Sick as a Dog or Lying like a Rug?

Last night was a long time coming.  I knew it was likely that something like that would happen at some point, though I’ll admit I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.  Gwynn is, after all, my first dog.  His existence is like fertilizer for my paranoia, and many things he does/has done/will do give me a sense of dread.

I feel like now’s the time to mention that everything’s ok?  It is.  Honest.

We enjoyed a nice pitch-black walk, a cheerful romp in the park with a playful Newfie puppy (8 months old and already more than double Gwynn’s weight), and all was good.  I was appreciative that my sister Peanut and my practically-sister (who spends about equal time at our house and her own house, and has since she and Doodle were in kindergarten) had come on the walk with me.  Conversation is great for helping to ignore the cold in the air.  Extra people are great to have along if I want to go into the dark, Dark Park and make my way through the ominous shadows, across the graffiti-ed bridge, past the parking-lots full of sketchy people in cars, and to the dog park.

Once all our extremities were nearly solidified with cold, we went home.  Gwynn was eventually fed with his Kong Wobbler, though not right after getting into the house.

There was nothing I could find to figure out his bizarre behaviour.  He was licking his nose repeatedly and compulsively like a frog on crack, just sticking his tongue in and out the front of his mouth in rapid succession like he was trying to taste the air.

He got me to let him out time and again, only to rush anxiously around the yard, scarfing grass like reaching maximum grass-pacity would save him from the monsters.  I’d bring him in (which required chasing him down, because he was so nervous he was fighting to avoid me – racing around the yard pausing to jam as much grass into his mouth as possible before hurrying away from me), and he’d be ready to go out again within minutes.

Licking his nose repeatedly and then making the face and neck motion of a choking/gagging/wanting to vomit dog, but without any noise.


this is what most freaked me out. it's like the ninja of dog-deaths... hard to predict, hard to survive, needs fast action to stay alive

So, after establishing that my vet (despite their website claiming they’re open till 9) was not answering my 8:30 pm phone call, I found an emergency vet to call.  And, yup, the strange behaviour of my 50 lb deep-chested dog was enough for the vet to suggest that I come in, just to be on the safe side.


He had slowed slightly with the lick-lick-lick gag-face, but it was still happening, and he was still behaving extremely out of the usual.

I made the decision that, whatever it was that was wrong with him, it would be better to see the vet and be capable of sleeping at all that night.

We drove, pausing at my vet on the way, to establish that, yup, it isn’t 9pm yet, and yup, all the doors are locked.  I AM NOT IMPRESSED.

We finally pulled up at the 24 hour vet, I opened the trunk to let Gwynn out, and there he was, not a lick-lick-gag in sight, wagging his tail excitedly.

Where are we going, Boss?  Somewhere fun?  Is there cheese? OH MY DOG, IT’S A VET, I LOVE VETS!!!

He just about dragged me into the veterinary office, despite the fact that we’ve never been there before.  He showed ZERO sign of issue.  He might even have seemed healthier than before he’d started showing bizarre crack-frog behaviour.

I am feeling a bit embarrassed at this point, me with my polka-dot shoes and argyle socks, with my light-and-inadequate-for-the-weather-sweater and hat-hair, with my big purple binder of all-things-dog, juggling the binder, the purse and a peppy and completely healthy seeming puppy.

The vet was great – handled my pet-paranoia like a pro (which, I guess, he is), and gave me some tips on dog bloat issues, and some signs and symptoms I could notice.  He also gave me some of his thoughts on what the lick-lick-lick-gag-face thing might mean, and did a thorough physical check, just to make sure.

He heard unusual noises in his upper intestines.  He thinks it’s likely a bit of gas, and that’s probably why he was making the retching faces.

Since I was already there, and since it’s something I always forget to ask at my own vet, I got him to check Gwynn’s fat and/or skinniness.  He’s become extra fluffy lately, and it’s always nice to get confirmation that I’m neither starving nor stuffing him.  Apparently he’s at a very good size, nothing to worry about.  Bonus.

So… $115 for an emergency vet visit to get confirmation that my dog has gas, seems quite healthy overall, and is at his ideal weight.  At least it confirmed that he isn’t dying.

He threw up in his crate last night… a big wad of grass that kind of reminded me of one of those owl-hairballs… less the mouse bones and fur.  However, I’m betting that the cause of that throwing up?  Reaching Maximum Grass-pacity.

Extra bonus points to the 24 hour vet for doing a follow-up phone call this morning, I really appreciated it.

Do you know where your nearest 24 hour vet is?  I’ve got mine – their magnet is on my fridge.

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  1. I know where the nearest vet is although I don’t have a magnet on my fridge.

    I am terrified of the bloat and panic when the dogs act weird in any way. So far I only know of one confirmed case of bloat where the dog survived and that scares the bejesus out of me.

    You were wise to spend the money regardless of the outcome because if it had been bloat and you had waited you might very well have been writing a different post this morning. 😦

    • The magnet is for the rest of my family to have easy access, should I not be home if issues come up. The rest of the family has also heard a great deal about the bloat issue, because it freaks me out too. Im guessing the case you’re talking about is from the two brown dawgs, and their issues with Thunder, who thankfully survived his surgery.
      That different post would have been heartbreaking to write… I’d much rather write about very expensive gas 😛

      • Jodi, I am not sure that your dogs have the body style that is most susceptible to bloat. The dogs I have known that have bloated have had deep but narrow chests. From a conformation stand point, if I were to fault Thunder, it would be that he is a tad too narrow in the chest. When breeding Thunder’s daughter, the breeder considered body style of the stud dog, (although Thunder’s daughter has a wider chest to begin with). And take heart, I know of a few dogs that survived. The key is getting them to the vet early. 🙂

  2. When I read your description I thought that either Gwynn was trying to throw up, or it was bloat. Take it from someone who has one more payment to pay off a very expensive GDV surgery. 🙂 The symptoms you described are identical to how Thunder looked when he bloated. They always say the stomach will sound like a drum, his did not. But then again he did not present as a typical GDV case.

    Good for you for knowing enough to be concerned. So many people have never heard of it. If you think it may be an issue going forward, there is a preventative surgery that you can do to tack the stomach so it won’t twist should he bloat. it isn’t cheap or fulproof, but it is cheaper than the surgery.

    • Your descriptions of Thunder’s entirely non-standard actions with his bloat was defininitely in my mind when I decided to bring Gwynn in. He didn’t have the drum-stomach either, nor was he acting lethargic or weezing… he was the opposite, in fact… frantic and odd and full of uncomfortable energy. And Thunder wasn’t lying down and being lethargic, and he had the worst possible extreme of bloat, with the twisted stomach. Thunder was lucky that you guys pay such attention to your dogs’ habits, to know that something wasn’t right, and to act on that instinct.

      I might have to consider the surgery, though I’m hesitant to put him through that if the issue might never actually come up. for now, I’ll just keep paying attention and acting on my paranoia when he behaves oddly. I’m still not sure what caused his actions – pretty sure that the grass caused the throwing up, though perhaps that was his goal.

      • Lexy, I did not say earlier how happy I am that it was not bloat and Gwynn is fine. 🙂

        When we looked at the surgery we were looking into having it done laparoscopically. The incision was small and the heal time was short.

        Sometimes when a dog is nauseated, they may try to eat grass to get themselves to throw up. Sometimes they also drool a lot. One other thing to consider if it happens again, it may be some sort of allergy. Not all dogs have itching with an allergy. Sometimes it can effect their GI tract. Also, I have heard that when a dog has a bowel obstruction, they may also vomit or try to force themselves to vomit. Owning pets can be stressful. 🙂

        • Definitely true that pet ownership can be stressful 😛 They refuse to just come out and tell you what’s wrong, and sometimes they don’t even behave oddly to show you that it’s time for the illness guessing-game. Honestly, how rude!
          I took your suggestion of a possible bowel obstruction into consideration,but he seems to be doing all his business at regular intervals and comfortably. The main thing I’ve noticed this weekend is just how fine he is with leaving food in the bowl for later. he definitely prefers eating after a walk in the morning, and on weekends, that doesn’t always happen.

  3. Better safe than sorry! I tend to panic and rush to the doctor anytime my dog or kid even acts the slightest bit sick. The vet always rolls his eyes and tells me something along the lines of “Um. It’s totally normal for her to breathe heavy after exercise. It’s called, um, PANTING!”…. my son’s doctor hand wrote a note for me to keep of acceptable reasons to call his answering service at midnight. Apparently sneezing is not on it 🙂

    • haha, hilarious 🙂
      My parents were the same way when i was younger… but I also broke my leg learning to walk, and swallowed a whole container of tylenol (child-proof cap? pffft. child’s play.) before reaching 5 years of age… so maybe they were right to be paranoid!
      I’m hoping the dog won’t get too many unnecessary vet visits, but I have no doubt that there will be future visits in which the vet examins him, smiles and says, “yup, he just needs to poop.” or something equally silly to bring in front of a vet.

  4. It’s so scary when our pups exhibit abnormal behavior like that. We know something’s wrong but can’t put a diagnosis to it. And it ALWAYS happens at night or on weekends, like with Daisy’s scary bout of “garbagitis”. You did the right thing going to the emergency vet just to make sure everything was okay – you’re a good Doggy-Momma! 😉 I have both of our emergency vets’ numbers at the ready just in case.

    • It’s true – they never exhibit weird symptoms when you can call your regular vet. It has to be more dramatic and stressful! All the more stressful because the creature whose every habit you recognise is now behaving so strangely. Good plan having a second emergency vet number. I felt very unprepared google searching the emergency vet that night. luckily, it was one i’d driven past regularly while visiting a construction site, so I knew where they were and that they were open 24 hrs – i just looked up their phone information, rather than searching out an entire business.

  5. I completely understand your paranoia, and I’d rather pay a $115 vet bill than not go and it be a bloat situation.

    Moses bloated on us when he was a year and a half, and it was taking him to the vet quickly (and paying a lot of money) that saved his life.

    And now with Alma, I am hyper-aware of any symptom, and can totally see myself making a similar visit someday. But I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    • You guys were definitely good to recognise Moses’ problem as needing a vet. Its stories like yours that make me nervous – I don’t want to be one of hte people who ignores the strange behaviour until it’s too late – I much prefer the happy (if expensive )ending stories.

  6. Glad that Gwynn was ok…and that you didn’t run into Brad Pitt and the emergency vet dressed like that 🙂 That IS strange behavior. I have never encountered anything like that. We did think Gretel had bloat once but it turned out she had puffed her own tummy up with air because she squeaked this toy for like an hour with the valve pointed toward her throat. Now THERE is something else for you to be paranoid about. Ha, ha. I know we are now.

    We had to call the emergency vet when it happened. Our regular vet contracts for after hour care with an emergency clinic right down the street from us. We did have to look up the info on our own vet’s website though…we don’t have a fancy-schmancy magnet.

    • When i was leaving the emergency vet, i saw their magnets, and thought, ‘gee, what a great idea!’. that way, if i’m not there if something comes up, it’s easy for one of my family members to track down the number of a place that (now) already has Gwynn’s information.

      Holy cow, glad to hear that Gretel didn’t have bloat – but getting her stomach pumped full of air doesn’t seem very healthy either. Was it just something that passed normall? I have this vision of her farting and burping a lot for a few days after that, and hopefully that was the extent of the seriousness of it.

  7. ^_^ I got a text from Mom saying that you were bringing him to the vet, and then got a text later saying “He had Gas!” and I was seriously laughing 😀
    I’m glad he’s alright though, and stop being so paranoid about his weight already 😀 When I get home I’ll go through the steps to check how his weight is like with you again 🙂

    • I do know the steps… but then i question – “Too much rib feeling? too little?”, and then question if I give him enough exercise that I should be feeding him more? sigh. Dogs are stressful. And it doesnt’ help that he’s so fluffy right now that he has most of the ‘ways to tell your dog’s health’ masked by his fur. He looks like an animated hairy ottoman right now – what waist? what stomach tuck? He’s a big rounded rectangle!

  8. So happy it wasn’t bloat – and rushing to the vet to find out was worth it! How awesome that the e-vet gave you a follow up phone call too. 🙂

    • I was really impressed by that – they called on saturday as a second follow-up, and to confirm that I was happy with how the visit went, and the information I was given. It was nice that they showed such an interest in confirming that Gwynn was ok, even though he seemed completely fine while at the vet.

  9. Certainly sounds like something I’d do. 🙂 My dog, Clover, has had partial obstructions a couple of times, and we had one 3am visit to the vet for similar symptoms – that seemed to be ‘nothing’.

    However, I’ve been ‘right’ almost every other time I’ve been to the vet on my own accord! Even when I enter the vet clinic, Clover screaming in excitement, wiggling every ounce possible, greeting the vet staff with enthusiasm, and then the vet. And I tell the vet our problem, “She’s quiet.” Turns out she had an upper respiratory infection, but sometimes people overweigh all symptoms.

    • I think I’m happy being wrong about the symptoms, to be honest. “just gas, you paranoid helicopter dog-owner” is a lot better news than “You’re right, there is something seriously wrong with your beloved dog”. Though I might not feel that way at 3am!
      Sounds like your dog is in good hands if most of your concerns turn out to be valid, though – you get her the care she needs even if she doesn’t seem like she needs it.

  10. I’d have been the same. Can’t take any chances with bloat and way better to have your experience than to have ignored it and it had been bloat – bet the vet would always rather have it that way too!

    I was with a dog once who bloated – and her initial symptoms were gagging and retching so your concerns weren’t unreasonable. We were lucky – I was with her when it started – and though I’d never seen it others had and recognised it straightaway – so we got her to the vet within an hour. We were in the middle of nowhere at the time – so it was a wild drive with me frantically doing TTouch earwork on her all the way to stop her going into shock. But she had an operation and lived – in fact she’s still going strong 6 years later with no ill effects.

    And yes – emergency vet details are etched on my brain!

    • You were definitley lucky – it’s unfortunate, but most stories about bloat in a dog end badly – that’s part of the terror of bloat. Happy to hear she recovered completely 🙂

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