Rescued mare beats the odds to survive – with a surprise result

Lillipad overcame a case of severe pleuropneumonia after being treated for several months at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
Lillipad overcame a case of severe pleuropneumonia after being treated for several months at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. (Images courtesy Jillian Fallon)

A thoroughbred mare in Washington state in the US is lucky to be alive, thanks to the intervention of a kind soul and a huge team of veterinarians.

Lillipad, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare, was presented at a breeding sale in Washington, but was noted as being barren and went unsold. A friend of Jillian Fallon of Reno, Nevada, rescued Lillipad after the sale and sent her to Fallon’s ranch. While the 700-mile trailer ride to Reno was uneventful, her condition deteriorated shortly after arrival.

Fallon noticed that her 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 build-up in and around both lungs.

Medications administered onsite 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 UC Davis veterinary hospital the next morning. It was a trip of about 145 miles.

“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 would remain in the hospital for three months, culminating in a shocking surprise for her owner and care team.

She was treated extensively for severe pleuropneumonia for many weeks, including management with fluid drainage through multiple chest tubes and a thoracotomy, 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 of this, Lillipad was not responding as well as could be 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 could not believe what they discovered.

Lillipad spent several weeks at the UC Davis Large Animal Clinic.
Lillipad spent several weeks at the UC Davis Large Animal Clinic.

Lillipad (Awesome Again x Valid Lil), previously deemed barren, was pregnant. She had been bred to Sungold, a son of A.P. Indy, who stands in Canada for a fee of $2500. The last service was on April 7, 2021.

They also found evidence of hemorrhaging in her abdomen (hemoabdomen) as a consequence of the pregnancy. The Equine Reproduction Service 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, it was known that this would be her fourth foaling, so the medical team felt more confident she could handle the birth if she and the baby were healthy enough.

Thankfully, Lillipad’s hemoabdomen stabilized quickly and her pleuropneumonia continued to slowly improve over the next two months, and she was transferred from the hospital’s Large Animal Clinic to the layup services at the UC Davis Center for Equine Health for a few weeks before returning home. There, she was checked regularly regarding the progress of her pneumonia, thoracotomy incision sites, and the viability of her foal.

She was discharged in January 2022 with about two months remaining of her very high-risk pregnancy, with the continued risk of foaling prematurely. Because of these risks, it was recommended that Lillipad return to UC Davis for the birth if she carried the foal to term. In the event that she would need surgery, had difficulty during labor, or started hemorrhaging again, time would be of the essence and immediate intervention would be needed.

Lillipad did very well at home, gaining weight and finally starting to act like a spirited mare with a zest for life. Fallon returned her to UC Davis for foal watch in March, where she continued to improve and was off all medications before the big day. On March 27, she experienced a quick, uncomplicated birth and delivered a healthy filly.

Mira is Lillipad's fourth foal.
Mira is Lillipad’s fourth foal.
Mira is by Sungold, a son of AP Indy.
Mira is by Sungold, a son of AP Indy.
Lillipad and Mira at home in Reno.
Lillipad and Mira at home in Reno.
Lillipad and Mira at home in Reno.
Lillipad and Mira at home in Reno.

Dr Emily Berryhill said Lillipad was a difficult case and involved the dedication of everyone at the Equine Internal Medicine Service, as well as multiple technicians and students.

“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.”

Lunchtime for Mira. Lillipad and her foal are both happy and healthy.
Lillipad and Mira.

Lillipad and her foal, LP’s Sunny Miracle, or Mira for short, were able to return home a week later. Now, they are both healthy and happy at their forever home with Fallon in Reno.

Additional reporting:

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