We Almost Lost Pogo

A few weeks ago Pogo almost died. It was a harrowing experience for Ellen and me, and of course for Pogo too. Now that he's clearly going to be OK, I want to tell the story. It's a story of our encounter with Gastric Dilation - Volvulus (GDV), the number two killer of dogs after cancer. It's more commonly known as Bloat, or Twisted Stomach.

Any barrel-chested dog can get this, so we've been careful all of Pogo's life to avoid all the things that can cause it. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago it happened anyway.

We were playing ball with Pogo in the backyard as we have hundreds of times for the ten years of his life. But on this day he took a bad fall. He twisted to catch an unexpected throw, tripped at high speed and tumbled head-over-heels. An hour later I saw him lying by himself on the lawn, away from everyone else - something he has never done. I went and sat with him, but he got up and moved away from me. The warning signals started going off in my head. I watched him some more and saw him trying to throw up. But for the first time in his life, nothing was coming out.

I got him into my car and rushed him to our vet without an appointment. They saw him immediately when they saw our distress. The vet said she had to take an x-ray right away and took Pogo in a back room. A few minutes later she came out and told me that I had to get him to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital immediately. 

I didn't get to see this picture until the following week. The big dark circle on the left, filling his rib-cage, is not his lungs as I presumed. My son-in-law explained to me that this was his stomach swollen grotesquely with air. Swollen so much that his lungs were crushed above it.

His stomach had twisted in the fall and now the openings to it were all closed off.

The vet said, don't stop to pay us now, just go! I got my dog, who was faltering very quickly now into the car again and we headed for the hospital - a half hour away in the best of conditions. But this was rush hour. As we crawled in the heavy traffic, Pogo started to shake violently. I started driving pretty aggressively. Then he started having trouble breathing. I started running red lights, thinking what I would say to the police officer who would pull me over.

We made it to the hospital unscathed and Pogo stumbled out of the car with me and into the hospital entrance where, God bless them, they were waiting for us! They rushed him away. A few minutes later a doctor came out to tell me that he had been stabilized and sedated and would probably be OK. They let me see him before they took him into the OR.

Here he is sprawled out with an IV in his right front leg, still panting for breath. His eyes are distant and he didn't seem to recognize me. I kissed him anyway.

I went home and it was several hours before they called us. He was out of Gastropexy surgery. They had opened his chest, rotated his stomach back into place, and sewed it there so this couldn't happen again. And he lost his spleen. But the wonderful team at the hospital, led by his surgeon, Dr. Ariel Kravitz, saved my boy's life!

Unbelievably, I picked him up the next day and brought him home. He had to wear a cone for a few weeks so that he couldn't lick the long surgical scar, and infect it.

They had to shave his other front leg too for more IVs, and of course they shaved his chest.

He was pretty lethargic for the first few days and we gave him a lot of pain killers because he was obviously hurting. After four days he began to perk up and we stopped those.

Pretty soon he got used to the dreaded cone and started spending time outdoors again.

We had to add a shirt because as the scar healed he was trying so hard to get to it that the cone itself started abrading the scar. After about two weeks we were able to take off the cone and just leave the shirt on him. And, of course, he now sleeps in our bed all night, which makes him very happy. I think he is actually smiling here:

A little mountain air was all that was needed for the final phase of his recovery. Here he is relaxing near Wolf Lake at our friends the Kallin's new mountain resort and dog spa!