Tuesday, August 11, 2009
And if you didn't know it, torsion is the second leading cause of death for large breed dogs.
I've already had 3 cases of bloat among German Shepherds I've owned. Two ended in the sudden deaths of the dogs, and the third cost me a lot of money in surgery. So I've decided to throw out the dry kibble.
My first stab at it involved a plain raw diet of food I picked up at the grocery store. I got the idea for this from leerburg kennels, a nice website that has lots of info on raw dog food diets. I followed their suggestion and began feeding my dogs chicken leg/thigh quarters, raw ground beef, and eggs.
Apparently the bones are safe to feed to dogs if they're raw. They are softer and pliable and the dogs chew them up pretty good, so no chance of brittle shards injuring the dog. I wasn't so sure about that and found one of my shepherds basically swallowing the chicken legs whole. Then they got diarrhea and my Weimaraner, Lucy, had a major vomiting session. OK raw chicken is out.
This was kind of disappointing because it wasn't all that expensive. Compared to dry kibble it is, but I was feeding one of the shepherds canned food. He weighs 90 pounds so was getting 4 cans of Purina One per day. These run roughly a buck a can, so that's $4 per day.
Chicken quarters have been going for 89 cents per pound at the local grocery store. You're supposed to feed a 90 pound dog about 2 pounds of meat per day, so on chicken he would be costing me around $1.80 per day! WOW! Less than half the cost of canned food.
But alas I couldn't use my dogs as guinea pigs any longer, and had the good fortune to come across some mildly processed raw dog food. First I found some "Country Pet" rolls at Whole Foods, which are pasteurized rolls of chicken and lamb. I am sure they have beef available too but I haven't seen it. Besides being pasteurized and eliminating the bacterial pathogen factor you've got from raw chicken at the store, they have ground bone it it, so the dog still gets the benefits of eating bone.
The problem is this stuff is pricey. It costs $6 per roll. Not bad if you have a small dog, but a dog like Jake, checking in at 90 pounds, is going to eat a little more than an entire roll per day. So he would be costing me around $7 or so in food per day. That is a bit much.
Learn About Country Pet Dog Food
I also came across some patties at a local specialty pet store called "Stella and Chewies". This is frozen raw meat with some veggies, vitamins etc. thrown in for good measure. Also certified to be bacteria free. Jake seemed to really like those. It was $25 for 16 patties, which lasted about 4 days.
Read About Stella and Chewys
The food is frozen, so you have to plan ahead and defrost. But the dogs definitely LOVE the patties. Another good side effect is their poops get a lot smaller when on a raw meat diet, so less cleaning up to do in the yard.
I'm not quite done with the experiment, I ordered two cases of chicken patties from barfworld. Check out their website, you can learn all the wonders of the raw dog food diet.
Basically this is an operation where the surgeon uses some kind of microscope thingy to look in the stomach area. They grab the stomach, and basically staple it to the body wall. The idea is that while the dog may bloat again, his stomach can't turn over and kill him. While its initially stapled, over time the tissue grows together and the stomach becomes permanently attached to the body wall.
I've already had 2 dogs die of bloat/torsion, so its a no brainer to get this done. Here's the catch: the cost is $1263.
Well I went ahead and got it done. Once a dog has bloated, and Tony is only 3, chances are very high they're going to bloat again. Next time I might not be so lucky and get him to the vet on time.
The surgery was scheduled and I dropped him off at 7 AM. Everything went smoothly and I picked him up and took him home the same night. Instructions were relatively simple, keep him quiet and don't let him romp around for 21 days. Kind of hard since I've got 4 dogs.
The first night after the surgery he was quite groggy. They gave me some pain meds that would last about a week, and let me tell you the first week was kind of rough. His belly got kind of swollen and he was just acting "under the weather" the whole time. I was worried something had gone wrong, but then he started pulling out of it. By about 2 weeks time, he was getting back to his old self.
If you are considering getting prophylactic gastropexy, I strongly advise it if you've got a large dog prone to bloat. Generally this includes breeds like Great Danes, Boxers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. and to a lesser extent labrador retrievers and the like. It is expensive, but its alot cheaper than surgery for torsion and better than risking the sudden death of your dog.
I woke up around 6:30 AM and found him puffing air out again, and then he began throwing up foam. OK at this point there is no doubt that it was bloat. I quickly got dressed, put him in the car, and drove to the nearest emergency vet. Luckily I got him to the vet on time, and they were able to stick a tube down his throat and evacuate the gas.
But while I was waiting, they are thinking they're going to have to do surgery. So they get in and do x-rays to see if he's had torsion, and how bad it is. Then the vet comes out with a cost estimate. She says $6,000. I about fell out of my chair. At this point what are you going to say? They wanted half down, and I wasn't going to say "yeah OK just euthanize him". I gave her my credit card and ouch! they charged me $3,000. I slinked away depressed, they said they would call me later and let me know how things were going.
It was a few hours later that they called and informed me the surgery wouldn't be necessary. Turns out there had been no torsion-so death looked in the eye and averted-this time. The dog is a German Shepherd so I knew he was at high risk.
So they sent me home with some gastric motility medication, and instructions to feed him 4 times a day and get a prophylactic gastropexy.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
One night I was out walking the two German Shepherds I had at the time, Sam and Brandy. I lived right at the entrance to the foothills of the Sandia mountains, so usually took them on mountain hikes, but since it was at night I was just walking them around the neighborhood.
When we just about got home I saw 3 dogs out running loose. Being a nut for animals, I always try and save dogs that have gotten out loose. There was a black lab, a small pit bull cross, and a boxer. I was able to get the pitbull and the boxer but the black lab got away.
Sam kind of had a reputation for being vicious because he was a big male German Shepherd who barked with vigor. But he was all bark and no bite, so I never hesitated bringing dogs home. I tied Sam's leash through the collars of the little dogs and we went home.
It was kind of funny but the instant we got in the house the two little dogs I had picked up seemed happy as could be. The little pit bull immediately got attached to me and followed me all over, and he ended up sleeping right next to my bed on the floor. The boxer kind of fell into the "pack" with my two shepherds and slept with them-they liked sleeping on the leather couch in the living room.
The next morning I put a lost pet ad in the news paper. For the next week the two little dogs became members of the household. They were having a great time, playing a lot with Sam and Brandy and each night the little pit bull would sleep next to me.
Sam on the leather couch
Finally someone called, and a man described the dogs perfectly so I knew they were his. It turned out that the pit bull's name was Max, which seemed to fit him perfectly because he looked like a little gangster. The man said his son (who was about 20) was devastated by losing the dogs.
That afternoon he comes to the house and picks up the dogs. To be honest, he seemed kind of harsh with them and it seemed like they didn't want to go with him. But he finally got them in the car and off they went.
My mother, who was following this little episode, said that the little dogs would be back. Sure enough her observation proved right.
About a week later, I was reading in my bedroom one afternoon. I heard this scratching sound by the window. I looked out and to my surprise there was Max the pitbull!
Brandy the Shepherd
Somehow max had found his way back. I let him in and he was full of cactus needles. If you aren't familiar with the area, the western face of the Sandia mountains is desert at lower elevations. Not only that but little max was dying of thirst. The poor little fellow had escaped from his home and crossed through the mountains and come back to my house!
I have to admit I was tempted to keep him, but I gave them another call and once again the man came to pick him up. This time the man was not happy at all and was even kind of stand-offish towards me.
This was back in the summer of 2006 and I often wonder what became of those little dogs. But it goes to show that dogs can find their way around.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Pet Dog Health: The Danger Of Stomach TorsionAuthor: David McMahon
It may be the worst thing that can happen to a dog owner: coming home and finding your "best friend" suddenly dead-when the dog had seemed completely healthy. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to me one October afternoon, when I came home to find one of my German Shepherds dead on the floor. What could it be? A stroke? A heart attack? After getting over my complete state of shock-the dog was not "aged" and seemed completely healthy-I began digging for answers.
It turned out that the cause of death was an event called "stomach torsion" that comes about from "bloat". This is a serious issue in pet dog health, its the second leading cause of death for large dogs. But at the time, I didn't know very much about it.
Becoming educated on this issue could mean the difference between death and several extra years of life for your dog.
OK-so what is it? Let's try and describe it in laymen's terms. Bloat is basically a condition where a lot of gas or fluid gets trapped in the dogs stomach. This really isn't all that different from what might happen to you if you drank too much root beer on a full stomach, but in dogs, and in particular large dogs, this is a serious problem. This is because the stomach isn't as well set in the body cavity as ours is, a dogs stomach is kind of hanging loose if you will. When it becomes over-engorged with fluid or gas, it can twist around.
When it does, the result is a medical emergency. The blood supply to many vital organs gets cut off when this happens, and the dog goes into shock. Death will result if surgery is not performed. A symptom that this is happening is that the dog will be throwing up clear liquid or attempting to throw up.
One tragic aspect of this condition is that onset can happen rapidly, and so you may become aware of it when its too late. That's what happened in my case, my dog was fine when I left the house. I was gone for a few hours, and when I got back she was dead. Its a sad state of affairs but the progression from bloat to stomach torsion to death can happen in as little as an hour.
We can't be with our dogs 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but what we can do is take steps to reduce the risk of it happening. Here are a few things you can do:
- Break up your dogs feedings. The less food a dog takes in when it eats the lower the risk. A dog that eats just once a day has a higher risk than a dog that has its meals split into two or three portions a day.
- Watch out for dry food. Dogs that eat all dry food have a higher risk. Consider feeding canned food, or mixing dry and canned together. When you do this substitute a can of moist dog food for a cup of dry food. This helps because dry food tends to expand when liquified in the stomach adding stress to the stomach.
- Feed using raised bowls. There is a bit of controversey about this one, but feeding using raised bowls may help reduce the risk. This is because some dogs gulp down air when they eat, and its believed by some that bowls raised off the floor cut down on the amount of air gulped in. This in turn cuts the risk of bloat happening. Raised pet bowls are available for sale on the internet.
- Watch out for diarrhea. If a dog has chronic diarrhea, it may increase the risk. Make sure to get diarrhea treated.
- Never exercise right after feeding. Let the dogs stomach "settle" for an hour or two before going out for exercise.
- Avoid feeding immediately after exercise. After a long walk, a dog probably wants to drink lots of water. Doing that and then eating can be a fatal recipie.
- Don't feed late at night.
Before this happens I had no idea what a serious problem this was in pet dog health. Interestingly, it often takes dogs in their prime: most victims are aged between 4 and 7 years of age. But dogs of any age can get it, and although males have a higher risk, female dogs die from it as well.
In the end we can't prevent every bad event from happening. But at least taking these steps will put your mind at rest since you'll know you were aware, and took responsible steps to control the risk.
More information on pet dog health: click hereAbout the Author:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009