Newfoundland Herbie lucky to be alive

I have written this article in the hope that it will bring to the attention of any Newfoundland owners just how serious this condition is and that everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms.

We went to the test weekend at Nottingham with our two Newf’s on one Friday late afternoon and set up camp with the caravan and awning. We fed the dogs their normal feed about an hour later than usual then took them for a walk around the campsite about 1 hour later. Everything was normal, and the dogs were very settled. We have a pen made from sheep hurdles that we put in the awning that the dogs stay in so don’t have to be staked and can’t escape from. We spent the rest of the evening with our friends from our group Canis Major then took the dogs for a final short walk on the lead then retired to bed about

At 3.29a.m. we were woken up to Herbie trying to be sick, pacing around and whining. We immediately got up and put him on a lead, and my husband took him outside to see if he wanted to go to the toilet. After about three to four minutes he came back inside and said he looked a bit swollen, I took one look at him and said OMG I think he has bloat, we need to get him to the vets. I had read quite a bit on bloat, and the one thing that had stuck in my head was that you have a 20min window to get the dogs to the vet and start treatment to have any chance of saving them.

True to the working club standards we had been given a pamphlet with all the info and emergency numbers on that night, never thinking we would need it. I got the leaflet and phoned the emergency vets; an answering machine gave me another number to ring Vets Now, all the while the 20 min window was ticking away. I got through to Vets Now and said what I thought was wrong, and we were bringing him straight in. We were given the postcode and also told to ring, and they would direct us in. We grabbed some clothes, both the dogs and sped off in the van. Fortunately, the vets are on site 24 hours so were waiting for us. We took Herbie in, and the vet examined him and confirmed our fears, his heart rate was 160, over double what it should be. She explained that shock is the biggest problem if the stomach has rotated then it blocks the main blood vessels and the dog goes into shock, so that has to be treated first. The longer the stomach stays twisted then the stomach and spleen start to die off (necrosis), and this is usually fatal. As is normal with most vets the cost was discussed so that we were aware of it but we said we didn’t care how much, just do everything possible to save Herbie.

Steph took him through, and they first tried to put a tube down to release the gas but the gag they use wouldn’t extend large enough, they also tried a needle on the side to release the air, but this didn’t work either. She also gave him a fast acting injection to combat the shock and stabilise him, then x-rayed him to see the extent of the bloat. Herbie’s stomach had rotated 360°, the worst possible outcome. This took till 5 am when the vet came and told us that they would have to operate and she would ring us as soon as she had some news as to the extent of the damage.

We then left Vets Now and went back to the campsite and two of our closest friends. The next 3 hours were the longest and most agonising I think we have ever been through. Finally, at 8.15am I couldn’t stand it any longer and rang the vets. Steph came straight to the phone to say she was just about to ring as she had finished operating and Herbie was now coming round from the anaesthetic. She had had to open him up and had a difficult time trying to rotate his stomach back into position but finally they had managed and to our immense relief they hadn’t found any signs of damage to the stomach or any other organs and had also carried out a gastropexy, a procedure which involves stitching the stomach wall to the abdominal wall. This is to prevent the stomach ever twisting again should the dog be so unlucky as to have Bloat again. Herbie was put on a high dose of Morphine for the pain and monitored very closely.

We were allowed to go and visit him in the afternoon, and he recognised us straight away and managed to wag his tail in true New style. The vet on duty in the afternoon discussed the condition with us as we still thought it has all been a bad dream and we would wake up any moment. Of course, we wanted to know what had caused it and went over every minute of the last few hours before it started but they said, unfortunately, we would never know. They had not found anything in his stomach to cause it, his tea was digested, and one of the commonest causes of exercising too soon either before or after the food was not the case, we would never know. This is the hardest thing to come to terms with as you question what you did wrong or how we could have done something differently but there was no answer, the only possible thing we could come up with was stress as we had been away for a few days then excitement at going away with the caravan. Then why had it come on at that time in the early hours when Herbie had been laying asleep for 5 hours before this.

Herbie continued to make good progress, and they took him off the early evening morphine and he was turning over to have his tummy tickled. Steph was back on nights on Saturday and was totally smitten with Herbie. Apparently, he was a medical first for the practice as he was the only patient with bloat who managed to eat within 24 hours. They had opened in 2005 and had treated lots of cases of bloat, obviously not Newfoundland’s!! He was allowed home on a Sunday afternoon and we decided to stay at Nottingham till the Monday when we were due to go home so to be close to the vets who had treated him. When we got home, we took him to our own vets with all the notes they had given us and a DVD of his x-ray, and he was given a check up. Our vet said it was one of the worst cases he had seen and Vets Now in Nottingham had done a fantastic job.

We were so grateful for all the help, support and advice we had from our friends from Canis Major, Rother Valley and Chasewater who were all camping with us.

We only had one minor setback the following weekend when he was sick a couple of times so we took him straight to our emergency vets clinic, and he was given some antacid as they thought he was just reacting to the Metacam which is quite common.

Herbie had his stitches out and started swimming again after a couple of weeks, he is back to his old self, and we can now start looking forward.

Vets Now in Nottingham were absolutely brilliant; we cannot thank them enough. Steph was so wonderful and knew exactly what to do and acted so quickly we are indebted to her for saving Herbie and to all the other staff who played a part in his recovery.

We hope this will make everyone aware of this devastating condition and how true that 20minute window is. Please read up and make yourselves aware of the symptoms and if ever in doubt, if your dog is trying to be sick and in pain then get to the vets urgently. If it’s a false alarm then you have nothing to lose, if it’s not and you don’t act quickly, then you have everything to lose.

One suggestion that was given to us was to use a baby monitor at home as we were lucky it happened when Herbie was under the awning next to us, and we acted so quickly. Had it been at home we might not have heard him straight away. The baby monitor is now a permanent feature in our household!

Finally, one thing I would like to pass on from my own vet is that they recommend now if they are doing surgery on a New, particularly if a bitch is being spayed, it is worth carrying out the gastropexy at the same time. It will not stop the dog getting bloat but will stop the stomach twisting and give your dog a fighting chance. Please go and discuss it with your vet.

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