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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Calamity Zane's big emergency

Zane Grey, the Weimaraner gazing at you just left of this post and the public face of WineCanine, is a real dog. I found him on the Web when he was a sad-looking rescue dog named Milo in Alabama. I'd wanted a Weim since I was six years old, so I kept tabs on his whereabouts and a month after my wonderful old Labrador, Pantone Black, died of cancer, I drove down to Huntsville to get him from what was then called Weimaraner Rescue of the Tennessee Valley.

That was five years ago. Since that time, he and I have pretty much joined at the hip. Whenever I'm sitting on the couch typing on my laptop, he's curled up by my side like a furry gray bolster. Sometimes he puts his head in my lap and I move the computer to the arm of the couch — it's a little more difficult to type, but it makes it easier for him to monitor what I'm writing about.

Historically, Weimaraners were bred in the early 19th Century for the royalty of the Weimar Republic of Germany. They were considered a cut above other dogs, and were allowed to live with humans, rather than outside in kennels. This may explain how closely Weims bond with their people, and how communicative they are. They're smart, devoted, personable and amusing characters with a good sense of humor. They're good hunters, they're energetic, and they love to eat.

Unfortunately, they're quite susceptible to bloat, an often fatal condition that results when the dog's stomach twists and traps food, water and gas. The twisting also cuts off blood supply, and internal organs are damaged, blood pressure drops and shock sets in; dogs so affected can die quickly.

Prevalent among high-chested dogs, bloat is second only to cancer as a killer of canine companions. And Weimaraners are the number three breed at risk from bloat (Great Danes and St. Bernards rank first and second).

Last week we had a scare with bloat. Zane found a can of old vegetable oil in the garage — intended as fuel for our Mercedes diesel — and consumed close to a gallon of it. His abdomen became distended, so we ran him up to Dr. Richard Kohlmann at the Westfield Animal Clinic, and his team brought the swelling down by passing a tube into his stomach to release the gas. After this was done three times, we took him home and spent an uncomfortable night monitoring his condition. Zane made it through that night, and after a few days of rest and a diet of white rice and cottage cheese he was back to normal.

What we didn't realize was it was a different normal than before. A 1993 study found that 76 percent of dogs who had an episode of bloat without undergoing corrective surgery had a recurrence of gastric dilatation and volvulus eventually. Zane is now in that majority, because late last night he came in after being outside for a while with the same symptoms he had exhibited a week before, perhaps as a result of eating something he found outdoors or maybe just because he became predisposed to the ailment after the first episode.

We rushed him to the Circle City Veterinary Emergency Hospital at about 96th and Michigan Road, and they took radiographs that seemed to indicate that his stomach had twisted. A tube could be inserted all the way into his stomach though, so we left Zane at the clinic for observation and went home.

An hour or so later the emergency vet, Dr. Jennifer Finnegan, called with troubling news: Zane was having arrhythmia, and surgery was advisable. After working through a little bout of denial, we told her to go ahead.

Several sleepless hours later, she called with her report: His stomach had indeed twisted, apparently after we left, since a tube could no longer be passed into it. She had gotten his stomach turned back around and had tacked it to the muscles on his abdominal wall so that it couldn't twist again; his gall bladder and other internal organs looked good, and he was resting. After speaking with Dr. Finnegan, I finally relaxed enough to get a few hours of sleep.

He's not quite out of the woods yet — according to that 1993 study, 71.5 percent of dogs who were surgically treated for gastric dilatation and volvulus survived and went home. From the phone reports I've been getting, he's doing pretty well, and may even get to come home tomorrow night. I sure hope so — the couch just doesn't feel right without that gray, furry bolster at my right hip!

As you might imagine, emergency surgery isn't inexpensive — last night's little adventure will run us close to $5,000 regardless of whether Zane ends up being among the fortunate 71.5 percent who survive. That's more than I've paid for any one car in the past couple of decades, but to us, saving our friend's life is worth it. I'm going to be ramping up my eBay sales dramatically, and I'm not above accepting contributions. If you've enjoyed any of the recipes, reviews or other things you've found here, please consider zapping a donation to via PayPal. Thanks!
Anonymous, 10:20 AM