CANINE BLOAT – GD & GDV Explained

 

Rhett –  Proof that sometimes shite just happens and also a great and  shining example of exactly what Western Medicine does RIGHT! WM excels at mediating trauma. They saved my boys life. And now I continue working my mojo magic on him at home.  I always seek the natural, the holistic, herbal or laying on of hands approach before I even remotely think about Hospitals or Western Medicine and their knives and pharmaceuticals.  I have thought this way since I was a young child and no ideas as to exactly who and what planted these seeds in me because my family was all about the Western Medicine man.

The reasoning in both allopathic and the older modalities is brilliant.  All life is duality. I believe in the herbs, foods and flowers of the field to prevent issues and keep us healthy and heal us when ill, however, there are times when you do everything right and end up in an emergency situation, which is exactly what happened here!

I am thankful I paid attention  to Rhett’s odd behaviour and tied that into the knowledge gained by  a couple of great resource books I had read, (links posted below) which allowed me to understand the full scope of the emergency that this was, act quickly on my gut, and get him to the vet before too much damage had been done already.  It’s a great way to begin a new week by not dying today.

Bloat is always serious and life-threatening in our canine companions.  But under this one moniker, there are actually two stages that happen or can happen. The first is you have gas and air that causes the stomach to fill up (gastric dilatation) and the dog is unable to burp or relieve the pressure.  When this happens, the stomach also sometimes begins twisting (volvulus).   We don’t know exactly why it happens, but some breeds, primarily your large dogs, those with big chests, can be prone to bloat.  There are discussions about ways to help prevent it, such as providing moist foods, avoiding kibble, not exercising too much ahead of or directly after a meal and breaking up meal portions into 2 or 3 smaller meals.
We did all that and still….

And further, Dr. Rutherford says in his article:

“Clinically, bloat is when the stomach fills with gas and becomes distended, but the dog cannot burp or relieve the pressure exerted by the gas. Bloat with twisting or GDV is when the dog’s stomach fills with gas (and often fluid) and twists 180 to 360 degrees on it’s axis between the esophagus and duodenum or the entrance and exit parts of the stomach. When “simple bloat” or gastric dilatation occurs and the stomach swells, a great deal of pressure is put upon the surrounding organs including the liver and lungs interfering with the dog’s ability to breath, and the blood supply to the stomach wall is decreased.

This is very painful for the dog and quickly becomes a medical emergency. When bloat is complicated by twisting, gastric dilatation, and volvulus, the situation worsens rapidly. In addition to the pressure exerted by the gas distending the stomach, the twisting stops the blood supply to the stomach wall and the tissues themselves begin to die.”

The two books that I use as reference material areMartin Goldstein The Nature Of Animal Healing and Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs & Cats. Both books have their own offerings with a natural bent and are great guides with what we can treat at home in a gentler kinder and effective way and when we can do something to help while we also seek the vet for treatment.

Rhett an hour prior was happy, playful, and seemed just fine.  He wanted to romp around, but we didn’t because I was busy getting firewood and chores done, the house staged for when my handsome husband would walk through the door and we could begin a nice Friday evening and Saturday off together.  But as soon as Michael walked in the door, Rhett began acting strangely, laying down oddly, or sitting funny, pacing, panting a bit here and there, trying unsuccessfully to vomit and going room to room clearly feeling uncomfortable.  Michael thought he was hiding because he had gotten into something, some goody he didn’t want to let go of.  And I had let him out just before Michael walked in the door and wasn’t watching him.  So perhaps he licked a frog (he really likes licking frogs) or he got into something else, right?  But he wasn’t hanging out with us as usual and when he was laying on my bed, I looked him over.  His tummy appeared a bit bloated.  When I felt it, I got that sinking feeling as it was ‘taught like a drum’.  By the time we made it to the vets, it was far more obvious that I had made the right decision.

Rhett’s X-rays showed volvulus, twisting of the stomach between the endpoints or where the tummy connects up with the esophagus on one end and duodenum.  I briefly thought about giving him charcoal capsules but I sort of figured out I was too late for that.  If I had perhaps done so earlier, when there were absolutely no symptoms, sure, maybe that would have helped.  But we didn’t know our boy was going to bloat so here we were in a Friday night emergency.

As you might already guess, this is a very painful condition that, left untreated, escalates quickly resulting in certain death as few as a few hours later.  It is NOT a good death.  Rhett was so quiet, no whimpering, no vocalization that would let me know just how bad he hurt.  But his mannerisms told me he wasn’t at all comfortable and so I had to go on my gut.   As I responded and got him to the vet so  quickly,  Rhett was mobile, he was clearly ill, but able to move around, was lucid and basically not yet in shock.  This meant they were able to stabilize him quickly, set him up with fluids and otherwise prep him for surgery.  Once the surgeon untwisted his belly, while very bruised, the tissues engorged with blood and became nice and pink again.  His spleen was intact, he had no permanent damage done to any of his internal organs.  This photo was taken 9 hours after surgery. He could barely stand and was not at all comfortable or apparently happy to see us.  About 6 hours later on the same day, though, he clearly was happy to see us and go home!

During surgery, Rhett had a gastropexy where they attached the stomach to the right side of his body.  In this way, he should never have a twist again.  At the vets I also learned that when a dog is being neutered, you can have them do the gastropexy at that time, saving potential damage and drama from this!  Great information to know when shopping for a new puppy!

 HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?As I noted earlier, we don’t know exactly what the cause is for the twisting or Volvulus when bloat occurs but I just had an epiphany on that one…thinking about this typically hitting the large chested pups, and how bloat presses and makes breathing a challenge, could it be possible that the dog, in trying to deeply breathe, suddenly twists the stomach?  What is known, however, is that once this occurs, the dog is prone to the condition and each time it is worse.  Hence doing a gastropexy when in surgery.  I thought I was doing everything right here.  I fed a varied diet, with fiber, probiotics, 2-3 smaller meals daily with a few snacks in between,  and I limited romping around just ahead of or after mealtime.  Additionally, I primarily feed Dr Harveys, but all of Rhett’s food is home cooked, it is not dry kibble or anything that generally expands once in the stomach.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES – While I feel that I am proof you cannot completely prevent this from happening, I do believe there are things that minimize the risks.
CHARCOAL – Firstly, there is activated charcoal, such as Natures Way.  If you feel your pup is gassy and uncomfortable, give him some charcoal.  This is not something you want to add to his meals because in the detoxification process that charcoal is brilliant for, it can also wipe out the vitamins in your pups food.  You can also provide a treat which may be easier to administer, such as Darford Naturals Charmint Dog Treats.
PROBIOTICS –  I like Primal Defense, to keep the gut healthy and working optimally. I also like that it comes in a capsule or powder with a scoop to just mix in food because our entire family takes this.
GINGER – Such as Dr. Wakde’s Ginger Powder, which can be sprinkled into food, both dog and human, aides in the prevention of gas buildup.
THYME – Fresh or Dried Thyme, such as Spicely Organic Thyme Powder,  sprinkled into food can also help.
PRE-PLANNING – You never want to be here where I was and am right now.  It is soul crushing to see your dog child in such misery and possible early demise.  Honestly, I was proud of the way I cared for Rhett and never saw this coming.  That stated, I read up on this condition because he is a barrel-chested dog and I looked for a vet that was open 24×7 nearby. It happens to be a great place (For those in the Dallas area, I highly recommend Hillside Vet Clinic, where we have been taking our pets for over 2 decades) and I was able to meet with the surgeon prior to kissing Rhett goodbye and leaving for the evening.  The next bit of pre-planning is sort of like a fire drill where you assemble and quietly make your way to the exits.  You want to stay calm for your family member.  Why introduce further trauma and drama?  So be calm.  When working with the folks who will potentially save your pets life, it isn’t their fault the prices are so jacked or that you are even there.  So be polite, patient and absorb the message. They have a stressful job to do.  They will be the ones on the other end of the phone either with grave news or telling you he made it and coaching you through next steps.  Either way, it’s not easy work.

EMERGENCY USE, Cannot Get to the VET immediately or you must stabilize your pup so he can make it to the vet:  The Canine Bloat Kit is something that, now I am aware of it, I will keep on hand!  The kit has everything you need to relieve the enormous pain your pup will be going through with this condition and allow you time to get him treatment. Below is a link to purchase.  https://naturesfarmacy.com/canine/bloat-kits-and-supplies/deluxe-bloat-kit.html
COSTLY SURGERY – This is not cheap and I was mandated actually to pay before they would even proceed although I had told them yes, proceed.  What I liked is that I was provided the best case and worst case scenarios and pricing accordingly.  I didn’t let grass grow, I got my boy to the vet asap.  It actually took them longer to prep and schedule him for his surgery than it took me to notice the signs, make a diagnosis, load him into the car and haul him to the vet! Because my actions were swift, the damage was greatly minimized so that made for the best surgical outcome and less money.  For numerous reasons, bloat is not anything you want to mess around with, get your pup to the vet and quickly.  It was more than 2 hours later when Rhett went into surgery so you want to allow time for the length of time everything takes once your pet is there.
RECOVERY – Rhett is home and healing, we were thankful that he was released the following day, just under 24 hours later.  He is in a lot of pain and is on meds for that.  He kept me up all night whining the first 2 nights home.  And he sure didn’t want to eat anything even though the vet wanted him to.  I have read that it’s tender inside the tummy as well as outside at the scar site and so pups may not feel like eating for a couple of days.  As I type this, Rhett is whining.  But he is eating a tiny amount of food, able to pee and poop on his own and noticed a squirrel on our walk this morning.  Apparently, there is no laparoscopy on this kind of situation.  This means a big ole cut to the gut.  Rhett’s incision site is clean but about 8 inches.  We equate the pain level to what my husband went through during his first hernia surgery where they did it ‘old style’ and he was in unbelievable pain while on the mend.  It took my husband 4 days to go number 2.  When he finally attempted it, he wound up passed out on the bathroom floor. I worked from home and held conference calls for work.  Folks would interrupt to ask ‘Excuse me, what is that moaning sad sound in the background?’ and I would explain my husband had recent hernia surgery and is feeling like death.  Conversely, his laparoscopy (short small opening and swifter healing with far less pain involved) a few years later to fix what never took the first time, was lightyears different.  Michael was up the same afternoon fixing himself lunch!  I have no other comparison to draw upon but assume Rhett feels much like my husband did and is suffering so great right now.  He will heal, however, and every day he does get better!  In hindsight, I would have done more of the above stuff I noted, the ginger, the charcoal treats.  I have all this on the roster moving forward now just in case, god forbid, even with the gastropexy, it somehow tries to happen again.   Rhett is a farter and while that sounds funny, maybe all of this pain (and expense) could have been prevented with a bit less gas. Well, it is time to walk my boy and see if I can get him to eat again.  I hope that this has helped you and yours.  Kindly leave a comment below, and sharing is appreciated.

PS.  We have had Trupanion since Rhett was a puppy, never once used the insurance, which kept creeping up annually.  With a $500.00 deductible and for whatever odd reasons, they will not cover an exam (apparently nobody ever needs to be examined prior to any remedial treatment, making this expenditure silly and unnecessary so oh gosh, why on earth do we examine, people, prior to just jumping right on in with meds, scissors, blades hooray!)  My personal take on this aside, they were super nice every time I called them and asked as if they really cared, how Rhett was doing and paid attention to what I said with comments in all the right spots, so, wow, I think really that they do care about our fur family members :).  The bill was paid at 90% less the aforementioned exam and deductible which you can select based upon your individual needs.  They have gone up each and every year.  I almost cancelled it a few times because it was just wasting money.  BUT…what if?  So right now, Trupanion is about 2k ahead of the game and they just raised the monthly rates again (grumble).  But, when you are in the midst of a dire emergency and the bill could be (and in this case was) thousands, it sure feels great to know that at least a fair portion of the invoice will get reimbursed…and quickly I might add again.  Trupanion, all kidding you aside, thank you.  Thank you for being there, for all the very nice people who listened to me and conversed pleasantly and, ok, thanks for taking my money all these many years.  🙂

Pupdate! Rhett has now fully healed judging by his sweet but oh so willful personality shining as it always has, hopping up and down, cornering us for walks, pulling on leash, grabbing up his squeaky beaver, Hedgehog and other stuffies, rolling on his belly for morning rubs,  hopping up on the sofa or bed in such a way as to take up as much room and all pillows possible (and yes, refuse to budge one iota) demand extra attention, extra treats and generally eat us out of house and home.  His 8-9 inch scar is healing nicely and his hair is beginning to grow back.  We’ll probably always see a scar, but the bitches at the dog park always think having a scar is hot.

 

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