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Pet Emergency at West Hills Animal Hospital and Emergency Center


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Pet Stories

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West Hills Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center

Do you and your pet have an amazing story to tell about our hospital? Would you like to share your pet's story with our readers? We would love it! Click here to upload your pet's story.

Ginger is our October Surgery Patient! Ginger is our October Surgery Patient!

Ginger is an exceptionally sweet 9-year-old Havanese who was presented to the West Hills Emergency Service after falling out of a van window, landing on a sewer grate, and possibly being hit by a car. Ginger’s owners did not witness her accident, but brought her in for evaluation once they saw she could not bear weight on her right hind limb.
Our emergency veterinarian, Dr. LeBars, noted that Ginger had significant bruising and swelling of both of her hind limbs and along the underside of her belly.
Radiographs (x-rays) showed multiple fractures along both sides of Ginger’s pelvis (see picture 1). The x-rays also showed Ginger had air/gas trapped underneath the skin of her broken pelvis. This is called subcutaneous emphysema.
The air/gas could have been introduced from “outside to inside” (air from the environment becoming trapped in a wound secondary to the trauma), or from “inside to outside” (gas leaking from an ruptured internal organ that passes through a tear in the body wall--the layers of muscle and tissue that separate the abdominal contents from the skin). The latter scenario represents a critical emergency and can be life-threatening.
Once she was stabilized, our board certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Hirshenson, evaluated Ginger. He recommended a CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis to better delineate the extent of her fractures and to further examine the cause of the air/gas seen on the radiographs.
The CT scan revealed multiple pelvic fractures including a left ileal-wing fracture and bilateral ischial and pubic fractures). Fortunately, Ginger’s body wall was found to be intact, eliminating an internal cause of the air/gas seen under her skin.
Despite her multiple fractures, restoration of the structural support of her pelvis required repairing only the left ilial wing with a plate and screws (see picture 2). With the help and dedication of the staff at West Hills (and Ginger’s owners) she progressively gained strength and at the time of discharge was able to walk comfortably on her own!
Nearing 2 months post-surgery, we are glad to report that Ginger is back to her happy, playful self and is getting stronger every day. With the diligent care provided to her at home, Ginger is on the path towards a full recovery!


Angel is our September Surgery Patient! Angel is our September Surgery Patient!

Angel, a lovely 13 year old chocolate Labrador, was initially presented to the West Hills Animal Hospital surgery service in November 2014 with a primary complaint of increased respiratory effort when active and slight change to the sound of her bark. Based on Angel’s age, breed, and clinical signs, Dr. Hirshenson discussed concerns about a condition called laryngeal paralysis.
As Angel’s signs were fairly mild at the time, a conservative management plan was created, including ensuring she was kept in a cool environment and not allowed to overheat. Angel did well at home through the winter, but re-presented to the surgery service in April 2015 for worsening signs, including several episodes of collapsing with activity.
Laryngeal paralysis (“Lar Par”) is typically seen in older dogs. Labrador retrievers are more frequently affected; though any breed could develop this condition. Laryngeal paralysis results from degenerative loss of neurologic function to the muscles responsible for opening the larynx, the part of the airway located at the back of the throat. When the larynx fails to open, air cannot pass normally from the mouth or nose into the lungs.
Owners of dogs with laryngeal paralysis frequently note their dogs showing signs of exercise intolerance, increased panting and occasionally a change to the sound of their bark. Dogs can still breathe with this condition, but exercise, heat and inflammation can rapidly exacerbate their signs, making it difficult for them to breathe.
In extreme cases, pets collapse from lack of oxygen! It is unclear exactly why dogs develop laryngeal paralysis, but evidence supports the theory it is part of a systemic neurologic degeneration that occurs as dogs age.
Patients with mild clinical signs can often be managed conservatively, where owners must keep their pets in cooler environments (i.e. air conditioned houses and cars) and not allowing them to become too excited. For severely affected dogs, like Angel, surgery is recommended.
The recommended procedure is called an arytenoid lateralization or “tie-back”, and entails making an incision into the neck and suturing one side of the arytenoid cartilage in a fixed position to widen the airway opening. The procedure works well, but carries a moderate risk of a complication called aspiration pneumonia. Angel’s signs were severe enough she required surgery to maintain a good quality of life.
Angel had surgery and recovered with flying colors! Following recovery, her breathing was quieter and she was more relaxed. She was able to sleep through the night without respiratory difficulty and can now go on longer walks and enjoy the yard without effort, even in the dog days of summer!


Scooby Turan- Surgery Patient for Month of August Scooby Turan- Surgery Patient for Month of August

Meet Scooby, the gentle giant! Scooby, a 7-year-old Great Dane, initially was presented to West Hills Animal Hospital in mid-January for right forelimb lameness. Radiographs were obtained, revealing a lesion in his radius, concerning for a primary bone tumor. A week later Scooby was evaluated by the surgery service and a biopsy of the bone was performed to obtain a definitive diagnosis. Results showed osteosarcoma, the most common type of primary bone cancer, seen in dogs.
The recommended therapy following diagnosis of osteosarcoma is amputation of the affected limb followed by chemotherapy. Amputation serves to control the disease locally, as well as relieve the patient from the source of pain. An alternative option is a procedure called a “limb-spare,” where the affected portion of bone is removed and replaced with an implant and a large metal plate. Unfortunately, limb-spare surgery carries the risk of many possible post-operative complications compared to amputation surgery.
Scooby’s owners elected to pursue the “limb spare” surgery and additional testing confirmed that he was an ideal candidate for this procedure. Surgery was performed by Dr. Hirshenson, our board certified surgeon, who is one of a small number of veterinarians in the world trained in this complicated procedure. He then started chemotherapy as previously recommended.
Unfortunately Scooby experienced some of the more common complications associated with limb-spare surgery including an infection associated with his metallic surgical implants, requiring long-term administration of antibiotics, and ringworm, a fungal infection, along his skin. These setbacks caused several delays in his planned chemotherapy treatments. However, Scooby handled all the vet visits with his typical patience and gentle demeanor.
Unfortunately, in July (5 months after the initial “limb spare” surgery), Scooby‘s lameness returned and radiographs showed tumor growth in the ulna (the bone next to the previously affected radius). Given the discomfort this lesion was causing, an amputation of Scooby’s right forelimb was recommended. He underwent this surgery the following day and in typical “Scooby fashion”, never looked back!
Now, Scooby is hopping around on 3 legs and continues to be admired by all who know him. He is still undergoing chemotherapy, but is taking everything in stride and is comfortable and happy. Scooby holds a special place in our hearts here at West Hills and he continues to impress us all!


Rosie Schultheis Story- Surgery Patient of the Month July Rosie Schultheis Story- Surgery Patient of the Month July

Rosie, a beautiful 1 year old mix breed, was presented to West Hills Animal Hospital on referral from her primary veterinarian for continued care of persistent diarrhea and loss of appetite. Rosie was initially evaluated 2 days prior to presentation by her primary veterinarian, where blood work revealed a low white blood cell count and low protein, and fecal examination was negative. She was treated supportively with fluids and antibiotics; however clinical signs persisted, leading to referral to West Hills. Prior to this episode Rosie had been an otherwise healthy dog.

Upon arrival at West Hills, Rosie was admitted to the hospital for additional diagnostics and intensive supportive care by one of our primary care veterinarians, Dr. Lancer. Radiographs (x-rays) did not reveal an obvious cause for her signs. The following day an abdominal ultrasound of the abdomen was performed, which also did not pinpoint an exact cause of the clinical signs, but showed evidence of dilation of her intestinal tract with fluid and ileus, which is a lack of movement of material within the digestive tract. Rosie was continued on supportive care, but her signs progressed to include nausea as well as continued diarrhea, and she was very lethargic. Repeat blood work was consistent with sepsis, a systemic wide infection that was not responding to supportive care.

Following consultation with Dr. Ries and Dr. Hirshenson, our board certified veterinary surgeon, Rosie’s owners elected to pursue an abdominal exploratory surgery.
In surgery, 2 small perforations were found in the cecum which is a small section of the intestinal tract that connects the small intestine to the large intestine. This, caused intestinal contents to leak into Rosie’s abdomen. The affected portion of her intestinal tract was removed. Dr. HIrshenson suspected that the perforations developed secondary to an intussusception. This is a condition where a loop of intestines slides inside another loop, causing inflammation, and in some cases, necrosis of the intestinal tract. The condition typically occurs in young dogs and in some cases can be life threatening. In Rosie’s case, the leakage of intestinal contents into the abdomen was causing a severe systemic infection, along with severe pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and secondary changes to her heart and liver.

Rosie required intensive monitoring and supportive care following surgery including two plasma transfusions, medication to help support her heart contractility and blood pressure, and a feeding tube to provide nutrition. Each day she showed slight improvement and exactly one week following admittance to the hospital (5 days following surgery) Rosie began eating small amounts on her own. Four days later (a total of 11 days in hospital) Rosie was discharged!
Over the following 2 weeks at home Rosie continued to regain strength and put on weight and rechecks of her blood work showed continued improvement. Through the hard work of the entire West Hills staff, the dedication of Rosie’s family, and of course the determination of Rosie herself, she is back at home where she belongs running through trails!


Casey Dayton's Story Casey Dayton's Story

Casey, a handsome nine-year-old domestic medium hair cat, was presented to the Emergency Service at West Hills Animal Hospital for a sudden onset of respiratory difficulty. His owner noted Casey was quieter than normal and abruptly starting showing more effort to breathe. Prior to this ER visit, Casey was always a very healthy kitty. He had just undergone a routine dental cleaning a few months prior, along with full bloodwork, which was completely normal.
When Casey arrived at West Hills our emergency doctor, Dr. Kristin Touma, identified free fluid around his lungs, and she suspected he had a mass within his chest. A large amount of fluid was removed, allowing Casey to breathe more comfortably. The following day a more comprehensive ultrasound was performed, revealing a mass greater than 10 cm in width in front of his heart. This is larger than an orange!
A small sample of mass was obtained and results were suggestive of a thymoma. Thymomas are typically slow growing tumors that arise from the thymus gland, a normal anatomical structure within the chest cavity that serves a role in immunity. As they grow, thymomas can place a great deal of pressure on the lungs and heart. Difficulty breathing, such as what Casey showed, occurs secondary to the physical obstruction the mass places on vital structures within the chest and/or fluid buildup around the lungs. Surgical removal of the mass is the ideal therapy for thymoma tumors.
After consultation with West Hills’ ACVS board-certified surgeon, Dr. Marc Hirshenson, Casey’s owner elected to pursue surgery. Although the mass encompassed more than half of his chest cavity, Casey did very well during anesthesia and surgery, and the mass was successfully removed. Biopsy of the mass confirmed the previous diagnosis of a thymoma. Casey spent a total of 3 days in the hospital, and his signs steadily improved over this time.
It’s been a month since Casey’s surgery, and he continues to do great at home. We will continue to monitor him for any signs of regrowth of his tumor, but his prognosis is considered excellent!
Our surgeon, Dr. Hirshenson is available for surgery consultations and procedures Monday-Friday and the West Hills Animal Hospital and Emergency Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Cody Lewis Cody Lewis

Cody is a 6 year old Yorkie who came in to see Dr. Lancer for progressive respiratory distress. Cody was immediately put on oxygen and the techs tried to get him comfortable. When his mom isn’t around he gets very stressed and anxious. He was struggling to stay alive and after many hours of anxiety he started breathing semi normal again. One of our emergency technicians, Nicole, sat by his side for over 10 hours. After multiple times of trying to wake him up without going into respiratory distress, we were finally able to do so with his mom and Nicole by his side. Cody came in for a recheck appointment recently and has been doing great! The owner is very appreciative for the care that the whole staff has given to Cody. We are so happy Cody is feeling better and can’t wait to see him again soon!


Kobe Kobe

Thanks to everyone at the West Hills Animal Emergency & Critical Care Center for taking care of Kobe!!


Bernie's Story Bernie's Story

Bernie is a 5 year old rescue St. Bernard/ Husky mix who has been a patient at West Hills Animal Hospital since he was a puppy. One Saturday afternoon I took him to the dog park to play with all his friends. As he was playing with another large dog a little to rough, I noticed he was limping on his back leg after.

It was around 6pm on a Saturday but I was so happy to know that even after hours, my vets office was still open! I was so relieved and happy I called and they said the veterinarian and licensed technicians were there all through the night and told me to come on in, no questions asked and no additional emergency fee since he's a recent patient which was amazing!

I took him to West Hills Animal Emergency & Critical Center and saw Dr. Lippmann. She was so compassionate and gentle with my hurt boy, it showed she really cared about him after only meeting him for the first time that night. After doing X-rays and a full exam, she told me he tore his cruciate and had to have surgery.

I scheduled the surgery shortly after with Dr. Coren who was also amazing with Bernie. Surgery went great and he stayed a few nights. I was able to visit him every night and had communication updates throughout the day. The technicians gave him tons of love and kisses.

After recovering at home a couple of months later, he is a new man! Back to his crazy happy self, snuggling with his brother and playing with other dogs. I am SO grateful of the care the whole staff at West Hills gave Bernie and the fact they were open at a time of crisis. Thank you again the whole staff for "fixing" my furry son and being there for him, any day or time.



Pet Stories

Pet emergencies for which you should immediately seek medical care:

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breading
  • Bleeding that does not stop from any part of the body
  • Bloated, distended, swollen or painful abdomen
  • Major trauma - Falls, hit-by-cars, large wounds, broken bones