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DEADLY GASTRIC TORSION

 

Toy Breed owner documents onset, symptoms, misdiagnosis in tragic case of bloat in toy dog not thought susceptible to gastric torsion...

 

GASTRIC TORSION (BLOAT) IN TOY DOGS

by Chris Kemper, www.shangriladogs.com

 

As I sit here at my keyboard to write this, it has not even been 48 hours since I lost one of my most beloved Boston Terriers to gastric torsion.

 

"Lil Abner" a Boston Terriers dies from gastric torsion (bloat)He was only 2 years and 7 months old.  Officially, he was Shangri-La's Batteries Not Included, but he was known by his family and MANY friends as "Lil Abner".

 

A large portion of the Boston Terrier community got to "know" Abner early in his life due to life threatening issues.  I posted regularly online about his struggles to survive.  Not only did he survive, but he thrived!  So it is extremely hard for me to accept that he left me so suddenly on March 31,2011, a victim of bloat that no one suspected because he didn’t have the classic symptoms of gastric torsion and he was a small breed not usually at risk for bloat.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, I had put everyone in their crates for the PM feedings.  Abner was "arfing" impatiently in his crate as I prepared his dish. He never ever gobbled his food, but meticulously picked out each morsel and chewed it well.  Who would ever think this little guy could bloat!!??

 

After the afternoon feeding, I always leave the dogs in their crates for 2-3 hours, to allow the food to digest.  Then they are let out to the yard for potty and playtime.  Abner went with the dogs at the usual evening outing.

 

They were out in the play yard for about an hour, which is pretty normal but when I started letting them in for bed, Abner lagged behind.  His head was down and it seemed as though he might have injured his shoulder.  He was walking oddly and seemed to favor his right side.  After checking him for breaks, I put him his crate for the night.

 

The next morning, when I let everyone out for their first trip, Abner did not come out of his crate. When I coaxed him out, he stood with his head hung down.  I carried him outside, away from the other dogs for him to potty. He did his wee wee, then just stood there.  I carried him back inside and when I picked him up I remember thinking his belly felt slightly tight.

 

He stood in the living room for a time, then he went into the kitchen where I keep the water bowl.  He drank, then slowly wandered over to where my husband, Bob, was eating breakfast. A moment later, Bob shouted at me to come quickly.  Abner had blown diarrhea all over the dining room. It was bloody, slimy and rank.

 

Off to the vet. I was there waiting when they came in. Bloodwork was run, parvo and pancreatitis snap tests done.  He showed an extremely low WBC and mild dehydration but the rest of his numbers were all normal.  Tests for parvo and pancreatitis were negative.

 

The preliminary diagnosis was a non-specific "gastroenteritis."  He was placed on an IV and I left him for monitoring. Drugs were administered to help calm his tummy and he was given a broad spectrum antibiotic.

 

At noon, I was told he was up and turning circles in the cage, tangling his IV's  He seemed, to them, much perkier.  They said I could come get him at 4PM.  Encouraged, I impatiently waited, and was at the office at 3:45.

 

He was brought into the room for discharge and vet came in to discuss his situation.  When I picked him up, I once again thought his tummy felt a little "tight."  I asked the vet if he had done an xray, but they had not as Abner's history did not indicate a foreign body obstruction.

 

Abner was NOT a toy destroyer.  He did not pick up things in the yard other than his chew hooves.  His favorite pasttime was to lie on the living room carpet and "nurse" one of his favorite stuffed toys.  This information, and the low WBC, made my vet feel we were dealing with a tummy virus and the tightness was possibly cramping due to the gastroenteritis.

 

The catheter was left in and I took him home for the night and was to return in the morning to the hospital.

 

I put him in a 3 x 3 pen on a big comfy pillow.  He went to sleep.

 

He did get up a couple of times and took a drink, then would lie back down.  Around 8 PM, he started moaning. I went and got him out of the pen and sat with him on my chest in my TV chair.  He seemed comforted and again went to sleep.

 

I tried to call his vet later when he awoke and was salivating quite a bit.  I could tell he was hurting so called my daughter. She called the vet she works for and I administered some Reglan to calm his tummy some. They said it would ease the cramping.  I put him back in his pen about 9PM. He was resting better, so I decided to go lie down for a short time around 9:45pm or so before I had to leave for work at 12:30 a.m.

 

I got up at midnight and he was gone!  I could not believe it.  I was devastated.  I wrapped him in his blankie and went off to work in tears.

 

When I got home, I called my daughter and told her what had happened. I was making arrangements for his cremation through her office because I liked the way they had handled Earl's (Abner's sire) remains and wanted the same for Abner.  My daughter asked if I wanted her Doc to do a basic necropsy to see if they could determine what happened.  She was also disturbed by his tight belly and said the spleen also seemed enlarged when she felt him.  I agreed to let them do the necropsy. I was hoping for answers as well.

 

It was all too surreal, an otherwise healthy dog dying in a 12 hour time span.  My daughter called me back at noon with their findings.  "Mom" she said "You are not going to believe this, but he died from bloat and gastric torsion."

 

We were all dumbfounded.  Gastric torsion is not something you suspect in a small dog. I called his regular vet and told him the findings. He was also flabbergasted. He apologized again and again.

 

Like me, he felt bloat was a diagnosis that came in under the radar.  Gastric torsion is not one of the "usual suspects".

 

Ironically, I had had a litter of 5 week old Boston puppies that had bloated several years ago.  The younger partner in the practice had diagnosed it and we were able to pass a gastric tube to relieve the pressure and they were fine.  After that incident I changed the way I fed the pups. Smaller, more frequent meals and started feeding them in separate bowls to avoid the "competitive scarfing".

 

But those puppies were in gastric distress very shortly after feeding whereas Abner had not eaten since the afternoon before.

 

In retrospect, I wish I had been more proactive and asked the vet to do an x-ray "just in case".

 

The symptoms of bloat WERE there, but dismissed as cramps and discomfort from the gastroenteritis.  Gastric torsion (GDV) was not even mentioned or thought of as a possibility.

 

Later, in talking with my daughter again, the vet at her practice told her that, while unusual, and bloat is more prevalent in large deep-chested dogs, she had seen it in bulldogs and heard of a boat case in a frenchie. They also have deep chests, and Abner certainly qualified as deep chested, even at only 10 pounds.

 

The vet found that his stomach was totally empty of food but was so bloated with air, it had pushed his spleen and diaphragm out of position.  Her theory was that while he was salivating and constantly licking so much, he was probably swallowing air which could have caused the stomach to twist and torsion.  Also, being a brachy breed, he was more prone to swallowing air.

 

My hope is, that by posting this account of my tragedy, that I can put in peoples' minds that this is NOT just a large breed dogs' problem.  Never overlook bloat and torsion as a possible diagnosis in smaller dogs as well.

 

If this information saves ONE dog, spares one dog from the horrible painful death my little man endured, then his death is not in vain.

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