I am writing this particular column on the assumption that, like me, a number of other readers of the River Hills Traveler have hunting dogs — those deep-chested hunting dogs such as Labrador retrievers, German shorthair pointers, Weimaramers or other pointing breeds.
If you do have a deep-chested dog, you need to familiarize yourself with a potentially fatal condition in these dogs that can strike within a few hours, no matter how healthy your dog seems to be.
This condition affects not only popular hunting dogs but also typically includes breeds such as Great Danes, St. Bernard, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Dachshunds.
I am referring to a condition in dogs technically known as gastric dilatation volvulus — or “GDV.”
Basically, it involves a bloating of the stomach and in the more serious situation, a flipping of the stomach that results in a volvulus or twisting of the area between the stomach and intestines.
Once this volvulus occurs, the blood supply to the heart and other organs is cut off and this leads to fatal complications if the bloating is not immediately resolved by gastric decompression via catheter or surgery.
Years ago, in the midst of quail season, I had a seven-year-old English setter who suddenly developed a bloat in her stomach with an obvious lateral distention.
Normally, she was an extremely calm dog but she seemed unusually anxious and wandered around in circles looking at her distended stomach; not long after this, she began vomiting without any residue.
Fortunately, we were able to get her to her veterinarian and even more fortunately, this veterinarian and his assistants made themselves available on Thanksgiving, no less, to perform emergency surgery and save this dog.
In fact, she provided me with an additional three years of great upland game hunting thanks to these vets.
I was told that had we not immediately noticed her condition and got her to the vet within a half-hour, it is very likely that she would have died.
I have had lots of hunting dogs over the years and I fully appreciate what goes into owning, training and hunting with a great bird dog or a great retriever.
So, since this is hunting season and because you, too, may be running your dog much more than usual, I thought I would pass on to fellow hunters what I have learned about GDV and what to do to prevent it.
The exact cause of GDV is not completely clear but it does seem to usually involve specific breeds of dogs that have deep, narrow chest cavities, such as hunting dogs and the other breeds mentioned earlier in this column.
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And there is evidence that specific family history may also be relevant; if another dog in the same immediate breeding line of the dog in question has had GDV, that would be pertinent to a diagnosis.
There is also some evidence that a nervous, anxious or shy dog might be more likely to develop a problem than a calm dog.
But the immediate and most common cause appears to be the inability of the dog to routinely pass food or liquid from the stomach into the intestines without the development of excessive gas or bloating.
So how does a dog owner take precautions to avoid this? Here are some suggestions as gleaned from various veterinarian articles on the subject:
First of all, avoid feeding your dog only one meal a day; instead, break the same daily portion into two or even three meals a day, especially if your dog tends to “wolf down” his food.
Second, avoid feeding your dog table scraps, particularly food that is greasy because it tends to stay in the stomach longer.