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I am grieving over the death of my 2 1/2 year old GSD, Django. He passed away Sunday, July 22nd, 2007.
Apparently his intestines became twisted and it killed him. The night before he was fine, playing, running, & catching his frisbee.
I let him out into the back yard Sunday morning. About an hour later I checked on him and found him under my deck. After coaxing him out I realized he was in pain. I though he may have got stung or possibly had a spinal injury from crawling under the deck.
After about an hour I called his vet and took him in. His heart rate was low, blood pressure was low, & gums were pale and gray. The vet took some blood tests. They were negative. He then took x-rays and discovered what he thought was bloat or a twisted stomach (although Django was not bloated).
He told us we probably caught it in time and he would have to do surgery. I agreed. About 30 minutes later he called and stated it was worse than he thought. He told me the intestines had became twisted inside and they were pretty much dead. The gas and bacteria were killing them. He advised that the process was so advanced I needed to put my best little buddy to sleep.
One day he was fine, the next he was dead. Maybe you can share some insight on twisted intestines. How does this happen? Are the dogs born this way? Can running and jumping cause this(throwing a frisbee)? Could he have twisted them trying to crawl out from under my deck? How long would it actually take from the time the intestines become twisted to the point of realizing something was seriously wrong? Did it happen Sunday, or could he slowly been dying over a period of days?
My vet stated he had never encountered this problem in a dog. A few horses(he compared it to colic), but no dogs.
At 2 1/2 Django was small for his age, about 60lbs. He had always been skinny. My vet also wondered if his weight and the twisted intestines were related in some kind of genetic disorder possibly?
I just really need some help understanding why this happened to the best dog I have ever known. Any insights you can share would be greatly appreciated.
By the way, for other GSD owners-these are the symptoms I noticed, if it happens to your dog maybe this will help you diagnose the problem quicker than we did:
Thanks again for any insight you can share with me.
- moping, head down, very tired
- laying down, but cant get comfortable-moving spot to spot
- when i would get near him to comfort him he would move to another spot
- wincing, whining
- pale, gray gums
- possibly went under the deck because he was already in pain, hiding from us when he was hurting
- bowels & stomach making digestive or growling noises
- was not bloated, but sensitive to touch in abdominal area
I am so sorry for your loss. I will put this on my web site. In 45 years of owning GSD's I have never had a dog with this - knock on wood. I do believe that there is a genetic factor to this. Keep that in mind when you get your next dog.
The problem with loving dogs is they don't live long enough.
Dr. Mr. Frawley,
On August 1, 2007, my dearest GSD Luke died on the operating table of twisted intestines. My vet , along with a consult had never seen anything like it in their life. All of the intestine was dead.
The symptoms that Matt described were fairly similar. As well my boy was 3 yrs and was also very thin despite a very high calorie diet. Is this genetic? My vet says torsion stomach yes, but has never heard of intestinal twist being hereditary. I guess we shall see as I have my boy's young son left. My heart goes out to anyone that has to endure this. It is an ugly and painful way to go.
Prince George, BC, Canada
Maybe this information will help save a dog's life someday. The two people who wrote to you because they lost their beloved dogs to "twisted intestines" are talking about mesenteric torsion. This happens when the intestines twist around in a way that cuts off their blood supply, and the intestines begin to die. It happens in horses as well as dogs.
German Shepherds are at higher risk for mesenteric torsion. I suspect that "flat" German Shepherds, those with a narrow chest and narrow body, are at greatest risk.
Mesenteric torsion is often diagnosed too late, and the diagnosis requires surgery to be sure that this is the problem. If the intestines are too far gone, the only choices are to euthanize the dog on the operating table or let him suffer a horrible death. If the problem is caught soon enough, the intestines can be untwisted, and part of the intestines can be removed if necessary.
The problem is that the symptoms are often vague and not much different from stomach flu or digestive upset from eating trash. By the time it's obvious that something is seriously wrong, much additional time is usually wasted while the vet tries to figure it out.
When in doubt, cut! Insist that the vet do an exploratory surgery to find out what's wrong.
If your dog is acting ill, and you have the uneasy feeling that this is something awful, get him to the vet immediately.
I lost my beloved 3-year-old German Shepherd Sterling to mesenteric torsion. He was a very badly treated rescue dog whose only happiness began when I took him home. He had two wonderful months with me. One morning, he began acting slightly ill with some vomiting, and I soon became uneasy and took him to the vet ER. They found nothing, and kept him overnight. The next morning, he was acutely ill, and the internal medicine specialist found that he had developed peritonitis, but didn't know why. At this point, unbelievably foul diarrhea was flowing uncontrollably out of him. I insisted that an emergency exploratory surgery be done, and a surgeon did so. But by then it was too late. Most of the intestines had died, and we had to euthanize him on the OR table. I wish I had insisted the day I took him in that the vet operate. We might have saved him.
The day before his intestines twisted, he had rolled happily in the grass several times, and this may have caused the twisting, along with whatever anatomical abnormality predisposed him to twist. Perhaps German Shepherd owners should not allow their dogs to roll. Other than that, there isn't anything we know of that can be done to prevent mesenteric torsion. Because my German Shepherd had a narrow chest and body, I'd had a gastropexy done on him to prevent his stomach from torsion if he ever bloated. But it didn't prevent him from developing mesenteric torsion.
Mesenteric torsion is just hell, even worse than bloat.
A couple of days ago my German shepherd of 7 1/2 years died of bloat. Needless to say my other dog who was purchased from you is devastated. My question is how can I prevent this from happening again?
This is such a tragic situation. I truly feel sorry for people who lose dogs to bloat. One minute they have a normal dog and the next minute it's gone.
I am not sure that there is a way to totally eliminate bloat. I have been lucky - in all the years in dogs it has never happened to me. I am not sure there is a way to stop it for sure. Here is what I have heard - and I am not sure it's not just an old wives tail:
PS: If anyone has other suggestions, send them to me and I will add them to this section.)
- Feed the dogs 2 times a day.
- Feed the food wet - but let it soak for awhile.
- Don't do a lot of hard exercise right after feeding.
Another Suggestion is to take water from the dog for a couple hours after feeding. This works wonders. Also, during a spay, you can ask the vet to do a preventive stomach stapling.
We are grieving the sudden loss of our very first German Shepherd. He was a beautiful happy 2 year old dog, playing and running, and suddenly gone in less than 24 hours. The first sign we had was that he vomited. But I did not know about bloat or torsion, and have seen many dogs, in my life time have a stomach upset, and be under the weather. We watch them, take water/food away, & as they get better, small drinks, feed them yogurt, or small bits of chicken. Or take them to the vet if not improving, to be treated for some ordinary thing. My Shepherd did not bloat up, and is more of the skinny flat type of Shepherd. He did not demonstrate a lot of obvious symptoms such as rolling in pain to give us an indication we had a life threatening situation on our hands. I replay how could I have known, or what could I have done different to change the outcome and save our dog, but the vet said there was nothing he or we could have done to save him. Our usual protocol had always been feeding two moistened meals a day. He was such a happy dog, and we miss him terribly.
I have been reading up on Torsion and Bloat. I had a 2 1/2 yr old male shepherd who passed away suddenly on 1/27/2008. He got up Friday at 4am and was vomiting, he couldn't get comfortable. I called the vet and he looked at him and did an x-ray, to discover Kaiser had intestinal torsion.
He did an emergency surgery, I brought him home the next day, he seemed to be a little better figured he was going to be fine. He still wouldn't eat though. That night around 3am he was vomiting again, and had trouble going to the bathroom. I called the vet again and he told me to rush him to the emergency animal clinic, 10 mins before I got there he passed away. I miss him terribly, I feel like the pain will never go away. He was like a child to me and so young to die. I hope this can help others with a disease that has no symptoms really until it's too late to save them.
I had just brought my German Shepherd into the vet because he had ‘keeled over’ and was starting to bleed anally.
A half hour before he was fine.
The vet took x-rays and told me that he suspected it was torsion.
He sent us home and told us he would call us. Well, while looking on the internet your website came up with the email from Matt of Kokomo, IN.
I read all the emails and just as I finished my vet called and told me that Payton was too far gone. He had to be put down. My dog was only 2 years old and my husband’s best friend. He also told me that GSD’s were very susceptible to this disease.
I just wanted to let you know since I first found out the information on your website.
I am sorry for your loss.
Here is a web page that I did when I lost my old dog. http://leerburg.com/bridge.htm There are a lot of posts there from others.
I have bred almost 400 litter’s of German Shepherds. I have never had a case of torsion nor do I know of one of the puppies I have bred. I believe that there may be bloodlines of dogs that are susceptible to torsion. I don’t believe your vet has enough experience to make a comment like he did.
My German Shepherd started to bloat at 13 months, thankfully his stomach went back but he still ended up staying at the vets office overnight because he was still high risk. We participate in Schutzhund and is very active so we always follow the rule of no food for 2 hours before and 2 hours after any exercise even if it’s a walk around the neighborhood. After talking to the vet he gave me a great tip, buy a muffin/cupcake pan (you can now buy them so they have 12 cups together instead of 6 ) and separate their food in the cups that way they have to eat slower. Our dog was never a fast eater but this tip has helped him to stop burping after he eats. I do believe there is a genetic connection, our breeder has had GSD’s for 20 years and has never had this but this spring our dogs mother bloated (thankfully lived). She is a large female with a broad chest so that is something to keep a look out for. I hope that this tip not only helps people prevent bloat but also help some dogs slow down and enjoy their meals.
I have been reading some of the sad stories from your readers about losing some of their beloved pets to Torsion or Bloat. My GSD Bruno also had a case of Bloat but luckily because of early detection and a great old time vet, he is still with us.
Bruno would gulp his food, take a big drink of water and go into the back yard to play with the Border Collie. On this day in late April 2008, my wife said she thought he was going to throw up. She sent him outside to do it. I decided to try the Heimlich on him in case there was food lodged in his throat. When I touched his stomach it was as hard as a rock. My wife and my daughter took him to the vet at once (which was 5 miles away) and I called him on the cell phone. He called me back and said it was Bloat. Did I want to try to save him or did I want to put him down? He said that the odds were at best 50%. The cost for the operation was high but he was worth it.
The total time from when he ate his food to the start of the operation was exactly 1 hour. He opened him up and found that the stomach had rotated 260 degrees. The spleen was beginning to discolor due to lack of blood. He opened the stomach and removed all of the food. After sewing it closed, he stapled it to the inside wall to prevent any reoccurrence. The dog was not allowed to eat or drink anything for the next 3 days. Once he started to drink water, food was added in small amounts until he was back to normal. He now eats 3 small meals a day and his food is wet and softened.
I cannot say enough about our great vet who did such a great job in saving the big guy. I would advise all large dog owners to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Bloat. It is a matter of life or death. My vet told me that they can die an agonizing death in as little as 3 hours. I hope that this will be of assistance to others. If this will help to save one dog its worth it.
I noticed you had an area where you posted information from people who have experienced mesenteric torsion or another type of torsion called gastric torsion (bloat).
On September 16, 2008, I got home and noticed that my 4 year old female GSD, Ami, was acting very lethargic. She is always a very hyper and happy dog. She always welcomes me when I get home and follows me everywhere. My husband was home with her all day and said that she did not run around like she normally does. She just sat to the side and watched our other dog play.
I tried sitting with her, but she would just moan like she was in pain. When I got up to call the vet she started coughing and threw up liquid foam. I did not wait and called my vet immediately. When I called my vet, he was not accepting emergency visits that night. (It was approximately 11:00 p.m.) I grabbed the phone book and called another which was actually closer to my house. That vet was very polite but insisted that I take her immediately to the 24 hour hospital which is an hour away. He said he could come in and see her, however, he does not have a 24 hour lab for any testing or the resources that the hospital has on hand 24 hours a day. He advised it is for her best interest to take her to the hospital.
We immediately left for the hospital. We arrived at the hospital around 12:30 a.m. They ran blood work on her and did an x-ray. The x-ray showed that her intestines was enlarged. The enlarged intestines are a sign of mesenteric torsion, however, does not mean that is what is wrong. The problem the vet had was that Ami did not have all of the classic signs of mesenteric torsion. She had vomiting instead of diarrhea, she would move around, even though she was still lethargic. She was not sensitive in her abdomen. The vet consulted their surgeon and he agreed that she did not have the classic signs. We were informed that mesenteric torsion is very fatal and usually happens rapidly once signs arise. Even with surgery the mortality rate is almost 100%. It is more popular in German Shepherds and is considered hereditary. There are no warnings or preventive measures for mesenteric torsion. (There are preventive measures for gastric torsion!)
We left the hospital at 6:00 a.m. because she was starting to improve with IV fluids and pain meds. She was scheduled to see a specialist for stomach problems at 8:00 a.m. When we got home we received a call that Ami went into bleeding diarrhea and collapsed, she passed away immediately following. It ended up that she did have the mesenteric torsion.
I know this loss has been very difficult to accept. She was such a great dog and is missed! Like many people, our dogs are our lives. I have tried to research this and have found the same information that the vet provided me. We were informed that mesenteric torsion is very fatal and usually happens rapidly once signs arise. Even with surgery the mortality rate is almost 100%. It is more popular in German Shepherds and is considered hereditary. There are no warnings or preventive measures for mesenteric torsion. The abdomen will be sensitive to touch.
Looking at the hereditary part, Ami was imported from Hungary as a puppy and came from championship bloodlines. This proves that you never know what other problems lie beneath the exterior.
Thank you for your time,
Dear Mr. Frawley,
This past weekend we lost our wonderful German Shepherd Zee to this horrible condition and I must tell you it has completely devastated us.
On Thursday April 16th we came home from work and went about our normal routine at home, we noticed that Zee was not himself he was a bit quiet and then later noticed he was constipated or appearing to have to go to the bathroom by squatting a lot. We kept an eye on him and thought that perhaps he was constipated (which has happened on occasion) and that is what was dragging him down, this was not alarming at the time because like I said it has happened a few times in his years only to pass and all was good. The next morning we left for work and looked in on him – he seemed to be fine and greeted us at the door so we thought perhaps he may have been able to relieve himself that night and was feeling better.
Upon arriving home from work on Friday April 17th Zee had taken a complete turn – he did greet us at the door however, he was drooling excessively and did not seem himself. My husband did not waste time he put him in the truck and straight to the vet 8 minutes away. The vet did blood work – all coming back negative and took x-rays of his chest and stomach (he did have a very high fever) after looking at his x-ray’s they were concerned about a possible problem with his small intestine and that it may have twisted. By this time Zee was panting and breathing very hard indicating he was in great pain so the vet gave him an injection for pain and instructed us to go to their pet hospital some 30 miles away where they would be waiting for us, they indicated he more than likely would require surgery.
My husband put him in the truck and raced to the pet hospital – Zee lay his head between the console resting it on my husbands arm (we had the back seat folded down so he could lay out comfortably) my husband was petting him and talking to him the whole way telling him everything would be ok... Unfortunately it wasn’t, Zee died moments before we reached the pet hospital.
I can’t tell you how horrifying this has been and how broken hearted we are to have lost such a wonderful dog. The pain is never ending with tears constantly flowing. I pray that others will visit your site and learn about this unforgiving condition so perhaps just one dog’s life may be spared. God Bless our Zee we will never ever forget him.
P.S. I am not 100% sure but I do believe Zee came from your kennels – I can’t say for certainty I need to look at his papers but I must tell you he was the most beautiful Black Shepherd we have ever seen and a total gem to boot. I stumbled upon your site purely by accident when I googled this condition – it comforted me to read the other stories relative to this illness because the whole time we were blaming ourselves wondering what we did wrong. It wasn’t until I started reading more and looking at your site that I realized the name of your kennels and it rang a bell. Keep this information flowing about this condition because in this situation knowledge is definitely power.
I was reading your Q&A section and noticed the question one person had about Bloat having lost one of their dogs to Bloat.
I have a 9 month old, rough-coated Collie whom I adopted from her Breeder when she was 4 years of age. Not too long after she was living with me, she became upset, restless coming to me as if terrified. This was just after I had exercised her and mistakenly encouraged her to drink too quickly after coming back inside. My dog and I were both blessed in that, although she bloated, she did not have any Torsion. My Vet Tubed her, gave her Mylanta via the tube, and she recovered. But from that time on she remained very susceptible to bloating.
I tried wetting her kibble but what helped the most was changing her diet to a raw, natural diet. Sometimes I use Honest Kitchen Force, other times I give her Aunt Jenney's which comes packaged frozen. The Veterinarian from the Collie Health Foundation also recommended that I give my dog a "Gas-X" tab with meals. After eating, my dog now routinely comes to me to have her sides patted at which time she usually burps!!! And they use the word "Dumb" when talking about animals!!!
For what it's worth, my dog is very sweet and sensitive and most definitely fits the personality profile that some say is common in dogs who suffer from bloat.
Needless to say, I have never again, fed or watered my dog immediately after exercising nor do I encourage her to drink. I find she knows far better than I when and if she needs to drink water.
Thank you and Ed for this great site and newsletter,
I noticed you have collected some data on dogs with mesenteric torsion. Because it is so rare to find a dog who has survived this I want to relate to you our experience.
Our German shepherd, Echo, was purchased from Royal T Kennels. He is 28-months-old. Three weeks ago he started acting unusual. Pacing, staring at the wall, hiding in his kennel, vomiting. I am very aware of the symptoms of bloat and this is what it seemed to me to be. Finally my intuition kicked in and I rushed him to the emergency vet. In an x-ray they discovered an inflated area of intestine and recommended exploratory surgery. About 30 minutes in they told us it was worse - mesenteric torsion - and that even with surgery his chances were less than 50%. They went ahead and continued operating and saved him.
Echo is now home. He is eating, happy, playful. They tacked up his stomach and intestine. He has always been thin with a finicky appetite. He does not have pancreatic insufficiency. His coat is beautiful and his stools normal.
I currently home cook for him and supplement with probiotics, coconut oil, various herbs and brewer's yeast. I have not heard or talked to anyone who has had a dog survive this. I'm told we caught it early enough. I am still afraid even though they did the tacking. He likes to roll in the grass; someone had suggested this was a factor, although I know it's all just speculation.
If you wish to post my information to help others be alert to the signs and know they a dog can survive it, please do.
I noticed you had a web page discussing bloat and torsion. I had two German Shepherds die of this. Luckily they were more on the older side, 10 and a half and 9 and a half years, but it still seems like they were cheated out of life.
Anyway I wanted to call your attention to a scientific study on the condition done at Purdue University. The biggest risk factor is the amount of food eaten in one sitting, but they also found that feeding canned food cuts the risk 30%, and feeding a diet of "human foods" (fresh meat etc.) cuts the risk by 60%. The risk of torsion can be eliminated with a prophylactic gastropexy.
I recently had another dog bloat and the vet said if a dog has a history of it they should have their feeding split up to 3-4 times per day.
You can read some of the information here:
NEW Purdue Bloat Study
Good points here.
We feed a raw all-natural diet. It’s what we recommend to people. In my opinion dogs that are fed like this don’t bloat or if they do the percentage is way way higher than 30 % - if I had to guess I would say it’s under 1%.
I also agree with feeding these dogs more than once a day. I have bred close to 400 litters of German Shepherds in the last 35 years. I am not retired from breeding. I never had a dog that I bred bloat. I also feel that bloat is a genetic condition.
I came upon your site yesterday after we lost our beloved 4 1/2 year old male shepherd, Yago Van Dan Alhedy's Hoeve. He was the most beautiful dog we've ever owned. Smart as a whip, sweet as could be, Schutzhund trained. We bought him from a kennel in Amsterdam, they flew him to us, and my son spent every Saturday for two years training him at a Shutzhund class. He was a bright star.
Yesterday morning, around 6am, he vomited his kibble from the night before. Then, a few hours later, blood was pouring from his mouth. When he first vomited, my son let him out into the yard because he was standing at the door. My son watched from a window and Yago laid on the ground for a bit and came back to the room within the hour. Shortly after, my son heard Yago making wretching noises, and noted blood trailing from the bathroom to the front door.
We immediately brought him to the vet, which fortunately for us, is only a few miles away and one of the best vet surgery hospitals in the County (Los Angeles). They did an X-ray, said something looked "very wrong" with his intestines. They were very inflamed so therefore recommended immediate exploratory surgery. Within 20 minutes the doctor came into the room with a terrible look on her face. She said it was mesenteric torsion and there was nothing that could be done. He had to be euthanized. Of course, I know you have heard so many of these stories.
The thing is, Yago changed my son's life, and mine. But more so, that of my son. He taught my son responsibility and patience. My son's life revolved around Yago. Tonight we were at dinner and my son said, "we have to get home," because he never liked to leave Yago alone for too long, but of course, we didn't really need to get home.
We had a Great Dane before Yago so were familiar with bloat. Yago's food dishes were raised, we made sure to not let him run around too much after eating or drink too much water at one time. But mesenteric torsion seems to be different, correct? Was there anything that we could have done that caused it?
Last Email: we want another shepherd. While we know that there will never be another Yago, we are now shepherd lovers. Do you think that it might be a problem with too much in-breeding? The kennel from which we bought Yago has a very good reputation but I wonder...have they over bred? I don't even know if that's the correct terminology or if mesenteric torsion has anything to do with breeding.
We are absolutely heartbroken. Definitely lost a member of our family. One that brought us so much joy and life into the house.
I'm hoping my story can help save another dog's life... when my GSD Misty was 8 years old, she bloated and had torsion. The symptoms were quick, very restless, and she kept trying to vomit but nothing would come out. There was no bloated appearance right away. She also laid down and spread all her legs and seemed to try to bury her abdomen face down in the dirt. I stood her next to my other GSD and compared their bellies and knew then that she had bloated. Rushed her to the ER and thankfully got her there in time. They did emergency surgery and tacked down her stomach to prevent the torsion again. She died 2 years later from hemangiosarcoma from what the breeder thinks came from the anesthetic for the bloat surgery.
A few years later, my then 2 year old male GSD Kody also bloated and had torsion. I thought it couldn't happen to a young dog so I figured he just had indigestion. He had the same symptoms, restlessness, and unproductive vomiting. It wasn't until I called the ER vet that they said "get him down here now, it doesn't matter how old the dog is." So, I did and thankfully he survived, his stomach was also tacked down to prevent future torsion. I soak his kibble in water, feed him at an elevated table and don't ever let him drink water for at least 1 hour after meals and no running or playing for 1 hour after meals. My advice to GSD owners is to watch for the unproductive vomiting, that was the key symptom in both of my dogs cases of bloat/torsion. Although I realize many cases are different, I hope these stories can help save a dog's life.
San Jose, California