Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Very Hard Decision

Last night we had a very hard night and had to make a heartbreaking decision. We own two dogs, Cinnamon the Chow Chow and Frankie the French Bulldog. Cinnamon became very ill last night and it happened very suddenly. We had to bring her to an emergency hospital and ultimately we decided to have her humanely euthanized.

Anyone who owns a large dog should be aware of this problem. Cinnamon died of bloat.

Q: What is Bloat?
A: The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV"). Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation"). Stress can be a significant contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

Q: What are the symptoms?
A: There are lots of symptoms and they can vary from dog to dog but these are some of the most common:

  • Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-30 minutes
  • Significant anxiety and restlessness - may not want to lie down or stand still
  • Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Excessive Panting
Cinnamon was doing all of the things listed above. She started just retching. She was trying to vomit but nothing was coming up...not even bile. Then she started pacing. She would try to lie down but she would immediately get back up and looked very uncomfortable. Then she started panting and whining. When I touched her abdomen it felt very distended. At that point we knew something was very wrong and we brought her to the hospital.

Q: What is the treatment?
If you know or even suspect your dog has bloat, immediately call your veterinarian or emergency service. Do not attempt home treatment.

Do take the time to call ahead.; while you are transporting the dog, the hospital staff can prepare for your arrival. Do not insist on accompanying your dog to the treatment area. Well-meaning owners are an impediment to efficient care. Someone will be out to answer your questions as soon as possible, but for now, have faith in you veterinarian and wait.

Initial diagnosis may include x-rays, an ECG, and blood tests, but treatment will probably be started before the test results are in.

The first step is to treat shock with IV fluids and steroids. Antibiotics and anti-arrythmics may also be started now. Then the veterinarian will attempt to decompress the stomach by passing a stomach tube. If this is successful, a gastric levage may be instituted to wash out accumulated food, gastric juices, or other stomach contents. In some cases, decompression is accomplished by placing large-bore needles or a trochar through the skin and muscle and directly into the stomach.

In some cases, this medical therapy is sufficient. However, in many cases, surgery is required to save the dog. Once the dog's condition is stabilized, surgery to correct the stomach twist, remove any unhealthy tissue, and anchor the stomach in place is performed. The gastroplexy, or anchoring surgery, is an important procedure to prevent recurrence, and many variations exist. Your veterinarian will do the procedure he feels comfortable with and which has the best success rate

Recovery is prolonged, sometimes requiring hospital stays of a week or more. Post-operative care depends on the severity of the disease and the treatment methods employed and may include a special diet, drugs to promote gastric emptying, and routine wound management. Costs may run upwards of $1000 depending on the treatment required and the severity of the case.

In Cinnamon's case we were told she required surgery and the bill would probably be close to $3000. We were also told that she had a 60/40 chance of making it even after the surgery.

If you suspect that your dog has bloat please call your veterinarian or an emergency pet hospital as soon as possible! This condition worsens very quickly so every minute counts!

We are going to miss Cinnamon terribly. I feel somewhat guilty that we didn't have the means to give her the chance with surgery but it really wasn't an option for us financially. In the end we decided to have her euthanized because without treatment this is a fatal condition and is extremely painful. I couldn't stand to have her suffer. I hope everyone who owns a dog is aware of this condition...especially those of you with large breed dogs as they are more susceptible to it.

Some of the above information was quoted from the following sources:

The Dog Owner's Guide

Bloat in Dogs


Justine said...

Cherie I am so sorry for your loss :(
Losing a pet is losing a member of the family... been there and know how much it hurts.

Lisa said...

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I know it was a hard decision for you and your family.

Ida said...

I am so sorry for your loss, it is so hard to lose a pet, they become like family and it is heartbreaking when we lose them. I have a german Shepard and Rottweiler, so thank you for the information.

Cherie said...

Thank you ladies for your kind words. It's been a hard couple of days but we're getting through it.

nikki said...

cherie, i just read I am so sorry I know how you feel. Don't feel guilty you did the best you could do. We are thinking of you and Eric and Ben.

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