Busselton Veterinary Hospital

60 Bussell Hwy
Busselton, WA 6280

(08) 97521433


Tessa and the slow speed accident.


Motor vehicle accidents can occur in all sorts of places, and it is not uncommon for animals to be run over in their own driveway. Animals that have been hit by a car travelling at 40km/hr or more on a road will most likely have serious skin abrasions and broken bones. When animals are run over at low speeds then the injuries may not be very easy to see at all!


Tessa wasn't run over in a driveway but in a paddock. She had got out to run around and somehow had got in front of a wheel just when the car started forward again. It was even hard to tell if she had been run over at all in the first little while. She was able to get up and move around and jump back into the ute quite easily.

Tessa's owners knew something was up when she started to pant heavily a few hours later.

On presentation to Busselton Vet Hospital in the late evening, Tessa was still able to jump down out of the ute but it was immediately obvious that she wasn't breathing normally. With the story of a low speed impact the chances of chest or abdominal bleeding and other internal injuries were very high.

Tessa was so well behaved that chest x-rays were able to be taken without needing to sedate her.

These X-Rays clearly showed a loss of the separation of the chest and abdomen; this is called a diaphragmatic hernia. The diaphragm is a thin sheet muscle that separates the chest (lungs and heart) from the abdominal organs (stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys etc). The diaphragm is used to help animals to breath in; it draws back and away from the heart creating a negative pressure that allows air to rush into the lungs. When the diaphragm is torn, organs from the abdomen can move forward into the chest and take up space that the lungs should use. This collapses the lungs and means there is less room for breathing, or oxygen exchange.


In Tessa's case parts of the liver and small intestine had found their way into the chest cavity.

This condition needs advanced surgery to fix it. Once Tessa's condition was stabilised Tessa was given a general anaesthetic and prepared for surgery. To ensure that the procedure and anaesthetic was as safe as possible, we had 2 surgeons and 2 nurses working together. One of the nurses ventilated Tessa throughout the procedure to ensure her body received enough oxygen while her chest and abdomen were open.

The surgery involved opening into the abdomen, retrieving the organs from the chest cavity, holding them out of the way and then suturing up the 6cm x 6cm 'L' shaped tear in the right side of her diaphragm.

Apart from the big tear in the diaphragm, there was also some tearing of the liver lobes and some holes in part of the mesentery, or tissue sheet that supports the intestine. The liver did not require any treatment, but we sewed up 3 holes in the mesentery to prevent the intestines from strangulating themselves. After closing Tessa's abdomen a drain tube was placed in the Right side of her chest and a suction device attached to the tube to suck out air that had become trapped in the chest cavity at surgery.

This worked very well to remove the excess air and allow the lungs to re-inflate to their normal size.


Tessa's recovery was very smooth and she was up and walking later in the day!

After staying in hospital for 2 days and continuing to improve, Tessa was able to go home for strict bed rest for 2 weeks.

Each time Tessa had a check up, she was better than before and raring to go! At last 2 weeks after surgery she had healed so well that we were able to allow her to start an exercise program to get her back to full fitness!

Here is Tessa enjoying the beach again with her mate!

It is very important for any motor vehicle accident victims to be thoroughly checked for injuries. Many injuries may not be apparent at the time. Internal bleeding, diaphragmatic hernias, ruptured bladders are all relatively common findings after accidents and often times there may not be any external sign of injury to see.

We are so happy that Tessa has made a full recovery from her near death experience! We are also happy that because Tessa was insured; the costs of the treatment plan were covered by her Pet Insurance.


Happy Days again for Tessa and her owners!


Thank you for allowing us to share Tessa's special story.