Sunday, January 4, 2015

Out With the Old

2014, especially as of late, has sucked. Big. Damn. Time. In a nutshell, Vegas has had a myriad of health issues that have pinned us with a one-two-three. But I swear it. We will win.

BIG, BAD BLOAT Yes, it happened to us.

On Sunday night October 19, Vegas started acting strange. The evening was quiet and we were on the couch when suddenly she jumped up to go outside. She didn't rush but she didn't take her time going out. I let her out and she proceeded into the yard. At first it appeared she tried to urinate. Then she stood relatively still, head not quite hanging. She tried eating grass. Then she came inside.

She repeated this a second time but on this go 'round she went into the middle of the yard and sat. By that time I was on the phone with my friend, Rachel (a veterinarian). When Vegas returned inside I took her temperature. It was normal. I checked her gums which were the correct color and capillary refill time was good. I gave her gas-x cause, well, that's just what I do with her every time something is amiss. I finally started palpating her neck and back to see if it was a pain problem. She seemed like her neck might be a little tweaky so we got some tramadol on board. And then she jumped up for a third time to go outdoors. This time she tried to vomit. Quick as a flash I was off the phone, crating Leo, and out the door. I honestly still don't know if the vomiting was productive or not. It was dark and I didn't stick around to check.

On the road I called Tanasbourne Emergency Vet to let them know we were headed in. They assured me they would be ready and take Vegas immediately to their treatment room for an x-ray. As I drove I knew in my head exactly where I was going. Though I had not had to make a trek to emergency yet, the location in my mind was set. Upon arrival, I got Vegas out of the truck. She had some difficulty stepping down from the back. I have a Chevy Silverado 1500 with a backseat with the doors that open the opposite direction of the front doors. The back seat was folded up so her step down was perhaps 20" but she struggled a bit in her discomfort and pain.

We walked in and I saw their sign that said they were open to 10. Almost simultaneously I saw a brochure for the Tanasbourne Emergency Vet Clinic. I thought that odd. Wasn't that where we were? However, stress prevailed and I plowed into my introduction to the hapless receptionist. She realized my error but said she would see if the vet could see her. She left us in the waiting room and for what seemed like an eternity but for what was probably 15 seconds, I warred with staying or going in my head. She'd briefly explained where Tanasbourne was and I decided to leave. Poor Vegas, I had to drag her back out of the clinic, ask her to get into the truck, and then ask her to ride the 10 minutes back where we came, then get out of the truck again. Bless her sweet, loyal heart.

Our arrival at Tanasbourne was much as described and anticipated by phone. They took Vegas back while I filled out paperwork. The doctor came and got me and showed me the x-rays. The first thing he noticed was the bone in her stomach. I explained as a raw fed dog, that was to be expected. No, she'd not had any recreational bones or anything of substance. In fact, I think at the time she was primarily eating ground turkey necks.
Next he commented that she wasn't displaying typical symptoms - AKA, no giant, bloated belly. She had a little distension but nothing that screamed, "Bloat! Get to surgery!" She'd already had some pain meds so he offered an injectable and to let us sit in a room for a bit. He wanted to monitor her heart and re-x-ray in a short while. We went in a room and a technician hooked her up to an ECG. Wow, that was unnerving. The beeping...the speed, the ups and downs and, did I mention the speed with which the machine reported her heart beat. It was scary and unnerving. I haven't felt that nervous since my youngest son was born and we spent 4 days in the hospital watching the O2 saturation monitor and its beeping when the saturation dropped below a certain level. In his case I was willing the numbers to go higher. For Vegas, I was willing the numbers to drop (to a point).

It was quite a while before they came for us and I periodically poked my head out the door for a tech or doctor. She'd been up and down, at times appearing to relax, others more agitated. I finally caught someone (I wasn't fully panicking.) and they took her for another x-ray. Again, nothing screamed surgery immediately necessary.
However, because the x-ray was not immediately disturbing, the doctor who saw her palpated her abdomen again and, subsequently, had the other vets on premises do the same. Their agreement: Something isn't right; go to surgery. So that's what we did. By then it was after 10 pm. I gave my authorization for them to go into surgery and went up front to handle paperwork. They prepped her for surgery by getting an IV in, etc. When my deposit was paid and paperwork done, they allowed me to go see her before surgery. I debated; I didn't want her more upset and distraught by seeing me but I didn't want to not say goodbye ---- just in case.

I went back to see her and she was standing with her leash tied off. She was anxious to see me like usual, if a little subdued from the pain. I kissed her and told her how much I loved her and willed her to be okay. I let her know I would be there, I wasn't going anywhere, and I would see her shortly.

As I sat in the waiting room, any number of things passed through my mind. I alternated between blind panic and humble gratefulness. After all, if I hadn't heard so many horror stories about bloat, if education about health risks wasn't so important to me, if I hadn't had such wonderful people willing to share stories and teach me, maybe we wouldn't have made it in time? I was thankful I was home, that this didn't happen in the middle of the day while I was at work. I was feeling guilty for not having been able to get her tacked when I had her spayed all those years before.

While my cell phone battery lasted, I fortunately had the support of some good friends, Rachel and Melissa. Rachel offered to come sit with me. A guy I had been seeing for a short time was even nice enough to come by on his way home from work and sat with me the last 45 minutes of surgery.

Finally they came to tell me she was out of surgery. They were successful. The techs and doctor finished getting her sutured up and set in a kennel to wake up and then came and brought me back. She was cozy in the kennel with several blankets wrapped all around her and socks on her feet. She was woozy, a little whiny when she saw me, and immediately propped herself up from a supine position (on her side). I snuggled her and cried on her, hugged her and thanked all the things you can thank that she was okay.

Dr. Thomas said she wasn't very twisted when they got inside. He said her spleen was of a color that indicates it was without blood flow but immediately pinked up to normal when they untwisted it. Her abdomen/stomach overall was not bad. He said it could have partially reversed its torsion when they laid her on her back on the surgical table. The big question I'll never have an answer to: What twisted first, her stomach or her spleen?

Regardless of the answer to that question - a question that would torture me and allow me no peace if I didn't let it go - my girl is now tacked and her recovery was uneventful. After kissing and cuddling her goodbye, I finally left the clinic after 1:30 am Monday, October 20. The clinic closes at 8 am on weekdays so I was told I could pick her up after 7:30 am. I was there just before that. After letting the receptionist know I had arrived, I sat down to wait. They were fairly busy with several patients leaving either for home or daytime monitoring at their regular vets. As I waited I was quite certain I heard her whining. I'd never heard such a glorious sound!

A short while later a tech came to get me. They weren't quite ready to have me meet with the doctor and discharge her but thought she might prefer to be with me. They let me know how she was doing and said she'd been quite whiny and howling at them for a while. Go figure - girlie missed her mama! They thought she would perhaps settle down if she got out of the kennel so they'd brought her bedding outside the kennel and tied her leash off in the treatment room. That didn't work so they listened to her musical harmony for how long I'm not certain.

I took her outside and she immediately found a place to potty. We returned to the reception area of the clinic and she was much happier, quiet, She was moving fairly gingerly but greeted me with her customary enthusiasm. Once we spoke with the doctor and he went over how she was doing, he told me if I was comfortable I could take her home for the day instead of monitoring at my local clinic. I know he sort of said this with some reservation but also was well aware her mental state would play a role in her recovery. Being away from mama translated to stress - stress was not conducive to her recovery. So we headed out with pain pills and a fair but still hefty bill.

Our only stop on the way home was at my local clinic. Vegas had a significant suture line on her abdomen and she wasn't to lick at it. We picked up an inflatable e-collar; I wasn't keen on a 30" lampshade demolishing my entire house as she tried to navigate her way around.
The collar kind of acted like part pillow which made it a lot more enjoyable for her than the giant cone would have, I think. When we returned home it was all about keeping her comfortable and calm. She was handling the calm well. She was only 6 hours post-anesthesia so pretty content to lay down. I can't say she slept a lot. She lay with her eyes open mostly. But she stayed put which was good. You can see Leo was concerned and stayed close. 
Below is her incision 3 days post-op. The red is normal...just bruising as a result of having an incision. Everything stayed nice and tidy and she never really licked at it or fussed at all. The first two days were scary, but no setbacks. She was happy to eat again by that evening and was nearly herself by the next day. 
Here is her incision 3 weeks post-op with the sutures removed. Dr. Thomas is an excellent surgeon and the suture line was so clean. She barely has a mark now. 
There are many takeaways from this unfortunate situation. First and foremost, there are no rules with bloat except to get to a vet immediately. Vegas didn't present "normally." She didn't look like she swallowed a beach ball. She didn't immediately drool or hang her head. She didn't have unproductive wretching right away. Even with an x-ray, she didn't look exactly like a textbook bloat. There are severities of bloat, too, given how much time it takes to reach care, but all are life-threatening. Here is a chart with symptoms to beware of:
The other thing I want to mention is this: Danes are not the only breed prone to bloat. Many, many breeds can be affected - even those you would never expect. The smallest breed the receptionist at Tanasbourne said they'd seen was a cattle dog. I, sadly, witnessed it in my dad's German Wirehair Pointer and didn't recognize the symptoms. Riley was 14 and by the time my dad got in with her and found out what was going on, he opted to humanely euthanize her. 

There is so little actually known as fact regarding bloat. There are studies that have taken place and one that is ongoing at present through a doctor and researcher in Washington State. We are taking part because it is so important to find out why and how we can prevent this. Please feel free to share this blog post and make sure you're educated as to symptoms so you can save your pup like I was able to save my Vegas. 

PS - I mentioned we've had some additional ups and downs. Since it's a new year (I started this post in 2014.) I am going to save it and seriously will be keeping more on top of my blog in 2015. Until next time.... 


  1. I love TVE, I work in a local clinic and we send all of our surgeries to recover there. They have been rotating through a few vets, but Dr. Thomas [the practice owner] is really awesome. I haven't taken my own pets there yet, but I have taken a few pets I have pet sat before, and we always had a good experience there. Glad Vegas is okay!

    1. Yes, we were very happy with the care. Thank you very much!