A french fry – and quick veterinary intervention – saved the life of Clu Carradine’s 10-year-old Samoyed, Poppy.
Carradine and Poppy were driving from home in Lompoc to Ohio for a series of dog shows. After a stop at a fast food drive-thru for a burger and fries, Carradine pulled back onto the freeway, reached into the bag and handed a french fry to Poppy, who was riding in her crate in the back seat.
Poppy didn’t take it. Carradine offered it again. Still Poppy refused it.
Carradine was alarmed. It was unheard of for Poppy to refuse food, let alone a french fry. She pulled over to see if Poppy needed to relieve herself, and what she saw when she let the dog out of the crate made her blood run cold. Poppy had a huge, swollen belly, and her sides felt tight and solid.
“I knew immediately what this was and that it was deadly,” Carradine says.
Poppy had gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as bloat. The stomach swells (dilatation) and twists (volvulus). It’s a real emergency that can cause death within a few hours without rapid stabilization and surgical intervention.
Carradine and Poppy were more than four hours away from home, in a desert town where they knew no one. Carradine Googled the nearest veterinary hospital and found one about a mile away. As they arrived, Poppy retched, brown fluid spewing. Carradine raced in with her, shouting, “My dog is bloating! I need a vet right now.”
An X-ray showed that the stomach had clearly bloated, but the veterinarian did not have the facilities to treat such an emergency. The technician called a nearby emergency clinic, got Poppy and the crate cleaned up, and sent Carradine on her way with the X-rays and blood work information.
At Animal Medical Center in Hesperia, Poppy was immediately prepped for surgery. The veterinarian, Meredith Kennedy, DVM, was cautious but optimistic, given Poppy’s good physical condition. It helped that Poppy had vomited early on and that Carradine recognized the danger and could get Poppy treated so quickly. When Carradine commented that a french fry had probably saved Poppy’s life, Dr. Kennedy said, “Yes, but the fact that you knew her so well and acted so fast has everything to do with it.”
The procedure to reorient the stomach was successful. Once that was done, Dr. Kennedy also “tacked” the stomach to the abdominal wall, a procedure called gastropexy, to prevent any future episodes.
Afterward, Poppy needed IV fluids, antibiotics, heavy pain medication and 24-hour monitoring. Currently, she’s still hospitalized but is able to walk and ask for belly rubs, and she has regained her appetite.
Bloat is seen most often in large and giant breeds with deep chests, such as Great Danes, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, Gordon setters, Irish setters and standard poodles, but it can also occur in small-breed dogs and in cats. In high-risk dogs, it can be a good idea to have a gastropexy performed at the same time as spay and neuter surgery.
Older dogs like Poppy are at greater risk. Other risk factors include eating too quickly, eating from a raised bowl, having only one large meal a day and eating dry food only. There may be an inherited tendency toward GDV as well. And sometimes it just happens.
Pet Connection is produced by a team headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.