Veterinary Clinic

Questions and answers that will help you keep your dog happy and healthy

Dear Dr Holcomb: If you have written about this and I have missed it, please accept my apologies. I am looking for some information on "twisted stomach." I recently lost my best friend to what my vet called a "twisted stomach." I picked up "Lady" the same week my first daughter was born three years ago. She was from a large litter and was the first little Weimaraner to come up to me. From that point on she was special to me. I've had dogs for as long as I can remember, but there was something special about her. We did a lot together, and she was great around my kids. We were getting ready for the hunting season by doing a little extra training. We had just gotten a duck boat, and we were learning to hunt from it. Anybody that says Weimars aren't good duck dogs hasn't spent much time with them. Lady would break ice to make a retrieve and stand ready for the next one without so much as a whine or whimper.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago when my daughter and I fed her before I went to work, Lady didn't seem herself. She wasn't excited to see us like she normally was, but I was late for work and left. About an hour later I was thinking about her and knew something was wrong with her. I left work and went home to check on her and found her lying down hardly able to walk. Her stomach looked like she was ready to have pups again. She had pups about a year ago. I put her in the truck and drove to my vet, about half an hour away. I could see she was getting "shocky," and her breathing was way down. I didn't know if she would make it to the vet.

When we arrived her stomach was about three times its normal size. My vet did an X-ray immediately and her stomach just about didn't fit on the X-ray. They did surgery as soon as they released the the air pressure and got her vitals back up. He said that most of her stomach had died due to lack of blood supply, and she would only live a few days if they patched her up. So we had to have her put to sleep. It was hard, but we knew it was the best thing for her.

The more I asked around the more I found this to be a problem. It was something I heard about with cattle and horses, but not dogs. Is this something that happens frequently? Does this happen more in females than males and, if so, does the previous pregnancy have anything to do with it? Is there anything that can be done to help prevent this? I'm going to be getting a pup this winter and just wanted a little more info on this subject. Thanks.

Mike Loll

Hankinson, North Dakota

Answer: Fortunately torsion of the stomach in dogs does not occur very often, but when it does it is typically a disaster. In some cases the spleen is also involved, and with its blood drainage compromised it becomes engorged and quite large. I've not seen any statistics on clinical cases that indicate an increased incidence in either sex or related to prior reproductive history. There is an increased incidence in deep-chested dogs, and I believe that some research has been done that indicates dogs within a breed that have deeper chests have a higher incidence of gastric torsion that others of the breed.

Association of torsion with feeding has often been made, and several research projects have been devoted to trying to figure out what relationship exists between the two events. There seems to be no definite relationship between type of dog food or feeding scheme, but I still feel it is prudent to feed dogs relative to exercise periods. Small meals frequently are good to prevent overload of the stomach, as well as to maintain a stable level of blood glucose. I also do not like to feed a large meal within an hour or so of field work.

Question: I have a black male Lab pup about five months old (born Nov. 23). About three weeks ago I took him for a walk and noticed he was limping on his right foot. It appeared that his foot was laying "flat"--too much paw on the ground. I immediately took him to the vet to get it checked. The vet gave him a thorough exam and watched him walk and did not see anything and did not prescribe anti-inflammatory. He said he may have stretched a tendon or a ligament and to rest him. I have not been back to the vet and will do so.

When I took the pup home I noticed that he had switched legs--he was limping on his left leg. I began to see a pattern and so did the breeder (the dog stays with the breeder during the week) that when he was scolded, he limped more, so I thought it was an avoidance technique. But now I see him do it when he can't see me. He has no soreness throughout the legs. The vet checked all that and I mess with his legs all the time. Most of the time there is no limp. When we do fun retrieving he starts out fine and then almost gets tired. To make it more interesting I began throwing a pheasant wing to watch his reaction. I threw it several times and did not notice any limping. He is very birdy and loves the wings.

Here's some further info on this dog. I have been interested in pointing Labs for some time and have been to the APLA events, etc. I did the exact opposite of what I planned and contrary to what most would say was good practice. I saw an ad in the paper and went to see some pointing Lab pups locally. Surprisingly, I was very impressed with the dogs. The male is on site and a very handsome Lab with a big blocky head. The female tends to be a little slimmer with a longer snout. The two dogs are full brother and sister. The breeder has taken the female to shoot to retrieve events and done very well. The male has been OFA certified "fair." The price was right on the pup. So far I have been very impressed with the pup--it's calm, has good manners and good retrieving skills. I don't have the ability to spend a bunch of money on the pup. So I'm not sure what to do. Should I wait it out and see if he grows out of it? Should I take him back to the vet. The breeder told me that if there was a problem he would give me another pup in the future, but I don't want to write this pup off if there is hope.

Lance Cochran

Answer: Shifting leg lameness in young, large-breed dogs such as yours is commonly diagnosed as panosteoitis or to use the lay term, "pano." This diagnosis means an inflammation of the long bones of the dog's body. Panosteoitis is typically diagnosed by history with the client calling to say their pup has had a series of mild lameness instances, each lasting a day or so and then showing up in another leg sometime later. On radiograph these dogs will show a pattern of inflammation in the long bones that I've never been able to see but is described by trained radiologists.

I almost never treat these dogs. Sometimes I will use a low dose of Rimadyl but never steroids. As an owner of a dog with pano you should be aware that there are several other musculoskeletal problems of the growing dog that may be missed if you tend to lump all lameness into the panosteoitis category. Therefore, I would have any lameness that persists in one leg longer than two to three days checked out.

The way I read your second paragraph, this pup is the result of a brother-sister mating with the male having received a "fair" OFA rating. I wonder what the female's OFA rating is? Your pup is the result of an inbreeding that h

as great potential for hip problems, and I would start X-raying his hips at nine months of age to see what is developing.

One last thing. Never use price as a criterion for purchasing a pup. If your $150 dog lives 12 years you've spent $12.50 per year. If you buy a $600 pup it is only $50 per year. Not much difference I'd say, considering the sacrifice in quality you may be making.

Question: My three-year-old German shorthaired pointer had a litter of 10 puppies on February 29, one of them did not live past three days so we now have nine pups. One of them has developed a scabby area in the middle of his back. It appeared to us as if she had gotten scratched by the mother or something else and although we did not see any bleeding, it turned into a scab.

I took him into the vet, and he thought maybe the mother had tried to pick him up at one time and maybe got a little overzealous and had scratched the pup with her teeth and it hadn't healed properly and got a little infected. It does look a little like that as part of it is shaped like the mouth of a dog. However, I thought I would ask if you knew of any other skin condition it could be. My veterinarian shaved the hair off and some of it was a bit bloody, appearing as if it was an unhealed scab and then gave some Tresderm Dermatologic Solution to put on a couple times a day.

I trust my vet's judgment very much but just wanted to get another opinion on this subject. None of the other pups have this condition, and this particular pup, like all the others, is very healthy, active and eats well.

Dave Hillenbrand

Willmar, Minnesota

Answer: I've seen puppies with this type of skin lesion and have often associated it with failure of the bitch to get the pup completely cleaned off following birth. It seems that portions of afterbirth or fetal fluids seem to stick to the hair and, if allowed to dry, hold moisture against the skin, which then becomes a good medium for bacterial growth. Treatment is straightforward and involves topical cleaning with application of an antibiotic ointment. I tend away from Tresderm in puppies because it contains dexamethasone, which is a corticosteroid and potential exists for absorption through the skin and possible systemic effects on the neonate.

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