read this far. We don’t know if this will occur again with Sugar, but we are so happy that she is back to her normal happy self as our greeter and will enjoy every day we get to spend with her!