Relatively few Briards bloat, but any dog that bloats is at a high risk for death. That's the bottom line. Bloat kills.
It kills dogs with a history of bloat in the pedigree; it kills dogs with no history of bloat in the pedigree.
It kills old, young, and middle aged; it kills males, females, the healthy and the sick.
We all hope our Briard won't bloat, but it can happen. The only way to prevent bloat from killing your Briard is to know your dog; know the symptoms; know where to find a vet even at 2 a.m.; and know that bloat is always an emergency.
Many thanks to everyone who shared their stories with me, so I could share them with you.
If you are only going to read one page on this website, please let this be that page. !!!
I have had Briards for over 30 years. In that time, I have owned three dogs that bloated. The first, Yahoo, was with a handler at the time. That handler recognized the earliest signs, Yahoo had life saving surgery, and made a full recovery. The second, Turbo, was with me when he bloated. He did not survive. I'll never know if Turbo would have survived if I had recognized the earliest signs of bloat. The third, Sasi, is with me today, because I now know the signs of bloat. This page is dedicated to ensuring that other Briard owners recognize the many different ways that bloat can present itself, and be prepared to deal with it.
I had been told many times that I would recognize bloat when I saw it. In talking to people after Turbo died, I found out that many owners didn't recognize it, because the symptoms can vary so much from dog to dog, and because there are so many myths and generalizations that are passed off as fact. This page contains first person stories of what Briards and their owners went through with bloat. Some stories have happy endings, some don't. But reading these stories, and the other information presented here, can increase the odds that you will have a happy ending if it happens to you.
There is no intent to identify Briards as to kennel and pedigree on this page. Kennel names are not included, and call names have been changed. This page is not about which Briards bloat - it is about helping any Briard owner to be ready, because any Briard can bloat.
This may be too much to read at one sitting, both as a time commitment, and as an emotional drain. And more stories will be added over time. Please bookmark this page, and come back to it. A story told here may well help save the life of your Briard. Every one of these stories is told by the owner who experienced it, starting with mine. If you have a story to add to this page, please send it to me at Webmaster@briard.com.
For additional information about Bloat, read the informative article written by Nancy Liebes, a Komondor breeder who swore 20 years ago she would never lose another dog to Bloat, and has kept that vow
While some truth may be in every myth, all of these myths are contradicted in one or more of the stories here:
You will recognize Bloat when you see it, you can't miss the signs. MYTH!
A bloating Briard will always have a swollen stomach. MYTH!
A Briard that can burp is not bloating. MYTH!
A dog that is bloating will always cry in pain. MYTH!
Gums will be always pale in the early stages of bloat. MYTH!
If a dog has torsioned, you cannot pass a stomach tube. MYTH!
A dog that can keep water down is not bloating. MYTH!
Veterinarians will always diagnose Bloat correctly. MYTH!
There is always an obvious stressor with Bloat. MYTH!
Dogs that Bloat are all nervous, high energy types. MYTH!
Bloat is always hereditary. MYTH!
Dogs that get to the vet quickly will always survive. MYTH!
The process of bloat is always gradual. MYTH!
Dogs fed a BARF / Raw diet will not bloat. MYTH
Turbo, an intact 4 year old male, had been back in my house for two weeks. He was very familiar with visiting here, although he lived in a pet home. I had a bitch trying to come in season, and Turbo always could bring the girls in. He was eating well, playing, and showing no signs of stress.
On Sunday evening, Turbo began throwing up. It looked like water and white foam, but was slimy. I thought he had caught a little virus that the puppy had brought home from camping with a friend. At first, I never even though of bloat, until a friend suggested it.
I realized Turbo was tanking up between bouts of throwing up, so I picked up all the water in the house. About every 30 minutes, I let him have a half cup or so, and he kept it down. His belly wasn't swollen, but it was tight. I though it was the water he drank earlier. His gums were bright pink, and he didn't want to lay down. He wasn't restless, though. I needled him with a small gauge needle, and got some water, no air.
I gave Turbo several gas-x (simethicone), and walked him around the yard. He came in, burped a lot, and promptly laid down and went to sleep, looking very comfortable. A couple of hours later I gave him more gas-x. He still looked fine, but his belly was still tight. I stayed up with him, worrying. I should say, I don't like most vets at emergency clinics. I have run into some really bad ones in the middle of the night.
Two hours after that, at about 2 am, Turbo crashed. He was clearly uncomfortable standing, didn't want to walk, and his gums were pale. He was trying to vomit, and couldn't. He didn't drool, he hadn't swelled up, he made no sound, he never looked at or chewed his belly- all signs I thought would come with bloat. But he was clearly in trouble. It's 45 - 50 minutes to the emergency clinic. When I got there, Turbo was stuporous. The vet got him in for an x-ray, and started fluids for shock, and Valium. The x-ray showed torsion, but the vet had no problem tubing him, and up came fluid black with necrotic material. The x-ray showed a mass above the stomach, possibly an engorged spleen. More x-rays showed how tangled up his intestines were. The blood they drew for testing was almost black. The vet was telling me that Turbo was a very bad candidate for surgery, talking about toxins in his blood, the necrotic stomach, and DIC (a clotting disorder known as "death is certain"), when the vet tech came in to say Turbo was seizing badly. Drugs stopped his seizures. At that point, I decided to let him go. The vet (who seemed competent) felt there was no chance that he would survive surgery. He was euthanised with me standing next to him, but he didn't know I was there. His costs were $450 for the treatment he did receive. If he had been a candidate for surgery, his costs before he came home would have been about $2000 - $2500. I would gladly have paid it, to return him to his family.
The vet told me that most dogs are effectively dead within 30 minutes of torsioning. Even if they are still walking around, they often can't be saved. Living 45 minutes away, Turbo stood little chance. But, he might have been saved if I hadn't delayed after he threw up.
What did I miss?
He never threw up food, and the slimy froth he did throw up is typical of bloat. Gums can be an unusually bright pink in the early stages. His refusal to lay down was significant.
Some myth breakers:
You can tube a dog that has torsioned most of the time. A dog can burp and be torsioning. Not all dogs swell, or drool.
Almost everyone I talked to said Turbo should not have been able to keep down water if he was bloating. But he did, several times.
One thing I found out later - the bitch coming in season? She ovulated 4 days after Turbo bloated. He would have known she was finally progressing, and maybe that was his trigger to bloat. He had been around bitches in season, had been bred, but it had been a while.
I had taken Patty to the vet at 3:00 PM because she had little sores in her ears. She never minded going to the vet's office - in fact, when the vet was examining her she was doing the Briard ear snuffle - besides, they gave her treats! They prescribed antibiotics and prednisone to given starting that night for the ear sores. She ate at 6:30, I gave her the 2 pills with some cheese.
We went to bed around 11:00 PM - she and my other dog always get a treat before lights out, Patty ate hers and went downstairs where my husband was. Half an hour later, he came up to tell me she had vomited and was just kind of wandering around, with those pleading eyes. I called the emergency vet - they told me that the pred could make her anxious, (in fact, the tech who answered the phone said she was on it and couldn't take it before she went to bed as it kept her awake) and that the antibiotic could make her gassy. There were no retching sounds, no unproductive vomiting - any time she went to vomit, she did - it was frothy/slimy. I felt her belly, there was no distension, and she didn't flinch when I pressed on it.
I have a stethoscope which I used to listen for belly sounds - I heard nothing. I called the vet again and was told that if I didn't hear sounds, she couldn't be bloating. I thought that was the opposite of what should be, but what do I know? They told me to take her for a walk and see if I couldn't get her to pass the gas. So, we walked for about 20 minutes. We got back home around 1:50 AM. She laid down in the kitchen and was passing gas like crazy. I'm thinking, this couldn't be bloat - she wouldn't be THAT!
She indicated she wanted to go out, we went outside, came back inside on the porch she started kind of drooling then, all of a sudden, she roached her back, started shaking, her belly distended, and she went down. I screamed for my husband, we tried CPR on her but she was gone - it was 2:15 AM. It wasn't hot that day, she didn't drink huge amounts of water, she didn't inhale her food, she wasn't stressed about anything - nothing really bothered her except having a bath, which she had had 3 days before, she ate 2 meals a day, she had canned food in with the kibble that was moistened with water and yogurt, she didn't exercise before or after eating. All those things you are supposed to/not supposed to do.
Two Briards and a Great Dane, plus a case of Splenic Torsion
We've lost 3 dogs to bloat. 2 Briards and a Great Dane. Firstly the GD - this was about 26 yrs ago and we knew nothing about bloat. She was 12 yrs old (spayed) and had 3 big surgeries for an invasive tumour on her hock. The only thing that was textbook bloat with her was that it was within the two week window of coming home from the surgery. She bloated in the morning. She had been fed the evening before - no food in the morning. She was fine and eager to be let out for her morning run, and when I bought her back in for me to go to work, she was swollen up like a balloon - straight off to the vets where we opted to euthanase her.
Then about 7 years ago, a male Briard 8 yrs old and neutered. I had left about 6.30am to go to a dog show, Sam was at home with the dogs, when he let him outside, he noticed his belly was swollen and raced him straight to the vets (15mins away max) - he died as they were trying to get a tube down his throat. Once more he had not been fed, his last meal was the previous evening. In retrospect, we suspect it was the food we were using then. We were using a pet roll and occasionally the dogs (all of them) would get these odd bouts of diarrhoea - we could never pin down what was causing it, til we talked to some friends who were feeding the same and figured out it had to be the food. We stopped feeding that after we did some further investigation and found that in the packaging process the 'tube' that was used to force the food in to tube like rolls, was not cleaned very often, meaning that food left on there would be in the first couple of rolls that came off the production line.
Then there was Otto - 9 yr old entire male - another non classic case as he bloated around 5.30 in the afternoon. I guess some things were classic with him. He had been hospitalised for a weird liver infection and had been very sick, he had also lost an awful lot of weight, so was quite debilitated. He also was within that 2 week window. He'd been out for a run and then when he came inside we noticed he was swollen - once more straight to the vets. We ummed and ahhed about surgery as in his condition they were not sure if he would survive the surgery - luckily he hadn't torsioned. For quickness they stuck a needle in to his stomach to relieve the gas. We bought him home to try and build him up to go back and have surgery in two days time, he went under the knife, they did the tacking etc and just as they had finished all the internal stuff his heart stopped and they could not revive him. At that stage we were feeding kibble and minced meat, but he was on a special diet for his liver infection - from memory I think it was Hills.
We have also had a case of spleenic torsion. This was a bitch with a 10 day old litter of pups. (the following is what I wrote on some list - so at least I don't have to remember . ) "We had been having what we thought were calcium level problems with Nance - but it has now turned into a very different story. At present she is in hospital, not yet out of the woods after having her spleen removed. I had her at the vets on Tuesday with a slightly elevated temp, but nothing else showing. On palpation all her internals were all normal considering that she had whelped 8 days before. She still had a slight discharge but it was within normal limits. So we put her on antibiotics and calcium syrup and I also bought home some injectible calcium in case she needed that. She had been a bit fussy with what she wanted to eat - sardines and tuna were the only things on her menu. Anyhow this morning we got her outside to toilet and she had a bright red discharge - plus she was quite lethargic and her colour was not good and she had bad diarrhea. I took her straight up to the clinic and we decided to operate and spay. It wasn't until the vets opened her up and saw her spleen - it was twisted around 6 times and looked like a rope. Our vets had only ever seen this once before. She was not bloating or in any stages of bloat - the only organ involved was the spleen which has obviously now been removed. Had we left her another 24 hours she would not be alive. The symptoms were so slight and all could be associated with whelping problems - but I am still kicking myself for not picking anything up earlier.
Beth, Doug and Earl
In l981 I got my first Briard, Ann, followed 7 weeks later by also getting another female, Beth. They were half sisters, 2 weeks apart in age. These two pups were devoted to each other, and played gently and at times roughly together. I was VERY careful to withhold food for at least an hour after their exercise, and to withhold letting them out again for at least an hour after their meals. Their food was standard food, recommended by their breeder and also approved by their Vet.
When Beth was 18 months old, she and Ann had eaten their evening meal (I fed them early morning and evening every day), they had their "quiet hour," and then went out for play, pee and poop duty. They "explored," played together, and came in when ready. Both were lying next to my chair, quite content to have a little nap. Suddenly Beth leaped up with a horrible, anguished cry/bark, and cried out with every breath. There were, at that time, no emergency clinics in the area, but I did get my Vet to meet us at his office immediately. He examined her, thought she probably either bloated or had gastric torsion, and he believed she needed surgery. But, he was unable to do that without the assistance of another Vet, who was not available until morning. Beth was in agony most of the night--I stayed at her side, of course. By about five in the morning she seemed to settle, laid on her side quietly, and died within minutes. The Vet did a partial autopsy. She had died of a terribly ruptured stomach, which he attributed to the gastric torsion. I would point out that she had shown no discomfort, no symptoms until she had leaped up with a scream. And the Vet had no knowledge of how the gastric torsion occurred, especially since there was no symptomology proceeding her acute, severe distress.
Moving ahead now, Ann was spayed, and I had another spayed female Briard as well, Cher. Then I got a male Briard, Doug. Ann was about 3 1/2, Cher was two years older, and Doug was then 1 1/2 years old. I used the same feeding/out schedule as noted earlier, for all of them. About bedtime Doug began showing restlessness, which increased dramatically and rapidly. He then vomited and rid himself of all of his last meal, then vomited again, and this included the "spines" of probably several handfuls of leaves. When the restlessness subsided somewhat, then became worse again, I contacted the emergency Vet. He noted that the dog may be needing to vomit again but that if he tried to do that, and couldn't vomit, I should call and bring him to the clinic immediately. Within an hour or so this happened, so we went to the Vet. He put a tube down Doug's throat into the stomach, and the stomach contents quite literally exploded out of the stomach and hit the wall several feet away with great force. The Vet kept Doug with him for the rest of the night. I took him home then, and he seemed quite like his jovial, gentlemanly self. The Vet suggested I contact our usual Vet for further diet/treatment recommendations. I did that, and our Vet recommended (for all my Briards) feeding three times daily, and that Doug have surgery to "adhere" his stomach to his side, so that gastric torsion would not occur, although bloat could happen anyway.
No further incidents of bloating occurred to any of them, and all died of natural deaths; the girls were each 12+ and Doug was ll+. I got my last Briard in l995, Earl. When he was about 2, he was very restless one late morning. When this persisted after the usual checks on comfort, etc. I took him to our Vet. He immediately did an x-ray, which showed great enlargement of the stomach. He gave injections of Reglan, and by late afternoon the stomach had returned to normal size. There were no further incidents of bloating for him.
Four Briards and an Irish Setter
Unfortunately, I have had four Briards who bloated. But let me back up a bit. Prior to that, I lost my four-year-old Irish Setter to bloat. That was back in 1962 and at the time, no one knew what bloat was or anything much about it and it wasn't until some five years later when I was relating how he died, that I was told it sounded like bloat. Having lost one dog to bloat and learning that Briards were prone to it, I kept an eye on my dogs. I felt if any of my Briards were to bloat, it would be Bessie who was known to eat just about anything (including a box of Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix which she devoured on my bed). And one day, she did.
She seemed restless, as though she couldn't get comfortable and threw up some clear frothy liquid. I flicked a thumb and finger against her tummy and heard that "tymphanic" sound and I knew. I called the vet, told him to get set to operate, put Bessie into my van and broke several speed records getting to the clinic. He was ready when I got there, did a quick x-ray and operated immediately. Bessie, who was ten at the time, came through successfully and lived through the age of 12. But knowing the symptoms doesn't help if you don't see them.
Cole slept out in a kennel behind my house. He was fine when I put him in the kennel for the night. When I took his breakfast out to him in the morning, he was dead. He was ten. Grace's death was similar. I took off for a dog show, leaving her in the house for the day. When I returned that evening, she had bloated and died. There were no symptoms in the morning. I beat up on myself for not being there for her when she needed me instead of off at a show but it could just as easily have happened while I was at work. Grace was eight. In thinking back, there were none of the things that might provoke bloat -- no change of diet, no violent exercise, no stress, so I have no idea what might have brought it on.
The last instance happened less than a year ago and is still painful to recall. Mel started to display the symptoms, unfortunately about 9 or 10 at night and I headed off for the nearest emergency clinic some 45 minutes away. Then I recalled my friend mentioning that the clinic she used (quite close to me) would come out for emergencies after hours. I called her and she called them and arranged to meet a vet there. The vet ran some tests, took x-rays, tried (unsuccessfully) to pass a tube and finally conceded that surgery was the only answer. I didn't realize that she wasn't capable of handling the surgery herself till she told me I'd have to take her to the emergency clinic (where I had started for originally). Had I known that, I would have taken her there first. We headed off (my friend came along for support and to help since I had injured my back shortly before that). The emergency clinic reviewed the situation and told me the operation would cost $3,500 (plus $450 from the first vet) and there was no guarantee she would survive it. It was a decision to rip your heart. Had I gone there first, had Mel been younger (she was nine), had so much time not passed since I first realized her condition, perhaps I would have tossed them my credit card and said "Go for it." As it was, I felt the odds were against us. I didn't want to put her through the trauma of surgery when it seemed there was so little chance of recovery. That left only to have her euthanized. A painful decision. Again, there seemed to be no reason for her to bloat. Nothing different about her day, her food or anything else.
I've been wondering about this keyhole surgery to tack the stomach on my young Briard. If it meant I wouldn't have to worry about losing her to bloat some years down the line, it would be worth it
Male Briard 4 1/2 years, Fed BARF (Bones and raw food diet)
- Fed on Barf.
- The dog had been with us for nearly 12 months and had settled in well.
- Extremely bouncy, full on Briard.
- Chest ratio is 3.0:2.0
- One distant known relative has bloated.
Events & Symptoms
- Tuesday 7pm went obedience training, 20 minutes by station wagon, as we’d done for the previous 4 or 5 weeks but he wasn’t his normal bouncy self and had a slimy slaver.
- Tuesday 9.30pm fed the dogs The dog stopped eating about half way through his meal.
- Tuesday 10.30pm dogs put to bed in pairs in their own rooms in the house. He was not well but made no noise during the night even though we now know that he must have been in pain.
- Wednesday 6.30am dogs walked The dog was still not well. Normally one of us would have stayed at home and called the local vet but, for some reason, we decided to take him to work and to the vet there. The right decision as it turned out as our local vet is not surgical and the extra delay in moving him would have been fatal.
- Wednesday 8am arrived at work, rang the vets and got an appointment for 9:00. Still not well and getting less comfortable. Went to get him some water, 5 minutes max and when we returned his stomach was twice it’s normal size and he was fading. He was rushed to the vets where the bloat was diagnosed but he was too weak for them to operate immediately he had to be stabilised first. The pressure was surgically relieved on his stomach and he was standing throughout although by now clearly fading fast.
- Wednesday 10:30am Went into surgery having been on a drip since first arriving at the vets. His stomach had almost completely rotated and as a result some of the stomach lining had died. The vets did what they could to repair the damage and then it was a waiting game as to whether he would survive or not. The stomach was sewn to the duodenum which helps to prevent a reoccurrence.
- Wednesday 4pm Visited the vets and were warned that he may get an infection, common in stomach surgery, and the next 7 days would be critical.
- Thursday and Friday Visited twice a day. The vets were concerned that he wasn’t eating but they were only offering him kibble. We were told that we could bring boiled chicken and rice and cottage cheese. He hated the cottage cheese but slowly began to take the chicken and rice.
- Friday evening we were allowed to take him home with the proviso that he was kept quiet and away from the other dogs.
- Slow, increasing food and exercise gradually.
- Probably took over 12 months for him to return fully to his normal bouncy self
- Moved onto 2 smaller meals rather than one large for all the dogs
- Took a long time to get the weight back on him Cost of surgery approximately $1200
Female Briard 3 years, Fed BARF (Bones and raw food diet)
- The bitch is our breeding, no relation to the dog above.
- Just gone 3 when the bloat occurred in November 2004
- An affectionate, healthy Briard.
- Chest ratio 3.3:2.0
- Barf diet
- No stressors, a normal quiet night
- One distant known relative has bloated.
Events & Symptoms
- Sunday 10pm fed the dogs The bitch ate all her meal as normal.
- Sunday 10.30pm Restless and started trying to vomit. She spent the next half an hour out in the garden very restless and obviously in discomfort. She couldn’t keep water down so was starting to dehydrate, but seemed fine between bouts of vomiting. No salivation and stomach was normal.
- Sunday 11pm We decided that it could be the early stages of bloat so rang the emergency vet who met us at the surgery. The vet examined her but couldn’t feel anything out of place and she was becoming calmer so we were almost at the stage of going back home hoping that it was a false alarm. Suddenly she became restless again and the vet found that the spleen was out of place. At no stage did the stomach expand. A tube was put down her throat but could not pass into the stomach.
- Monday 12am In surgery with Bill assisting the vet to avoid the delay of calling in a nurse. We had caught this one before it did any damage to the stomach lining but there was still the danger of infection. Again the stomach was sewn to the duodenum to prevent reoccurrence.
- Monday 2am We went home and left her to recover
- Monday pm/ Tuesday The bitch continued to improve and by Tuesday morning she was well enough to take home
- The bitch made an excellent recovery despite being back in surgery two months later because she’d swallowed a piece of sheepskin rug chewed up by one of our pups
- We took it easy for a while with food and exercise but she was doing agility the following year
- Cost of surgery approximately $1200
In both cases the dogs were on our normal routine of walks and exercise well before feeding time, no exercise after feeding. Food bowls on the floor and we watch they don’t drink to excess. We have one of our puppies, a 2 year old, boarding at the moment and she is on a kibble diet, it is very noticeable that she drinks far more than any of our barf fed Briards.
We suffered 2 bloats of littermates within 2 months of each other many years ago and luckily have never had any since. Manor, littermate to Ted and Tessa, had the "classic" signs and symptoms of bloat in 1997 as a 4 year old. Preceding the bloat, we had taken in a few rescue briards upsetting our briards a lot as we have never had kennels. Manor was a worry dog who stressed over everything. She started in the afternoon vomiting, frothy mouth, uncomfortable, trying to lie down, pacing. I rushed her to our home vet who passed a tube to relieve the gas and sent her home to be watched. She didn't get better so 2 more times we went back and forth to the vet until finally he decided to do the surgery. They called to come pick her up, she was fine. I got there, went back to her cage and she was dead. Autopsy revealed an aneurysm. Who knows whether she would have lived if they had done the surgery immediately.
Then a month or so later Ted was acting "funny". He had a look that wasn't Ted ...like a person constipated. His belly never swelled,no vomiting, no pacing. As I did with Manor, using my stethoscope I heard no bowel sounds.....not a good sign. Don rushed him immediately (during the daytime also) to an emergency clinic a little farther from home (about an hour in traffic). They quickly X-rayed and off to surgery. Ted lived on to be 13. Ted was also a stresser, a worrywart.
As we had 2 littermates both bloat at a young age, they became part of the Purdue University Bloat Study. I received through the years information from the study. Nowadays I am sure blood would have been drawn etc but back then....... The consensus of the studies then were that bloat definitely had a genetic basis but must be factored in with environmental issues (food, exercise, living conditions). They went back and forth about exercise before and after eating, height of the bowls, water taken after eating....no real decisive answers were found. Both Ted and Manor had a fairly visible bloat background on one side of the pedigree and both were stressers so all the right ingredients were in place waiting for a trigger. At that time I also feed kibble....really good kibble, but kibble. (I know studies don't validate kibble but my gut feeling does if for no other reason then the reducing of stress through diet). Tessa, a full littermate, never has bloated or even appeared to bloat but she also is very laid back.
Cost.... back then Manor was $1600.00 (private vet) and died. Ted was $1200.00 (emergency clinic)and lived a full life. Vets... I found the emergency clinics to be more valuable because of the sheer volume they do, the cases they see. They are usually cheaper also. They are less conservative in their approach. They also didn't question my diagnosis as an owner. My local vet was toooo slow in acting in my opinion. My suggestions.....
- KNOW Your dog and habits and if something is off...head to the vet.
- BUY a stethoscope and use it. Listen to your dog's normal bowel sounds and remember those sounds. Listen to your own belly....very similar sounds. If you hear NO sounds, your dog is in trouble. (At the other end of the extreme is a high pitched "tinkling" sound of an obstruction) Listen hard for 3 minutes or so... no sounds get to the vet fast.
- Call ahead on your cell and tell them the situation.
We have had one dog bloat. Here is what happened:
We were gone skiing and Tattoo went to the boarding at our vet. He was 18 month old. I asked them to give him a bath before we pick him up since I did not like his smell after being at a kennel. They washed him and he was put in a dryer. We picked him up about 1 hour later. He was totally unsettled, would not lay down in the car, panted a lot. I thought it was excitement to come back home. Tattoo is not a calm dog, very extravagant and extroverted as all know, yet I was a little concerned with the extend of his "excitement".
We got home and he went on doing the same. He drank water and did not throw up. I was concerned to see him so unsettled. He would not stay in one place, would not lay down. I felt his tummy & it was hard, not overly large but very hard. I had read about basket ball size and his was not that big. I called the vet, they were closed by then. I was totally panicked. I thought he might be bloating but was not sure because I had never seen one before. I called a friend and we rushed him to the emergency clinic (about 30 min away).
Learning 1 & 2: Do not hesitate go to the clinic (better look stupid than loose the dog) and have the emergency clinic info ready (we did not know where and which one it was, we had moved about 6 months prior to that event, so we looked up the yellow pages but we should have had that handy quicker). I will write more about the emergency clinic at the end of the post.
I called on the way to let them know we were arriving with a bloat case. They took him about what seemed an eternity (in fact maybe 15 min), did an X-ray of his stomach, called us in the room, showed us and told us he needed to be operated. They gave us the estimate and told us his odds of survival with surgery (about 40% was the number we received) and asked if we still wanted to pursue. Then he went under surgery. He was operated (I am guessing) probably a total of 4 hours after he left the "dryer".
Surgery went very well we were told. There was no organ damage. His spleen was not removed. His stomach was tacked. At 6am the next morning we were asked to come pick him up and to take him to our regular vet (this emergency clinic is only an emergency clinic and is not opened during the day). He stayed there for the day and came back home at night. Our vet then told me that it was best he had the surgery done at the emergency clinic because they see it all the time. He was himself an emergency vet for 10 years before opening his own practice.
Recovery was very quick. I cannot recall if he had any medication to be honest, but most likely had antibiotics. I know we fed him very little quantities every 4 hours, starting with ID food and then mixing back his food slowly and we returned to normal 2 times a day after 3 weeks. Tattoo has always been a picky eater from puppy hood and most often would skip meals or just eat a few pieces. He still does. We have tried so many diets of all kinds, including raw which he would not even come close to. The hardest part was to keep him calm and prevent him from jumping. He had to be crated a lot because he felt very well and wanted to run and jump all the time. Obviously Tattoo lived and has lived extremely well and since then I have actually always felt better with him since he was tacked. He is now over 8 years old. Since then I am obsessed with checking their stomach all the time. My personal opinion is that a dog that is either hyperactive or stressed is at much higher risk. No scientific data, just my view of things.
A few more items that might be helpful:
Since that time, we looked for gastroplexi as preventive method, nor for preventing the bloat but for the twisting, which is the life threatening part. So the dog could still bloat but we would have more time and a much better outcome. I talked to numerous vets and vet schools. I wanted a laproscopy technique to prevent the large invasive surgery and associated risks. Most had never done it, several were either willing to try it or had done so little of them that I was worried. Finally we found a clinic in Baltimore. We just (june) did the first one on our youngest dog. A lot of great dane people do those as well and most do them while the dog is going for his hips x-ray. We did it at 16 months ourselves. The recovery was unbelievably fast. The cost was about $1600. Again we did it as an elective surgery not because the dog was bloating. He has a tiny incision by his penis and another one (about 1.5 inches) on his lower rib cage side. We can only hope the tack stays in place. Since then I have found another clinic who does a lot of them in NJ.
Emergency clinics: unfortunately we have had numerous run ins with them. What I have learned from hard experience is that they are really not all equivalent (I am naive at time). The first one we experienced was great. The second one was also great, so we felt pretty confident that they were all like that. The third one was a true nightmare and this is how we almost lost Bobby (after he ate a hat). Talking to other breeders locally I found out (too late) that they had not so dramatic but similar bad experiences. So like with anything else, you need to be prepared and do your homework.
A Gut Feeling, No Symptoms
The symptoms in our case were not at all what was expected but my gut feel told me "Race to the vet - don't take no for an answer" When I called the vet to tell them I was on my way the receptionist said " What makes you think it is bloat?" I could only answer - "I just sense something is VERY wrong and he is a BRIARD - WE ARE COMING NOW!!!"
Moby had a bleak look in his eyes and did not greet me when I came home from work - that's it!!!! Couldn't even tell for sure if his stomach was slightly round. No retching, no agitation, no pacing, no attempts to vomit. He was fully torsioned when we arrived. And we were fortunate to be able to bring him home 10 days later. We lost our wonderful boy, Moby, 2 1/2 years later at the age of 10 1/2 to cancer
Know your Briard
In some cases, it is only the owner`s intimate knowledge of their Briard, coupled with the knowledge that bloat is a 5 alarm red light emergency that saves dogs lives.
When my Crochet bloated there were no overt symptoms. She just refused her dinner for the first time in her 7 years and, when I asked her what was wrong, she looked at me with a faintly perplexed, far away look as if she had something more important to think about. No retching, no pacing, her abdomen was firm but not distended. She wasn`t agitated and didn`t look worriedly at her sides. I ran to the phone nd called the emergency clinic and said I was bringing in a Briard with possible bloat / torsion. She asked me what were the symptoms and I told her "she refused food". She replied with a skeptical rejoinder which I ignored.
I put Crochet in the van, she hopped in willingly and assumed her normal place between the front seats on the floor. Then she did something which sent chills up my spine, confirming for me that she was very ill. In all the years we had traveled in that van to dog shows and agility trials, Crochet had always ridden laying down with her head up. I never saw her drop her head to rest. By the time I went around the van to get into the driver`s seat, Crochet`s head was on her paws.
So if you don`t see the typical signs but your gut tells you there is something seriously wrong, trust your instincts and GO ! And when you get to the vet and they say it isn`t bloat INSIST on an x-ray. Better to be thought a doddering, over-protective alarmist, than to have your beloved Briard die because his symptoms didn`t fit the description in the book.
Eating the Wrong Thing
Bloat is such a scary thing. Roy bloated when he was about 4. The vet I had was super as he always had the office phone forwarded to his home when he went home....well...except THAT night... he had just the machine on. Roy went out in our backyard and started grazing on the grass like a goat and was running all over and trying to throw up. His gums were pale and I was freaked. I got on the computer and went to the BCA site and read about the bloat and then I freaked out.
I have taught all the dogs that Tums is 'candy' and immediately gave him three of them. I called my vet's office and got the message machine and immediately called the ER vet that was in closest, and what would usually take 25-30 minutes to get there was done in about 15 minutes. I was flying low without the wings. I could not imagine what was happening but remember being scared out of my mind. I was lucky that the vet on duty used knew Briards and what signs to look for with bloat. He took an X-ray of Roy and I was very lucky that his stomach had not started to torsion. He did see the Tums in his stomach that I had given him and told me I had done the right thing.
The vet gave him a shot of something to relax him and told me to take him home and keep an eye on him. Lucky that was it. But I could not imagine what had brought it on....until I got home and discovered that he had been chewing on the skirt that you put around your bed to keep the dust bunnies out from under the bed...and then I think that he realized he had 'tore' it and 'ate' the evidence! We have never found any of the skirt to this day....I know that was the scariest thing I had ever gone thru and will never forget it.
Out of the Blue
I have had 2 Briards bloat. Our first, Boxie, was 6 at the time. I remember it very clearly. An evening with nothing special happening. No company in the house, kids doing homework, dogs peaceful. I woke up at about 3 AM to find Boxie's stomach the size of a basket ball. He was standing up looking at me. One look was all I needed. I jumped up put on clothes and got him in the car to go to the emergency clinic. (There was no question in my mind what was happening even though I never had experienced it before.) The emergency clinic tubed him and told me I'd have to take him to his regular vet in the am. The outcome was not good, we lost him 3 day later. His heart just gave out. Could we have avoided this? Who knows.
I watch my Briards like a hawk for any weird signs. Whenever a dog does anything that is out of character for that dog I'd say keep an eye on him. My 2nd case happened with Hemi. He was just 15 months at the time and we were in our motorhome. It was evening after a dog show. Hemi just jumped up and made a yelp like someone stepped on his tail. I'll never forget the sound. No symptoms at all but something in me just said bloat. I don't know why. We ran him outside and there were a bunch of handlers and show people who looked at him and said forget it he looks fine.
Well I don't know but something made me call the police to get the name of a vet clinic that was open on a holiday weekend. It just happened to be Labor Day weekend. We pulled out in the motorhome and drove to this clinic thinking it was probably for nothing...........Hemi ran into the clinic like nothing was wrong. The vet on duty thought I was nuts. This dog is fine she said. Well, I said humor me and take an x -ray. Sure enough he had gone straight into torsion. The first thing they asked was if we wanted to put him down cause it was going to cost upwards of $2000.00. There was just no question. Here is my credit, card get the surgeon.They operated and tacked his stomach. He lived to be 10 and never bloated again.
Two dogs, two completely different scenarios. It is probably most important to make sure people just pay careful attention to the way their dogs behave. Don't ignore anything. As you know minutes make a difference. I know others who have dogs that have bloated. It seems no two experiences are the same. The only similarity is that it's entirely awful to go through it. I still feel my dogs stomach's every night. It's always in the back of my mind.