March 29, 2006
Several years ago I came home in the early evening to let my dogs out. While standing in the yard with them, I noticed something out of the ordinary. One of my dogs, a Chocolate Lab mix named Muddy, looked as though he was trying to throw up. He was retching, but nothing was coming up. Right away alarms went off in my head.
I brought him inside for a quick check. His stomach felt as hard as a rock and he was clearly in discomfort. I suspected that Mud had bloated, although I had never personally seen a case of bloat before. I called Nancy, a friend who has worked for several of the local veterinarians, and asked her to come take a look. Next, I called the local veterinary offices, hoping to find a doctor on duty.
Fortunately, despite the late hour, Dr. Katz (another old friend) was still in her office. I described Muddy's symptoms to her and she told me to bring him over to the office. Nancy arrived in minutes, and she also thought Mud had bloated, so we loaded him into the Suburban and hurried off to see Dr. Katz.
We arrived at the vet's office shortly after 7 p.m. Dr. Katz and Nancy laid Muddy on his side in the X-ray room. When the X-ray was developed, Dr. Katz called me over to view the picture. She pointed out the classic "double bubble" image that showed up, indicating that the stomach was, in fact, twisted.
Dr. Katz then inserted a rubber tube into Muddy's esophagus and lowered it into his stomach. This procedure succeeded in releasing trapped gas. We then took a second X-ray. This one showed that Muddy's stomach was still twisted, so we called the 24 hour Emergency Animal Hospital in Riverhead, loaded Muddy back into the Suburban and off we went.
When we arrived at the hospital the staff was prepared to receive us. We spoke with the surgeon on duty. He informed us that they were going to operate on Muddy immediately, hoping to correct this condition before serious harm could come to him. Hopefully, we had detected the bloating soon enough to avoid necrosis, or tissue damage, in the stomach. I was advised to go home and call back in five hours.
When a dog bloats, his stomach can no longer digest its contents. The food begins to ferment in the stomach, causing more gas and stomach expansion. Bacteria from the decomposing food irritate the stomach tissue and can lead to a deterioration of this tissue (necrosis). In some cases, the stomach can even rupture. Left untreated for several hours this condition can lead to fatality.
Late that night, when I called the hospital to check on Muddy, the doctor told me that the surgery had been successful. The doctor was able to untwist Muddy's stomach. He then stitched one side of the stomach to the muscle wall to prevent any future bloating. Because we caught the bloating early on, necrosis had not yet set in. All in all, Muddy was one lucky dog!
Muddy spent the next day at the hospital recovering from his operation. The following day, when I went to pick him up, he was in the front office, off leash, hanging out with the receptionist. He appeared alert and happy. The doctor informed me that about 50% of the cases of bloat he treats end in death! I was very grateful that Muddy made it through.
Mud's story had a happy ending, but not all do. You can prevent your dog from bloating by taking certain simple precautions. First, break up your dog's daily rations into two or three small feedings, especially if your dog is a large breed. Second, do not provide large amounts of water after feeding. Third, do not allow your dog to run or engage in strenuous play right after eating. Lastly, keep a close eye on your dog. Your power of observation just might be the determining factor between life and death, should your dog ever bloat.