Original article by Elizabeth Gigis, DVM, West Chester Veterinary Center
Commonly called the “mother of all emergencies”, a gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or “bloat” is an absolute surgical emergency. Bloat refers to the condition where the stomach dilates with gas and fluid and/or food, and then flips. It is much more common in large breed, deep-chested dogs, because the stomach has more room to move. Because the dilated stomach has flipped over, the stomach cannot receive proper blood flow. Blood flow to the spleen may also become compromised. The most common clinical signs are an enlarged abdomen, abdominal pain, lethargy, attempted “retching”. Dogs who have a GDV actually cannot vomit, so you may notice a hunched over appearance where the dog retches and tries to vomit, but there is no vomit produced. If you notice any of these symptoms in a large breed dog, the dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Time is essential to survival in a GDV. The longer the stomach and spleen are without blood flow, the worse the prognosis. These dogs are usually septicemic (bacteria in the blood stream) and need to be hospitalized after surgery, monitored and given broad-spectrum antibiotics. Another complication which may be noted with a GDV is a ventricular arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an abnormality of the electrical conduction system of the heart. This is a sequel of sepsis (bacteria in the blood stream) causing inflammation of the heart. These arrhythmias can be very serious and sometimes fatal after surgery. All dogs with a GDV should be carefully monitored after surgery for an arrhythmia.
During surgery, after the stomach is decompressed and placed back in normal anatomic position, then the surgery will “tack” or suture the stomach to the wall of the abdomen. The aim of this is to prevent the stomach from ever flipping again. This procedure has a good success rate as long as the tack heals properly at preventing an additional GDV episode. You may also elect to have your pet “tacked” as a preventative measure at a young age if they are a predisposed breed. This is a good topic to discuss with your veterinarian at the time of your dog’s spay or neuter procedure.
Statistically, the three most common predisposed breeds for a GDV are the Great Dane, Weimeriner, and St. Bernard. As an owner of a predisposed breed, it is import to take some preventative measures and know the warning signs, the location of a nearby emergency clinic, and have the financial resources to deal with this extreme emergency. Predisposed breeds should be fed smaller amounts of food and water more frequently rather than large meals. They should also be kept quiet after eating.
Elizabeth Gigis, DVM
West Chester Veterinary Center
7330 Liberty Way, West Chester, OH 45069
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.