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Sluggishness, Seizures And Bloat

Sluggishness, Seizures And Bloat

(Question) I just read your question-and-answer from BF about their puppy chewing on everything. What happened to us with our mutt (German shepherd/St. Bernard) was funny but then almost tragic. On a walk to the local park when Sampson was a puppy, he picked up a half-eaten chocolate bar, but with a finger swipe I took care of that, and another time he picked up a large piece of chewing gum (which was funny to watch), but once again with a finger swipe I got it out of his mouth.

Things took a nasty turn, however, when I took him on a walk downtown and he found and picked up a half-eaten hot dog with a bun. I did the finger swipe immediately and tore the hot dog apart and found a one-inch flathead screw inside the hot dog. After that, I never let him pick up anything again. He's now 10 years old, and he may be a mutt but we can't imagine our lives without him.--JL

(Answer) That hot dog incident definitely sounds like the activity of a demented mind. I don't know why people would deliberately try to make an animal suffer. Your comments certainly serve as a wake-up call for all of us to constantly be aware of what our dogs are picking up during their day-to-day smell and taste activities. Several years ago I had to deal with a dog that someone had fed broken glass pieces. I have not seen such a mess since and don't want to see it again. That dog died after a valiant fight with peritonitis.

(Question)I enjoy reading your columns, and I am writing with a question I have about my two-year-old male Brittany. I purchased this dog from a very reputable breeder and he has excellent lineage. However, when hunting, after about two hours afield, he becomes sluggish and starts to walk directly behind me.

I have a six-year-old female Brittany as well, and she exhibits none of these signs. I feed them both Purina High Pro, one cup each, twice a day, with some wet food mixed in when I am going to hunt them hard. I am very good at making sure they get plenty of water when we are hunting.

He has only shown these symptoms when we are hunting at the preserve. The place I go to is not very big (120 acres), and it is a down-and-back kind of hunting. The first time this happened, I took him back to the truck and kenneled him for about 45 minutes, let him back out, and he was fine the rest of the day. The second time it occurred, I happened to have some doughnuts with me. I gave him one and he bounced right back.

He covers quite a bit more ground than my female, so could he just be getting tired quicker? Or, could he be hypoglycemic? Would a blood/urine test under non-stressed conditions tell me the answer, or would I have to hunt him and have the tests done then? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. — KH

(Answer) A blood test after the fact is not going to tell you anything about what the dog's glucose level was at the time of his sluggish spell. Sometimes you can make arrangements with a local veterinarian, then run the dog in as soon as the event occurs and get a blood glucose level.

Another way to get a glucose curve on the dog is to learn how to run the test with a small hand-held glucose meter that is like the type used by diabetic humans to monitor their own glucose levels. This last method would require that you become proficient at obtaining a blood sample from your dog.

One thing that you want to remember is that this dog may have some other disease that is causing his sluggish behavior. I would recommend a complete blood count and urinalysis to establish base line information that may suggest another disease process.

(Question) Last year in the April/May puppy issue of Gun Dog, my Gordon setter Shona made the puppy photo feature and also the contents page. I was so proud.

This past Saturday, March 3, she died suddenly from bloat.

We had just been through a three-day blizzard here and the country gravel roads were clogged with snow, making my trip to the vet much longer than necessary. After about an hour and 10 minutes, we finally arrived at the vet, but Shona died shortly thereafter. I wonder what more I could have done.

Could you please tell me what exactly bloat is, and is there anyway to prevent it? I am very fearful that it may happen again to a new puppy I get, so is there any type of surgery that can be done to prevent the stomach from twisting again? --TH

(Answer) I'm certainly sorry that you lost a good dog. Bloat is truly an emergency situation and even when diagnosed early and treated surgically the survival percentage is low.

By definition bloat means excess gas in the stomach. A more descriptive term for the problem your dog probably suffered from is gastric torsion. In this condition the dog's stomach twists on itself and traps the stomach contents, which produce gas and bloating.

The twisted stomach leads to two problems. The gas buildup in the stomach puts pressure on the lungs and heart, thereby compromising their function. Also, the twist impedes the blood flow to and from the stomach and leads to necrosis of the stomach wall, with resultant toxemia to the patient.

A number of things have been suspect as the cause of bloat/torsion in the dog and most have proven to be equivocal. The old theories of feeding patterns, type of food and feeding relative to exercise have not proven out as causal factors. The only factor of substance is the depth of chest. In those breeds such as your Gordon setter, the depth of chest relative to the width of chest is an indicator of dogs more prone to gastric torsion.

The good news with regard to gastric torsion is that in the past few years, veterinary surgeons have developed two or three surgeries that are effective in preventing gastric torsion. These surgeries have some variations but basically they are designed to restrict the ability of the stomach to twist by tacking it down to the chest wall in the anterior abdomen.

I have a few clients that have had their dog's stomach tacked as a preventive measure because there was a history of bloat in their bloodlines and in dogs as a post-operative procedure in animals that have undergone bloat surgery.

(Question) I have a two-year-old wirehaired griffon who is having seizures. I got him when he was six months old, and since then he has had four seizures. The last was yesterday and it was a minor one.

The one before that was about three weeks ago and it was a big one. I did not witness it but it took him three days to get back to normal. He has them at night and froths and pees himself. (We crate him in a heated garage in the winter.) The other two seizures were small and he recovered the same day.

I haven't changed his die

t or activities. I have a book written by Sid Gustafson, A First Aid Book for Active Dogs, and the possible things he listed for causes do not apply to my dog's situation. I checked with the breeder and she hasn't experienced this with any of her other dogs.

My vet says there are some meds for this but the side effects don't sound good. What could be causing these seizures and is there something we can do to prevent them? What effect could the seizures have on his health, longevity and hunting abilities? --JRR

(Answer) The most common cause of seizures is idiopathic, i.e., unknown. This condition is also referred to as epilepsy. This syndrome usually appears in middle-aged dogs, but can appear at any age. The other causes of seizures that I worry about in young dogs are the residual effects of a head trauma, after-effects of a distemper viral infection and portosystemic shunts.

Seizures (epilepsy) can be hereditary. In most dogs the cause is never well documented and dogs are treated to effect. The most common drugs for treatment are two old drugs that are fairly successful in controlling seizures. The drugs are phenobarbital and potassium bromide, used separately or in combination with each other.

These drugs are given on a daily basis for the rest of the dog's life. This type of long-term medication makes it important to monitor the dog's system with periodic blood profiles to catch any pathologic changes to the various organ systems of the body.

(Comment) To those of you who have been touched by the recent toxic pet food crisis, my immediate wish is for a quick resolution of the problem. I hope to have my thoughts organized by the next issue and have more history gathered so that I might at least give a historic perspective of what has happened.

I realize that a number of websites have information about the pet food recalls and early thoughts on its cause and here is another you might try:, the American Veterinary Medical Association's web page.

Contact Tom Holcomb, DMV, at

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