Growth filling 90% of a Burmese mountain dog’s trachea removed by experts at UC Davis using equipment designed to perform laser procedures in the airways of horses.

An American vet school helped a Burmese mountain dog breathe easy using equipment often used on horses.

Bryggen – a 112-pound, 18-month-old female – was brought to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital because she was having trouble breathing.

Her owners reported she was lip-smacking, wheezing, coughing, vomiting and regurgitating. Her condition had been persisting for six months, much to the dismay of her local vet, who she had seen on several occasions for these episodes. However, no abnormalities were ever found on examination.

Difficulties locating the source of the problem saw Bryggen’s condition worsen over the next six months, until an examination by UC Davis found a large, irregular mass within a section of the trachea.

The mass was so close to the entrance to the lungs, though, that surgical removal was considered dangerous and Bryggen’s vets decided to perform a bronchoscopy (passing a camera down into the airways) to visualise the mass and collect cell samples.

During the bronchoscopy, it was discovered the mass was filling almost 90% of Bryggen’s trachea and cell samples of the mass were consistent with degeneration and proliferation of cartilage.

For help with this problem, SAIMS turned to colleagues in the large animal clinic, who had specialised equipment designed to perform laser procedures in the upper airways of horses. Due to Bryggen’s large size, the vets were confident the horse equipment could be used on her.

The mass filled almost 90% of Bryggen’s trachea.Use of cautery or laser in the respiratory tract can be dangerous because of an interaction between the cauterisation process and the high oxygen content of the air in the airways when a patient is under anaesthesia.

Prior to the procedure, the hospital’s anaesthesia service delivered a low oxygen mixture that would maintain Bryggen’s blood oxygen while reducing the likelihood of injury within her airways.

The surgery started with passing the specialised equine endoscope into Bryggen’s windpipe. A wire snare was then passed through the endoscope and looped around the mass to cauterise the base of the growth. Following this, a laser catheter was passed into the windpipe to destroy the region of attachment of the mass to the windpipe using laser energy.

The delicate procedure took three hours, but the mass was completely removed.

Bryggen’s breathing was almost immediately back to normal, and a biopsy of the removed mass proved it to be a benign mass of cartilage. Two months after the procedure, Bryggen was recovering well at home with no episodes of wheezing or respiratory difficulty. A repeat bronchoscopy revealed the trachea had healed nicely at the site of mass resection, and there was no evidence of regrowth.

Lynelle Johnson, chief of the internal medicine service, said: “The collaborative approaches we take to veterinary medicine at UC Davis make for some of the most special cases. Getting to find a solution to Bryggen’s problems, and using horse equipment to do it, was exciting for our service, and such a relief for her family.”

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