Posts Tagged ‘dog twisted stomach’

Recognizing a Bloat Emergency Could Save Your Dog’s Life

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Deep chested dogs are more prone to bloat than other breeds. Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Deep chested dogs are more prone to bloat than other breeds. Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Many of us who own deep-chested dogs have either encountered a bloat and torsion situation or heard about it. I’m writing this as a reminder, and as an alert to those first time owners of deep-chested dogs – German shorthairs and wirehairs, Weimaraners, Vizslas, shepherds, setters, boxers, etc. Please pass the word: Timing is critical.

One evening in August while we were outside playing fetch with bumpers, “Scratch,” my incredibly deep-chested German shorthair, suddenly walked away trying to throw up. He was clearly uncomfortable, couldn’t produce vomit and hunched up as he circled the yard. I immediately saw the problem. He looked like he’d swallowed a basketball. And he felt like he’d swallowed a basketball. Even though it had been three hours since he ate, his stomach was bloated and drum hard.

Fortunately, we recognized these symptoms as indicative of gastric bloat and torsion (technically, gastric dilation and volvulus, or GDV) because our oldest German wirehair, “Scrub,” had it happen seven years ago. We raced Scratch to the truck and drove directly to the emergency veterinary clinic. There, the vet put a tube down Scratch’s throat to where it almost reached his stomach, relieving the gas. We were lucky in that the “torsion” part of bloat and torsion – the twisting of the stomach – was partial and the stomach righted itself, so surgery that night wasn’t needed.

Dogs can bloat without the stomach twisting, but when that does happen, timing is critical. Blood supply in and out of the stomach is cut off resulting in a severe drop in blood pressure and damage to internal organs. The dog can die within hours.

When Scrub bloated, we got him to the emergency clinic within an hour, but he had already gone into mild shock. They took him into surgery immediately. Collateral damage from the stomach rotating inside the bloat wasn’t too bad. Scrub’s spleen had to be removed, but apparently spleens aren’t necessary. (He’s 14.5 years-old now and doesn’t seem to have missed his spleen the past seven years.)  The vet also performed a gastropexy, tacking his stomach to the body wall, preventing the stomach from rotating should he bloat again.

A week after Scratch’s bloat, he had preventative gastropexy surgery, so if he bloats again, at least he won’t be at risk of his stomach twisting.

All the vets I talked with agreed that despite an enormous amount of study, no one knows for sure why bloat and torsion happens. Genetics and body type appear to be factors. “Gassy” (aka “farty”) dogs are also more prone to bloat. Among others, precautions include feeding 2-3 times per day instead of once, withholding water after eating for a while, waiting an hour after exercise before feeding, waiting 1-2 hours after feeding before exercise, and pre-soaking dry food. I also carry a “bloat kit” with a tube and a few other items, so if Scratch has a severe bloat again and I can’t get to a vet, I can try to relieve the gas.

If your dog seems to be in pain and has a very tight, distended stomach, with or without trying to vomit, get him or her to a vet as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid of looking silly. We all have had the “should we call the vet” discussion, but a little embarrassment, even if nothing’s wrong, is a small price to pay for the alternative if your dog has bloated.  For more info, check online for websites about bloat and torsion, and for directions and contents for a bloat kit for dogs.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

On Your Rooster Road Trip, Feed Bird Dogs Once per Day

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Prior to departing for this year’s Rooster Road Trip, I dialed up Purina’s top dog and professional trainer, Bob West, with a simple question: “How often should I feed my two German shorthaired pointers during the five heavy-hunting days of the trip?”

“That’s a very common question.  Most bird dog owners have heard stories of ‘twisted stomach’ or ‘bloat,’ which prompts this question,” explained West, “but there is actually more to the answer than the one danger associated with feeding a hard working dog at the incorrect time.  At Purina, we’ve done a lot of research and recommend one feeding at the day’s end for hard-working dogs in normal health.”

Feeding your bird dog just once per day on hunting trips has multiple benefits. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

West recommends feeding bird dogs at least one half hour after heavy exercise, including hunting.  “If you feed a dog immediately after the hunt, there is considerable risk of that dog gulping the food and water voraciously.  That gulping action could lead to an inordinate amount of air gulped at the same time.  These are the dangerous ingredients potentially resulting in ‘twisted stomach’ and possibly the dog’s death.”

In addition to avoiding the immediate dangers of feeding a dog too close to hunting, West explained the advantages of a dog having a full night to digest its meal.  “First, a bird dog that can empty its stomach in the morning after a night of digestion can lighten its body weight and actually decrease the strain of the day’s hunt by carrying around less weight.  Secondly, a full stomach during a hunt can lead to that food being slapped around inside the dog’s gut.  We’ve all seen dogs afield that squat and try to pass a bowel and cannot.  This is the result of a dog’s stomach being irritated through this food slapping situation, which can lead to internal bleeding, blood in the stool and bigger potential dangers.”

Lastly, West added that early season bird hunters have even more cause for evening feedings.  “Our research has shown that the dog’s digestion process can also raise the dog’s body temperature a few degrees.  This is extremely important to recognize during those early season hunts when the temps are already stressing the dog during times extreme physical exercise.”

West reiterated this guidance is for dogs in normal physical health and condition.  Dog’s suffering from hypoglycemia, diabetes, or are simply out of shape necessitate a discussion with a veterinarian about the topic.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.