Sunday, September 26, 2010

A dog owners worst nightmare...

For any dog owner, your worst nightmare is something going seriously wrong. Dogs can't say what is wrong, and why they don't feel good. If you haven't been with them all day, you don't know what has happened (or what they ate).

It becomes a guessing game, while the clock is ticking. For so many problems, catching it early is the only way to avoid serious consequences. For those of us with deep-chested breeds, we have the added worry of bloat and torsion.

So how do you know when your dog is in danger, or already is bloating? That is hard to answer, since every dog reacts their own way. The best advice I can give is remember that you know your dog best, and trust your instincts.

September 9 I came home from work late, (it was a Thursday) and the first thing I noticed was Finn was not at the door to greet me when I got in. Normally he is there, wagging his tail and bouncing around ready for a walk. This evening, he came over after I had gotten in the door, sniffed me, wagged his tail, and went and laid back down on his bed. I remember thinking one of the kids had walked him, and he was tired. Oddly enough, his dish was still full of water from the morning.

I fixed his dinner, and he didn't eat much. But he often doesn't finish his dinner until later. Over the next couple of hours, I started to realize he really wasn't feeling well. He still wasn't drinking, was just lying flat on the floor without moving and when he wouldn't even get up for one of his favorite cookies, I started to get worried. I checked his pulse, 75 (normal), gums were pink, with good refill, but his breathing was fast and shallow, and when he did get up, the back legs were wobbly.

I hopped on Facebook and messaged one of our Irish Wolfhound club members, Judie. She immediately said call her daughter Jodie, and after a quick discussion she advised me to take him to the emergency vet right away. Having gone through bloat with their own dogs, she knew how short a window you have to get help.

I had convinced myself I was being a nervous dog owner and seeing things worse than they are, so to have my fears confirmed was the worse news possible. I have had many dogs in my life, and I have loved all of them but Finn is the dog of my heart so this news devastated me.

My husband helped me get Finn in the car and we drove immediately to the emergency vet, fortunately very close and someone who had worked on Irish Wolfhounds before.

When we got there, Finn immediately started stress panting and his heart rate shot up. (he is terrified of the vet) They checked him over, and suggested x-rays, and here is where I made a big mistake. They insisted on taking Finn in the back to x-ray, and I let them. I should have gone with him. He doesn't do well when I leave him, and with his fear and size, they can't force him to co-operate. After a long time they brought him back, and we looked at the x-rays. He had a lot of gas, but the stomach looked ok and wasn't flipped. BUT he had an oddly shaped mass where his spleen was supposed to be. It could have been a kidney out of place or just viewed oddly (they admitted they had a lot of difficulty getting the x-rays, he fought being held on his back) or it could have been splenetic torsion, where the spleen fills with blood and flips over on itself.

They gave him fluids, and palliative meds for his stomach and intestines, just to tide him through the night and recommended I take him in to my regular vet for an ultrasound. I was to check his pulse through the night, and bring him back if it elevated.

So we took him home, and I was pretty much up all night checking on him and fretting. The next morning I took him in to his regular vet. His vitals were all good, and he was acting like he felt a bit better that morning. Not happy to be at the vet, but some better than the night before. Our vet looked at the x-rays, and agreed an ultrasound would show things better. They had to call in the ultrasound technician, so we waited.

We are not happy.
One advantage to the wait is that it gave Finn time to relax, and get over some of the stress of being at the vet. He did eventually relax a bit. It helps that everyone who ever sees him wants to say hello, and pet him.

Feeling a bit better.
When the ultrasound technician got there, she told me they would have to shave his belly, and that he would have to lay upside down in a cradle for the ultrasound. I told her then I would need to come back with him. She gave me this tolerant look and said "If I need you I will come get you."

Fifteen minutes later she came back, looking rather chagrined and said "I need you." We went back and they had two people holding onto Finn for dear life as he struggled. I put a hand on Finn and told him 'Stay' and he relaxed. They hadn't even been able to shave him, LOL!

As they shaved his belly, we found a long contusion, a bit of dried blood and bruising. I thought perhaps they had done it trying to shave him (I was NOT happy!) but it was too old for that. As I am soothing Finn, and asking him to stay down, I'm trying to figure out how he got hurt. The only time he was alone the day before was a couple hours in the afternoon. We had left the sunroom open so he could go out when he wished, and someone could get in the back yard.

We did the ultrasound and either the spleen was normal now, or we were just able to get a clear picture with Finn co-operating. Everything looked good, but the vet was concerned with his intestines, and gave him meds for Gastroenteritis.

We went home and recovered, Finn slept a lot. He still wasn't eating much, and didn't seem to want to move around. It took about a week before his appetite came back, and almost 3 weeks before his activity level and mood were back to normal.

The week before all this happened I found out about problems with Blue Buffalo Dog kibble. The Chicken formula had made 12 dogs sick. Of course, we had been feeding that to Finn but only as a top dressing for flavor. We discontinued immediately, but I think that was the cause of the gastroenteritis. Finn has always had a delicate stomach.

We also found evidence that someone had been in our back yard, we found some tampering. Our best guess was that Finn surprised whomever was in the yard, and they kicked him or hit him with something (there are poles and rakes in the yard) and that was the cause of the contusion and bruise. I think the combination of the brewing gastro and the injury caused his gas and stomach upset.

I believe we were very lucky. I can't help but think if we hadn't taken him in, he would have bloated sometime in the night, and we would have gotten up to a much worse, possibly fatal situation. So heartfelt thanks to Judie and Jodie for your good advise and help!


  1. Thank goodness for a happy ending. I was getting worried just reading your post. I am really glad you took in him--our Wolfies can be so stoic.

    I have been considering putting locks on my gates so that no one can get into the backyard. Is this something you have considered?

    Cheers with much relief for you and your Finn boy!


  2. We are taking measures, locking things up, and we may install cameras. Since I am in IT it's an easy thing for me to set up a live feed I can check from work. We have not had another incident, I suspect whomever ran into Finn that day had a bit of a scare and won't be back, but you can never be sure.

  3. Wow. I am so glad that Finn is ok. I ONLY go to vet's now where owner's are not asked to wait or not accompany their pet. Only in rare circumstances will I let anyone take Mr. Big out of my sight! With the size of an IW, it makes sense to have someone with him to whom he will listen!

  4. Wow. Glad to hear he is ok. That is so scary!

  5. Lisa - that isn't a mistake I'[ll ever make again, it's not fair to Finn.

    Daisy - Yes it was, but there was a happy ending!

    Marie - Thanks!