New Bulldog Pics!

Stella is finishing out the summer in good health. We give her the lemons when she seems to be extra phlegmmy (which is about every 3-4 days or so) - and she seems to be doing well! Here are a few recent pics of her, sleeping and showing off her lovely row of bottom teeth! Trust me, you should see the top row if you think those bottom ones look rough!


Happpy Dog

Amy just updated her photo website with new pictures of Stella, and just look how happy she is! You can really see the smile on her face.

The reason she is so happy in these pictures is because she is being allowed to play with "Parrot". Parrot is a stuffed toy parrot that, when squeezed, says profane things like "Show me your f&*(ing t*ts!", and "Polly wants a f*%$ing cracker!", etc. It was a gag birthday gift my friend Shane gave me - not intended for canine enjoyment. Who knew the foul talking parrot would immediately become Stella's all time favorite toy. She looks for it everywhere when she doesn't have it, and getting it away from her is a task. I don't know what it is about the parrrott that she loves, but knowing her, I like to think she enjoys attacking it cause it's such an ornery sounding thing. :)


Another Lemon Moment!

Notice how Stella, our English Bulldog, even licks the lemon when she's not being encouraged to attack it! She really seems to either like the citrus flavor or know its good for her breathing situation. Notice at the end of the video, though, how she turns her attention to the video camera! Check for more videos of Stella and her adventures soon. We hope to (although gross) capture what she spits up after a "lemon treatment".


English Bulldogs LOVE lemons! (or they should)

Ok - so we had read online here and there about "old school" bulldog owners carrying lemon juice with them to squirt into their bulldog's mouths to help clear out the phlegm. The next time we were faced with the reality that Stella had definitely had too much activity and we were already dreading the next morning's trip to the ER - we decided to be proactive. We discussed the old lemon remedy - and decided to give it a try. We cut a fresh lemon in half length wise, dug out the seeds, and started to get Stella interested. For those of you who know English bulldogs, you know that they aren't afraid of much, and when tempted with something, they will generally build up enough courage and determination to lunge at it (at least this is what Stella does). So, after moving the lemon half back and forth in front of her face, saying "get it get it", she lunged for it, and immediately squished up her face and backed away, getting a mouth full of lemon juice. "Good Girl!!!!" we praised her, "You get that lemon!". We kept it up until she decided to make another clumsy lunge for it - grabbing for it with the side of her mouth, eye already squished closed in anticipation of the sour juice.

Too much excitement leads to more problems.

Now that Stella was through her surgery, we were really trying to keep her healthy. We were at Rehoboth beach in April, and after a day of obviously too much excitement, we awoke to Stella sitting at the edge of the bed, eyes half closed, breathing heavily. We were so upset - she had obviously come down with pneumonia AGAIN! We were devastated - and about 3 hours from the nearest emergency clinic to take her to.

We packed up and headed out - determined to get her the care she needed. However, before we left we gave her a steam treatment and patted her lungs - which caused her to produce a large amount of phlegm. She was breathing noticeably better over the course of the drive to the clinic, thanks to the steam treatment we assumed. When we arrived at the clinic, they immediately put her into an oxygen chamber, and told us to wait to review X-rays. About 4 hours later, the vet got to us, and amazingly informed us that her X-rays looked fine! He wanted to keep her in the clinic overnight to let the specialists run some tests on Monday morning, for the low fee of about $1500 - to which we responded no thanks, we will take our bulldog home!

Once we got her home, we kept an eye on her but it seemed we had dodged that bullet, and it seemed the steam treatment right at the onset had helped. However, we definitely NEEDED to keep her calm and prevent her from getting over excited. This proved to be nearly impossible the next trip to Rehoboth Beach, when we found ourselves with a very active pitbull running about the property full speed, with our little Stella in full pursuit.

Its easy to say "never", but its hard constantly keep a leash on her when we are places where there is no need for one. Unfortunately, Stella doesnt' know when to stop running. Thank god we found out she loves lemons.


Hypoplastic Trachea

So - here we were with our English Bulldog puppy (that's her on her back trying to play with Rufus our pitbull/lab mix in the picture), who we were told to keep calm, cool and slim. Luckily Stella has never been turned into a beggar. She loves her dog food - Nature's Variety - which we feed Rufus too. I have to say this food treats them both very well - although pricey - worth it (and I have tried lots of other high-end dog foods over the years with my dogs). She never overeats - and we try to keep her weight in check - although she's already a small bulldog due to her small trachea.

Her hypoplastic trachea is a condition where her trachea is abnormally small - about the size of a cat, our vet has told us. This causes her to breath as if you or I were having to breath through a straw. Normal breathing is fine for her, but if she gets overexcited or overheated, she puts more and more stress on her trachea, which can cause breathing difficulty, problems dealing with mucus, water and food, and eventually can cause the trachea itself to begin to weaken or collapse. Apparently vet students in some of the best veterinary schools are working on surgeries to correct this problem - but so far its not treatable.

It seemed that one of the worst things we were going to have to battle was the fact that when she got overexcited, she tended to vomit or hack up mucus, and that sometimes she must have been aspirating on that material, breathing it back into her lungs, and this would turn into pneumonia (at least this is our hypothesis). Or, the excessive breathing would cause the mucus to build up and get so thick that she would then develop breathing problems. Either way, the lemon is our savior and Stella's favorite toy, and its the one thing that seems to keep her airways clear and functional! We all love the LEMON!

Brachiocephalic Syndrome

So - after a few more months on antibiotics, the pneumonia seems to be clearing up. In the mean time, our regular vet (we have been to about 4 different vets at this point) - does some X-rays and is concerned that not only does Stella have Brachiocephalic Syndrome (common to dogs with smooshed in faces) - but that she also seemed to have a very small trachea. He recommended taking her in for surgery so they could widen her nostrils and shorten her soft pallet - hopefully making it easier for her to breathe, and hopefully, manage her food and airways better. Her current X-rays looked good enough to consider surgery - so we booked it. They told us that with English Bulldogs, the worst part is that during surgery, the breathing tube can cause that already small compact area to swell, and when they are coming out of surgery, they can have trouble breathing and require a trachea tube to be put in. Yes - at this point I am seriously wondering why we ever got a English Bulldog - and thats not even taking into account the costs so far - I will save that for a separate post.

So - surgery day arrives, we barely make it there between the road rage, traffic and crying during the drive (if you know Amy you would understand) - luckily Stella had no idea any kind of drama was happening in the car. She snoozed in the back the whole way to the hospital.

So - as we had hoped - she came through the surgery great. I was only after we picked her up that the vet tech told me about half of all English Bulldogs need trachea tubes put in after surgery. I am really glad she hadn't shared that with me before hand. Of course now I am terrififed of any future surgeries.

We took our baby home to recuperate the day after surgery - and within a week she was good as new. She was quieter in general - less snoring - and seemed less burdened when breathing. However, we learned from our vet that Stella had another condition which he could do nothing about - called Hypoplastic Trachea Syndrome - where her trachea is abnormally small. Unfortunately - this is hard to detect when choosing a puppy, and un-treatable by the vets. It will probably shorten her life, eventually her trachea will give out and collapse, and the vet told us to trim about 2 years off their already short life spans of 8-10 years. Our poor Stella, we were told to never let her exercise or play or get out of breath.

Pneumonia - Round 2

Our English Bulldog Stella was on antibiotics and steam treatments for the next 3 weeks, and then just the pills. We got really good at giving her pills. The best system was to use cottage cheese - and bury the pills in so she couldn't see or smell them. Even then, she managed to spit out about half and require more rounds of cottage cheese. Smart dog. She loves cottage cheese.

Once her pills ran out - we went back into the vet for a follow up, and he felt that her lungs looked good - so we went home happy and optimistic. About 2 weeks later, Stella woke up about 5 a.m. with labored breathing, eyelids half closed, and looking like she wanted to die. We immediately took her back to Falls Road Animal Hospital - and they immediately admitted her. It was pneumonia again - round two - Pneumonia vs. English Bulldog.

The vet called us the next day and let us know her lungs looked worse than they had the last time she was sick, and they wanted to do a trans-tracheal wash to see if there were any bugs in her lungs causing the problems. That procedure yielded no information of use, the fluid in her lungs was bug-free. I wasn't sure if I should be happy about this, but figured I might as well be. So - without a reason to switch medicines, they sent us off with another dose of pills, and prescriptions for steam treatments, and this time they wanted us to bring her in every day so she could get nebulization treatments at the vet. So - that's what we did for the next few weeks. She gradually improved, and if we had saved all the phlegm she spit up it probably would have filled a few milk containers.

Pneumonia - Round 1

After New Year's eve, Stella was doing relatively well. She still spit up quite a bit, but managed to keep most of her IAMS puppy food down. She definitely had to be watched when she ate, as she would regularly switch bowls with Rufus, who preferred her puppy food to his, and she preferred his all natural raw food to the IAMS puppy food. In general though, I felt good leaving town for a family vacation in Hawaii, not worried about Stella's health. Amy was looking forward to a week of peace and quiet at home with the dogs, and didn't mind skipping the 14 hours of flying time either. I know - its Hawaii - but some people really HATE flying.

I had 6 voice mails when I landed in Honolulu. Before I could check them, my cell rang - it was Amy. Stella was at Falls Road Emergency Animal clinic - she had pneumonia.

Apparently, after I left for the airport early that morning, Stella had woken up and was very listless. She was breathing hard, and seemed like she felt horrible. Amy tried to get her to drink and eat, but she would only vomit. Over the next few hours, Stella continued to vomit up larger and larger piles of white phlegm, and continued to decline. By the time afternoon arrived, Amy had gone through an entire roll of paper towels cleaning up the phlegm, and had arranged a ride to take her and Stella over to Falls Road.

The vets there did X-Rays and determined she definitely had pneumonia. They put her into an oxygen chamber and gave her intravenious antibiotics. She would stay there until she improved, and all we could do was wait.

The following day the vet called and said she was improving and could probably come home that night. She would stay on antibiotics and also need to have steam treatments every morning and night, where Amy would have to pat her sides and try to get her to produce any more phlegm in her lungs.

The steam treatments seemed to help a lot, and between those and the antibiotics, Stella was good as new by the time I returned. She was full of energy and acting like a normal 6 month old puppy should. Unfortunately - that wouldn't last for long.

Christmas from Hell with our English Bulldog

We (me, Amy, Stella and Rufus) packed up the truck and headed from Baltimore to Youngstown Ohio to celebrate Christmas with the Goldberg family (I know - Goldberg's celebrating Christmas? - Yep). We arrived at the Youngstown Holiday Inn, unpacked, fed the dogs, and then headed over to Amy's parent's house as usual. However, we were a bit nervous since we were bringing over our 5 month old puppy Stella, and Amy's parents had recently adopted a full bred Doberman named Quincy. Quincy was not "fixed", and at 8 months already weighed in a 110 lbs. Our older dog Rufus got along great with Quincy, but just like normal overprotective parents, we wanted to keep an eye on the puppy.

Once we arrived at the house, its a bit of a blur. I remember being very glad Stella had not gone into heat yet, since Quincy was more than interested in her. I quickly realized this was the least of our concerns. The vomiting problem started back with a vengance. We could only assume it was from all the activity, and we tried to keep the dogs separated and calm. Yet, every time Stella would drink or eat, it would come right up. By the fourth day, she was looking miserable and exhausted. We switched her diet over to boiled chicken breasts and rice - and she was able to keep this down. But we were worried. Its worth noting that apparently Lawry's seasoning is tolerated well by dogs dealing with vomiting, as we later learned Amy's dad insisted on "seasonging" the bland food, he couldn't bring himself to leave it plain!

We drove back to Baltimore with a renewed concern for our puppy, and quickly scheduled another vet appointment. Stella was doing well on the chicken and rice formula (often recommended by vets for dogs who are having trouble keeping dog food down, or suffering from dehydration) - trust me all dogs love chicken and rice. Our next vet visit would be one of many to come, with little in terms of answers or positive outlooks.

In the mean time, we had found a great resource online - Bulldog Health - run by a very nice woman named Jan Oswald who has some great wisdom and info to share. She made us feel there was hope for Stella, based on her own documented experiences with her bulldog, Vivy.

Stella's first signs of trouble

When we brought Stella home, she was a 13 week old purebred English bulldog puppy who appeared to be very healthy - minus the fleas. It was Nov. 1, 2006 - and we were very excited to welcome her to our family. By the holidays - things had definitely changed. Our healthy puppy was having all sorts of problems.

We started getting nervous when we noticed she was vomiting her food after eating, sometimes a little, sometimes the whole meal. We tried to keep her calm after eating to keep it from happening, but that didn't always work. We also noticed that she was gagging a lot - and spitting up phlem. We chalked it up to the fact that she was a "bulldog", and their anatomy wasn't exactly designed well for the breathing and eating aspects of life. However, it soon became a source of more concern.

Our first vet visit where we began to see the signs of trouble was when we took her in for some routine shots, and the vet asked us if she was having any other problems. We mentioned the vomiting, and she seemed concerned. However, she told us to switch to a milder puppy food (we went to IAMS puppy food) and keep an eye on her. With nothing more to worry about, we headed into the holiday season with a very cute but very barfy puppy.

Right before leaving town, we were again concerned by Stella's constant barfing - so another trip to the vet and this time we saw a different vet, with a different hypothesis. This time, the vet said she thought Stella might have Megaesophagus (a enlargement of one part of the esophagus) and we would have to run some tests to determine if it was the cause. We opted to see how things went over the holidays. Just one more thing to worry about.

Stella - Our English Bulldog's Journey

This blog is being created to share our journey with our English Bulldog Stella. We welcomed her into our life in October of 2006, and have been on a roller coaster ever since. However, the things we have discovered and she has shown us have resulted in very unusual outcomes, and we hope other bulldog owners and other dog owners will find the information useful.

Some other online resources with good English Bulldog health related info: