Normally on Wednesday I would post one of the hundreds of pictures I have taken of the 2 brown dawgs, but not today.
It all started on Monday. We went out and had a great training session after work and even found a new pond to train blinds. We finished up and then came home and did our usual routine, made dinner, did a few chores, fed dogs and then sat down to relax. We were still a bit tired from the busy weekend. As we were hanging out we noticed that Thunder was not acting himself. Nothing specific, just not passed out sleeping as would be his norm. We kind of watched him, but there was nothing really specifically “wrong” that we could see. However as the evening progressed he continued be restless, and when he did settle down it was to lay under the bed which is not his normal spot. We discussed that he was not acting quite right and when we let him out, he kind of laid down in the grass. Other than that, there was nothing specifically “wrong” to look at him. Maybe he was just really tired from the weekend? We decided to go to bed. But not Storm. By this time Storm was pacing around and would stand near Thunder and then pace more. She wasn’t going to sleep and she wasn’t going to let us sleep either.
About this time Thunder started to retch and cough, but no vomit came up. We also noticed that he was standing with his back sort of roached or rounded with his head and tail down. He was sort of licking but was not excessively salivating. We suspected bloat, but the symptoms we remembered hearing were not exactly the same symptoms he was having. They always describe the stomach sounding like a hollow drum when you tap on it if it is bloat. We did not hear a hollow drum and but we did notice a tightness in his abdomen. We took to the internet to quickly research and also consulted our copy of “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook”. (This book is our go-to reference book for basic info on what may be going on with our dog’s health.) Based on what we found, we were pretty convinced that it was in fact bloat. Unproductive vomiting was described as a “hallmark” symptom and Thunder was certainly doing that. The licking and standing with a roached back were also described as classic symptoms. Of course you always hope it isn’t “that”. You kind of wish it would just go away and wonder do we really need to spend the money to have him checked at the ER vet? (Anyone who knows anything, knows that ER vet always = big bucks!)
One of the dog club’s we belong to periodically offers seminars on pet first aid. These seminars are presented by different vets but one thing they stress is that if it is bloat, you can not wait to go to the ER vet. In fact we learned during one of the seminars, that the leading cause of death for otherwise healthy dogs is due to stomach torsion during bloat. We made the decision to head to the ER vet. It would be worth the office visit for them to tell us we were being silly and he just had a stomach bug.
The emergency vet we picked was a bit of a drive, but we are familiar with it because it is a 24 hour veterinary hospital. They also have hours during the day for specialists to see patients, so they access have to these specialists and to the latest equipment. By this time it was around 10:30 pm and luckily there was no traffic (just very annoying traffic lights). Thunder was still having the unproductive vomiting and he just could not get comfortable. As we drove he started to froth a bit around his mouth and as we got closer he started to whimper and moan a bit. We were now convinced that there was something seriously wrong.
Thankfully once we arrived, they took him right in after asking us a few basic questions. They asked permission to do x-rays which of course we granted. The exam and x-rays did in fact confirm bloat and that his spleen was enlarged and pushed back and his stomach was pushed forward, (and they suspected torsion or that they were twisted). This diagnosis left two choices: 1 expensive surgery or 2 euthanasia. The decision had to be made quickly because time was of the essence. We were not ready to say good-bye so we elected surgery. But did we get him there in time?
The ER vet explained that first they would need to clean out his stomach and I guess any gasses in his abdominal cavity and do blood work which would take about an hour. I am using lay terms because although the vet explained very clearly and medically, I do not remember all the medical terms. The blood work showed that his coagulation was a bit off, but most of the other levels were within normal range and his vitals were very good. Because his coagulants were out of normal range the vet asked permission to give him plasma because she wanted his blood in as good a shape as possible before starting surgery. She also said that if his spleen was twisted and the blood was being cut off, she might have to remove it. Giving him the plasma would take about 45 minutes but then they would go right to surgery and it should take about 2 hours.
So we spent the night sitting on some not so comfy chairs waiting and watching old sitcoms on the CW network. The vet appeared a bit earlier than we expected to tell us that she had some very good news. She did not have to remove his spleen because she could not see any evidence of loss of blood to the spleen or the stomach. She told us she untwisted everything and put it back into place and then tacked his stomach to prevent it from twisting again (a procedure we had considered having done as a preventative but never did). She said she felt that in Thunder’s case the spleen may have twisted first taking the stomach with it. The tacking should prevent that from happening again. She also said that his case was a bit atypical because she did not find the frothy gas in his abdomen that normally goes along with bloat (she said she sees 2-3 cases of this a week!). Since she did not have to take Thunder’s spleen or any part of his stomach, his prognosis for recovery was very good. It seems we had gotten him there on time.
I know this is a lot of detail, but my hope is that in describing our experience, maybe it will help someone someday in the future. The symptoms are not as cut and dry as you read in a book or on the internet. Sometimes they can be really subtle and the decision to wait and see can sometimes mean the difference between the animal having a chance or death. In Thunder’s case, we made the right decision to hurry to the ER. Provided there are no complications he should recover fully. His vitals and blood work are all good. He will need some medications for a bit and some special care for the first couple of weeks, but if all goes well he can resume training in about a month.
So what causes bloat and torsion? I have come to the conclusion that they just don’t know. You can read a lot about it on the internet, but in the end there are no hard and fast answers. Every dog is different and every case is different. Most of what is known is based on a review of what each dog did, or ate, or drank before the onset of bloat and torsion. There are no actual studies and what is out there are simply reviews of data which could mean something or nothing. I asked the ER vet why there hasn’t been more research and her answer to me was that they cannot duplicate what happens in a home before an occurrence and there are so many factors that could contribute to an occurrence. In reviewing suspected risk factors, Thunder fit very few except he is a middle aged deep chested dog who is physically active. Going forward we will alter some things that we do with him which I will share once we have him home and settled. For a time a part of this blog (but hopefully not all), will be devoted to his recuperation.
So we are not wordless today. But there are no words for how happy we are to have our big guy still with us and how thankful we are to his doctor and to the staff who saved his life.
During Thunder’s convalescence it will be a good time to catch up on our blog reading. We have missed visiting everyone’s blog this week.