Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Bloat is no Joke

by User Not Found | Jan 01, 2015

One of the first blogs that I ever wrote was about a topic we can never talk about too much. Granted it was not that good, (rookie blogger) and that was back when I was still sure no one would actually read it. Who knew this random information would actually be useful! This year brought us at least three cases of Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as “bloat”.  When I went back to review my old blogs, I am ashamed that we have not revisited this topic in a very long time. In this kind of emergency situation where time can mean the difference between life and death, learning from experience is invaluable information.  It’s pretty easy to go on the internet and read about the signs and symptoms from a "textbook" perspective and charts are available for printing and hanging on your refrigerator that too, can help you recognize those symptoms.  But anytime we can share experiences that aren't something you can Google, we all become better pet owners.  This is a prime example and many thanks to our foster for sharing her experience with her own personal dog.  

I love this story, not just because it has a happy ending, but also because it illustrates how a textbook or internet search is helpful and informative, but only provides so much information.  You may think that your dog doesn’t exhibit any of the “classic” behaviors that make him susceptible to GDV. But as you will see from this story, maybe it’s just another normal day. 

“Sammy was completely fine all day and night.  We had friends over for Thanksgiving and everything was normal.  He had some turkey that a baby dropped and then when my husband was cutting up turkey he was giving him a few pieces.  We will have them "catch" the treat in the air (usually so Sammy doesn't take our fingers off as he still struggles with being gentle).  We have done that for 10yrs--everything that happened that evening has happened for 10yrs.  However that night, Sammy's body couldn't handle it. 

Our guests were leaving and the front door was open so we were searching for Sammy and couldn't find him.  Calling him inside, outside, no response.  My husband saw him in the yard and I looked out to him.  I could tell something was wrong and went over to him.  His head was down, he looked a little stiff.  I touched his belly and it was big and hard and he made a noise when I touched.  I ran in the house, got the leash and got him in the car and to the emergency vet. This was probably within 15min from everything being fine in the house and him eating turkey. 

On the way to the emergency vet, he was retching in the car and couldn't get comfortable. As soon as he arrived they took him back and did X-rays.

Within 20min, they confirmed that it was GVD and our options were surgery or put him to sleep.  They had punctured his stomach 2x's as it was filling with air and he was in awful pain. His lactate levels were elevated from loss of oxygen to his organs.  They shared, with his age (10.5yo) that his chances of making it through the surgery were fair to guarded.  They prepared us for possibly having to remove parts of his stomach, spleen removal, masses discovered once open, him not handling the anesthesia.  It wasn't looking promising, but the only option was to try for the surgery.   

Surgery was performed within about an hour of us getting there and by the time he went back for surgery his belly had only needed to be punctured 1 more time to remove air and his lactate levels were going down.  We were told surgery could take 1.5-3hrs. 

One hour into surgery they came in to tell us they were suturing him up.  He had no internal damage and they tacked his stomach so that it could not rotate again (it had flipped 270 degrees). We were much relieved, but were told that the next 24hrs were still critical as he could have cardiac issues, clotting issues, or infection.  So while we felt like he had made it out of the woods, they reassured us, he wasn't completely "safe" yet. 

Within 24hrs though, he was back to himself and 36hrs later he was home with us! He is now back to his obnoxious self and has had follow-up, which all looked great! 

What we learned:

  1. GVD can happen anytime for any reason.  While it is believed to occur due to one of the following reasons, no one can say for sure: eating/drinking too much or too fast, taking in too much air, exercising too close to mealtimes.


  2. Small meals are much better than larger ones.  We have switched from feeding 2 times a day to feeding 4 times a day.


  3. Elevated food bowls are NOT recommended (as once was previously believed)


  4. Slowing down the rate of eating is imperative


  5. It usually happens in deep-chested dogs; however the vet has had cases in dachshunds and cats.


  6. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!  You have a very small window of time to act!


  7. Obvious warning signs: belly looks big, sounds like a drum, is hard, hurts to touch, dog can't get comfortable, unsuccessful attempts at vomiting.  However vet shared that she has seen dogs whose only symptoms were trouble urinating (in poodles).  


  8. Your dog can survive!  But it is expensive and SERIOUS, so again I can't reiterate enough how important timing is.


Knowing where your emergency vet is located and recognizing the symptoms immediately probably saved Sammy’s life. We’re so glad that he is ok and these are great points about what is believed to cause GDV.  There are things that you can do to try and prevent it from happening, but certainly the best thing is to be prepared in case it does.  Remember, not everything fits nicely in to a little chart or the pages of descriptions on the internet or in a textbook, it could be just another normal day. Thanks again to our foster for sharing her story!


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