Johanna Reefe knew that something was wrong in October 2017 with Lylli, her six-year-old corgi/Labrador mix. The dog had started slowing down on walks, panting and seemed to be out of breath.
“I tried to convince myself that she had a cold,” said Johanna. But after making an appointment with their veterinarian, she and her husband, Curt, learned that Lylli had fluid that was accumulating around her lungs and her heart. The fluid was compressing her lungs, and making it hard for the dog to breathe.
“They did a chest tap and they took almost two liters of fluid out of her corgi chest,” said Johanna.
Lylli was diagnosed with idiopathic chylothorax and was referred to Colorado State University for a second opinion with CSU cardiologists and surgeons. Idiopathic chylothorax can be a debilitating condition, and must be treated with surgery. It is also a condition that can show up quickly, with no known cause.
Curt said they chose CSU because he and Johanna felt so comfortable with the staff.
“The basic warmth of the staff is really what got us,” he explained. “Lylli had a serious medical condition, and the staff at CSU is phenomenal.”
Johanna said scheduling appointments and the surgery was seamless. The clinicians were also very kind to Lylli. “They checked her out, but they also gave her love, which was important to us,” she said.
“I’m so happy we came up here,” Curt added. “Even though it’s a trek to come up here from Denver, it’s proved to be extremely worth it.”
In a surgery last December, Dr. Max Lorange, a first-year resident, and Dr. Cat MacPhail, an associate professor of Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery, closed off Lylli’s thoracic duct, removed the lining around her heart and inserted a port to more easily remove any fluid that builds up.
MacPhail said this approach to idiopathic chylothorax is very common.
“This disease is not rare,” she explained. “But it can be a very complicated condition to work through, and to figure out what’s causing it. It can also be a somewhat challenging condition to resolve. Lylli had a very quick response to surgery.”
CSU veterinarians treat about 12 companion animals with idiopathic chylothorax each year. Following surgery, clinicians will monitor the animals for a long period of time.
Radiographs taken earlier this year showed no signs of fluid in Lylli’s chest.
Johanna and Curt said Lylli is back to being herself, running and being the “boss” in the house.
“It’s great to have her back,” said Johanna. “We could not have asked for any better care.”
Dr. MacPhail also serves as the Small Animal Chief Medical Officer at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.