On Saturday night my husband and I faced one of the worst things pet parents can. We came home
and Norbert (pictured above with his dad) was obviously sick. He got up and walked to the door to go out but then just stood there stiff and whining. When I checked him I noticed his belly was a bit large and hard and I immediately suspected bloat. I know bloat is very, very serious so we immediately got into the car to take Norbert to the vet. First, we went to the Hoboken after hours clinic but they were closed. So we drove to Manhattan to the emergency hospital. The drive was definitely the worst of my life. Norbert was clearly very uncomfortable and breathing shallowly, with traffic the drive took about an hour. When we got to the Animal Medical Center Norbert's stomach was bigger and I was sure he had bloated.
Luckily, the hospital is an experienced emergency facility and they brought us to the back immediately. Norbert's heart rate was very elevated and his breathing wasn't great. They x rayed him and confirmed bloat and torsion. They hooked him up to hear monitors and fluids and called the surgeon. Bloat is very serious and they explained to us that there was a very real chance that Norbert would not survive the surgery or that the would succumb to complications following the surgery. We went to the back to say goodbye to Norbert in case he did not make it, and it was heart breaking to see him try to stand up to follow us. In the process he knocked off some of the monitors he was attached too.
We went home since I couldn't stand to sit and wait at the hospital and thank goodness they called us at 3:30 am to say he had pulled through the surgery and was breathing on his own. We were very lucky. Norbert did well during the surgery and avoided some of the worst complications. His stomach tissues had not developed necropsy (dead tissue) and his spleen returned to color once his stomach was untwisted. There are still many things that can go wrong after the surgery so the Doctor's prognosis was guarded.
The next morning, Sunday, the news was better and Norbert was alert and his heart monitor showed no evidence of arrhythmia (a common side effect). We saw him that afternoon and he was able to walk up to us but he was still clearly in pain. Sunday evening his prognosis continued to improve and he was eating on his own. As off this morning the vet says he is stable and has moved him out of the ICU. Norbert has even eaten a little of the turkey we brought him. He is still on pain meds, antibiotics (to prevent infection), and his blood is being monitored because his platelet count is a little low, luckily the rest of his blood work is normal. The vet expects him to be able to come home with us tomorrow. Norbert is not entirely out of the woods, I have a friend whose Akita died suddenly two days after bloat surgery, but as Norbert has been recovering well in an excellent hospital we are hopeful.
This experience has definitely taught me some things, and confirmed some things I already knew:
1.) Its important to know about medical conditions your dog may be susceptible too. Since I read a lot about dog health I was familiar with the signs of bloat and knew that Norbert as a large deep chested older dog was at risk for the disease.
2.) It is essential to know the location of a good emergency clinic in your area. We actually did not take Norbert to the closest clinic, and I am glad we didn't. The hospital we took him too is a major medical center and very familiar with bloat. The fact that he got quality care quickly probably saved Norbert's life. If we had waited even a few hours, he would have almost certainly died.
3.) Emergencies come out of no where. Norbert had a wonderful perfectly normal day Saturday. He went to the dog park and for a long walk and he ate his regular meal. His behavior was not the least bit unusual until the evening.
4.) Bloat is impossible to predict. There are many theories about what causes bloat. One of the most common ones is a dog eating a large meal, Norbert had actually eaten a smaller then normal meal. Other theories involve strenuous exercise after eating, Norbert had not exercised after he ate his dinner. The surgeon told me that bloat is very difficult to predict and that in her belief most of the theories about what causes bloat are inaccurate. In her opinion the safest course of action is to be alert to the signs and seek veterinary help immediately.
5.) If you have a large breed dog at great risk for bloat, such as a Great Dane, consider Gastropexy. This is a procedure in which the stomach is tacked to the abdominal wall and it helps to prevent bloat. Once a dog has bloated there is an 80% chance they will do so again, but with gastropexy the change drops to 4% to 5% Norbert had this done during his bloat surgery.
Of course we are still worried about Norbert and he still has more hurdles to get through (recovering from the surgery and avoiding infection.) The vet said for at least two weeks he will be on strict regimen of rest and very limited exercise. I will post about his recovery.
6.) Veterinary insurance is a good thing. Thank goodness we have Embrace Insurance for Norbert and he is covered for accident, illness, and prescription drugs. The estimate for Norbert's care is 8000 dollars! Of course this has a lot to do with the fact that he is in a Manhattan hospital, but still many dogs with bloat die because their owners cannot afford treatment. Hopefully, after we submit the claim Embrace will reimburse us for 80% of Norbert's bill.