Turbo, an intact 4 year old male, had been back in my house for two weeks. He was very familiar with visiting here, although he lived in a pet home. I had a bitch trying to come in season, and Turbo always could bring the girls in. He was eating well, playing, and showing no signs of stress.
On Sunday evening, Turbo began throwing up. It looked like water and white foam, but was slimy. I thought he had caught a little virus that the puppy had brought home from camping with a friend. At first, I never even though of bloat, until a friend suggested it.
I realized Turbo was tanking up between bouts of throwing up, so I picked up all the water in the house. About every 30 minutes, I let him have a half cup or so, and he kept it down. His belly wasn't swollen, but it was tight. I though it was the water he drank earlier. His gums were bright pink, and he didn't want to lay down. He wasn't restless, though. I needled him with a small gauge needle, and got some water, no air.
I gave Turbo several gas-x (simethicone), and walked him around the yard. He came in, burped a lot, and promptly laid down and went to sleep, looking very comfortable. A couple of hours later I gave him more gas-x. He still looked fine, but his belly was still tight. I stayed up with him, worrying. I should say, I don't like most vets at emergency clinics. I have run into some really bad ones in the middle of the night.
Two hours after that, at about 2 am, Turbo crashed. He was clearly uncomfortable standing, didn't want to walk, and his gums were pale. He was trying to vomit, and couldn't. He didn't drool, he hadn't swelled up, he made no sound, he never looked at or chewed his belly- all signs I thought would come with bloat. But he was clearly in trouble. It's 45 - 50 minutes to the emergency clinic. When I got there, Turbo was stuporous. The vet got him in for an x-ray, and started fluids for shock, and Valium. The x-ray showed torsion, but the vet had no problem tubing him, and up came fluid black with necrotic material. The x-ray showed a mass above the stomach, possibly an engorged spleen. More x-rays showed how tangled up his intestines were. The blood they drew for testing was almost black. The vet was telling me that Turbo was a very bad candidate for surgery, talking about toxins in his blood, the necrotic stomach, and DIC (a clotting disorder known as "death is certain"), when the vet tech came in to say Turbo was seizing badly. Drugs stopped his seizures. At that point, I decided to let him go. The vet (who seemed competent) felt there was no chance that he would survive surgery. He was euthanised with me standing next to him, but he didn't know I was there. His costs were $450 for the treatment he did receive. If he had been a candidate for surgery, his costs before he came home would have been about $2000 - $2500. I would gladly have paid it, to return him to his family.
The vet told me that most dogs are effectively dead within 30 minutes of torsioning. Even if they are still walking around, they often can't be saved. Living 45 minutes away, Turbo stood little chance. But, he might have been saved if I hadn't delayed after he threw up.
What did I miss?
He never threw up food, and the slimy froth he did throw up is typical of bloat. Gums can be an unusually bright pink in the early stages. His refusal to lay down was significant.
Some myth breakers:
You can tube a dog that has torsioned most of the time. A dog can burp and be torsioning. Not all dogs swell, or drool.
Almost everyone I talked to said Turbo should not have been able to keep down water if he was bloating. But he did, several times.
One thing I found out later - the bitch coming in season? She ovulated 4 days after Turbo bloated. He would have known she was finally progressing, and maybe that was his trigger to bloat. He had been around bitches in season, had been bred, but it had been a while.