Emergency vets come to the rescue of dog with severe breathing problems

When Desmond the boisterous bulldog was mysteriously struck down by pneumonia he was so ill his owners thought he’d actually changed breed.

Gone was the normal Desmond — bright, alert and full of mischief — and in his place was a listless character who looked and acted more like Droopy the cartoon Basset hound.

“He was in such a bad way that he was almost unrecognisable,” said owner Samantha Burns.

“It was heartbreaking to see him that way, all sad and droopy-eyed. We were prepared for the worst. We really didn’t think he’d pull through.”

Image of bulldog Desmond for Vets Now article on pneumonia in dogs
Desmond the bulldog after overcoming his illness

Indeed, Desmond’s condition had been assessed as life-threatening after Samantha and husband Richard took him to their local vets.

On arrival, the 18-month-old was finding it so hard to breathe he was gasping for oxygen and the sound of his breathing was making a noise like a horn.

He was in such a serious condition he was transferred to Vets Now’s pet emergency clinic in Hemel Hempstead, Herts, where he was given continuous oxygen therapy.

Samantha said: “Poor Desmond was unresponsive, his pulse was high and his breathing rate was more than twice what it should have been. It’s so distressing to see your dog in that kind of condition. There’s nothing that can really prepare you for it. It’s just awful to see.”

A video clip taken by Samantha on Desmond’s second night at Vets Now shows him able to walk around without needing oxygen, although still panting very heavily and very drained with his eyes barely open.

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Desmond with his owners Samantha and Richard

The next night, 48 hours after being hospitalised, he was well enough to be sent home – with his breathing back under control.

By then, Desmond had become a firm favourite with senior vet Michelle Dawson and her team.

Michelle said: “Desmond was a big softie. We all loved him. But he was critically ill and struggling to breathe when he was admitted.

“We gave him oxygen, fluids and medication to reduce his anxiety and that allowed us to perform some diagnostics tests, including blood tests and an x-ray.

“These revealed he had severe, potentially life-threatening pneumonia, one of the worst cases I have seen, and so we increased his fluids and gave him multiple injections of antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatories to help him breathe more easily.

“He wasn’t fit to travel so we kept him in for multiple days and nights to give the antibiotics time to work. Slowly but surely his condition began to improve and we were able to wean him off constant oxygen.”

Desmond is named after Storm Desmond, whose hurricane-force winds brought chaos and flooding to northern England and southern Scotland in December 2015.

One of the casualties of the storm was Samantha and Richard’s romantic winter wedding at Gretna Green – which went ahead without the wedding car and with a DJ whose music equipment had been washed away.

Now, after a full-scale drama of his own, Desmond is back at home in Wendover, near Aylesbury, Bucks, with Samantha and Richard having made a full recovery.

So much so that Desmond – who is usually a picky eater and sometimes needs to be fed by hand – is wolfing down his dinners as he builds his strength back up.

An image of Desmond with his owner Richard for Vets Now article on dog pneumonia
Bulldog Desmond with owner Richard

"We’ve got our Desmond back and we’re incredibly grateful to the team at Vets Now, they really went the extra mile to look after him after we were referred to them by our local vet."

Samantha Burns Desmond's owner

Samantha, 37, who is an RAF medic, said: “After the wedding, we decided that we’d call our first dog Desmond but I don’t think we expected him to be involved in his own emergency like this.

“We still don’t know how he caught pneumonia – but the main thing is he’s getting better by the minute.

“We’ve got our Desmond back and we’re incredibly grateful to the team at Vets Now, they really went the extra mile to look after him after we were referred to them by our local vet.

“Michelle even went in to see Desmond when she was off-duty — that’s the kind of care he got. We honestly thought he wouldn’t be coming home. So the fact we’ve got him here now and he’s back to his old tricks … well, that’s just brilliant.”

The Vets Now clinic in Hemel Hempstead — where Desmond received treatment — was recently rated as “outstanding” in the delivery of emergency and critical care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It’s one of 58 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.