What’s wrong with Frank the Dachshund?

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A Dachshund without dog insurance plays with a bone.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Frank had a rough start on life. He spent who knows how long on the streets until he was spotted by a good Samaritan who took him in. He was hard to resist, since he was a very cute golden brown Dachshund with the longest ears. He was probably less than a year old. After a few days in his ‘new’ home, the good Samaritan realized something was wrong. And unfortunately, the pup didn’t yet have dog insurance.

He didn’t eat well, and when he did, he would vomit. In addition, his breathing was off; it was rapid and shallow. They made an appointment to see me the next day.

Frank was very thin when he first came to the clinic. It was clear there was a serious problem based on his physical exam. While the new ‘owner’ had gotten somewhat attached, she wasn’t prepared financially to take Frank on as her own dog and she made the difficult decision to relinquish him. Frank officially belonged to the clinic.

Using donated funds and doctor time, Frank was radiographed and admitted to the hospital for treatment. The x-rays revealed a disturbing change in Frank’s chest. The thin muscle wall that separates the lungs from the other organs in the body, the diaphragm, was torn. This tear, or hernia, had allowed things that are supposed to be in the abdomen access to the chest. Frank’s intestines and his stomach were in his chest and pushing on his lungs, partially collapsing them, making it hard for him to breathe. This is also why he couldn’t eat, and vomited when he did.

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The name for this condition is a diaphragmatic hernia and can be very serious. Frank probably had some type of trauma, maybe he was hit by a car or fell from something and caused this to happen. Since he had no other obvious injuries on his body, it was impossible to know how long the hernia had been there.

Frank was given pain medication and an IV catheter to administer fluids and surgery was scheduled for the next day to repair the hernia.

In the morning Frank looked worse, it was even harder for him to breathe. He was quickly taken to the radiology room and x-rayed. The radiographs showed that Frank had an even more serious problem. The trapped stomach, which was in the chest, had started to bloat, filling with air and pushing more and more on the lungs.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is commonly referred to as “Bloat” and is a potentially life threatening emergency that occurs primarily in large deep chested dogs, like Great Danes. The gastric dilatation (expansion) and volvulus (rotating) can occur separately, but when together the stomach will rapidly fill with air and can result in death if left untreated. It is unclear exactly what causes a gastric bloat to occur. It has about 15 to 33% mortality rate. It is estimated that approximately 22% of giant breeds and 24% of larger breed dogs may suffer a GDV in their lifetime. Thankfully, many pet insurance companies cover this condition.

However, not only was Frank not a large breed dog, but his GDV was even more life threatening since it was occurring in his chest. He was rushed immediately to surgery where the stomach was gently removed from the hole in his diaphragm and untwisted. Immediately his lungs were able to expand and his oxygen levels improved. The tear in the diaphragm was repaired and the stomach inspected for any damage. It was ‘tacked’ to the body wall to ensure it didn’t twist again.

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When Frank woke up, he felt like a new dog. His recovery was very quick and within days he had gained weight and was acting like a puppy again. He was placed in a foster home and quickly adopted into a family that loved him.

Frank’s case is definitely a once in a lifetime situation and very unusual. Thankfully it ended well and Frank touched a lot of hearts in his short stay with us.

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