Lillipad, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare, was presented at a breeding sale in Washington. She was labeled barren and went unsold. A friend of Jillian Fallon, of Reno, Nevada, rescued the mare after the sale and sent her to Fallon’s ranch. While the trailer ride to Reno was uneventful, Lillipad’s condition deteriorated shortly after arrival.
Fallon noticed the mare’s respiration, heart rate, and temperature were all elevated to dangerous levels. A local veterinarian performed an ultrasound at the ranch and diagnosed her with pleuropneumonia, having found fluid buildup in and around both lungs. Medications administered on-site helped bring Lillipad’s vital signs down closer to normal levels, but it was clear she needed further treatment, so Fallon brought her to the University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) veterinary hospital the next morning.
“I was hesitant to put her through another long trailer ride considering her condition,” Fallon said. “But after all we went through, I’m glad we went to UC Davis.”
Lillipad’s hospital stay would last three months. She received extensive treatment for severe pleuropneumonia for many weeks, including fluid drainage through multiple chest tubes and a thoracotomy (creating an opening in the chest wall), aggressive antibiotic therapy, and intense supportive care by a dedicated team of students, technicians, residents, and faculty members in the Equine Internal Medicine Service.
Throughout all this, Lillipad did not respond as well as expected, and she lost a significant amount of weight—except in her abdomen. To be certain of all possible scenarios, her care team performed an ultrasound and were shocked by what they discovered.
Lillipad, previously deemed barren, was pregnant.
They then found evidence of hemorrhaging into her abdomen (hemoabdomen) as a result of the pregnancy. The Equine Reproduction Service staff examined Lillipad and found the foal to be of proper size with a good heart rate. However, Lillipad was still critically ill, and it was unknown how her illness and its complications would affect the continued growth and health of the unborn foal, as well as her ability to have a normal birth. Luckily, the medical team knew this would be her fourth foaling, so they felt confident she could handle the birth if she and the baby were healthy enough.
Lillipad’s hemoabdomen stabilized quickly, and her pleuropneumonia continued to improve slowly over the next two months. She was transferred from the hospital’s Large Animal Clinic to layup services at the UC Davis Center for Equine Health for a few weeks before returning home. There, the care team regularly checked the progress of her pneumonia, the thoracotomy incision sites, and the viability of her foal.
The mare was discharged in January 2022 with about two months remaining in her very high-risk pregnancy, with the continued risk of foaling prematurely. Because of these risks, the veterinarians recommended Lillipad return to UC Davis to give birth if she carried the foal to term. In the event she needed surgery, had difficulty during labor, or started hemorrhaging again, immediate intervention would be needed.
Fallon said Lillipad did very well at home, gaining weight and finally starting to act like a spirited mare with a zest for life. She returned the mare to UC Davis for foal watch in March, where she continued to improve and came off all medications.On March 27 she experienced a quick, uncomplicated birth and delivered a healthy filly.
“Lillipad was a difficult case and involved the dedication of everyone on the Equine Internal Medicine Service, as well as multiple technicians and students,” said Emily Berryhill, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM. “She is a perfect example of the collaborative nature and extensiveness of our care at UC Davis. This success showcases that dedicated teamwork between our clinical staff, our clients, and our referring veterinarians can result in a positive outcome, even with many ups and downs in between. We are grateful to Ms. Fallon for entrusting us with Lillipad’s care.”
Lillipad and her filly, LP’s Sunny Miracle, or Mira for short, returned to their home in Reno a week later, where they remain healthy and happy in Fallon’s forever care.