As many people know we spend most weekends travelling the length and breadth of the country with our pop up shop, Tuffdogs Stuff. However, last weekend, whilst we were at a show at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, things didn’t quite go to plan. Unfortunately, Luca, my step brother was taken seriously ill and it was only through the quick actions of the show organisers, the police, the vets, Mum and Dad and of course, my good self that Luca lived to tell the tale!
The weekend started as normal – we had set up our pop up shop and the various displays had started in the show ring. However, at this point things started to go badly wrong for Luca. He mentioned that he wasn’t feeling very well and then tried to be sick, but nothing came up. He said that his tummy hurt and started whimpering. Mum was by his side in an instant as both of us had an inkling as to what it could be. Mum quickly rushed over to Dad who was taking photos by the main ring. Dad speedily returned and confirmed that Luca’s stomach was swollen and it looked like bloat.
Oh no, this was not good news. Now even I know that bloat is a very serious issue with Luca. Spinones are prone to it, probably because of their deep chest and also the size of their stomachs – Luca’s is hoomungus compared to mine! It’s basically where the stomach fills with too much gas, making the stomach balloon. If the additional gas can’t be passed properly the stomach can then twist. If it twists, the situation rapidly changes from serious to catastrophic because the twist can obliterate the gastric blood supply which makes the dog’s stomach wall fail, which in turn can lead to perforation and fatal peritonitis. If bloat occurs, help is possible but time is always of the essence, so we needed to get Luca to a vet as quickly as possible, ideally between 30 to 45 minutes.
However, this was easier said than done. We were at a show, in the middle of a field and vehicle movement was restricted while the show was on. Plus this was not a local show to us so we didn’t know the area and didn’t know where the nearest vets was. Dad rushed over to the organisers to explain the situation and asked for permission to get the car out. The show organisers sprung into action as the Rural Crimes Unit from Stowmarket Police were also at the show. Luckily one of the owl sanctuary employees knew one of the policemen and he, along with Dad and Luca rushed off to see him.
The next thing that Mum and I knew was Steve (the owl sanctuary employee) came back to say that Dad and Luca were in the police car, blues and twos all the way to the Stowe veterinary clinic – they would be there as soon as possible. Mum’s mouth was wide open at this point but she managed to stutter, ‘Just run that past me again please?’ Steve repeated it, ‘Blues and twos all the way, they will be there as quickly as possible. My college, Maz, has also rung the vets to explain the situation and they are on standby for him’.
‘Oh my goodness,’ Mum said. ‘That is so kind of them. I can’t believe that they are doing that. Dad and Luca are in the police car with flashing lights, all the way. Isn’t that great, Cocoa?’
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Luca has all the fun. I had always wanted a ride in a police car. It looks so much fun speeding along with everybody getting out of your way,’ I said longingly.
‘Cocoa, I don’t think Luca will be enjoying himself and looking at the scenery, he really is not well. This is very serious.’ Mum had a steely tone to her voice and ,yes, for a moment I had forgotten why Luca was in a police car being rushed to the nearest vets. I put my serious face back on. ‘Will he be OK Mum?’ I don’t know Cocoa. With bloat, time is of the essence. I don’t think we could have reacted and got him to the vets any quicker than we have. The owl sanctuary and the police have been brilliant. We will just have to wait for Dad to call with news, in the meantime, we carry on as normal’.
That is precisely what we did for the next hour, smiling and giving advice and I was kept very busy demonstrating how our snuffles balls work. But I was worried and I could see behind Mum’s smile, she was too. Finally Dad rang with an update. ‘It’s not good news, Luca didn’t pass the gas naturally and the bloat went into torsion resulting in his stomach twisting around his spleen. They need to operate quickly and they have just taken him down. Unfortunately the vet’s parting words, as Luca was rushed off were. ‘it’s a 50/50 chance’.
Mum gulped and as I am very intelligent, I understand percentages and knew this was not good news. Dad said he would wait while they operated and would ring when they had further news. So again, Mum and I continued to wait. A couple of hours later, we had further news. Surgery had gone well and he was now recovering. They had deflated his stomach and as far as they could tell it hadn’t done any permanent damage to his spleen. They had also done a gastropexy (stapling the stomach lining to the wall) to stop it going into torsion again. They would keep him in overnight and if he was well enough, they would release him the following day.
The next day dawned and it was very strange without Luca; his clumsy feet and his rather large body with his glum face was sorely missed by everybody. But by mid afternoon the good news came – he was well enough to come home and an hour later Mum and I saw him return with Dad. He looked a bit sorry for himself and I could see a bandage on his arm.
Mum rushed over to give him a big hug and I promptly followed.
‘All right Luca, feeling better?’ I asked. ‘Not really Cocoa, no, if your tummy had been cut, stapled and then stitched with 13 stitches, I don’t think you would be too good either,’ was his reply. ‘Yes, but you did get to ride in a police car, was it really exciting?’ ‘To be honest Cocoa, I wasn’t really taking much in on the journey there, I was too poorly – I nearly died don’t you know?’ Luca’s usual hound dog expression was even more pronounced than normal as he replied to me. ‘Mum said it was 50/50 so the percentages could have been worse and you did come through it OK,’ I stated, thinking it was best to look on the positive side of things.
At this point, Luca, not being the brightest button in the box and not understanding percentages decided to go down the visual route instead. ‘Look at this,’ as he rolled on his side and pointed with his paw to his tummy.
There were indeed 13 stitches and a very long cut which looked very red and angry. It did look sore. ‘I can’t eat very well because when I do, my tummy really hurts too,’ he glumly said, at which point I knew he wasn’t feeling his best. If Luca is not eating then things are not good. ‘To be honest all I really want to do is get in my crate, lie down and have a bit of snooze’. Mum readily agreed to this but also added, ‘When you are feeling up to it, you need to thank all the kind people that helped you yesterday. They went beyond the call of duty and everybody has been seriously worried about you. You will probably need to have your photo taken with them’.
‘Do you want me in the photo too Mum,’ I asked? No, Cocoa not today, it’s just Luca, because he nearly died and everybody helped him’. ‘Yes Cocoa, that makes a change, it’s just me in the photo today, because I nearly died!’ Luca had clearly perked up with this exchange.
‘Oh blimey, I have a funny feeling I am not going to hear the end of this for some time to come. The next thing you will be wanting is the whole sofa and me waiting on you hand and paw’. ‘Well, I did nearly died Cocoa, I think that’s the least I deserve, don’t you?’ And with those words, Luca curled his long legs and paws up and promptly fell asleep and started to snore gently. I sighed, it certainly looked like normal service had been resumed. However, I was immensely pleased and also grateful to everyone who helped because through everybody’s quick actions, from Mum and Dad spotting the signs so quickly, to Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, the Rural Crimes Unit of Stowmarket Police and of course Stowe Veterinary Group they saved Luca’s life and he might be a bit of dufas, but he is my dufas and I wouldn’t really know what to do without him!
Cocoa’s tips to spot bloat:-
Swollen, hard tummy
Reaching but not able to vomit
Pain in the abdomen when touched
Other signs of distress such as panting and restlessness