May 2018 Newsletter

Little-know, But Life-threatening Condition Hits One of Our Campers

Park after Surgery

Park is one lucky pup. He developed a medical problem that usually doesn’t happen to dogs his breed and size and it was one that extremely few pet parents know about.

Fortunately Park yelped so loud and long when his symptoms hit that his pet parents Jeff and Courtney knew the 4-year-old flat-haired retriever was in serious trouble. He had developed bloat, but they didn’t know that then.

It all started on a Thursday. Park had been at Happy Camper that day and ate dinner when he got home. Around 10 or 11 he wanted to go outside and began running around the yard. At midnight, he started yelping so loudly Courtney said it sounded as though he was crying. “It was awful!”

Courtney called Blue Pearl Emergency Vet’ in Clearwater and they said to bring him in. Staff immediately took the dog back and discovered, based on a radiograph and blood work, that his stomach had flipped.They withdrew fluid from the dog’s stomach and gave him an injection of methadone. Then Jeff and Courtney had to take Park to Blue Pearl Tampa for surgery. A three-hour surgery.

“It was the worst drive. He cried all the way,” said Courtney. “Before the surgery they brought him to us so we could see him one more time. Jeff and I talked about what would have happened if we hadn’t been home.”

The surgeon came in at 5:30 a.m. and told them everything went great. The dog’s stomach now is fastened to the body wall so it can’t flip again.

On Friday evening, Jeff and Courtney visited Park. “He was acting drunk.” On Saturday morning, they brought him home. He was on pain medications and anxiety medicine, but they were messing with the dog, so eventually they weaned him off of them.

Park had to wear an Elizabethan collar at night, even though the pain the first couple of days actually deterred him from examining his own surgery — a 10-inch incision that was glued closed.

Jeff stayed home with Park for the first week after the surgery. “There was a thunderstorm, and I was literally chasing him around with a telephone at my ear!” (Park suffers from anxiety even when he is well.)

“His stomach still isn’t tight,” said Courtney. “And we changed his routine. He now eats two small cups of food for meals with a break in between. When he goes back to Happy Camper, he’ll be in a luxury lodge (isolated from the other dogs).” “Park’s parents are so very committed to this dog and his life.

They have given so much,” said Mary Beth. “They’ve literally sacrificed for this dog to have and keep his life. From cancelling planned vacations to stay home with him because he’s not able to board, to dog training to help him live in their house so they can have company in their home, to day care to try to socialize him and now thousands of dollars to save his life. They make you believe in humans again.”

Bloat — Simple Explanations

Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV, is not completely understood by veterinarians.


Bloat usually comes on very quickly. At first, your dog may show signs that his stomach hurts. He may act restless, drool, have a swollen stomach, look anxious, pace, try to vomit without anything coming up. To test if the stomach is bloated, tap it with your hand. If it sounds like a basketball, it’s bloated.

As the condition gets worse, he may cry, collapse, have pale gums, develop a rapid heartbeat, be short of breath.

What is happening:

The stomach twists and then fills with gas. Or it may happen the other way around. No one knows. Eventually the stomach becomes distended and puts pressure on the diaphragm, which causes breathing problems.

Also, the pressure cuts off the return blood flow to the heart. The extreme pressure in the stomach can cause tissue to die, leading to stomach rupture. Sometimes the spleen twists with the stomach, leading to damage of the splenic tissues as well. The pancreas can be affected too. The oxygen-starved pancreas produces very toxic hormones, one of which targets the heart and stops it cold.

Why does it happen?

Bloat is most common in large or giant breed dogs. Most often in male than female. Mostly middle aged. Many have a history of drinking or eating a large volume then being very active.

Great Danes, large hound breeds, Saint Bernards, and standard poodles seem to be more susceptible to bloat than other breeds. But bloat has been reported in almost every breed.

If you suspect your dog has bloat, there’s only one thing you can do: rush to an emergency clinic as soon as possible. Unfortunately,
there’s nothing you can do to help at home. Bloat is a life-threatening emergency and cannot wait.


After important steps like x-rays and blood work have been done and bloat has been diagnosed, surgery is the only treatment. The surgeon has to go into the abdomen surgically and untwist the stomach. It is then sutured to the body wall to prevent it from twisting again. The spleen may need to be removed if the twisting is severe enough.

Unfortunately, even dogs who get treatment can die sometimes. Up to a third of dogs die despite surgery. The longer a dog is bloated, the poorer the prognosis.

What Happens After Surgery?

A dog needs to stay calm and less active so as not to tear the surgical site. And he will need medications such as pain relievers and antibiotics and anxiety pills.

Bloat Can Be Expensive

“When we got to Blue Pearl in Tampa, they told us the surgery would cost an estimated $6,500. They wanted the full amount by the next afternoon. They said, ‘You have to pay this or we have to put the dog down,’” Jeff explained. “I understand it’s a business, but they probably could give a more compassionate response.”

Jeff and Courtney finally sprang Park using a combination of help from family (who came through “big”), credit cards and a Go Fund Me page where friends and strangers donated $1,305.

Jeff said there were brochures on the counter at Blue Pearl with different types of assistance with costs:

Care Credit — a revolving credit card that does offer veterinary services. Instant full 6 months no interest. 27-28% after that. Good for $4,000.

Frankie’s Friends — In 1999, Dr. Neil Shaw, co-founder of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, founded Frankie’s Friends because many patients couldn’t afford the cost of care.

Grants help provide lifesaving emergency and specialty care to pets with promising outcomes whose families cannot afford the full cost of care. A portion of the treatment costs are also covered by the pets’ families and by the veterinary hospital treating the pet. It funds treatment only, not initial examinations, diagnostic testing, primary care or preventative care.

Nationwide Pet Insurance — a choice of two plans. One covers a portion of ordinary veterinary visits and the other covers major medical with a deductible.

Special Delivery

Providing a first for Happy Camper, Nala decided to have her litter of pups with the aid of Camp Counselors Keli and Colby. The
delivery happened underneath a jungle gym play area. The Australian Shepherd’s pet parents, who were on vacation in Italy, said they didn’t know she was ready to whelp.

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