Baxter is a 10 year old Flat-coated Retriever. One day in December after a morning trip to the vets for routine monitoring of an ongoing health issue, Baxter’s owner noticed he was not well shortly after he had eaten. He was retching but not producing any vomit. His owner realised this could be something serious so he was quickly seen by one of the vets in our Tadley surgery and the vet was very concerned. Baxter’s abdomen, although not particularly bloated, was very hard and the vet suspected he could have a gastric torsion.
Gastric torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) means a twisting of the stomach which usually occurs because the stomach has filled with gas. The reasons for this condition are not fully understood but there are some risk factors. It mainly happens in large, deep-chested breeds like Great Danes, German Shepherds, Setters, Wolfhounds and Boxers but these are not the only breeds affected. It is also more common in male dogs over the age of 7. The risks increase if the stomach is very full, either with food or water, so a dog which is fed once daily and eats very quickly would be at higher risk. Exercising after eating or a big drink can also increase the risk. Owners will often notice the dog is restless, has abdominal pain which gets worse, the abdomen may be swollen and hard and they may drool and try to vomit without bringing much up. It is one of the rare occasions a condition is truly life-threatening.
Baxter was admitted to the surgery and placed on intravenous fluids. The vet attempted to pass a stomach tube through Baxter’s mouth in to his stomach to try and release the gas. If the stomach is not twisted this is often sufficient to resolve the issue. Only a minor amount of gas was released from Baxter’s stomach leading us to believe it was more likely his stomach was twisted.
Baxter would need to have surgery straight away. The exploratory surgery confirmed that the stomach was twisted. After removing the stomach contents and repositioning the stomach, the vet then performed a gastroplexy. This involves anchoring the stomach to the abdominal wall so it is unable to twist.
Baxter’s recovery was slow but steady given the major surgery carried out. He was given pain relief and intravenous antibiotics and monitored very carefully. Baxter was at high risk of complications following the surgery, in particular peritonitis, which is an inflammatory or infectious disease of the abdomen. Baxter would need to be monitored for 48hrs before being discharged. Baxter was fit enough to be transferred to vets now for overnight care and returned to us the following day. He made excellent progress and was discharged later that day with stomach protective medication and anti biotics. After a few rechecks Baxter was so bright his owner reported he was frustrated by being kept rested! Baxter was allowed to return back to his normal routine a couple of weeks later.
Baxter’s story and his recovery is quite amazing. Sadly not all gastric torsion cases have a successful outcome. We have some prevention tips for you that can help. Feed larger dogs two or three smaller meals a day, do not exercise dogs after big meals/drinks, try to discourage rapid eating by using specially shaped bowls designed to slow eating down and feed from a raised bowl.
Baxter's very relieved owner tells us....
Baxter is a happy, exuberant, 10 year 10 month old senior flat-coated retriever who likes walks, slopping in rivers and lakes and having a big fuss made of him. On the Monday before the Christmas weekend, first thing in the morning, we visited the vet to take a blood and urine sample to monitor an underlying condition. At home Baxter was fed his breakfast and we settled for the one and a half to two hour wait before going on a walk. 35 minutes after breakfast I heard retching and went to see what was wrong. I found Baxter retching with no vomit and looking fairly uncomfortable. I have never seen GDV/Bloat so at first I didn't understand what was wrong. I checked Baxter over and he was uncomfortable. His stomach was tight and he groaned when I touched it. He was also slightly foaming at the mouth and going downhill fairly quickly. I then remembered the bloat posters and that getting swift veterinary care was critical. I phoned the vets to let them know we were coming in as an emergency and off we set.
At the vets we were immediately seen by a nurse. Then by the vet and Baxter was admitted for observation. I later received a call to say that Baxter had a GDV/Bloat and required an operation. There was only a 50:50 chance he would survive.
This was major surgery and Baxter's underlying condition increased the risks of the anaesthetic and the operation itself. All credit to the amazing work of the veterinary and nursing team at GP vets Baxter pulled through the operation, was stabilised and I moved him to the emergency vets for overnight monitoring, medication and care. Picked him up the next morning and he was returned to GP Vets for further care. Later in the day he came home, he was to be fed little and often and had to be kept quiet.
We are now a month later and Baxter is fully aware of the current 4 meals a day regime and is reluctant to reduce it. He has taken well to his slow feed bowl and I think it makes mealtimes more enjoyable. We are slowly building up his exercise and it will be another month before we are back at the same level of exercise we had prior to the bloat.
I would like to thank all of the veterinary and nursing staff at GP vets and Vets Now for the care they gave Baxter. Without their expertise and knowledge I do not believe the outcome would have been so good. In fact without their assistance over the years Baxter never would have got to the age he is today and to have achieved the quality of life and lived the full life he has.