The Great Bloat Experience

I know I talk a lot of smack, but I love my dogs. I do. I’m a dog girl. We’re dog people. We’re suckers for the big, slobbery, goofy kind of dog with ginormously destructive tail-wagging power. Our 3 dogs–though costly and annoying some of the time–most of the time–are family. We watch The Dog Whisperer so much around here that the dogs could probably train themselves, and Sara McLachlan commercials make us cry without fail. We painstakingly installed an electric fence around our entire 1 and 1/2 acre lot so our dogs could feel free to run. We never, ever feed them table scraps. We treat them with giant rawhide bones. Our house is about as dog-friendly as they come. Our dogs are kept indoors with the option to go outside anytime they want, as often as they want. They do not suffer through the scorching heat of August and they do not know the bitter colds of February. They are well trained and well looked-after. Their nails are trimmed, their fur is clean. They’re up-to-date on shots, they take heartworm meds on schedule, and overall, I’d say they live a pretty cush life out here in the suburbs of Oklahoma.

So I write this entry because I am a dog-lover and we just went through something considered pretty traumatic in dog-lover circles. This post is meant for you, Concerned Midnight Googler, looking up online “how can I tell if my dog’s stomach is twisted or not?” Because that’s what I finally did, and quite honestly, it saved Smokey’s life.

My dog is home tonight and I am watching him like a dingo watches a human baby. Which is ironic since my dog is dingo-like, and I am a human who happens to have seen Megamind like, 50 times in the past week alone.

So–bloat. Crazy stuff. I slicked over it in my last post but we had a real Marley-and-Me moment Sunday night with our dog. Here’s how it all went down: 

9:00 p.m. Sunday night: Smokey all the sudden acts like he’s about to blow chunks. I hustle him outside. He walks around and around the yard, trying to throw up, but he never does. Instead, he lays down with his legs spread out, gets up, walks. Lays down, gets back up, walks. Chomps on some grass. Lays down, gets up, walks. It’s like he can’t get comfortable.

9:15 p.m.: Smokey still hasn’t thrown up, or settled down. He is pacing and sort of whimpering. He walks back and forth between me and the yard. He starts to drool a little bit, and I assume he’s about to have a seizure–because that’s just what he does. I call Caleb outside.

9:30 p.m.: Still no barfing. He keeps trying though, and he still can’t get comfortable. The drooling picks up and he moans every now and then. Caleb and I sit outside and read and wait for him to feel better. He sits beside us, shifting around every so often and occasionally whining softly.

9:45 p.m.: He is drooling pretty excessively, and his stomach looks like it’s a little bit swollen. He struggles to get comfortable. He tries to hide behind the grill, he tries to lay spread out in the grass, but there is no right spot. He’s pacing again, but he keeps coming back over to me and Caleb as if to say, “Something is really wrong. I really don’t feel good. Please, fix it!” Caleb says, “If he’s not feeling better by tomorrow, then we need to take him to the vet. And I say, “Smokey, you are a jackass. It’s probably all that skunk juice you snorted this morning that’s got your stomach in knots. Let’s go walk it off.”

10:00 p.m.: Smokey and I hit the pavement. He does fine; there’s no whining, no dry-heaving. There’s only me and him and a shortleash on a moonlit walk to the end of the street and back.

10:15 p.m.: Smokey is still very much uncomfortable. He is panting, and drooling so much that we are having to break out old towels to keep under his mouth. He can’t lay down. His stomach is hard. I turn to google. Caleb and I spend all of 5 seconds reading the first article that pops up before we decide to take him to the Emergency Animal Hospital.

Here’s the link to the website we checked out initially:

Smokey was pretty textbook, but the vet on call that night was not convinced of our Google-diagnosis. And that’s cool–because he’s the professional. What scared the bejeezus out of Caleb and me was the vet’s initial theory: massive tumor that started in the stomach but has probably spread to the lungs. This idea was mainly brought on by the fact that Smokey did not have an absolute pot-belly; his stomach was not extremely visably swollen. (Caleb and I see him everyday–he’s a pretty trim dog, so we could tell the slight difference between his bloated belly and his normal, healthy belly.)

So yeah. We had a doggie cancer scare. The vet gently suggested that Caleb might want to consider euthanasia rather than going ahead with a tumor-removing surgery that might give him 6 more months. That just did not sit right with me or my husband; we decided to have the vet do exploratory surgery to determine the cause of Smokey’s pain.

And, as it turns out in the end, Google was dead-on. Smokey had an intense, stomach-untwisting operation followed by a preventative stomach-stapling operation, and he did great. He’s been an otherwise healthy dog in all of his 6 years. Although we didn’t neccessarily have the funds to save him, we didn’t have the heart to put him down. Thank goodness for payment plans.

Smokey’s home now. After 2 and 1/2 days in the vet’s care, I picked him up and brought him home to familiar surroundings, his cozy bed, and his family that loves him.

I’m so glad we took him to the doctor when we did. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to wake up to…who knows what we would have woken up to. I can’t imagine the pain that dogs who actually do die from bloat go through before they reach the end. Are they out in the yard? In a kennel to the far corner of the property where no one pays attention to them, or knows them well enough to realize when they’re sick? What about pet owners that work during the day and can’t watch their dog’s every movement? These poor things can die in as little as one hour without treatment! What a big fat freaking scare.

Here is a very distinguished picture of our expensive yet oh-so-jank dog and his BFF, Darcy, in happier times:

I do love that big black dog. God help me–I love him.

About Toni

Mom. Wife. Artist. I take care of the kids and pretend to clean sometimes. I can cook spagetti and I have never been arrested. View all posts by Toni

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