Franco saved by emergency vets after suffering potentially fatal bloat

A dog owner is urging others to be on the lookout for the early signs of a condition which nearly claimed the life of her pointer.

Gilli Walklate feared she would lose six-year-old Franco because of a twisted stomach.

She had already seen a friend lose her German Shepherd to the condition so was understandably alarmed when vets told her that her beloved Franco had a GDV.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), or bloat, is a life-threatening condition in dogs in which their stomach twists and expands with gas. It is more common in deep-chested breeds such as German wirehaired pointers. The earlier a dog suffering a GDV is treated, the better chance they have of recovery.

Image of Franco the pointer for Vets Now article on bloat in dogs UK
Gilli Walklate feared she would lose six-year-old Franco to GDV

“At first I didn’t know what was wrong,” Gilli recalled. “I’d got up on the Sunday morning and when I went downstairs, Franco was behaving strangely and our eight-month-old puppy was barking as if to warn me there was something up with his big brother.

“I saw that he had been bringing up piles of white froth and knew immediately that something wasn’t right, but thought that he had perhaps eaten something he shouldn’t – maybe even a poison that somebody had put down.

“I screamed to my husband, Colin, and decided we should get Franco to the vets quickly.”

Colin rushed Franco to the Vets Now clinic in Harrow, which provides emergency care for pets in the area, while Gilli stayed home to reassure puppy Feudo who was distressed at seeing Franco so ill.

At the clinic, our vet surgeon’s first step was to stabilise Franco before assessing the extent of his injuries. He had an x-ray which was sent off for specialist analysis and it quickly became apparent his stomach had twisted a full 360 degrees.

That diagnosis explained why Franco had been in so much distress and he was taken into theatre for an emergency operation. The procedure lasted four hours with Gilli waiting at home wondering if she would ever see Franco again.

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X-ray image of a dog with bloat for Vets Now article on symptoms of bloat in dogs UK
Lateral view x-ray of a dog with gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as GDV or bloat

She said: “At first when they looked at the x-rays I don’t think they could see an obvious twist, but as soon as they mentioned that as a possibility my mind went back to a friend whose German Shepherd had a twisted stomach and died.

“So I knew the risks and was in no doubt it was an emergency. When it was confirmed by the lab I was told it would be 50-50 whether Franco survived and it was really horrible waiting for that phone call during the operation.

“We went along to see Franco that evening and saw Lui the vet. She’s clearly very talented and we’re really grateful for the way Lui and Amanda (RVN) helped Franco. They rang up later in the week to check on him and although they were very professional I think they clearly had been touched by it.”

Now Gilli is hoping her experience will help warn other dog owners about the dangers of GDV.

Gilli, a personal trainer, said: “Both my German wirehaired pointers are fabulous dogs. They are very affectionate and I like to go running with them. They are one of the breeds that are prone to this condition so I would just urge people to act quickly if their dogs are ill.”

Vet Lui Allen-Deal who treated Franco at the Harrow clinic said he was living proof that GDV shouldn’t always be a death sentence for dogs.

“It’s a myth that GDV is nearly always fatal. Our research, which looked at case notes from more than 70,000 dogs presenting at Vets Now clinics found the survival rate of dogs who undergo surgery after being diagnosed with GDV is as high as 80%. Franco is living testament to the fact that surgery can save dogs with GDV and I was so pleased we were able to operate quickly thanks to Mrs Walklate’s swift actions.”

Vets Now in Harrow – where Franco received treatment – is one of 60 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.