Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn’t Breathe

Duchess had been in and out of veterinary hospitals for a few months.

The reason: she couldn’t breathe.

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe
(Not a photo of Duchess)

Duchess was an adorable 6 year old pug. She had suddenly developed a condition called megaesophagus. This condition is exactly what it sounds like: it is a disease that creates a giant esophagus.

We don’t know why this happens in some animals. 

Megaesophagus is a condition where the esophagus (the tube that connects our mouth to our stomach) becomes dilated.

Having a loose and floppy esophagus is not a good thing. The esophagus is supposed to be a tight, muscular tube, that pushes food into the stomach.

When the esophagus is dilated, food isn’t transported properly down to the stomach.

Sometimes, if proper precautions are not taken, food can travel back up, and end up in the mouth and sometimes be aspirated into the lungs.

This can lead to pneumonia.

And this is exactly what was happening with Duchess: She had megaesophagus with a secondary aspiration pneumonia.

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe

During the months of September and October 2016, Duchess had been in and out of various Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Centers. She had been hospitalized multiple times. She was on antibiotics, anti-nausea medicine, steroids (for a recent head tilt she had developed) and multiple other medications.

Since pugs are not exactly bred for breathing, having pneumonia was not a good thing for little Duchess.

After being hospitalized in ICU on oxygen for over a week in November, the veterinarians at the specialty center told Duchess’ owners that the situation was grim. She was not responding to antibiotics and they were out of options for her. She was not eating, had very little energy, and she was using her whole abdomen to breathe. They discussed putting in a feeding tube. However, Duchess was too weak and unhealthy for anesthesia.

She was no longer responding to treatments.

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe
Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe

Here is a video of Duchess sleeping from October 2016 (dated 10/23/16):

By the time the owners came to me (November 2016), Duchess was in much worse shape than in this video.

She was thin and emaciated, her breathing was loud and required an enormous amount of effort.

We do not have a video from November, because by this time, no one was taking videos. No one thought she was going to live.

She was taken home from ICU to be humanely euthanized.

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe

I wasn’t sure that I could help Duchess and I discussed this with her owners. Her condition was quite severe.

However, her owners were willing to try and so I started her off with some gentle treatments…

According to Chinese medicine, Duchess had severe Lung Chi Deficiency.

Even though she was on antibiotics, her life force and immune system were not strong enough to fight off the infection. (Side note: This is a common reason why elderly people will often die of pneumonia when they are hospitalized for an unrelated illness. Their body is not strong enough to fight off the infection, even with the right antibiotics on board.)

So how do you remedy this?

For Duchess, I started by choosing acupuncture points that boost the lung chi. For those familiar with acupuncture points, these are some of the points that I chose:

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe

We also chose some points that boost the Chi in general, such as ST 36 and SP 6.

I started Duchess on a very gentle chi boosting herb, called Four Gentlemen. I told Duchess’ owners that we need to see her every few days to monitor progress…

Duchess: the Pug Who Couldn't Breathe


As a general rule, I will never stop medications when starting holistic treatments. I wait to see if the animal is responding to the holistic treatments first, and then gradually wean them off of the pharmaceuticals, as indicated.

In addition to the herbs, I started Dutchess on two homeopathic treatments because I knew that these could be easily administered (a tasteless liquid into the mouth).

At the next treatment, Duchess’ owners said she seemed a little bit better. She slept for a long time after the first acupuncture treatment, and since then, had more energy. She seemed a little more interested in food.

We continued with acupuncture treatments 2-3x a week.

Over that time, I added various herbs and supplements based on what was happening. We added Chinese mushrooms to boost her immunity, and dandelion to help her with indigestion. As her condition began to improve, I also gradually decreased her medications.

Within two months, Duchess was doing much better (as you can see in the video below).

She was running around, had gained back all her weight and her breathing was back to normal (as normal as a pug can breathe)!

We decreased the frequency of the treatments and eventually stopped the acupuncture, supplements, and antibiotics altogether. 

Here is a video of Duchess sleeping in January (dated 01/05/17):


It has been one year, and I am happy to say that Duchess is completely back to normal with no recurrence of her disease. 

Duchess had a new human baby sibling in the house and was enjoying her time running, playing and getting to know the new baby.

Update: Unfortunately, Duchess unexpectedly died one year later of unknown causes. The owners came home after a day at work and found her lifeless in the house. We do not know what happened.

At the time, she was not having any health concerns.

So while it was a sad ending, because of holistic treatments, Duchess got one more year of a healthy and happy life!