Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Then, the phone rang at 10:30 pm, immediately after I had gotten into bed. A dog belonging to a lady from out of town had gotten into the garbage and devoured the remains of a leg of lamb. For the past 3 hours, the dog (a Setter cross) had been acting painful, unproductively vomiting and her abdomen seemed large. After looking online, the owner was fairly certain her dog had "bloat."
For those of you unfamiliar with this condition, "bloat" (the more technical, medical term being Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus shortened to GDV) is a condition that occurs in large, deep-chested dogs such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, St Bernards, and the like. While those breeds are the most common to suffer from GDV, you will occasionally hear of other large dogs such as Labs, Boxers and Setters also being afflicted.
In dogs with GDV, their stomach literally twists on itself, cutting off passage of food (either up or down) and twisting off the blood supply. Dogs with bloat very quickly become extremely sick as gas builds up in their stomach (further cutting off the blood supply and pressing on nearby organs), their blood pressure plummets (again due to the blood supply issue) and they quickly become septic. Symptoms (often severe abdominal discomfort, unproductive frequent vomiting, visibly enlarged abdomen) typically come on quickly and come on after a large meal and/or exercise. Even with emergency surgery, many GDV dogs die.
So, back to the story: Christmas night, blizzard outside, warm and cozy in bed, possible bloat needing emergency surgery. After talking to the owner about the diagnostics we would need to do, the other rule outs and the likely costs we could be looking at (I've learned to be very up front about prices of everything), she decided to talk it over with her husband for a moment and call me back with what they wanted to do.
For the next 20 minutes I lay in bed in dread. Of all small animal emergency calls vets get, I'd be willing to wager that bloat calls rank up at the top as the most feared. GDVs can be very frustrating things, especially since the survival rate is so variable and often so low depending on the circumstances of each individual case. C-sections, fractures, even hit-by-cars don't scare me nearly as much as bloats do.
Eventually, the owner called back. Turns out the family member she was staying with is good friends with one of the other vets in town, and she was on her way to have him see the dog. After wishing her luck (and wondering in my head why they didn't call him in the first place), I hung up and sighed in relief. When I related the story the next morning, one of my colleagues pronounced it a Christmas miracle. And I tend to agree with her.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Without fanfare or marketing, the bedding industry has been raising the altitude of its products, satisfying customer preferences for ever-thicker mattresses. Yet that preference is creating a hazard for a tall bed's shortest occupant: the dog.
Anecdotally, veterinarians across the country report among house dogs a rise in such disorders as elbow and shoulder arthritis, hip dysplasia and degenerative disk disease. As the lifespan of pets rises thanks to better food and medicine, the old dog that once leapt with abandon now hesitates on the edge of bed -- or jumps and hurts itself.
Little dogs like the Pekingese are soaring off of high beds without fear. "For a little dog to take a flying leap off a bed that's five to six times higher than he stands is an act of courage, and a recipe for injury," says Stephen Crane, an academic animal doctor and diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.
The peril is too new to have generated peer-reviewed veterinary research. But the problem is evident in the white-hot popularity of a relatively new product: pet stairs, specifically designed to lead Fido from bed to floor by land rather than air.
Source: The Wall Street Journal (click for full article)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Oftentimes, we aren't sure if a dog ate something they shouldn't have. They just start showing signs of vomiting and/or diarrhea and - depending on circumstances - a foreign object is always somewhere on the rule out list.
Now, it is very politically incorrect to race profile these days for a variety of reasons. However, this practice is used daily in the veterinary field, but we call it by a different name: breed profiling. When it comes to certain problems, the breed of the dog has a huge impact on how likely a given scenario is. This is especially apparent when it comes to the issue of foreign objects swallowed by dogs. If you call me and tell me you have a vomiting Lab or Golden Retreiver, they have swallowed something they shouldn't have until proven otherwise.
Case in point: Bouncy is a 6 year old female Golden. Sweet, affectionate, and utterly untirable, Bouncy is everything typical about her breed (except, strangely, she is not overweight!) Bouncy's owners have been calling the clinic fairly regularly over the last 3 months because Bouncy has been vomiting. Over the course of this period of time, they have spoken to all 4 of the vets that are at the practice and each of us had encouraged them to bring Bouncy in to be evaluated. However, they hesitated...Bouncy's symptoms were somewhat nonspecific and very unpredictible. She would go streches of 4 days at a time with no problems. Then she would have a day where she would vomit everything up. Sometimes she would vomit up only water, keeping all her food down. Sometimes it was the other way around. Through the course of all of this, she never "acted sick" and hadn't lost any weight.
Finally, Bouncy's owners got sick of cleaning up vomit and brought her in. Unfortunately, in cases such as these - even if we are fairly certain there must be some sort of foreign body in the GI tract - sometimes we don't see a whole lot on the radiographs. Fortunately, Bouncy's radiographs gave us an immediate answer. For those not used to reading radiographs, a quick lesson on orientation. Bouncy is lying on her right side, her head going off to your left and her tail to your right. And, as you can likely notice, there are eight very round objects in her stomach that just don't look like they belong.
In surgery, we pulled out 8 golfballs. Yeah, golfballs.....apparently she liked to chase golfballs that her owner hit in the backyard, and he hadn't been keeping track of them all. The balls were too large to leave the stomach in either direction, so there they had sat for months. Oddly, it is not terribly uncommon for a dog to swallow something like this and not show any clinical signs. Only if something happens to block the entrance or the exit to the stomach will you actually see vomiting.
Fortunately, Bouncy is doing just fine now. Her owners refer to her as the most expensive golfball can they've ever owned. And she doesn't get to chase golfballs anymore.