What is GDV?

Everyone probably knows someone who has either read the book or seen the movie, Marley and Me – a story of the life and times of a lovable but destructive yellow Labrador Retriever named Marley. In the end, Marley’s mom and dad lose him to a condition known as “GDV” or Gastric Dilation and Volvulus Syndrome.
GDV occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes bloated and twists. This results in various types of shock and can lead to stomach necrosis (death) and, ultimately, the death of the patient. GDV is a grave condition, and is typically characterized by a large, distended gdv-radiographand hard abdomen, dry heaving, panting, inability to get comfortable, stretching, drooling, and weakness. While any dog breed can experience a GDV, it is most commonly seen in larger breeds such as Great Danes, Retrievers (Labradors, Goldens), Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinchers. All of these breeds have deep chest cavities, and there is some evidence suggesting that this is a contributing factor to GDV. In addition, animals in a stressful environment or that have anxious personalities are more prone to developing this condition, and in many cases there is an inherited predisposition to GDV. Dogs that are bloated or experiencing GDV should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. This condition is life-threatening and affected animals can very quickly go from stable to critical. Surgical intervention is necessary for an animal with GDV as soon as possible. Early recognition and intervention is most likely to result in a positive outcome for the affected pet.
If you have a large breed dog or deep-chested animal and are concerned about the possibility of GDV, it is possible to take steps to prevent it from occurring. A procedure called a gastropexy is available prophylactically for many animals, and can be done in great-dane-ap-1mn8sv-645sm8513conjunction with a spay or neuter, or minimally-invasively using laparoscopic equipment. If GDV has already occurred, it is recommended that the patient have a gastropexy while in surgery for the GDV. This greatly reduces the risk of future problems with this condition.
GDV is a serious, often fatal condition, so if you believe your pet may be experiencing either bloat or GDV, seek veterinary help immediately, and contact your veterinarian if you would like to learn more about how to prevent GDV for your pet.

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My Pet Ate What??

Have you ever wondered what kind of interesting and unique cases we see at GCVS? We sat down recently with some of the specialists in our Surgery department to hear about some of the craziest cases they had treated, and found out that pets really do eat the darndest things!
In the first case we heard about, the owners of a sweet Standard Poodle puppy couldn’t figure out why she was swallowing constantly, seemed nauseous, and wouldn’t eat. She was brought in as an emergency to see Dr. Brittany Neal, one of the surgeons at GCVS, for evaluation of a possible GDV (gastric dilation volvulus), which is a critical situation. After the initial evaluation, one of the technicians felt a lump on the patient’s neck as she was petting her. It turned out that the puppy had swallowed an entire cat “fishing” toy! The toy was stuck starting at her neck and going all the way through her body. Thankfully, with some careful manipulation under make-a-cat-fishing-pole-toy-introanesthesia Dr. Neal was able to remove the toy in its entirety without surgery.
One of the soft tissue surgeons, Dr. Heidi Hottinger, had a story that is nothing short of miraculous. She was presented with a patient who was referred for eating… wait for it – a chef’s knife! You’d think that the knife would have caused serious trauma to the patient going down, but when Dr. Hottinger made her approach during surgery, shockingly the knife hadn’t done any significant damage. The tricky part was going to be trying to move it without severely cutting the patient in the process, so Dr. Hottinger decided to repurpose some rubber tubing. She made a slit in one side of the tubing, and slowly eased it over the sharp edge of the knife as she gently removed it an inch at a time from the patient. Talk about steady hands!
Dr. Caleb Hudson is a GCVS surgeon who performs both soft tissue and orthopedic surgery. In his case, the patient had been evaluated several times through the years by a general practice veterinarian for intermittent bouts of vomiting. The owners eventually got a referral to see Dr. Hudson, who discovered what appeared to be a foreign substance in the patient’s stomach. Dr. Hudson performed surgery, and moved a HUGE amount of… vinyl flooring! The flooring had apparently been in the stomach for quite a while, as the owners reported that they hadn’t lived in the house with that type of flooring for several years.
Our final story is from Dr. Greyson Cole, another GCVS surgeon who performs both soft tissue and orthopedic surgery. Her patient also presented for evaluation of a possible foreign body. In Dr. Cole’s case, however, there wasn’t any vinyl flooring in the stomach – just a huge Teletubbie! The purple one, of course. It was a giant stuffed Teletubbie toy, so it was fortunate that the patient was a giant breed – a Mastiff. Unfortunately the aaTeletubbie was not able to be reunited with its owner after spending some time in a digestive tract, but happily the Mastiff did well after surgery and was able to be reunited with his family.
It’s clear that our pets really do try and eat some funny – and dangerous – things. Thankfully, the surgeons at GCVS have pretty much seen it all, so when you have an “uh oh!” moment with your pet, you know they’ll be in good hands!

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The Most Common (and Preventable!) Holiday Emergencies

As veterinary specialists, we’ve seen a lot of unique and interesting cases. We are often asked what the craziest thing we’ve ever seen is, and in many cases, these “crazy” stories center around the holidays. Unfortunately the holiday season holds many hazardous situations for our furry family members. One of our surgeons, for example, had a patient once eat a chef’s knife off of the Christmas table! Most cases aren’t quite that extreme, thank goodness, but they can be just as serious.


An example of a more common holiday emergency would be a pet (we’re looking at you, dogs!) who either steals part of the holiday dinner or is fed table scraps. Many people don’t realize that there are several emergency situations that could arise from eating the rich “people food” we serve around the holiday season. Pets can develop gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, food bloat, or have complications ingesting bones.
Gastroenteritis simply means inflammation of the stomach or intestines. In most cases, signs are limited to vomiting or diarrhea for a short period of time. However, some dogs get quite sick and need medical attention. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), however, is a much more serious condition that can be fatal if not treated promptly. basset-hound-knocked-over-trashDogs with this condition are sicker than a dog with gastroenteritis. Symptoms can include severe vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea, fever, increased heart rate and labored breathing. It’s very important for your pet to be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible if they begin to exhibit these signs during the holiday season. Remember to tell your veterinarian if your pet was fed or got into something they shouldn’t have!
Food bloat occurs when a dog eats or drinks a large volume too quickly and the stomach distends to an abnormally large size. If you notice your dog has a very large painful stomach, discomfort laying down, restlessness, or retching without producing anything, emergency treatment should be sought immediately. A bloated stomach can become serious – even deadly – very quickly!
A dog eating a bone may not sound like it would necessitate an emergency vet visit – after all, dogs have been chewing on bones for thousands of years, right? Unfortunately, in some cases ingesting a bone leads to an emergency situation. Dogs can get sick when the bone irritates the gastrointestinal tract with the sharp bony material. Bones can also fail to digest and cause an obstruction if they are simply too large. Vomiting, poor appetite, nausea, and discomfort are important signs to look out for with this one.
 dog-ornament-4Ingesting holiday decorations can lead to gastrointestinal blockage – a condition that requires emergency surgery. Cats in particular LOVE to play with, chew on, and eat many of our holiday decorations, such as tinsel, beads, ornament hooks, plants (Poinsettias are toxic!), and even the Christmas tree itself. These foreign objects can form a blockage in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can be a life threatening condition. Symptoms of a GI blockage can include lethargy, poor appetite, and vomiting.
During the holiday season, take extra precaution with your four-legged family members to try to prevent emergency situations wherever possible, and remember that if an emergency does happen, Gulf Coast Animal Emergency Hospital is available nights, weekends, and all holidays!

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Keeping Your Pet Healthy

Keeping our pets healthy is one of the most important parts of pet ownership. But what does that mean for us in our daily lives? Keeping your pet at a healthy weight, getting vizla-with-stethoscope-in-mouthgood exercise, interacting with them (socialization), and being aware of any changes to your pet’s attitude, body, or mentation are all vital to a healthy pet!

If your pet is already overweight and you have decided to get them back in shape, it’s a good idea to create a gradual program of healthy diet and exercise. Just like in their human counterparts, injury and health issues can actually be caused by the introduction of a sudden, intense change in exercise and/or diet. For dogs and cats, slowly transitioning from a maintenance food (“healthy adult” or “adult maintenance”) to a diet food is a good way to begin. You never want to switch your pet’s food abruptly, as it can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. You may also want to have your family veterinarian evaluate your pet prior to choosing your new food, as some of the more dramatic weight-loss diets are prescription only. If your pet is already in good shape and you are trying to keep them that way, a maintenance food should be just fine for your pet.

Exercise should be determined by your pet’s age, breed, current body condition, and individual health. A 12 year old pet isn’t going to be able to keep up with an exercise boxer-running-with-toyprogram designed for a 2 year old animal, for example. For dogs, exercise ideas are fairly straight-forward – walks, jogs, swimming, fetching, play (either with you or with another dog), etc, are all good ways to get your dog healthy. As an added benefit, this type of activity may help you get in shape as well! Consulting your family veterinarian on what is an appropriate style and amount of activity is always a good way to begin planning your exercise regimen. For outdoor activities it is important to keep the weather in mind. On hot days, it is important to be aware of your pet overheating, which can be fatal to dogs. Adequate hydration is also important for canines – and people, too! Especially if you are just starting out on your new exercise program, be sure to allow your dog frequent breaks, and if they are struggling or not keeping up, adjust your program to something less strenuous until your pet is comfortable with the new activity level.

For cats, encouraging activity and exercise is more difficult, but can be done. Structures such as cat trees or cat towers can be set up to promote jumping and play. Hiding treats or catnip inside these towers is a good way to get your cat interested in the new arrangement. Try and discover what types of toys your cat is interested in. Having these types of toys around, as well as new ones, will encourage your cat to play even when you’re not around… cats are great self-entertainers. Laser pointers are another ideal way to get your cat to engage in activity and exercise. Many cats will run, jump, and pounce on these inexpensive toys for extended periods of time. You can also find cat-specific “wands”, such as fishing poles with feathers on the end or flexible plastic pieces with toys or treats on the end to interest your cat, which are wonderful tools to get your cat moving, and are entertaining for everyone. Try dragging the toy at the end along the ground, over furniture, or up and down stairs for a maximum exercise return for your cat. Many cats enjoy simple, practically free “toys” as well. Some cats, for example, love to bat at and chase cubes of ice around the kitchen. Other cats think things like empty toilet paper rolls are perfect play toys.

Socialization is also a hugely important part of a healthy lifestyle, and it’s not just for puppies! Keeping your dog well-socialized can involve regular walks, “play dates” with other pets, visits to the dog park, or even just having friends over for dinner. Interactions with other people and pets should be as positive as possible, especially if you have a nervous dog!

Finally, if you see that your pet has had a change in temperament, seems to be eye-exam-with-goldenexhibiting any type of physical abnormality (limping, vomiting/diarrhea, lethargy, etc), or just seems “off”, a visit with a veterinarian is likely warranted. If you are ever not sure if there is a problem, err on the side of caution, and trust your instincts!

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Diabetes in Pets

Diabetes in PetsDiabetes is a disease that affects thousands of people around the world. Many people don’t realize, though, that diabetes affects dogs and cats as well! And yes, they can require daily injections, just like their human counterparts. Dogs and cats that are diagnosed with diabetes generally exhibit the same types of symptoms that human diabetics do, such as sudden weight loss or gain, increased thirst, increased urination, and lethargy.

Not all diabetic animals require insulin shots, however. In another similarity to humans with diabetes, some animals can be regulated with strict diet and exercise. High fat and high sugar foods should be avoided for dogs. Cats need a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Many major companies such as Science Diet, Purina, and Royal Canin have developed diets specifically for diabetic animals. Each pet is a unique case, however, and if your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will be able to give you specific instructions for care and feeding based on your pet’s specific needs.

If your pet has a more serious case of diabetes and requires insulin injections, don’t panic! The dosages for dogs and cats are very, very small, and the needles are even smaller. The timing of the administration is very important, as it should be given at the same time every day, normally following a meal. You will need to recheck blood work through your veterinarian frequently to maintain the proper insulin levels, but most animals do well once their treatment regimen is established.

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Cold Weather Reminders for Pets

Winter Reminders for PetsDon’t forget to take precautions to keep your pets warm and healthy. There are plenty of winter hazards out there, such as antifreeze and ice.  Here are some cold weather reminders to help keep your pets safe during these brisk winter days.

Always make sure there is plenty of fresh water for your pets.  It is misconception that pets drink less water in the colder seasons compared to the summer months.  In fact, pets drink the same amount of water regardless of the season in order to balance their body’s temperature during colder weather.

Check for hazardous areas. During the colder months, dogs and cats will seek shelter in warmer spaces such as near power generators or kitchen ovens.  Vehicles also pose a threat to some animals.  Cats have a tendency to hide from the low temperatures in your car’s engine or exhaust pipe because of the warmth that they provide.  That is why it is always a wise idea to honk first before driving or check under the hood before starting your engine.

The temperature inside of your car can become dangerous for your pet in a matter of minutes. Colder temperatures could cause hypothermia or even death.  While your dog may love going for drives and running around town with you, during very cold or very hot weather, leaving them in the car isn’t safe.

Consult with your family veterinarian if you encounter a change in your pet’s mood, appetite or behavior during the winter months.  It is always best to prevent and avoid any serious health issues that your pet may face.  Follow these tips in order to keep your companions safe during these cold winter days!


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Holiday Hazards for Pets

Holiday HazardsWhile you are busy making your festive plans for the holidays, please don’t forget to include your pets. The holidays are a time for giving, but there are some things you should not share with your furry companions. Once you know the hazards, a little precaution and prevention will make holidays a happy time for everyone.



Some of the common holiday hazards include:
Holiday plants: Holly and mistletoe are extremely poisonous when eaten. The lovely poinsettia may not be truly poisonous, but its milky white sap and leaves can certainly cause severe gastric distress. With so many hybrid varieties available each year, the best approach is to keep the plants out of your pet’s reach.

Electrical cords: Holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens and puppies to chew. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way.

Candles: Lighted candles should never be left unattended and that is even more important if left at kitty’s eye level or within puppy’s chewing zone. An exuberant tail, a swat of a paw, and candles and hot wax can quickly become disastrous. Anchor candles securely and away from curious faces and feet.

Pine needles: Check around holiday trees and boughs frequently. Ingested pine needles can puncture your pet’s intestines if sharp enough.

Holiday tree: Make sure your tree is well secured. If you have a tree-climbing cat or large dog with a happy tail, anchor the top of the tree to the wall, using strong cord or rope. Preservatives often used in the water in a tree stand can cause gastric upsets, so be sure it is inaccessible or not used. Avoid sugar and aspirin additives in the water as well.

Ornaments: Sharp or breakable ornaments, dreidels, and even aluminum foil should be kept out of reach. String objects, especially tinsel and ribbons, are to be safeguarded at all costs. They are thin and sharp and can wrap around intestines or ball up in the stomach.

Listen to Dr. Chris Jones, Gulf Coast Veterinary Internist, speak about the holiday decorations and your pets directly on News 92 FM with Lana Hughes.


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Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month!

Adopt A Shelter DogOctober is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month!  It’s another reason to remind everyone why it’s important to adopt rather than to shop. Before you make this long term commitment, be sure to consider all of your options.  The majority of pets in shelters today are known to be “owner surrendered” for one reason or another.  By adopting a shelter dog you’ll be giving him or her a second chance of life and saving the life of a second animal; the pet you adopt and a homeless pet somewhere who can be rescued because of space you helped free up.   An estimated 3.7 million animals are euthanized in animal shelters every year because of the overpopulated problem.

The companionship of dogs can help manage loneliness and depression.  Pets can increase your opportunities to exercise, participate in outdoor activities, and socialize.  Dogs can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness.   You will save money.  Adopting a pet from an animal shelter is much less expensive than buying a pet at a pet store or through other sources.  In addition, animals from many shelters are already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, which makes the shelter’s fee a real bargain.

Dogs are known to be human’s best friend.  We’ve found them to be a source of comfort, companionship, and even a friend who experiences life’s struggles with us.  It goes without saying that a dog loves us more than he loves himself.  Instead of buying a dog, visit your local shelter where you will likely to find dozens of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs, including purebreds, just waiting for your special home!

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National Disaster Preparedness

Disaster PreparednessSeptember is National Disaster Preparedness Month not only for humans but also for our pets! Hearing about all the different weather patterns across the nation reminds us to prepare in advance for the season, no matter where we call home. Make time to have a back-up plan in case the inevitable strikes in your area. Getting organized ahead of time makes all the difference in the world.

Make a family plan and assemble an emergency kit for all of your family members (humans and four legged ones).  Some simple and helpful tips that could save you time are to ID your pets in advance and have a disaster kit ready for all of your family.  Your family members should know what to take when that time comes to evacuate. Remember to stock up on non-perishables and keep everything accessible stored in sturdy containers such duffle bags or covered containers that can be carried easily.  If your pets eat any dry food, it should be stored in air-tight containers and replaced every 6 months.

A basic disaster kit would include:

  • Food and water for at least five days
  • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit.
  • Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop, garbage bags to collect all pets’ waste.
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape.
  • Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited.
  • Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavior issues along with the name and number of your family veterinarian.

If you evacuate, please do remember to take your pet with you!  If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.  If you think you’ll will be gone for a few hours, take your pets since you have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able, or allowed to go back for your pets.  Evacuate early, don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order.  Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind.  The smell of smoke, high winds or lightening may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.

If you stay home, do it safely.  If you and your family decide to wait out a storm at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together and make that area safe area animal friendly.  Remember to close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide. Also, move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.

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Heartworm Disease on the Rise!

Heartworm DiseaseThe number of pets diagnosed with heart worm disease is on the rise! Heartworm has been documented in all 50 states. The American Heartworm Society recommends all U.S. pets be given heartworm preventive medication. Now more than ever, it is important to take necessary measures to protect your pet and prevent the spread of this serious, life-threating disease!

Heartworms are spread from infected animals to uninfected animals by mosquitoes. Once infected, a single mosquito is capable of infecting multiple pets during its lifetime. The mosquito bites an infected pet and ingests the heartworm larvae. The heartworm larvae molts and becomes infective. When the infected mosquito bites an uninfected pet, the larvae are injected into the pet. The heartworms grow, multiply and settle in the pet’s heart and blood vessels of the lungs. Ultimately, the infection can lead to heart disease and cause severe damage to other organs such as the liver and kidneys. While most pet owners know dogs of all breeds and ages can contract the disease, many do not realize cats also are susceptible. Cats are difficult to diagnose with heartworm infection, and the infection is more deadly for them. The rate of infection in cats also is on the rise.

Year-round prevention is best!  Talk to your family veterinarian to decide which preventive is best for your companion!

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