We all have bad days, I think last Sunday was one of my worst, though it might have been even worse. It began just fine, Bea was here for the weekend, and we’d all had dinner and watched a film, and I was preparing to go to bed. I’d fed Kia and put her out for a last wee, but I had forgotten to sort out the heating for the night, so popped back downstairs. Bea and Jay met me in the kitchen, and said something was wrong with Kia.
Kia was pacing, looking uncomfortable, and stretching her neck as if about to vomit. I had earlier dropped an egg in the garden, and I wondered if she’d eaten it, especially as when moments later she was sick, the result was what looked like uncooked meringue. Maybe she was allergic to egg? But then my mind began to process what was happening, and that she had been fed an hour earlier, and yet none of that food had come back up. Plus, Kia was now panting, stretching out her neck as if she couldn’t catch her breath, and when I felt her stomach it was as hard as a rock. I had read about symptoms like these on one of the German Shepherd Facebook groups I belong to—Kia was showing all the signs of a twisted stomach. And that is often fatal.
I woke Husband and said I thought we needed to go to the vet. We are very fortunate—in a nearby town is a 24 hour veterinary hospital, and they have an out-of-hours casualty department for emergencies. This was an emergency. At least, I thought it was. But when I put on my old dog-walking coat, and collected the lead, Kia seemed suddenly fine. She started to wag her tail, and trot around excitedly, ready for a walk.
“Could Kia simply have had a bad reaction to something she ate? Was I overreacting by rushing her to hospital?”
Possibly, but the facts were that if she had a twisted stomach, she needed to be operated on as soon as possible or she would die. If she had simply eaten something bad, the vet would tell us the visit was unnecessary, we would apologise and return home. The risk of not rushing to the vet was too great. We rushed.
Kia was okay on the journey, obviously uncomfortable, but not in agony. We arrived, I explained the problem, and the vet agreed it sounded suspiciously like a twisted stomach, which is quickly diagnosed with an X-ray. I signed the consent form, Kia was led away, we waited.
Within a few minutes the vet returned. Kia had a twisted stomach, the vet could operate, but Kia is an old dog (12 years old, which is old for a GSD) and the operation was a major one. Did we want to take the risk and spend the (considerable) money? It was all too quick.
Pause for a minute with me, and try to imagine the situation. An hour ago, Kia had been fine, all was peaceful at home. Suddenly, everything had changed, and my completely healthy, very fit dog (lets face it, one of my best friends) was now about to die. What to do? Was I committing her to months of pain, to never properly recovering, because I didn’t want to let her go? Or should I give her a chance, should I decide that she is remarkably healthy for a dog that age, she had every chance of a full recovery and a few more years of active life, and I should not deny her that. What was the right choice? As is often the case, I have no idea. There was no time to take a moment, to pray for wisdom, to test how I felt. The decision had to be now.
I chose to operate.
I then went to sit in the car, leaving Husband to listen to the potential risks and to sign the release forms, because all the sensibleness had deserted me, and a hot fountain of tears was about to escape and I wanted to be somewhere private. I sat in the car, aware of how much I love that opinionated, determined, faithful animal, and how much I was losing if she died; and I cried.
Husband returned, and we drove home. The vet said that if, during surgery, there was too much internal damage, then they would phone and ask permission to put her to sleep. (We were unable to give consent prior to surgery; I don’t know why.)
At 4 am, the vet phoned. The surgery had gone well, Kia was in recovery, but the next 72 hours would be critical.
At 7.30am, the vet phoned to say Kia was awake, and seemed remarkably well. By the evening she was able to walk outside to toilet, and was drinking, though she still had not eaten.
Monday morning, the vet told us that Kia still had not eaten. This didn’t overly surprise me. She has always been a picky eater, and at home she will only eat when I eat. If I put her food down in the morning, it will sit there, untouched, until she sees me eat my evening meal—then she will eat. The vet suggested that if I was comfortable giving all the medication, Kia would be better at home, as she needed to eat. We collected her (and a suitcase of pills).
As I write this, Kia continues to improve. She is still very weak, and is eating lots of little snacks rather than a proper big meal. But gradually her strength is returning, and she is relaxed at home, as long as she can see me, she is happy. The drugs make her drowsy, and her shaved tummy needs to be kept warm, but I think she is going to be all right.
I am so grateful to the dog owners who described the symptoms of a twisted stomach so that I recognised them. I am grateful to the vet, who reacted so professionally. And I am grateful to God, who allowed me to keep Kia for a little longer, even though we never know how long that will be.
Thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x
You can read more about Kia in my travel book (though she was only invited on the English holidays!) You can read it free if you have a kindle. Also available in paperback–a lovely Mother’s Day gift.
UK link Here