By, Carol Borchert
Like most pug owners, Sandy and Tim Day were used to the little snorts, snores, and snuffling noises made by their beloved pug, Lulu. They found Lulu’s breathing just one more endearing trait of the breed and one they happily endured (as comedian Vicco von Bülow once observed, “A life without pugs is possible but pointless.”).
But two years ago, when Lulu was 8, the Days began to notice some changes in their pup. Normally active and playful, Lulu lost interest in her toys, she began to tire easily and pant heavily when out walking, and she just wasn’t her effervescent self.
“We realized she had gone from making those cute pug noises to having difficulty breathing,” said Sandy Day, Lulu’s owner.
The Days consulted with numerous veterinarians (including those at Colorado State University), and found that Lulu’s larynx was collapsing, a condition that most likely started developing in puppyhood, and the collapse was complicated by an elongated soft palate. After agonizing over a treatment decision, the Days opted for surgery with a veterinarian near their California home where Lulu might have an easier time recovering at sea level. Unfortunately, the surgery only seemed to exacerbate Lulu’s condition. When Lulu’s health worsened, the Days called Dr. Eric Monnet, a specialist in minimally invasive surgery, at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
“We called Dr. Monnet and the next day flew to Colorado,” said Sandy Day. “We knew it was serious, and we knew that Lulu may need a permanent tracheotomy. At the hospital, Gail Bishop (a counselor with the Argus Center) helped us so much as we tried to make our decision.”
After their consult with Dr. Monnet, the Days decided they simply were unable to put Lulu through surgery a second time, and decided to go to their Wyoming home, where they waited and watched to see if Lulu improved. Their respite was brief as Lulu’s condition deteriorated even more, and they returned to Fort Collins expecting the worst but hoping for the best.
“I think I knew in my head that she would need a permanent tracheotomy,” said Sandy Day. “But in my heart I was still optimistic. Even so, I was stunned when Dr. Monnet said “I can fix this,” no tracheotomy needed. It was so much more than we hoped for, and we wanted to do something in return. We decided to set up a research fund in Lulu’s name – Lulu’s Legacy.”
Lulu’s Legacy supports research related to upper-airway disease in canine companions. Dr. Monnet is leading one such project on the research and development of an intralaryngeal stent designed to help dogs suffering from laryngeal collapse and laryngeal paralysis.
Laryngeal paralysis, most often found in larger-breed dogs, is a condition in which the nerves and muscles that control the movements of one or both of the arytenoid cartilages (opened when inhaling and closed when swallowing) of the larynx cease to function. Laryngeal collapse develops when there is a loss of the rigidity and support provided by the laryngeal cartilage, causing the larynx to fold and collapse. Laryngeal collapse often is secondary to other long-standing upper airway disorders, such as those seen in short-faced dogs (brachycephalic) like pugs, Boston terriers and English bulldogs.
Lulu’s surgery was on Sept. 18, 2012, and today she is back to her young self (including opening all the presents under the Christmas tree). For Sandy and Tim Day, Lulu’s Legacy is a way of saying thank you to Dr. Monnet and the staff at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for giving them the best gift of all – a snorty, snuffy, happy pug.
If you are interested in advancing medical treatments for upper-airway respiratory diseases in companion animals, and would like to make a contribution to Lulu’s Legacy, visit https://advancing.colostate.edu/LULUSLEGACY; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.