Gastric Torsion which is commonly called Bloat. It is a very deadly issue. It is the most serious issue we face as a boarding facility, because of this we have studied very passionately and have trained in the recognition and response to Bloat and the symptoms. In the past forty years I have seen many cases. Some were able to be saved and we were very happy with each success. A number were not saved and we grieved each loss.
WHAT IS BLOAT? - Very simply Bloat is the expansion of the stomach due to air and gasses. Torsion comes in when the stomach rotates. If you can picture a balloon half full of water, now hold the balloon at each end and let it swing back and forth. This would represent a normal stomach. Now swing the balloon hard enough to rotate it still holding each end. What happens is that each end of the balloon in now pinched closed. That is the Torsion part. When that happens the normal air and gas in the stomach have no place to go and the stomach expands. Within a short period of time the stomach will begin to die. It also affects the Spleen and other organs.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? - What we have trained for is to see what is not normal. In one dog that is very active all day long, today he is quiet. In another dog who is quiet all day, today he is up and pacing. He may or may not be trying to throw up. We call this the pre Bloat stage. It may never go any further or this stage may never show itself. Next, if he is up he may be standing with legs splayed outward. He may be trying to throw up. He may have thrown up white foam. He may be laying down but not at rest. His eyes will also look funny as if telling us he does not feel well. At this stage he has most likely not twisted yet but he is in trouble. The next stage is the Torsion. After this has happened his abdomen will begin to swell and harden. It will look like he swallowed a basketball, and it will be hard. You can thump it like a watermelon. Our finding is that at this point you have about a 30 minute window to begin treatment.
WHAT CAUSES IT? - No one knows. Not even Cornell knows for sure. There are some theories. Gulping lots of food and water while ingesting air are thought to be factors. Eating only one heavy meal. So is heavy activity after eating. Temperament may come in to play as well as stress and genetics. Each of these are good theories and there are others. We try to take into account all of the theories and control what we can. We feed two times a day so there is not one heavy meal. We lock all the dogs in for a period of time after eating so there is no heavy activity after eating. We keep things on schedule to relieve as much anxiety as possible.
One theory we have is how much does the food expand in the stomach. We conduct the expansion test on any kennel diet that we feed. It is one of the reasons that we feed JOY as a kennel diet. It doesn't expand greatly in water. The test is simple. Place a few pieces of the dry food in a cup of water and see how big it gets. Our thoughts have always been the more it expands the more it will expand in the stomach. Over the years we have had great success watching out for this. We have and can feed elevated for certain dogs although some studies say this may not be helpful.
WHO IS AT RISK? - Certainly big dogs vs little dogs. Deep chested breeds are most at risk. Great Danes, St. Bernard's, Newfoundland's, Labrador's, Springer's, Rottweiler's, Standard Poodles those types of breeds. I have seen active dogs bloat, as well quiet ones. Most times it is in the afternoon or nighttime. Rarely in the morning. Dogs who eat their own food and some on our diet. I believe that the reason no one knows for sure what causes it, is that nothing is ever constant. I know of one Springer who Bloated at the kennel and then Bloated two different times at home and survived all three. Another Newfoundland who Bloated at the kennel we saved her, she boarded many times again and then Bloated at home and died. I have watched a Labrador Bloat and die in less than 5 minutes. In my forty plus years many others have been saved. Old or young makes no difference.
If you own any of the breeds described above I would recommend learning all you can about Bloat.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG BLOATS? - First, we will rush your dog to the closest Veterinarian that will see us. If that is your own Veterinarian that is great. With a window of only 30 minutes we will not try and transport to a Veterinarian across town. There simply is not time. We have been told by some Veterinarians that they are not taking Bloat cases at all, they are sending them to Animal Emergency on White Spruce Blvd., in Henrietta. We were very upset by this at first. It seemed as if they were turning their backs on their own clients. Now, we believe that it is in the best interest of the dog to be treated by an office that may see several cases a day rather than an office that may see one case a week or month. You may want to talk to your own Veterinarian about this.
One of the first times we had to use Animal Emergency for a case of Bloat they would not treat the dog because they had no authorization from the owner. The emergency contact we had on file would not authorize emergency surgery or euthanasia which are the only two options you have. The dog ended up suffering for 8 hours before dying at which time we decided we would never board an animal again that we did not have authorization to treat.
Working with Animal Emergency we developed the Veterinary Release Form that all boarding clients must fill out each visit. It gives us the right to seek treatment for your pet up to the limit that you set. The minimum to walk into Animal Emergency is $200.00 so that is the minimum we will accept.
While we are transporting your pet we will be trying all the contact numbers that you have left for us. We do not feel that we have all the answers for your pet and would like for you to be in contact with the staff at the emergency clinic. The are a wonderful group of very dedicated people but it is costly to deal with Bloat. The last successful case we had cost about $6000. We understand that may be a very hard choice for you to make and an impossible one for us or even your friends to make in your place.
CAN IT REOCCUR? - Yes. Although during the operation many times they will stitch the stomach to the side to keep it from rotating again. While not fool proof it helps greatly. Apparently, when the stomach rotates it weakens the muscles holding the stomach in place.
DO THEY ALWAYS SURVIVE? No, unfortunately. Sometimes there is too much damage to the stomach or other organs before operating. Sometimes the dog is just too weak. 24 hours after is the first big window than 48 hours. After that it looks much better. What are the odds? In a young dog caught early the odds are very good but we have seen older dogs recover very well also. Recognizing it early is the key.
If you have any further questions talk to your Veterinarian or feel free to contact me personally at 585 624 1155 or attention Bruce Coates.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, it is important.