I grew up on a small farm. It was the 70’s and attitudes about dogs were different. My Mom supplemented our dogs food with yummy, natural stuff but she spent the night outside in the dog house.
Generally, if animals got sick or a stray showed up on our porch we treated it ourselves. We didn’t rush our animals to the vet immediately when things seemed a little “off”.
Don’t get me wrong. we went to the vet a lot. Like when my cat caught a birdy and my Mom had us trap the cat in the garage until we could pry it from the cat’s mouth. We wrapped the bird in a towel and rushed it to the vet where it got an exam, a shot and got returned to the wild.
However, when a pet showed subtle signs of not feeling well we usually rode it out until it went away or it was clear there was something really wrong.
Fast forward to my adult years – specifically, more recently. I believe that you should not get a pet if you cannot afford to properly take care of it. I also still believe in not rushing them to the vet if they are exhibiting minor symptoms of something. I watch them vigilantly and act accordingly. Usually whatever it is goes away on it’s own without having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars at the vet.
A few months after we adopted Gretel something I had never dealt with before happened.
Gretel found a favorite rubber squeaky toy. She must have squeaked that thing for an hour. I finally went to take it away from her and we noticed that her belly was bulging. I put my hand on it and it was as tight as a drum.
I freaked out and immediately hopped on the internet, vaguely remembering something about a thing called bloat. The stuff I read was really scary so I freaked out more. I called the local 24-hour vet to see what they thought.
After asking me some questions, we determined that it probably was not life-threatening. Her stomach was still gurgling away and in the type of bloat that kills (when the stomach rotates) it stops. She was also not vomiting and only acting a little out of sorts. The vet said to measure the circumference of her abdomen. She said to measure in the same spot every half hour and to bring her in if it got bigger. It didn’t and by the next day it had gone back to normal.
We speculated that she has blown up her own stomach with the squeakie toy because the air valve had been pointed down her throat.
Her stomach ended up distended again months later. To be honest, I can’t remember the specifics leading up do the incident but there wasn’t anything of note. Since her symptoms were similar to last time I looked up the local emergency vet, measured her belly and monitored. As last time, it went down and was back to normal by the next afternoon.
It happened again tonight. Once is a fluke, twice is suspect but three times makes a pattern. I could have gone with the measure thing again and it probably would have been fine but I WAS starting to get concerned that there was an underlying condition.
I took her into the 24-hour emergency clinic. They had her in there for a really long time and recommended an x-ray. I turns out she did have bloat.
To be clear, when people say “bloat” and recount horror stories they are referring to bloat with a rotated stomach. Gretel had bloat but her stomach was NOT rotated. The two are closely linked though. A dog must first have bloat. In some cases, the bloated stomach then rotates, cutting off the blood supply. I have heard that without diagnosis and surgery a dog can die within a half hour.
How did she get the bloat you ask? THAT is the mystery.
She scarfs her food, yes. Considering that she only gets 1/3 cup at a time, and she has ALWAYS scarfed food with basically no issues, that is not the likely culprit. Hence started the sleuthing to figure it out.
They induced vomiting to see what was in her stomach. Grain-free kibble and pureed pumpkin -check because that was her dinner. Lettuce and grass – check because she is a little grass harvester and I dropped some lettuce on the floor this morning. What I can’t figure out for the life of me is the rubbery white chunks that they vet insisted was rawhide and the seeds (definitely a few pumpkin and something that looked like flax and poppy seeds). What was clear is that her stomach was full to capacity with this stuff.
The vet insisted again and again that the white rubbery chunks were rawhide. I guarantee that there is NO WAY she ate rawhide. That stuff is evil because dogs can’t digest it. In big dogs it usually passes but it can become a real problem for small dogs. I don’t EVER keep in in the house and don’t even like to look at the stuff. I suggested it could be softened pieces of the raw buffalo bone she ate yesterday but the vet looked at me like I was being silly. I am not educated enough to argue that one.
The vet also insisted that she got into something I didn’t know about. This one I have less conviction about. She sure as heck ate the seeds because I saw them. None of the food or treats I give her have seeds – at least not whole seeds. I did not find any granola or energy bar wrappers around. S and I are vigilant about keeping those things out of reach and Chester and Gretel are not subtle about hiding the wrappers.
After getting home I talked to S about the content of her stomach. It IS possible that she ate a piece of Dave’s Killer Bread today that would explain the seeds but since that only happened today, that would not be the cause of bloat and her retention of about 4 days worth of food in her stomach.
We are at a loss here. I am hoping that further tests will give is some more insight.
Gretel is going to have to stay overnight at the doggie hospital. They want to take another x-ray of her stomach after the vomiting. The drugs they gave her to induce vomiting, and then to counter act it, can take a toll. She can become dehydrated from the vomiting. They want to keep her overnight and make sure she has to other problems.
First, I don’t think I am a bad dog Mom for not taking her in the last time this happened. To be honest, the lack of identifiable cause makes me second guess taking her in even this time. I basically spent $2,500 to make her feel better now instead of tomorrow. I still don’t have any “don’t do these things or she will bloat” things to put on my list.
Also, I am not a bad dog Mom that gives her dog things it shouldn’t eat and pays no attention to what she helps herself to. I am VERY conscious of what goes in their mouth. I am aware of the nutritional value. or lack thereof, of all of the common, and some of the less common, dog treats, foods and supplements out there.
I am hoping that the additional tests give us more to go on. Has anyone had experience with this kind of thing?
I sure hope my little girls feels better soon.