Our recent conspicuous absence has been the result of a life-threatening emergency. While I’ve not commented on your posts, be assured I am doing my best to keep up with what’s going on in your world in between moments of waiting and wondering at the outcome of this emergency.
You may be wondering what happened? In a truly cruel twist of irony, on the third month anniversary of Sam’s crossing the Bridge, last week Norman suffered a gastric dilation and volvulus event, an ominous medical syndrome known as GDV. Commonly referred to as gastric torsion or bloat, this horrific condition occurs when the stomach dilates, then rotates or twists around the short axis cutting off blood supply to vital organs. My previous Standard Poodle before Sam, McKenzie, died from bloat so I’m sadly all too familiar with the symptoms and heartbreak. Gastric rotation includes progressive distension of the stomach in the form of gas and increased pressure within the abdomen, resulting in damage to the cardiovascular system, with decreased perfusion (the process of delivering nutrients via blood in the arteries to the body’s tissues) which can lead to cellular damage and organ death. Quick emergency action is required whenever GDV strikes-to delay can be life-threatening.
What exactly are the symptoms of GDV? According to PetMD, symptoms of GDV syndrome are: “anxious behavior, depression, abdominal pain and/or distention, collapse, excessive drooling, and vomiting to the point of unproductive dry heaving.” Upon physical examination, rapid heart beat (tachycardia), labored breathing (dyspnea), weak pulse and pale mucus membranes of the nose and mouth often accompany the other symptoms.
While the exact causes of GDV remain unknown, there are general factors that likely increase the risk, including genetics, anatomy, and environment. Highest at-risk dogs are large and giant breeds, particularly those with deep-chests breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles (with high rates of mortality). Other factors contributing to the development of GDV include ingestion of excessive amounts of food or water, delayed emptying of the gastrointestinal system, and too much activity following meals.
GDV must be treated through surgical intervention with the untwisting of the stomach which is then tacked to the body wall to prevent it from twisting again (known as “gastropexy”). The vet expressed some concern the spleen may also have been impacted but he did not see any damage in Norman’s case, despite a 180º degree twist and internal stomach bruising. While dogs can survive without a spleen, potential heart damage through the lack of blood flow may complicate recovery.
For those of you who may be squeamish, you may want to scroll down before viewing this stem-to-stern incision. I’ve assured Norman that ‘chicks dig scars’ so he isn’t feeling too self conscience about it.
Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was not permitted to visit Norman following his surgery but received frequent phone updates for the first two days (ok, it was me that pestered them all hours of the day and night) but they understood my concern and took my
hourly relentless calls with kindness, patience and caring. He survived the surgery; the vet thought there was no lasting damage to the spleen or any apparent heart damage based on his visible examination of the organs during the surgery which gave me hope but the next few days would be touch and go. With that large belly incision, it’s clearly apparent this was a very serious surgical intervention. And understandably, he refused to eat after coming out of anesthesia. Norman never passes an opportunity for a meal so I knew he was in some serious pain. The staff finally allowed me to take him for a very brief few steps on a potty break outside late Saturday evening. It was hoped my presence might encourage him to eat a few bites. With traces of anesthesia still in his system, he was somewhat confused, heavy-footed and wobbly. He finally ate a few bites Saturday night and was deemed sufficiently dischargeable late the next afternoon.
Again in another irony, on the one day of the year when it rained buckets around here in otherwise dry Denver, I was able to bring the big guy home to nurse and pamper following extensive post-op instructions. He’s taken well to the pampering and promptly became a food critic…refusing to eat the bland diet of rice and chicken prescribed. If rice even touched the chicken, he refused eating it. After consulting with the ER staff, they agreed small, frequent meals of plain chicken without rice was better than nothing. As a long time vegetarian, it was beyond surreal having packages of deboned, skinless chicken breasts in my kitchen. For years, I’ve said I’d eat beef before I ever ate chicken again, the mere smell of it makes me nauseous. But nursing this sweet boy back to wellness was far more important than any olfactory discomfort on my part so I held my nose, cooked, and chopped the chicken into small pieces for him. As of today his appetite has mostly returned, with him enjoying frequent but small meals throughout the day.
The dreaded e-collar has vexed Norman as he continues to improve. Sheepdogs have a bear-like shuffle and often their heads sway back and forth in rhythm as they move. With the cone on, it crashes into furniture, walls, doorways, and the back of my knees with painful regularity. With encouragement and patience, he is beginning to gain the necessary confidence to navigate better with it on every day.
I would be most remiss if I didn’t mention the one person in particular helped me throughout this whole nightmare and she knows who she is. This dearest of friends has consistently been my rock and pillar over the years and I am once again deeply indebted to her generosity, love and kindness. Thank you, my friend and thanks in advance to everyone for their support while Norman recoups. It means the world to me. With emotions still raw from the loss of dear Sam, this latest calamity has once again shocked me to the core. It’s been days since I’ve had a decent night’s sleep but will be fine once Norman makes it out of the woods and gratefully accept your well wishes and POTP prayers. With your healing energy thoughts and Elsa’s oversight of his care, I expect him to fully recover and look forward to those smile inducing butt wiggles to rule our days once again.
Yes, life is full of cruel ironies especially in the midst of a pandemic, but this was one that was an even more unexpectedly cruel. As its image in life’s rear view mirror becomes smaller, we move forward. Besides, Norman thinks there’s a new toy that requires some serious attention without the conflangled wrangling with an e-collar that simultaneously gets bad reception and interferes with fun.
Live, love, bark! 🐾