Emergency surgery saves 6-week-old puppy with displaced organs


After falling ill, the Gold Retriever puppy was rushed to UC Davis where he received a lifesaving surgery

Image of Calvin (Courtesy of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine)

Image of Calvin (Courtesy of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine)

After her 6-week-old foster dog Calvin began gagging, struggling to breathe, and foaming at the mouth after playing outside one day, Kathleen Emerson rushed him to UC Davis. Arriving at the hospital in respiratory distress, the emergency room staff discovered Calvin also had a decreased heart rate, lung sounds on his left side, and discharge from his left nostril.

According to an article from UC Davis,1 upon further testing and review, the staff learned Calvin had an abnormal tissue structure on the left side of his chest, and he had a defected diaphragm that was suspected to be a diaphragmatic hernia. His stomach and spleen have also moved into his chest cavity and were causing pressure on his lungs and heart with staff suspecting he also had aspiration pneumonia.

Calvin was admitted into the ICU, placed on oxygen, and given antibiotics for pneumonia. After the critical care specialists consulted with the faculty surgeon, Michele A. Steffey, DVM, DACVS-SA, and a resident on the Soft Tissue Surgery Service, Megan Korpita, DVM, decided Calvin would need surgery due to the extent of the herniation.

“Calvin’s procedure was delicate, as we were around major vessels and organs,” said Korpita,1 “Getting to explore the chest and the abdomen in these types of surgeries is great training to improve a resident’s surgical and communications skills working with a team in the operating room. We’re thrilled everything was successful with Calvin’s surgery. He was absolutely the sweetest and cutest little guy who will now have the full life he deserves.”

Steffey and Korpita retracted the puppy’s spleen and stomach below the diaphragm without complications. However, due to Calvin being a Golden Retriever and the large size of his stomach, the team performed a gastropexy to prevent future torsions.

Calvin was closely monitored in the ICU and recovered well. The following day, he was discharged to Emerson. Now, 2 months later, Calvin has grown tremendously and is training to be a service dog that will visit children’s hospitals and convalescent homes. Emerson also made the decision to adopt Calvin.

“I always recommend UC Davis whenever anyone I know needs veterinary care,” expressed Emerson. “I could not have asked for a better team to take care of Calvin. Everything was wonderful. They made me very comfortable, with regular updates, and plenty of love for Calvin from all the students.”


Warren R. Emergency surgery saves puppy with displaced organs. School of Veterinary Medicine. Published July 22, 2022. Accessed July 25, 2022. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/emergency-surgery-saves-puppy-displaced-organs

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