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This page was created on July 29, 2006
What is bloat?
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is also known as "bloat," "stomach torsion," or "twisted stomach." GDV is an extremely serious condition that is an urgent, life-threatening emergency. Left untreated, a dog will die in as little as 2 hours. Even with emergency treatment, as many as 33% of dogs with GDV will die.
Merlot (left) 5 hours before she bloated
Sunday, July 23, 2006 was a lovely, cool summer day. Great Danes Jupiter, Savannah, and Merlot spent a pleasant evening at a party with doggie friends. I drove our tired crew home around 9 pm and as usual, they waited an hour before eating. Then everyone bedded down for the night.
Lucky for all, Merlot sleeps next to me. She was acting odd, moving from bed to bed -- she couldn't get comfortable. At 2:15 am on Monday morning, she suddenly dry-heaved and that dreaded sound woke me right up. I immediately thumped her stomach -- it was tight as a drum. I put my ear to it but couldn't hear the churn of digestion. Very bad signs.
Using an oral syringe, I gave her a dose of liquid Simethecone. I threw on my clothes, and we flew 25 miles down to Anne Arundel Emergency Veterinary Center (AAEVC) in Annapolis, MD. Matthew called ahead to let them know I was bringing in a bloat case.
Seconds count with bloat. When I walked into AAEVC, they immediately took Merlot in the back for x-rays. She was the third Dane they were treating for bloat that night, and they said except where caused by injury or trauma, bloat most often occurs at night.
Normally the stomach lays in a relaxed position, but notice here it is folded over. The gas and pressure cause the twisted stomach to press on a major artery and cut off blood flow to the heart.
When Dr. Anne Van Auken showed me Merlot's x-ray, I could clearly see torsion. Her stomach had flipped and I saw the classic "Popeye's Arm" twist (above.) Her stomach was pressing against a major artery which restricted the flow of blood to her heart. Unless the vet did immediate surgery to un-twist her stomach, Merlot would die.
During the 1-1/2 hour surgery, the vet pulled her stomach straight and performed "gastropexy" to tack it to a rib. Although gastropexy is no guarantee that she will never bloat again, it can prevent deadly stomach torsion.
This is Merlot at AAEVC 12 hours after bloat surgery. She was on pain meds and hardly recognized me.
Dr. Van Auken said because I caught it early, there was no tissue death. Over the next 24 hours, Merlot was in shock. The gas in her digestive system continued to restrict the blood flow to her heart, plus her heart rate was accelerated and irregular. AAEVC kept her on a heart rate monitor, fluids and pain killers.
Merlot was released from AAEVC on Tuesday, July 25 when her heart rate stabilized, and she peed and ate. Here she is on her first day at home.
Thankfully, her systems finally stabilized 36 hours after she bloated. She was released from the hospital with prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Once at home, she was out of it for a few days. She spent the next three days confined to an x-pen. We used a belly-band to lift her until she could stand up on her own. She ate rice and chicken, peed, and slept. Good thing -- she needed rest after her near-death experience and life-saving surgery.
This is Merlot's 12 inch surgical scar between her lower groin and her xiphoid process. She has a bruise on her lower sternum from the vet manipulating the tissue to un-flip her stomach.
Five days after she bloated, she was finally able to get around on her own. Before she bloated, she weighted 101 lbs but due to post-operative anorexia, she went down to 82 lbs. After a few weeks, she started eating again and began a slow rebound. We are counting our blessings
After living through this nightmare, my recommendations follow:
** RIGHT NOW ** find the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency center -- more than one if possible so you're covered if you're away from home. If you have a cell phone, program in their numbers in case you must call when you're on the road.
Buy either liquid Simethecone (best) or anti-gas tablets. ALWAYS keep this on hand and with you wherever you take your dogs.
If you even * * think * * your Dane is in bloat.... give 1.5cc. liquid Simethecone by oral syringe or 10 anti-gas tabs. I also 'burp' my Danes afterwards to see if I can get them to belch -- a wonderful sound!
If the dog does not evacuate gas in 5 minutes, or if it dry heaves, you start racing the clock. If you don't move fast, they will become immobile and it's difficult to move the 'dead weight' of an adult Dane.
Immediately get your Dane into your vehicle and go directly to the nearest veterinary emergency center. If possible, call them from your cell phone so if necessary, they will be prepared to transport your dog in on a stretcher.
Have a credit or debit card with +/- $3000 with you to pay for your dog's lifesaving surgery. Most veterinary emergency hospitals want payment up-front.
Last, a little prayer doesn't hurt.
It is worth noting that we feed raw to all our Danes *except* 5 year old Merlot who cannot digest it. Rawfed Kuna (age 8-1/2) and Jupiter (male, age 6) are at statistically higher risk due to age and gender, yet neither has bloated. Diet has been identified as a bloat factor and anecdotal evidence points to a lower incidence of bloat in rawfed dogs. If you would like to learn more about rawfeeding, check out these links: BARF and rawfeeding.
Finally, if you are a Dane owner, please consider having preventative gastropexy surgery which may save your dog's life. After this experience with Merlot, we had this surgery done on our Danes Jupiter and Savannah so that they will never have this awful experience.