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Ventilator treatment saves life of 85-lb puppy

CLEARWATER, Fla.  – A nine-month-old puppy named June Carter fell into a coma after chomping a bottle of medicine. As she lay across the floor, barely able to breathe, her whole family feared the worst.

Taylor Nelson with her dog June Carter

Taylor Nelson with her dog June Carter

But now the playful 85-pound mastiff-hound mix is back home and improving every day, thanks to sophisticated treatment she received at BluePearl Veterinary Partners.

The treatment included a machine that many people may not realize can be used for dogs and cats– a ventilator.

Media are invited to see June Carter as she arrives for a follow-up veterinary appointment at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the BluePearl hospital at 4525 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater.

“It’s the most traumatic experience with the best outcome that I’ve ever seen,” said Taylor Nelson, who owns June Carter.

“She had become completely paralyzed and would have died without ventilation therapy,” said Dr. Lauren Harris, who is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care and supervised June Carter’s treatment. “We’re so pleased she was able to go home as a normal puppy.”

Nelson is a country music fan, and named June Carter shortly after adopting her when the dog was 8 weeks old. Nelson said June Carter is “an absolute goofball” who loves to run and play, and whose big tail wags frequently and knocks over just about everything that’s not bolted down.

Nelson had left for work on the morning of Jan. 27 when her grandmother called from home with the frightening news. After discovering June Carter unresponsive on the floor, family members discovered the remains of a chewed-up bottle of muscle relaxants – with all the medicine missing.  The dog had somehow gotten into a medicine cabinet.

Nelson zipped back home and took June Carter to Advanced Veterinary Hospital in Holiday, where the staff gave June Carter fluids, assessed her, and recommended BluePearl.

BluePearl’s hospitals in Clearwater, Tampa, Brandon and Sarasota are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with veterinarians always on hand for emergencies just such as this.  The hospitals also employ veterinarians who have taken years of additional training and testing to become board-certified in veterinary specialties, including surgery, cardiology, neurology and emergency and critical care and others.

Nelson drove June Carter to BluePearl’s Clearwater hospital, praying as she drove and sometimes calling out “Keep breathing, stay with me!”

“The minute I pulled up to BluePearl, they had the gurney and they got her right in to the hospital,” Nelson said.  A team of veterinarians and technicians began working on June Carter in the ER.

June Carter on the ventilator at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Clearwater, Fla.

June Carter on the ventilator at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Clearwater, Fla.

Harris said June Carter was put on the ventilator because at that point, she was unable to breathe on her own. The machine did that work for her, pushing oxygen in and out, keeping her alive until her body could recover well enough to take over her normal breathing.

During this time, the dog also was given fluids containing lipids, which countered the effects of the muscle relaxants. The muscle relaxants contained baclofen, which is highly toxic to dogs.

After 20 hours on the ventilator, June Carter was able to breathe on her own, so she was disconnected from the ventilator.  A tube remained in her trachea (wind pipe) to keep it open for another 12 hours.  After that time, this tube was removed, and June Carter was able to breathe unassisted.

Nelson was happy the staff told her that June Carter’s prognosis was good, but it was still scary and stressful to see her normally playful pup stretched out and motionless for so long.

At one point on Sunday, as she and her mother were both visiting the hospital, she said, “If I could just see her tail wag, that would make me feel so much better.”

Just then, June Carter wagged her tail.

“Me and my mom, we both started bawling.”

June Carter went home on Monday, Jan. 30 and since then she has improved steadily. Nelson is grateful to have her puppy back home with the rest of her family.

“How well she’s doing is nothing short of a miracle.”

Harris said everyone at BluePearl pitched in to help June Carter, and everyone was rooting for her. Some people even came in on their day off to see June Carter leave the hospital.

“It’s a great success story, and was really rewarding for all of us,” she said.

June Carter

June Carter