A Samoyed experienced “the mother of all emergencies.” How her owner’s rapid recognition and response saved her life
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
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, California, 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, California, 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.
“Know your dog, and know the signs of bloat,” Carradine says. “They can be very subtle, like not taking a french fry when the dog is a french fry fiend. You can’t do anything but get to the vet immediately, take surgical action and do the gastropexy so it doesn’t happen again.”
What do we know
about pet vision?
Q: Can dogs and cats see color? I always see conflicting answers to this question. What else is different about their vision?
A: Part of the reason for conflicting answers is that vision varies, as can the way it’s evaluated. Here’s what we know.
Cone cells in the eye determine visual acuity and color discrimination. Dogs have two populations of cones, says veterinary ophthalmology specialist Ron Ofri, DVM, who spoke earlier this month at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. One cone population absorbs light in the blue-violet spectrum, the other in the red spectrum. That means dogs can see colors, but they are unable to distinguish between green shades.
A dog’s color vision is similar to that of a human who is color blind. Unlike people with normal vision -- three cone populations in blue, green and red wavelengths -- those people are missing either the red or the green cone population.
Cats have three cone populations, but several studies have determined that they do not have rich color vision. What they do have is highly sensitive night vision. Cats have unusually large corneas and pupils, allowing more light to pass through them and reach the retina. In the proceedings for his talk, Dr. Ofri notes that the amount of light that falls on a cat’s retina is 6 times the amount of light that reaches a human retina. In addition, cats benefit from a structure called the tapetum lucidum, which gives cats higher vision sensitivity at night, but not during the day.
Which animals have the best color vision? That prize goes to certain species of birds and fish, with four cone populations, the fourth absorbing light in the ultraviolet area of the spectrum. When it comes to richness of color vision, they beat out cats, dogs and humans. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
is long on charm
-- If you’ve been looking for a feline companion who’s the ideal conversationalist, breed expert Marva Marrow recommends the talkative Oriental shorthair, which she describes as “the ultimate lap or shoulder cat.” Created through crosses between Siamese and other breeds, the curious and intelligent cats are good at opening doors, learning tricks and playing fetch, and they love sleeping under the covers. Oriental shorthairs have a short coat that sheds little and comes in many different colors and patterns -- so many that they are nicknamed Ornamentals. The unusual cats with the large, batlike ears also come in a longhaired variety, so there’s one to suit any cat lover.
-- Like humans, dogs and cats can develop diabetes, usually later in life, although it can occur at any age. Most cats diagnosed with the disease are 6 years or older; dogs are typically diagnosed when they are 7 to 10 years old. Obesity is a common predisposing factor in cats, but not so much in dogs. Signs of the disease in both dogs and cats are increased water intake and urine output as well as weight loss despite increased appetite. Diabetes in pets can be treated with insulin injections given at home, and in cats a change in diet can sometimes send the disease into remission.
-- The pet industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, with animal lovers in the U.S. spending nearly $70 billion on their pets last year. They spent $29 to $30 billion just on pet food, with the retail pet food segment growing more than 3 times as fast as packaged foods for humans. Other segments included veterinary care at an estimated $16.62 billion and supplies and over-the-counter medications at $14.93 billion. People spent just over $2 billion on purchases of animals. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.