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Twisted Gut: “the mother of all emergencies”

Well, news of the five dogs who left with Association Orfee yesterday is trickling in and all seems to be going excellently. There are a couple of photos already of the dogs in their new homes, but I will wait till tomorrow to tell the whole story, as Rebecca has all the photos of the journey and she will write most of the blog, with any luck!

So today I am writing about something far less pleasant. Yesterday morning while cleaning out the pens, Melanie, one of the SPA employees, noticed that Kaira was not well. She rushed this lovely Dogue de Bordeaux cross to the vet and Kaira underwent emergency surgery for what is known as Bloat or Twisted Gut; aka the Mother of all Emergencies.

A quick look on the internet will explain why. One of my Facebook friends and an SPA supporter, Nicki has experience of this, as she lost her lovely rescue Doberman, Tupac, this way several months ago. Evelyn of Doglinks had more luck when her hound, Jojo had the same problem a couple of years ago. And luckily thanks to the quick actions of Melanie and our excellent vet, Kaira has been saved, but it could have worked out so differently.

Bloat is basically when gas and/or food stretches the dog’s stomach to many times its normal size, causing tremendous abdominal pain. For reasons we do not fully understand, this grossly distended stomach can rotate, thus twisting off its own blood supply and the only exit routes for the gas inside. Not only is this condition extremely painful but it is also life-threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (more scientifically called gastric dilatation and volvulus) will die in pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken.

It usually occurs when a dog has eaten a large meal too quickly, or has taken exercise too soon after eating. The larger, deep chested breeds are affected more than the littlies.

So how do you recognise if your dog has bloat? He or she may have an obviously distended stomach especially near the ribs but this is not always evident depending on the dog’s body configuration.

The biggest clue is vomiting. The dog appears highly nauseated, writhes in pain and retches but little comes up, apart from sometimes foamy bile.

If you see this, rush your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY.

And how to avoid the condition? Well, nothing is guaranteed, but the two main factors to prevent bloat are to feed your dog two small meals per day rather than one large one, and to never take a dog out for exercise after he has eaten. It is also a good idea to stop your dog eating too quickly. This is easier said than done (I have a “speed eating beagle” to prove it!), but putting a large stone into the bowl (or here in France a petanque ball) around which the dog has to eat, can slow down a “gobbler”.

Kaira had a lucky escape, which is amazing when you think of all the dogs there are in the refuge and how easy it would have been for this condition to have passed unnoticed (three cheers for Melanie). Cases in dog refuges are almost always fatal….Now all we need to do is find this girl a home.

Kaira, saved in the nick of time








Nicki’s beloved Tupac wasn’t as lucky.


About Darcey Dyson


  1. Get wall soon Kaira, what a lucky girl you are to have such a clever and observant carer.
    Well done Melanie, it is so easy to say ‘Oh a bit off colour lets see how he/she is in a while’
    With bloat there isn’t time and getting a vet’s diagnosis as fast as possible is the key to success.
    I am afraid that is what happened with Tupac. He seemed off colour very late in the night. He refused a biscuit before he went to bed, which I thought was a bit odd as he was a bit of a glutton where food was concerned.
    Then he was restless, nothing more. I thought he had been eating lizards, which he often did and they always upset him! There were no other symptoms at that time. Bloat or torsion did not occur to me at all, but I had no experience of it
    It wasn’t until 5am that he started to try to vomit. That is where I lost it – I didn’t know the danger signs of the dry vomiting. I got up very early to take him to the vet and called to say I was on my way with an emergency. BUT it was a bank holiday and the only vet available was out on another emergency. I had to wait until he returned. By then it was already too late.
    It was a catalogue of horrible events one after the other, never to be repeated. They operated as a dire emergency, but he developed septicemia and died the next day.
    I now have the home number of my vet, and wouldn’t hesitate to call him no matter what time of the day or night it was.
    If you suspect bloat/torsion/twist whatever you call it. DON’T wait a single moment, whatever the time of day, call your vet. Speed is of the essence.
    Watch out for any signs of distress, tight or swollen stomach, refusing food, panting, drooling, and most importantly dry vomiting (where there is only frothy bile)
    Signs that there is something very wrong.
    I hope that those who have dogs who are more prone to bloat can learn from our experience so that it never happens to their dog. I was uninformed, I can spot pyometra from 100 metres, but my ignorance of bloat cost my dog his life.
    I would hate it to happen to anybody else.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge, Nicki. I know it is painful for you and that you blame yourself, but until you know these things you can’t be held to account. I know that doesn’t make things better, but as you say, if we all spread the word then perhaps no one else will have to lose a dog the way you lost your lovely boy.

  3. This really is a nightmare condition and every minute really does count. So sorry to hear of your experience Nicki.

    A couple more tips to add to the sound advice from Darcey Dyson ‘s to help prevent it:

    1) Don’t feed your dog for at least an hour before or after exercise

    2) Feed from a height to stop too much air being gulped in at the same time as the food.
    Bowl stands are available in loads of places

    3) Moisten croquettes with warm water before feeding so they swell before they are fed and don’t swell in the stomach

  4. Well done Melanie for spotting this terrible thing, I lost an old Great Dane many years ago to bloat, it came on so quickly and by the time I got her to the vet it was too late and I had to make the decision to let her go.

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